It’s a matter of apples to Apple

Apple Inc.’s rising profile translates to more than just a growing dollar sign on the stock market

Despite a price point that’s hundreds of dollars higher than comparable devices, Apple products remain widely popular, maintaining a high profile over other brands.
Despite a price point that’s hundreds of dollars higher than comparable devices, Apple products remain widely popular, maintaining a high profile over other brands.
Photo: 
“People are buying [Apple] because there’s a bit of a cult ... They’re a little bit too accepting of what Apple deems as the next big thing,” says School of Computing professor Robert Tennent.
“People are buying [Apple] because there’s a bit of a cult ... They’re a little bit too accepting of what Apple deems as the next big thing,” says School of Computing professor Robert Tennent.
Photo: 

In 2007, Greg Allan made a wise decision.

The fourth-year student bought his first Macbook and, close to that time, shares of Apple Inc.

Back then, a share of Apple was valued between $100 and $200. Today it’s closer to $600.

It’s not just the company’s stock he’s investing in — it was also the technology.

“Everything works better,” Allan said.

The company has generated a loyal following, Allan said.

“People buy Macs to fit in,” he said. “You look in an English lecture — what do you see?”

In August, Apple won a billion-dollar lawsuit against Samsung. Apple had accused Samsung of copying some of their US patents, such as the icon designs on the smartphone screen.

Allan said though he supports how Apple is trying to protect its patent, it may come with future implications.

“The future of creativity will definitely be stifled if everyone has to worry about patent trolls.”

According to some, the Mac culture has become something more than a Generation Y trend.

“People are buying [Apple] because there’s a bit of a cult,” School of Computing professor Robert Tennent said. “They’re a little bit too accepting of what is deemed by Apple to be the next big thing.”

It’s a problem that, Tennent said, presented itself during the Apple versus Samsung trial in August.

“The decision went the wrong way and I very much hope it gets overturned,” Tennent said. “This is an instance where the cult of Mac has obviously swayed the jury.”

But he’s not letting Apple win him over. Tennent continues to use Linux-based computers and devices.

Linux is an open-source operating system that gives the user more control over their technological experience, in comparison to Windows and Mac systems. Users are able to program their own applications and software into Linux computers, allowing them to customize the entire system.

“You don’t have a corporation of people controlling your access to your device,” he said. “Apple is becoming more and more closed. They want you to use more of their apps and more of their program.”

Generation Y, according to School of Business professor Ken Wong, isn’t all about their technology.

“Certainly there are some people out there for whom consumer technology is the centre of their universe and who basically establish their personal sense of self worth by how new their toys are,” he said.

“It’s not everybody. I certainly would reject the notion that there’s a whole generation that have to have the latest and greatest.”

According to intel.com, a Mac computer costs an average of $100 to $500 more than a comparable PC.

Despite the wide price difference, there’s still a sea of students with Apple products on campus.

The Apple brand, Wong said, owes its success to multiple factors — like the faltering competition from Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of Blackberry.

“Apple always benefited from a competitor that was not doing the right thing,” he said.

Most of the company’s success, however, lies in the message that it brought to consumers in the 1980s with its first product.

“Basically the notion was if you want to benefit from the computer revolution you don’t have to be a wirehead,” Wong said. “This is the computer for the rest of us.”

Apple hasn’t always maintained massive success. The launch of the Apple Newton, a device similar to today’s smartphones, was regarded as a miserable failure when it launched in 1993, Wong said.

“Apple was at that time making the same mistake that RIM was making, and that is they were selling a piece of hardware. People didn’t want hardware,” he said. “People wanted the capability that hardware delivered.”

With the introduction of the iPod and iTunes, Apple triumphed.

“You had apps,” Wong said. “There was a reason to have that portability.”

According to Wong, Apple doesn’t have much room left to continue developing its existent technology, particularly with new iPhone models.

“What you’re seeing is an enhancement of existing functionality,” he said.

These enhancements tend to draw from the same smartphone consumer base, Wong said.

“The iPhone 5 is not bringing new users into the market,” he said. “And you win some subscribers away from other brands.”

When David Rappaport came to Queen’s in 1986, he immediately bought his first desktop — a Mac Plus.

“It was not so much I fell in love. I got used to the Mac OS [operating system]. It was easy to use,” he said.

Rappaport, who works primarily with computational geometry, used the device for his work. Back in the 1980s, he said the Mac was the only computer to use a mouse.

“I could actually draw figures for my research on the Mac,” he said.

Because Rappaport works primarily with theory, he said he never learned DOS, Microsoft’s command line-based operating system typically used by programmers.

“I’m so bad that when you have to give a talk, a presentation, and I’ve got to use someone else’s machine, I usually ask for help.” According to Rappaport, the simplicity behind Apple computers drives their faithful customer following.

“It’s part of loyalty, part of habit and they do have excellent industrial design,” he said.

The small number of Mac models on the market means that the computers aren’t as susceptible to viruses as Windows computers.

“There aren’t any viruses. At least, it hasn’t been a problem up until now. It might become one,” he said.

The Apple user community wasn’t always as large as it is today, he said.

“In the old days, if I can reminisce … Apple was definitely the underdog,” he said. “It didn’t have a huge market share. There were no iPods or iPhones or any of that.

“It was a tiny community. There was something to be proud of.”

Apple Computers Inc. was started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne in 1976. In the early 80s, its market trading price seldom went over $30 per share.

Since then, that price has increased nearly twentyfold.

Rappaport hasn’t ruled out the possibility of switching camps.

“To tell the truth, the next time I buy a computer, I might not buy an Apple. I’m not that kneejerk [reactive] in terms of buying Apple as much as I used to be,” he said.

“I might just go ahead because it’s simple. It really is simple to get it.”

— With files from Tristan DiFrancesco

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