We tend to reflect on a year as it draws to a close and to look forward to a new year as it approaches. For Apple followers 2013 was an eventful year of iterative product improvements but without a disruptive product on the iPhone or iPad class.
Despite billions in riches and a vast manufacturing arm, Apple still struggles to meet growing demand of the company’s popular products. How is it that critics think Apple is doomed under the onslaught of Google’s Android? After all, Microsoft’s Windows won the desktop and notebook OS wars, yet Apple’s Mac takes up about half of the PC industry’s profits.
It’s all about perspective and argumentation.
All of us can point to a few specific events in life, which, for better or worse, have helped shape who we are and how we approach life. One that I remember distinctly came from a speech class I took in college. The professor also headed the argumentation and debate club and taught speech. He was an eloquent and persuasive speaker.
In one class, the professor introduced us to formal argumentation and debate rules, and demonstrated debate in a way I will never forget. In debate, conclusions are reached through logical reasoning whereby claims (or statements), whether sound or not, are based upon a premise and supporting evidence.
Debate classes have a book which lists many hundreds of popular debate topics which are used in formal debates. Students are assigned a variety of topics, and argue either pro or con, for or against, the topic. Debaters are required to use supporting evidence for the position (pro or con), as well as additional evidence to refute the arguments of an opposing debater.
As an example of how it worked, the professor asked us, as students, to pull a dozen topics from the debate topic book. Like a great courtroom lawyer, for three or four minutes he would argue the pro side of each topic, and immediately switch and argue the con side of the topic for three or four minutes. No preparation. No time to research facts. No pause between pro and con. His arguments were made up on the fly, for both sides, and he did that for an hour, presenting both pro and con of one topic one after the other; forcefully, eloquently, with plausible and reasonable arguments— for both sides.
It was a remarkable demonstration which has remained a guiding point for me through the years, not because of his capabilities, which were notable, but because of how any side of an argument could be made to seem plausible and acceptable. He was not arguing for or attempting to examine and evaluate evidence in a way to find and display the truth of a topic. Instead, his oratory could land on either side of the topic with ease, ignoring what could be hidden truths or facts. Truth didn’t matter. Presentation and persuasion did.
An argument can be made that Apple is doomed and it’s merely a matter time before Android (or, Samsung, or Microsoft again) rules the world. It’s just not a good argument.