One Day I Will Switch from Apple

by James R. Stoup Sep 18, 2007

I really like Apple’s products. I love the iPod. It rocks. I have three. I love Macs. They rock too. I have two (working on a third). The iPhone is amazing, iTV shows great promise, and just about every piece of software they make is wonderful. And in spite of all that, one day I see myself switching to Linux.

I realize that is a bold statement, so let me clarify my position. When I say “one day,” what I really mean is “one day, after Steve Jobs leaves Apple.” Because as much as I don’t want to admit it (and if you think I’m in denial, just imagine Apple’s stockholders), Apple is going to become a radically different company once Jobs leaves. And, sadly, it will change for the worse. Maybe it will be in five years or maybe Jobs will stay for another twenty, but one day he will have to leave. Maybe to tearful farewells or maybe in a pine box, but one way or another his tenure at Apple is drawing to a close.

In fact, I expect it will mirror the history of Disney after Walt Disney died. For those of you who don’t know, Steve Jobs is this generation’s version of Walt Disney. Disney was an amazing leader. He was a showman, an artist, a businessman, and someone who had an uncanny gift for knowing what people wanted even if they didn’t know themselves. Oh, and he had a knack for being ahead of his time. Sound like anyone we know?

But what happened after he died? Well, Disney the company became a lot more like all the other companies out there. They started putting their shareholders before their customers so they could make more money. After all, innovation is expensive and oftentimes the ones who lead the way end up failing miserably. And while leaders may thrive on risk, stockholders prefer steady earnings. And sure enough, ten years after Walt Disney died, the company he founded had gone from a leader to just another company trying to make as much money as possible regardless of the impact it had on their customers. Now, I’m not really criticizing Disney so much as explaining the reality of the situation. Every great company at one point or another was new and quick and innovative. But eventually their founders died and other people took over their businesses. People who don’t share the same dream. People whose only goal is to make lots of money. And the sad truth is that one day Apple will follow down that road.

Now, I’m not complaining about any company wanting to make money. I’m not an idealist who thinks that Apple behaves the way they do because they’re just a bunch of nice guys. They are out there to make a buck just like everyone else. However, they seem to care more about their customers than most other corporations out there. But you can be sure that will end once Jobs is out the door. Of course it won’t be an immediate shift, but the change will happen.

At first it will be small things like changing the price of a song on iTunes. At some point they will swing around to the notion of selling some songs at a discount while jacking up the price of others. Then they might offer a subscription service saddled with DRM. Why, you ask? Because it will bring additional sources of revenue, that’s why. And before you start emailing me, let me say that it will be a mistake, but one they will make because they won’t be able to see the bigger picture. They are seeing their profits go up for this quarter while ignoring the impact this will have on their business in the long run.

Next up I imagine they will begin to sell low end Macs. Why? Because there is money (though not a lot) to be made in that as-yet untapped segment of the market. At the time it will seem like a great idea because it will make profits go up! And what shareholder doesn’t want to see that? Who cares about the long term as long as we are making money today. Perhaps after that they will finally swing around to the notion of licensing OS X. Because all those other hardware makers out there will be willing to offer plenty to run OS X. Yeah! Here comes another revenue stream! And while they’re at it, might as well sell a couple of different versions of OS X. You know, a discount one for students, one for businesses, one for government, you get the idea. It just adds to the bottom line after all, and isn’t that a good thing?

Of course, sometime during this mad dash to make as much money as possible they might lose focus on their customers, but who has time for that when there’s so much money to be made? And so it will continue until one day people are going to look around and notice that this new Apple doesn’t really look much like the old Apple. People are going to start wondering where all the innovation went and why the company seems to be trying to live on past glories.

All of which brings me back to my original point of one day switching to Linux. I don’t really feel that Linux is a better choice than OS X, but that’s today. In twenty years, who knows? Maybe by then Ubuntu really will have taken over the world. I really don’t expect Microsoft to still be making operating systems in twenty years, but I suppose miracles can happen. Or maybe a new contender will enter the ring and startle us with their amazing new OS.

But what makes me so sad is the realization that right now, today, we are living in Apple’s prime. The next five years will probably be the best the company will ever do. And I’m sure they will be able to keep things going reasonably well for at least another five years after that. But it won’t last forever. My daughter is 6 months old and it saddens me to think that one day she might grow up thinking of Apple as “that company that used to be cool” but now is just hanging on. Doesn’t that make you sad too?


  • sometimes you really have to wonder if Apple is really a replacement for religion for some people. If Apple doesn’t make great products 5 years (or 2 months for that matter) who cares if they are still around. I like to use their products because the way they work. If that changes we will look for something else. Honestly lets hope 20 years from now they will be something else. A guy on the block with his (or her) new company. Isn’t that something to look for?

    baramuro had this to say on Sep 18, 2007 Posts: 5
  • “Apple is going to become a radically different company once Jobs leaves.”

    This is pure speculation.

    “And, sadly, it will change for the worse. “

    followed up with additional speculation.

    Steve has done a wonderful job… THIS time around, but he was driving Apple into the ground during during his first stint at Apple. Next opened his eyes IMHO. I think Apple will take a significant hit once Apple steps down, but he isn’t the magic. The magic has been, and always will be, wonderful consumer products.

    mitchell_pgh had this to say on Sep 18, 2007 Posts: 18
  • It’s also very difficult to change a company of Apple’s size given the amount of inertia. Since Jobs as retaken the reigns, he has set a new organizational culture that is very difficult to change. Apple now deals with making easy to use, aesthetically appealing products and that is in the company’s DNA. On top of that, there are plenty of people who are being trained in Jobs’ image. When Jobs leaves, someone within Apple, with the same ideals and vision as Jobs will most likely takeover. I agree, with one of the previous posters. This is all pure speculation and not even very good speculation at that. There are companies that still make offer great products/services after the visionary leader leaves. By the time Jobs leaves, Apple will be in very good shape and the successor will most likely help carry forth the momentum. Its not the products, its the people and the culture. While Jobs has brought that to the organization, it won’t leave with him…

    diablojota had this to say on Sep 18, 2007 Posts: 25
  • Oh, and at the rate Linux is making progress for simplicity, I doubt the average user will switch. While I enjoy Linux, it does not have the ease of use that Apple (or Microcrap) has. It may become more polished by the time Jobs leaves Apple, but I’m not sold on this idea. It’s a bunch of programmers and ‘geeks’ doing the development. There is no usability testing from a consumer point of view. It is all driven by people who know how to handle the nuts and bolts. If you’re one of those people, then more power to you. I can do it, but it isn’t worth my time and energy. Apple still has iTunes, iPhoto, and other applications that I am very attached to (I know alternatives exist, but the consists of me migrating everything, and to be honest, I’m not interested in doing that. Everything works just fine for me now, thank you very much).

    diablojota had this to say on Sep 18, 2007 Posts: 25
  • A company that owes its success to just one person and one person alone is a piss poor company with no depth of leadership.  If that is the case, then the time to bail is now.  Steve Jobs could get hit by a bus tomorrow.

    Let’s hope this is not the case and Jobs has been grooming a worthy successor like any responsible leader would.

    And btw, his coffin will not be a pine box.  It will be made of aluminum and glass and have a touch screen.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 18, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Just take some sugar -  you’re well depleted, and these fears will go away wink

    'nuffsaid had this to say on Sep 18, 2007 Posts: 7
  • I share the same opinion as James. Apple is Jobs and Jobs is Apple. Should the two part ways we could have a repeat of Gil Amelio. While we can criticize Jobs for the performance of Apple pre-Amelio, it’s not as if Apple rebounded to greatness with Amelio.

    The point being: there’s no replacing Steve Jobs unless he crafts someone to succeed him.

    The dominance of computer platforms seems to shift every 5-7 years. It happened in the server OS market between the 80s and late 90s with IBM, Novell, and Microsoft and we’ve seen Linux and Mac gain ground against Windows since the early 2000s.

    For now let’s just enjoy the ride.

    Eric Brodeur had this to say on Sep 18, 2007 Posts: 23
  • Linux has still made very little penetration into the desktop environment. I would guess there are still 2X as many OS 9 users as compared to Linux… if not more.

    The primary problem with Linux is that there are so many flavors… it’s incredibly difficult to understand from a consumers perspective.

    mitchell_pgh had this to say on Sep 19, 2007 Posts: 18
  • Things aren’t so black and white. I have owned Apples ince the Apple ][, amd like their products. Apple, like any company in its right mind, is quite fond of making a profit. Its margins are quite good (look at the iPhone) and it deosn’t want to get into the $400 commodity PC market because the profits aren’t there.

    Apple has also done thinghs which aren’t in their customers’ best interest, even with wildly successful products like the iPod.  Having the user unable to replace the battery and requiring a proprietary video out cable are too examples.

    I think that Apple makes the best computers on the market, with OS X being a large reason why, and I will stick with them.

    There, even before now, have been times when Apple was the company that “used to be good”. We survived them and will again if necessary.  Hey, I think Apple changed significntly for the worse when Wozniak left.

    bdegrande had this to say on Sep 21, 2007 Posts: 1
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