There has been a lot of news lately about Apple’s business and the company’s often-predicted fall from grace. Suddenly, the Apple community has been inundated with news of falling stock prices, adverse court rulings, and highly detailed market-share analyses. As enthusiastic Apple customers, a lot of us read this stuff and fret. Why is that?
I suspect this phenomenon is not nearly so prevalent among people who enjoy Microsoft or Samsung products. Microsoft’s stock has been flat for years, and very few Windows Phone 8 enthusiasts care about the company’s share price. I’d argue that the reason Apple business-related news pushes our buttons is that a significant percentage of the Apple community lives in a culture of fear.
The dark ages
If you’ve been using Apple products long enough, you remember a time in the late 1990s when the company was on the ropes. The news wasn’t about whether Apple would get broken up and sold off in pieces, but rather who would be doing the buying when the inevitable happened. Things were dire. Apple had lost its way and everybody knew it. As much fun as we had taking shots at Michael Dell (especially in light of the recent privatization of his own company) when he famously advised Apple to “give the money back to the shareholders,” it was a reasonable argument at the time.
Apple’s business was our business—not because we had some stake in the company, but because we’d grown to love Apple products, and if Apple went away, so would our Macs. Nobody liked the idea and everybody worried about it. That experience left an imprint on us as a community. It is similar to people who grew up in the Great Depression and, as adults, couldn’t resist stuffing $100 bills into their mattresses, just in case. (I’d even argue that those tough years also left an imprint on Apple itself; just look at the way the company hoards its cash reserves now that it’s successful again.)
The thing is, Apple is no longer on the chopping block. Indeed, with over $130 billion in the bank, the situation is quite the opposite. That’s $130,000,000,000. Ten zeroes. This amount of money is unfathomable. Just to give you an idea, Apple could spend $1 million a day for 356 years and not run out of cash. Apple could use its cash to buy a new $500 iPad for 260 million people (and that’s without giving itself a discount). Apple’s stock value is more than the GNP of many countries. Apple’s market cap is about the same as that of Google and Microsoft combined. As indicated by Apple’s ridiculous profits, the company is in good hands, with very smart people at the helm.
My point is that Apple is no longer under threat of takeover or closure, and there is zero chance the company will stop making the shiny iThings that we love. You will never be forced to use a Windows computer or an Android phone. That hostile takeover is never going to happen, and the culture of fear from the ’90s among Apple enthusiasts is both obsolete and irrational. There is no possible stock dive, court ruling, or goofy commercial from an iPhone competitor that is going to change that. We can let go of the fear and just enjoy our Apple products.
The next time you find yourself wading through details of competing Apple patents, studying the intricacies of a completely inscrutable stock market, or searching the Internet to find out what an injunction is, ask yourself if you are actually interested in these things or are instead just being driven by the culture of fear.
The real risk to our continued use and enjoyment of Apple products isn’t some external threat to Apple’s insolvency, but rather Apple’s own failure to deliver the products and services we expect. Instead of getting worked up over court rulings, the Apple community should be directing its attention to Apple’s products and services. We should be asking why the latest version of iWork is four years old and why iCloud still is not quite the thing we hoped it would be. We should question what exactly Apple is doing to improve its abilities to provide Web services as they become increasingly important. In other words, we should keep the pressure on Apple to make better hardware, software, and services—but we should leave all the business stuff to Apple. The company will handle that side of things. It isn’t our problem.
Let go of your fear for Apple’s solvency. The company is fine. Stop wasting your time paying attention to Apple's business, and instead focus on your own. It’s time to finally put this out-dated anxiety to rest and just enjoy Apple's products.