I’ve been an Apple guy since early 1985, when I bought the original 128k Macintosh — which still sits in my basement, like some never-quite-forgotten religious relic. So I’ve seen the company go from being new and hip and much talked-about to skirting the brink of utter collapse to being possibly the most valuable company in the world — all of which has been kinda disorienting for a long-time user, as I have noted.
In the last few years I have been somewhat dismayed to see how much attention that fans used to devote to the actual products made by Apple now gets devoted to the financial status of Apple as a company. A prominently representative case here is John Gruber, of Daring Fireball fame, who used to write detailed and highly intelligent responses to Apple products as a user, but who now focuses much — way too much — of his attention on what various business pundits predict about Apple’s next earnings reports, why said pundits are jackasses, what the various numbers really mean, and that kind of thing.
It’s true that Apple is a fascinating business, if you’re interested in business, and that people respond rather curiously to it: I mean, isn’t it kind of odd when a company sets records for sales and all the business reports treat that as bad news? So I get the obsession with the company’s financial picture, even if I don’t share it.
But I just hope the people who work for Apple are able to avoid thinking about that stuff too much. After all, the innovations that transformed Apple from a marginal company into a Behemoth happened — obviously and per necessitatem, as the logicians say — when Apple was not nearly as powerful as it is today. The company needs today to think and act, imagine and design, as though it’s not the biggest company in the world and wants above all to stay on top.
In 1975, Bill Gates came up with the founding mission for his company: “A computer on every desk and in every home, all running Microsoft software.” Steve Jobs, by contrast, didn’t even try to be ubiquitous: he just wanted Apple to make things that were “insanely great”. Thats’s the way to do it. If Apple is going to continue to matter, to make a real difference in the world, it can’t care about whether it stays on top of the heap, whether the iPhone makes more money than Andriod phones, or any of that stuff. It needs to think only about making things that are insanely great.