The end is here… for Apple at least.
As an old Apple “fan-boy”, this is a sad time. I have recently been disheartened with the plethora of indicators pointing towards Apple’s slow and steady demise. That might sound extreme – and maybe it is – but the Apple that many people have loved, will never be again. And here is why it never could have lasted:
1. Apple became great by being a Rebel
Remember the Think Different campaign by Apple. This amazing piece of marketing captured the essence of what made Apple great. This is how revolutions start. They capture the essence of an ignored and marginalized niche, then empower them to push forward.
This ethos helped Apple become one of the most profitable companies in the world. But it is also a fallacy. A company that builds its reputation on being a Rebel, on driving a revolution, can never last forever.
2. The Rebel eventually becomes the Status Quo
Unfortunately this can’t last. In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky paints a brilliant picture of how revolutions take place, both from a practical and emotional standpoint. The thing that I realised when reading this is that Apple is like any revolutionary fighting against the incumbent.
Their battle cry was one of creativity, quality, and experience. When IBM sucked at making personal computers, Apple showed them how it could be. When Microsoft sucked at making operating systems, Apple showed them how it could be. In each instance, Apple was the Rebel fighting against a larger, slower incumbent. However, now Apple has become the disconnected Goliath that still creates decent products, but only through the inertia from old days which we can see is very quickly running out.
Like all Rebels, they spend many years fighting the Status Quo. While this sounds exhausting, it actually becomes a part of who they are; their meaning for life becomes built around this one cause. The problem comes when after many years of progress, they Rebel finally wins. The incumbent steps aside and the Revolutionary Party takes their place. At this point there is a huge emotional problem; they have lost their meaning; there is no longer a Status Quo to defeat – they are the Status Quo.
This then leads onto the next point.
3. All revolutions breed counter-revolutions.
If the Revolution is successful – which in Apple’s case it has been – then as shown above, the Revolution gets to a point where it becomes the Status Quo. As always, this shift of power is a zero-sum game; by gaining power and influence, someone else has lost it; by progressing the rights of one disenfranchised group, you have enlightened another to their inequality. In this sense, revolutions are more like the shifting tides of the sea; each movement is interconnected with the next.
This was best put by Camus in his essays The Rebel, where breaks down and classifies the different styles of revolutions and the moral implications of them all.
“If he is a rebel then he ends by taking sides against the revolution[…] Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic.”
Unfortunately, this is not possible for a company to do. Unlike politics where the government is greater than a single entity, companies cant revolt against themselves. All Apple can do is stop pretending that it is the Rebel; stop pretending that they are challenging the status quo.
World progress stumbles forward in revolutions. Apple is done, who is next?