Life is Getting Tougher for the New Apple

by Chris Howard Sep 19, 2007

Who remembers the good ol’ days of Apple? Us against them, the quest to stay in business.

In those days, sure Apple took advantage of its loyal customers, but outside of that fan base, it wasn’t widely known—or if it was, who cared?

I’ve always been cynically amused by how, right through the ‘80s and ‘90s, I heard how great and reliable Mac OS was. But once I became a fully fledged Mac user in 2003 and began circulating within the sanctum, I discovered folks admitting Mac OS was anything but reliable. “Crash” was in the Apple lexicon after all!

But in those days, Apple only had one leg to stand on: its computers. Software, and even the Newton, were periphery and never looked like ensuring Apple’s ongoing existence. One good kick to that leg, and Apple was a goner.

So if things weren’t quite right with Apple products, the fans bore it. They didn’t want to be the ones to kick that leg.

If you want to know what the old days looked like, visit a fanboy site like Mac Daily News. These cling to the old days where—in the public spotlight at least—Apple can do no wrong. That’s not to say I’m having a dig at MDN. It is only one of four sites left on my RSS reader, and provides an excellent news service. And I do enjoy the quaint fanboyism, no matter how passé it is.

But this is 2007, the decade is more than three quarters over, “Computer” has gone from Apple’s business name and it now has three solid legs to stand on, but that means many, many more customers and they are dwarfing the fan base.

Apple still only commands 5% of the personal computer market. However, it already looks like charging down that number in the massive mobile phone market, and don’t forget it has long held the majority of the portable media player market.

That adds up to a lot of people now using Apple products. In relative terms, the fanboy section of the Apple customer base has become a much smaller percentage of its customers. And the rest are more demanding. And Apple is having to deal more and more with disaffected customers.

A couple of days back, the European high court upheld the 2004 anti-trust ruling against Microsoft and the European Union is now expected to go after Apple over iTunes pricing inconsistencies. Despite Apple’s claims that it’s the record labels who dictate the price, Apple, through iTunes, is the front man, and so wears any mud slung.

Over in the UK on Tuesday, Apple announced the iPhone will be available there in November. But the news didn’t get the rosy reception Apple would have hoped for. The backlash has been quite massive, with MacRumors, for instance, showing four out of five people viewing this announcement negatively. This backlash has centered around the lack of 3G network connectivity, and expensive and limited monthly plans.

A couple of weeks back, Apple had to backtrack to appease the masses and rebate early adopters of the iPhone in the US $100 each (in Apple store vouchers).

This is a new world for Apple. When it dropped the floppy drive from Macs, it caused a splash in its little pond, but despite being put out, fans touted it as a farsighted and wise decision.

However, now when Apple does something unpopular, that splash is in a very big pond, and it seems the whole world hears about it. It’s no wonder there’s talk of Apple becoming the new Microsoft.

Nowadays, commentators on Apple get accused of negativity, but sadly, with Apple sitting under a huge spotlight, commentators can’t tread the fast overgrowing path of fanboy tolerance. Apple has always given its customers the short-shrift, dating right back to the first under-specced and over-priced Mac, but now with such a huge customer base, it is inappropriate to try to continue to promote the “grin and bear it,” “take one for the team” type of attitude.

In 2007, the voice of the fanboy is drowning in the roaring sea of average consumers who aren’t happy with Apple’s apparent disregard for them. Life is getting tougher for the 21st century Apple.

The iPhone in the UK and Europe will be a significant test for this new Apple. If it looks like it’s losing that battle, it could lead to a total change in Apple’s attitude towards consumer wants.


  • I was looking forward to the UK launch of the iPhone but, once the dust had settled, I was one of the disappointed.

    I don’t the situation in the US but launching a phone in the UK without 3G and MMS would be suicide for anybody but Apple. Lots of people will buy it because it’s the iPhone - maybe they don’t realise its shortcomings? - because it’s “an iPod with a mobile phone built in.”

    As for me - and, I’m sure, countless others… we’ll be waiting for v2 that must surely come out early next year with 3G capabilities, MMS and a decent camera.

    hitchhiker had this to say on Sep 19, 2007 Posts: 48
  • Chris, I feel it’s rather clear that you weren’t an Apple enthusiast during the 80’s and 90’s… and even the first part of the 00’s. Having lived through the highs and lows of that period of Apple’s past, I think you are candy coating the past.

    VERY few Mac users of the mid 90’s thought Apple was anything but dying (or at least, very misguided). Overpriced hardware, an OS built on 1970’s technology, a dissolving user and developer base… it looked VERY bad for Apple.

    The Apple of 2007 has a number of legs to stand on. Hardware, software, OS updates, iPod, iPhone, Music, Videos, .mac, etc. etc.

    I would also say that some of the newest Mac users are the most vocal fanboys. You seem to be part of a new segment of the media that considers everyone that uses Apple products before you switched a “Fanboy.”

    Also, when Apple dropped the floppy disk, there were loyal Apple users that were very upset. Also, do you think the $100 rebate was Apple’s way of “backtrack”-ing? I think it was a calculated move by Apple to get more people to jump on the iPhone. It obviously worked as they sold a considerable amount since.

    I realize you have a VERY negative writing style, but it’s very clear that you don’t really have any reference point regarding Apple’s history.

    mitchell_pgh had this to say on Sep 19, 2007 Posts: 18
  • The fanboys didn’t just bear it.  They deluded themselves, and still do, about almost every aspect of Apple.  I find it ironic that almost no one knows less about the company than the fanboys.  There was a comment on this site awhile back that praised how “Apple never went corporate.”  Leo Laporte was happy about the prospects of the iPhone because it finally meant a more “open” phone.  Huh?  Apple makes the most locked-down products in the business, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to the fanboys.

    And of course, no one considers themselves a fanboy, so it becomes doubly frustrating.

    I’ve always hoped that with increased market share, the fanboy base would either dissolve or at least become a marginal voice and that Apple would rightly be perceived as just another tech company.  And indeed when you go to sites to discuss the iPod outside of Apple fan sites, it’s an entirely different world.  The iPod is just a device, and an imperfect one.  And no one uses a Mac.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 19, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Of course, Beeblebrox’s definition of “fan boy” is “anyone who says anything positive about an Apple product”.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Sep 19, 2007 Posts: 243
  • Of course, Beeblebrox’s definition of “fan boy” is “anyone who says anything positive about an Apple product”.

    I say positive things about Apple products.  I’m no fanboy.  But nice try.

    A fanboy is someone who dismisses criticism of Apple and/or who spins everything in Apple’s favor and/or has a misplaced altruistic view of the company and its founder.  You’re a lot like the partisan liberals or conservatives on political sites.  And I mean a LOT like them.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 19, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • mitch, you should re-read what I wrote, coz I’m not sure where we disagree (you even repeated some of the things I said), except the point about you suggesting I think all fanboys are all from before I switched. The most belligerent fanboys nowadays tend to have ages suffixed with “teen”, making many of them newer to the platform than I am.

    And yes, I agree, I am too often negative, very negative if you like. It’s based on disillusionment of Apple and Steve, after 20 odd years of being told how perfect they were, and discovering it to be a long way from the truth. So I am aware of it and I do try to restrain myself.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 20, 2007 Posts: 1209
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