Can you name another technology company that comes under greater public scrutiny and involvement than Apple? No, certainly not Microsoft. Not even Amazon or Google face the same level of undue criticism and analysis as Apple (Sorry, I’m stretching the term ‘technology company‘ for both of Apple’s main competitors because they use technology not to create products that compete with Apple, but to enhance their online retail sales, or their advertising business, respectively).
Apple Inc. is not under a public, media, and market magnifying glass. In the internet era, where everyone has a public voice and journalism is synonymous with sensationalism, Apple is under a very visible microscope, the likes of which only focus on other companies when they do something drastically crooked, evil, or ridiculous (Volkswagen and Samsung come to mind).
The internet age, that era that began with the public internet, the information superhighway which has become little more than a misinformation superhighway, has in its wake spawned a generation of excessive expectations for companies, politicians, religious institutions, and even authority in general. Among technology companies, those with more than a few hundred million customers, Apple is the most criticized, vilified, analyzed, and loved of them all.
That Apple continues to succeed in the face of withering and intense criticism, that it is able to accelerate performance and power in new devices, and manufacture said devices to a level of quality that exceeds the competition is a remarkable feat. Yet, critics expect and demand more features, constantly testing Apple’s well known product design and engineering patience and discipline.
If you’ve ever tried to help an adult tackle their first smartphone or tablet you must realize that more features are not the answer to a comfortable and beneficial user experience, yet Apple is blasted by critics for not following the mantra being spewed from Google and Android or Microsoft and Windows that more is better, that less is less, and simple is anything but beautiful.
Those excessive expectations for Apple extend from product generation to generation, from the past to the future. A good case in point is Aaron Sorkin’s movie ‘Steve Jobs.’ Those who have seen it tend to think the movie is well done with excellent performances, and plenty of literary license when mixing drama with historical fact. In other words, it’s a movie, and movies tend to be more fantasy than reality. Yet, Steve Jobs the movie has been criticized incessantly by those who have yet to see it as yet another example of those opportunists who would profit from an in-depth perspective of notable people who have both a public and private persona, a painting that is perhaps more focused on flaws than accomplishments.
Ghandi and Patton come to mind as movie examples with a proper blend of history and fiction, humanity and impact, with a reverence toward their place in history, but without too much of the weighty baggage of the human imperfections which are in us all. Movies can only capture an imagined essence of a person’s life, and I expect no less and no more of Steve Jobs.
Apple suffers and succeeds in this age of excessive expectations, and does so perhaps because some of Steve Jobs DNA remains embedded in the company. Yet one can argue that Apple’s notorious co-founder both succeeded and failed because of his own excessive expectations.