Why Apple Is So Despised

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In some circles, Apple (AAPL) is roundly despised. Is it because the company makes poor products? Clearly that's not so. Is it because some people don't personally like Apple's executives? It's really hard to dislike someone you've never met.

Is it because some people don't like Tim Cook's execution and vision? Apple's performance and financials are excellent and there's a growing list of successful products he's shepherded to market.

Actually, there's more to the despise thing than meets the eye. I can explain.

Product Complexity

When it comes to creating products that other people use, complexity has its benefits for the creator and for others in its ecosphere. Complexity bestows power, control and financial opportunity.

Apple removes complexity, and that creates havoc in certain circles.

For example, think about IRS support forms with their unfathomable logic and tedious calculations. The difficult logic can obscure inconvenient truths about tax law. Fear of mistakes, perhaps an audit, is created. Books and applications spring up that make a profit explaining to you what you couldn't figure out before.

A Great Explanation

In an amazing article, "The Complexity Myth," Keith Farnish explains how complexity can maintain the status quo and confer power. Like any important article, it takes its time to develop an important point, so don't be discouraged by his opening.

Briefly, here is the end of Farnish's description of the modern television set, with its complex, self-perpetuating infrastructure.

... Everything is interlinked to a certain extent so, in theory, every artifact of Industrial Civilization is as complex as every other. But even taken down to those processes and components that are unique to a particular end-product, like a television set ... there is a level of complexity that would be completely beyond the understanding of anyone not brought up in the Culture of Empire. Actually, it's beyond the understanding of anyone who takes some time to analyse what makes up the things we use in this culture.

Here's how that affects Apple.

The PC Industry

Even though we're well into the post-PC era, there are strong and complex forces of the PC era that linger. A whole industry was built up to support the complexity of Windows-based PCs. There are small PC repair shops that can eradicate viruses -- for a fee. There are Microsoft (MSFT) Certified Professional classes.

Most important, there are intelligent people who have the time and patience to master the complexities of the PC and can make a decent living writing helpful articles in major PC publications.

The cult of the nerd arose, and there has been honor, prestige and profit when it comes to revealing the mystery of PCs.

When the Mac Arrived

The story of the Macintosh has been told many times. The legendary "1984" TV commercial says everything about Apple's attempt to tear down the walls of complexity. In the 1990s, Apple had to fight an uphill battle against the business community. When all the money and energy was on the business side, IT managers made themselves important by selecting complex PCs, and Microsoft shrewdly catered to their empire. Both prospered.

The Post-PC Era

The second half of Farnish's article goes into detail about the benefits of simplicity. Simplicity, in the computer industry, is connected. It is stable. It is democratic.

When Apple introduced the iPad, it produced the ultimate manifestation of simplicity in a computing device. The result has been that PC sales are tanking and Apple's iPad sales are surging. Hundreds of millions of people with personal purchase authority have opted for simplicity, and their numbers are far greater than the business users. Plus, BYOD (bring your own device) has changed the game.

The Industry Reaction

Apple's customers are, of course, delighted with the simplicity introduced into their lives. They no longer have to worry about the Windows Registry, print drivers, Internet malware and incomprehensible and costly Windows upgrade procedures. Accordingly, this takes a lot of the wind out of the sails of those who make a living being computer gurus.

As a result, the natural, regrettable human reaction is that these Apple customers are idiots, not well-versed in the nuances of real computing. In one view, Apple's products are simple-minded and appeal to simple-minded people. Options are limited. Complexities are hidden or eliminated. The computing experience is a shadow of its former self. There is a sense of loss.

Apple is despised for this.

How to Analyze Apple

When it comes time to size up Apple, it's a good idea to take a close look at Apple's products and how they play a role in customer lives. This is something Apple has always celebrated, but from time to time we need a reminder about how Apple builds products that let the customers focus on their agenda, not Apple's.

On the other hand, it doesn't pay too much to listen to the voices of bitterness. Bill Palmer has explained with acute clarity:

...most tech journalists despise Apple. In their minds, Apple makes products for the mainstream at the expense of the geeks, and so the geeks (and by extension tech journalists) mostly see Apple as an enemy threatening their way of life. It's why they cling to [a] geekier platform like Android, no matter how junky or far behind it might be..."

The art of outrageous headlines and the technique of capturing your attention with snark and arrogance has been developed into a high art form. The conceit that sarcasm, even hate, equates to intelligence has been thoroughly refined until our common sense has been numbed.

Instead, watch any Apple customer emerge from an Apple retail store -- all smiles. A minority read the opinions of experts on the Internet. They're too busy enjoying the design and simplicity of their iPads and iPhones and Macs and getting on with their lives.

The best part of all this is that Apple will keep right on delivering this experience, paying no attention to those who despise the company.


At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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