Jun 11

What makes Apple really, really different

A strange thing happened to me last week right after I read an article about the App Store banning a category of apps.

I started having flashbacks.

I’m not talking about the side-effects of my college-age psychedelic experiments. (Those episodes come and go, no external stimuli required.)

It’s just that this article got me thinking about various “decision moments” I’ve witnessed over the years while working with Apple and others. Once the swirly colors went away, I realized what it is that really sets Apple apart from the rest:


[Brief pause to allow Apple detractors a bout of uncontrollable laughter.]

I’m not saying that Apple is moral and other companies are not. I’m saying that every company acts according to its own set of morals — and Apple’s morals are not at all typical.

In a global competition of technology giants, Apple remains the most human of the bunch. In fact, one could easily argue that Apple has become the world’s most valuable technology company precisely because it is so human.

Apple puts the customer experience above all else. That’s why it it cares so much about design and simplicity. That’s why it insists on controlling both its hardware and software (I’m talking to you, Flash.) That’s why it built the Apple Stores, where it could meet customers face-to-face and provide post-purchase care. And yes, that’s why it enforces standards for apps in the App Store.

That last point is a sticky one, because a lot of people gripe about Apple imposing its arbitrary standards upon people who should have the right to do as they damn well please. Apple is indeed running the App Store according to its own moral code — exactly as it runs the rest of its business.

You can either view that as more evidence of Apple’s uncontrollable lust for Big Brotherly power, or you can be happy that Apple is “doing the right thing” — providing both quality and freedom from malware.

The fact is, Apple has become one of the most amazing success stories in business history, and it’s done that in the most human way — by sticking to its morals.

For those who believe Apple’s values are dead wrong, that’s tough to swallow. For those who see Apple’s values as a reflection of their own, it’s a thing of beauty.

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  • stefn

    Morals? Maybe. Or is it just a sense of practicality? Products that simply do what the customer wants (and maybe a touch more) are what every company would create you would think. But the history of the computer industry is littered with guys, mostly, telling people what they need. And making products only a their mothers could love. What do customers want? Look at the Apple design vectors: Cheaper, sure. But not cheap. Faster, thinner, lighter, brighter, simpler. So Apple innovates and integrates. And apparently only Apple can do both.

    Moral? Yes, in this sense. Apple sells its products to customers. Google sells its customers to products, or at least those behind them. So much for do no evil.

  • Viswakarma

    Steve Jobs, aka Apple, always focused on the end-user and documents. Applications, OS and hardware are means to effectively handle this paradigm. This has not changed since the Macintosh came into World Stage since 1984, except for a brief period when Steve Jobs was not at the helm of Apple.

  • Bmcfadden

    I am so sick of hearing android fans say they prefer Google’s “open” system versus Apples “closed” one.

    As far as I can tell, “open” means leaving your device open to viruses and malware. It means having little or no control over software quality and experience. It means being “open” to a flood of pornography.

    There is enough porn and viruses out there in the world. Thank God Apple has taken a stand for sanity and decency and is trying to protect its own turf from destruction. I wish all those who worship at the temple of “open” the best of luck, because in all likelyhood they are going to get what they want, and more.

  • nangka

    apple is absolutely customer oriented. it is sitting on a 225 million customer database goldmine yet it’s not selling them to make _extra_ bucks! (google guys must be going crazy over this!!)

    also, jobs stressed (again) in wwdc keynote: “no ads”.

    personally, i trust my data with apple more than any other tech companies.

  • “Apple is indeed running the App Store according to its own moral code…”

    I would agree with that statement and not have a problem with Apple’s “moral code” – *IF* Apple was consistent in their implementation.

    Apple has said they won’t allow so called “boobie” apps on the App Store. But do a search for “sports illustrated swimsuit” and see what pops up.

    Moral codes can only be respected when they are consistent.