Stop me if you've heard this one: Apple is just like a relig—
Yeah, you've heard it. Apple is just like a religion. And its customers are acolytes, steeped in the heady lore of the Church of Jobs blah blah blah. For certain pundits and commentators, this explains away everything they don't understand about Apple. Why it does so fabulously well, why its customers are so loyal, why the company is able to charge more for its devices... it explains everything!
A little too neatly.
See, if I could add an addendum to Occam's Razor it would go like this: The simplest explanation is usually the right one... unless it involves magic. Frankly, I think that it's much more valid to apply this argument to Apple's critics than its supporters.
Take, for example, those who continuously proclaim that Apple's doom is nigh. You don't have to look far for them: They literally use the word "doom" in their headlines.
Just to be clear, I'm not saying belief in imminent Apple doom is a religion. I don't think it is. You know what is religion? Religion. Words have meaning, that's what they're for. Most of these people who proclaim Apple doom don't even believe it themselves — they're just selling something.
No, I'm just saying one could make a better case that the Apple Doomsday Cult is a religion than making the argument that Apple itself is. Consider it a thought experiment.
The church of Apple
For starters, let's look at the argument that Apple is a religion. We know this is true because researchers in Britain hooked one Apple fan up to a machine and found his reaction to the brand was stimulating the same centers of the brain that religion stimulates.
Oh, you can argue that one is not a statistically large sample or that even if Apple does stimulate the same brain centers as religion that doesn't mean much because lots of things — our loved ones, playing sports, or the rich, creamy taste of Litehouse Ranch Dressing — could do the same thing, that doesn't make them religions. But now you're just hating on science, hater.
Still there is the generic argument about the canonical "Apple zealot". Do these people who think Apple is perfect in every way all the time and will buy whatever product Apple ships actually exist? Probably. When I invented "Artie MacStrawman" nine years ago, it was not without its basis in fact. But here's the difference: The only place the Arties of the world write is in comments or forums or on the restroom wall of the Applebee's they walked into confusedly thinking it had something to do with Apple. They don't write for supposedly serious publications like Forbes, Fortune, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. They don't have positions as big-time Wall Street analysts. They certainly don't get invited on television to make their case and they definitely do not get book deals.
The altar of facts
Are there Apple fans who will take any opportunity to point and laugh and make snarky remarks about Apple's competitors? Haha, oh, yeah. Oh, my god, so many. Most of these people also criticize Apple, too. While we prefer Apple's products and their business model, we're not idiots. But pointing out that Apple makes good stuff and makes a ton of money for doing so — in other words, pointing out facts — does not mean you're a religious nut.
Maybe Apple doom is a thing because our culture loves stories that run counter to what everyone thinks. If you can come up with some kind of evidence that donuts are actually good for you, it'd be a big traffic day on Huffington Post. But this dogged adherence to the idea that Apple will fail runs back to the mid-1990s when it was actually failing. In other words, when Apple was failing, no one was getting cushy gigs telling people how it was actually succeeding. Which is good because it wasn't, but you can't explain the Church of Apple Doom away as simply the novelty of being contrarian.
The sweet smell of success
Now, Apple is so much more of a success story than a failure story that it seems almost impossible on a quantum mechanical level. That's really the only thing you need to know to make my case: Apple's not just successful, it's incredibly, dramatically, wildly, record-breakingly successful. So demonstrably successful that saying it's doomed has gone light years past "not even funny anymore" and wrapped all the way around the universe to "thigh-slappingly hysterical" again.
And yet people still believe it's on the edge of going out of business. Well, as I said, they either believe that or they're just selling that idea to get attention. Which, of course, also goes on in religion. QED.
Is Apple always a success? No. Will it always be a success? Given what we presume is the infinite nature of time, probably not. Some time before the sun burns out, Apple will probably again get the kind of managers it had in the mid-1990s, an assortment of clotted meat products in suits who believe that market share is incredibly important and that chasing the lowest common denominator is a sure-fire way to win.
But we're nowhere close to that point yet. So to buy into the idea that it's happening right now, you have to take a lot on faith. Certainly a lot more than believing Apple is a success.
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