Apple, as it turns out, has become all things to everyone. It is the most reviled company on the planet — daring to control its users by encompassing them in a suffocating walled garden, maliciously squashing its competition through litigation, and embodying the total of the worst of morality in its treatment of its Asian workforce. Apple, for many, is the worst. Those people love to hate Apple.
Of course, Apple is also a company that has navigated itself through the years with a greater vision for the world of technology, and often times humanity in general, always striving to provide its customers with an experience that transcends pushing buttons, connecting to networks, and downloading data, creating a lineup of devices and services that truly make our lives better. Apple, for many, is the best. Those people love to love Apple.
And then there is something else. Something that not many companies, or people, can say they inspire. It’s not a Venn diagram situation — the two above types of people do not overlap to create this person. Rather, it is an entirely separate existence. It is not just the technologically savvy, the long-time lovers of all things digital, the nerdiest of the nerds but also the old-time way-doers, the original solution-makers, the way-it-was-ers, and the on-the-fencers. Apple, for them, is a great burden. Those people hate to love Apple.
They hate to love Apple because it means that the way they wish it was, the way they hoped it would be, is not the way it is. To these people Apple represents something bigger than a Maps app that can’t find a few addresses or a dock connector that is proprietary. To these people, Apple is a signal that what they do, and how they do it, is fading away.
The nerds worry because in their perfect world, everyone is a programmer. There is no user interface. There is no iOS. No Siri. Just some code. And users manipulate that code. Users are in control. Not Apple. But now, to these people, Apple is in complete control. And that’s not fair, or smart, or whatever negative connotation they associate with it.
Then, you have the people whose jobs have been affected by technology from Apple. Newspapermen are almost gone. The record label industry is becoming less and less relevant. Any job that was once paper-centric seems to have a looming threat of digitalization hanging over its head, in large part due to Apple’s devices.
We no longer need a magazine in our mailbox — we have 50 magazines on our iPad. Magazine production facilities close. We no longer need to go to a Best Buy or a Sam Goody to buy the latest CD — we download it directly from the iTunes Store to our iPhone or iPod touch. Best Buy stores and Sam Goody stores close.
The nerds love that Apple has all these amazing capabilities in its devices and yet hate that they can’t do what they want with those advancements. They hate to love Apple. The fading industry people love playing Angry Birds, doing FaceTime with their loved ones, and putting grungy filters on their Instagram photos, and yet their jobs are being replaced by 1’s and 0’s. They hate to love Apple.
The undecideds of the world see the controversies on blogs and the evening news, they hear the rhetoric from the love to haters and the love to lovers and have no idea what to think. They see that Apple looks easy, but think the price is too much. They like the idea of being able to do whatever they want, but hate the idea of having to constantly tinker with their device. They hate to love Apple.
And you know what the brilliant thing is? Apple knows these three types of people better than anyone. And who do you think Apple gears all its efforts toward? That’s right, the people that hate to love them.
In general, you can’t do much about the people that love to hate you. They will have their reasons, many of which are irrational, and almost always, they will refuse to have a civil conversation or debate about the sides of the argument. These people will not change their minds.
Similarly, the people that love to love you will not change their minds. If your Maps app isn’t up to snuff, they’ll be critical perhaps, but understanding. They will buy your iPhone 5 and report as many problems as they encounter, knowing full well that those issues will be fixed, and in the grand scheme of things, the effort is worth it. They will defend you on tech blog comment areas and wait in line for the next big product.
But the people that hate to love you? They are the ones that will hear you out. They don’t like some things, and love others. They will buy an iPhone but sing the praises of a PC (while secretly eyeing the MacBook Air every time they walk past an Apple Store). They will sing the praises of openness, citing Android and Linux, while simultaneously wishing video chat worked as easily for them as it does for iPhone users.
Apple is changing the minds of hate to lovers every day. That’s why Apple is successful. Other technology and consumer electronics companies have no clue, and consequently, focus on the other two groups of people, missing opportunities left and right.
I would submit here that no one in modern history has understood the needs of hate to lovers better than Steve Jobs. And not just from a marketing sense, though he was incredible at that, but from a strategic vision sense. He understood what his company needed to be for the hate to lovers, had an uncanny ability to ignore or deal with the love to haters, and was always able grow the love to lovers. He was able to disseminate a great portion of that ability throughout Apple’s corporate culture which is undoubtedly one of his greatest legacies. And for it, Apple will continue to dominate.