It doesn’t take much for anyone to stand on a soap box and make declaration after declaration, pontificating upon any subject. A vacation to London, England a few years ago allowed me to witness the literal soap box parade of speakers in Hyde park, going off on any subject that could draw a crowd.
Therein lies the rationale behind the plethora of predictions, analysis, and criticisms of Apple Inc.
Whatever draws a crowd.
Apple has nearly one billion customers, most seemingly quite satisfied, more profits and more cash stuffed into banks all over the world than any company ever. Yet, thanks to Apple’s storied history and ‘we do things the Apple way’ mentality in the company’s DNA, those who desire a crowd to stand before their digital soap box need merely to predict something about Apple’s future, offer up pablum disguised as analysis, or simply criticize Apple with a litany of negative, whether valid or not.
One case in point came from Damon Verial, billed by Seeking Alpha as a ‘contrarian, newsletter provider.’ In other words, a man on a soapbox, looking for attention.
His latest contrarian perspective says that Apple Has Lost Its Monopoly, a seven page screed designed to call attention to the author and the digital rag and plenty of advertisements most of us prefer to avoid because such ads track our whereabouts online, and who knows what is being done with that data by government or private entities.
According to Verial, Steve Jobs’ aura, whatever that is, is all but gone from Apple, the company has a high debt-to-equity ratio which could cause a cash crunch, and Apple might make a good value stock, thanks to dividends.
Somehow throughout the argument, Apple is both a monopoly and not a monopoly, but let us not quibble over the meaning of words. See if Apple qualifies as a monopoly:
noun: monopoly; plural noun: monopolies; noun: Monopoly
the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service.
“his likely motive was to protect his regional monopoly on furs”
the exclusive possession, control, or exercise of something.
“men don’t have a monopoly on unrequited love”
a company or group having exclusive control over a commodity or service.
“areas where cable companies operate as monopolies”
a commodity or service in the exclusive control of a company of group.
“electricity, gas, and water were considered to be natural monopolies”
a board game in which players engage in simulated property and financial dealings using imitation money. It was invented in the US and the name was coined by Charles Darrow circa 1935.
Apple is not a board game, unless you’re a hedge fund manager, so we can rule out #2. Apple could be considered a monopoly on its own services and products because it exercises near exclusive control over all aspects of the company– pretty much like every company would prefer.
But Apple does not control a market as a typical monopoly; unless you count profits in the personal computer segment, smartphone segment, tablet segment, and, well, you get the idea. Except that profits are seldom considered instruments of a monopoly, and that seems to be both the beginning and end of Verial’s entire soapbox inspired argument.
The standard critical screeds regarding Apple have been hammered to death in the public square, only to be dug up again, refreshed with a new name, and a few new analogies, but screed nevertheless.
- Apple is a monopoly
- Apple cannot innovate anymore
- Apple is doomed… again
- Steve Jobs wouldn’t do that
- Apple is going broke (because debt)
- Tim Cook should be fired
- Apple’s (insert any Apple product here) will fail
- Steve Jobs was a bully (yet Trump is popular)
You see where this is going, right? You see it because you’ve heard it all before. Criticism is passed off as analysis, predictions are cheap, and real insightful analysis about Apple as a company, where it’s going and how it will get there, often fall short of reality; the problem here is that despite free digital ink and a few billion smartphone cameras in the world, nobody keeps track of the trash emanating from digital soap boxes, and prognosticators vying for attention.
Here in Hawaii the health department visits restaurants and inspects for cleanliness (or, lack thereof), and issues a Pass or Fail certificate, firmly affixed to the restaurant’s front door or window. It’s not pretty, but it’s effective. What we need on the internet is the same thing– someone in authority to inspect the digital drivel which passes as analysis from those who merely make noise for the sake of noise and attention, and affix a Pass or Fail certificate on their articles.