OT: The Politics of Apple's Evolution
[If you can't help but take politics personally, please stay away.]
I'm a political junkie so I often see things in a political context and wanted to get y'alls take on a thought I had last night. Apple eclipsed Exxon intermittently last year as the world's most profitable company, so the Occupy movement's vigils for Steve Jobs last year provided the dictionary definition of irony. (Almost.)
Apple has enjoyed a special place among liberals. I remember years ago reading how Apple stores were a great place to meet liberal singles. Apple has enjoyed the image as the outsider, the upstart, the one who "Thinks Differently" and so forth. On top of that, creative professionals (musicians, photographers, filmmakers) all tend to be liberal as well. This has inoculated Apple to a large degree, much as the uber-rich inoculate themselves from the left by contributing heavily to liberal causes (Buffett, Soros), and uber-rich conservatives become targets by supporting conservative causes (Koch brothers). This was a lesson Bill Gates learned too late, I believe.
But now, Apple may be showing itself to not only be the most profitable, but the most profit driven company in the world, while at the same time demonstrating a remarkable lack of loyalty to the group that kept the company afloat before the iPod came along.
So is Apple's 'Most Favored Company' status at risk? Will their environmental initiatives be enough, or will Apple start becoming a Walmart sized target?
Thanks in advance for your thoughtful, sober analysis.
[Bobby Mosca] "On top of that, creative professionals (musicians, photographers, filmmakers) all tend to be liberal as well."
You might want to replace "all" with "some".
Also, you're confusing political theory with commercial reality. Apple is a company, it's job is to make money.
Yeah, I guess that should read more like: musicians, photographers, filmmakers all.. (pause).. tend to be liberal.
"Also, you're confusing political theory with commercial reality. Apple is a company, it's job is to make money."
My question isn't about Apple's purpose, but its image. Apple enjoys an immunity from the left that Walmart does not, in spite of being equally non-union. Is that immunity at risk?
[Bobby Mosca] "Apple enjoys an immunity from the left that Walmart does not, in spite of being equally non-union. Is that immunity at risk?
It's a thought provoking question. I don't know if I would say they are equal in their attitudes towards unions. walmart actually walked away from a newly million dollar constructed store just because the workers won the right to unionize that store.
Tossing millions in the trash to spite workers puts you in another league in my book.
Not to mention telling their workers not to vote for a certain person.
Apple would like cheap labor like many. They got a little smacked around for their dealings in China.
I got problems with both but they ain't the same to me.
At least as far as "imaging making" and PR Apple does cater to liberal thinking.
They push their environmental record and direction.
Their response to the situation at Foxcon is the Fair Labor Association.
We can certainly debate to what extent all this is window dressing but Apple certainly markets themselves with liberal leaning image.
As to profitability and products, Apple's approach even as per the late Steve Jobs, is sort of an "everyman" approach. Tablets and Smartphones are part of that image as they've become the post PC solutions more accessible to some portion of the working class than workstations.
Apple has never been about low/bargain prices though. Although one can argue that iPads have been equal or lower in price to the competitors equivalents. One might say it's about "liberal aspirations" that, in reality, might be beyond the price some working class people can afford.
From my own personal experience consulting, many people in the non profit sector can't afford Macs at all. I spend a fair amount of my time recommending PCs/Laptops in the $400-$800 price range (Windows). Macs simply aren't in their budget no matter what one says about price/performance (of Mac laptops at least).
I can only speak for myself, a liberal-minded professor of digital media, and son of a UAW assembly-line worker. I've also worked in the video production industry for about 20 years, and worked on the FCP team in Cupertino for two years. Five years ago, you could not have said a bad word about Apple to me without hearing a manifesto about the virtues of Macs.
Over the past few years, however, I have seen the corporate culture of the company deteriorate. IT was slow and subtle at first, with things like customer service getting worse, or the sudden $200 price-drop in iPhone 1 and Apple's initial stance that the the early adopters could go pound sand. The pace hastened as Steve Jobs' health declined IMO. Things like the iPhone 4's antenna issue "you're holding it wrong," the instant killing of FCS3, and finally the China stories.
Although Apple still may not be on the same level of evil in my eyes as companies like BP or Monsanto, I'd say that they are about 80% of the way there. And I certainly wouldn't call them liberal any more. Fortunately for them, in a PR sense, their legacy liberal image (thanks mostly to Jobs) carries on. It's similar to how Walmart's change went largely unnoticed for several years, thanks to their "American Made" philosophies of the 1980s, and the legacy of Sam Walton.
Smartly, Apple seems to be doing just enough to keep that image alive in the minds of most, like raising workers pay in China. But at the end of the day, the liberal thing to do would be to bring those jobs back to the U.S., and find a way to innovate their way past any financial setbacks that this might cause.
For a political junkie like myself, I'm not buying it. I purchased my first Windows laptop in over 20 years last summer. My house once had as many as 10 Apple computers in it, and I had 3 iPods/iPhones. Now I have no iPods or iPhones and my only Mac at home is a Macmini, which was only purchased because my wife needed iChat for some of her clients. Within the next 12 months, I will be converting my entire curriculum to Windows from Apple.
Was all of this because of politics? Certainly not. But I'd be lying if I said it didn't play a role in my decisions.
Professor, Producer, Editor
and former Apple Employee