It’s the funny season in technology land. The holidays are over, the major technology trade shows are soon to pass, and thousands of tech writers have nothing to report. So we get stories like the Wall Street Journal quoting unnamed sources that say Apple halved their component orders for calendar Q1. I find the whole thing fishy (via Loren Brichter) and never personally made the connection that a decrease in parts meant a decrease in orders. John Gruber linked to a great Forbes article that could explain the situation.
Personally, I’m really bored with these stories. Unnamed sources say such-and-such, the blogosphere goes wild, some rise up to defend Apple while some rip it down. The stock price moves. Then everything returns to normal, waiting for the next big “story” to appear days or weeks or months later. Yawn.
What interests me more is why does this stuff keep happening in Apple’s name? No one comes out and says this crap about Samsung, Google, Nokia, RIM, Microsoft or any other big name in technology. It’s all Apple, all the time.
One possible answer is that Apple’s headlines are perfect link bait. Write something disparaging about Apple and everybody who follows technology clicks the link. Posts get written about it for weeks. The irony is that all the commentary keeps the story alive, drives more traffic to the original writer’s web site, which gets them to write more of this garbage. The second possible answer is that we thrive on building up companies (and people) then tearing them down. Apple was the underdog for so long and now that it is one of the biggest and most successful companies in the world, well, we can’t root for them anymore. A third is that the company is just that divisive. These have been talked about endlessly; none ring perfectly true to me. They all strike me as symptoms, not causes.
I have come to believe that the true cause is something bigger than all of this. I think the right answer is that Apple just fails to pass the gut test for most people. It’s an incredulous reaction to Apple’s success. Look, how is it even remotely possible that a company with such a small market share could really be doing so well? How can a company that had so little success, a company that survived by the skin of its teeth in the PC era, be one of the largest companies in the world now? How can a company with so few products be such a behemoth?
I honestly believe people read their gut and say it can’t be possible therefore it isn’t. Apple can’t be this successful. It’s not possible. And I know that because my gut tells me so.
I had lunch today with one of my old college professors and his attitude was almost “about time.” Apple had its day in the sun, it did well for a while, but it’s time for market realities to catch up to the company. Apple has been a fad for a decade now — since the iPod launched in 2001 — and it is time for it to fade into the sunset like some hokey 1950s western.
Which I think leads to the last unfathomable point that makes Apple’s case so gut-wrenching. There is no way, the gut tells folks, that Apple can continue growing at the current rate. There’s no way! But what the gut can’t fathom is that the markets Apple is playing in are so ridiculously large that there are only a handful of other things that play at that scale, and all of those are at the base level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I mean how in the world is it possible that smartphones could play at a seven billion unit market scale? After all, everyone needs air, water and food. Not everyone needs a cell phone.
The gut can’t believe it. Reality, though, can be brutally hard on the gut.