The announcement that Steve Jobs is taking another medical leave of absence has generated a tsunami of speculation about whether Apple will continue to be a dominant high-tech force without him. Long answer short, you bet it will. Less remarked on is why Apple continues to be the pace setter in personal computing and the smart phone and music industries year in and year out despite formidable competition.
Long answer not quite as short, it is not because Apple necessarily makes superior products. It because Apple markets its products in a superior way and offers nonpareil customer service at the retail end and when, heaven forbid, there is a problem with a product.
Looking at this equation another way, Apple has profitability and market share beyond its relatively modest size because it makes buckets of money by engineering great stuff that a goodly number of people believe they must have. Compare that with General Motors, which never forgot how to make money but forgot how to make cars, the upshot with which was a decade-long death spiral that was checked only because of federal loans.
My own experience is instructive.
I bought my first laptop in 1992 and had a series of PC-based systems until 2009. While the functionality and reliability of PCs grew by leaps and bounds and their prices went down, I never liked the various Windows operating systems. Meanwhile, every one of the graphic artists and photographers I knew had migrated to Macs and would nod knowingly when I would complain about my laptops.
Then on St. Patrick's Day 2009 the DF&C and I walked into an Apple store to look for a replacement for her not particularly old Dell Inspiron, which had been making strange noises before the hard drive seized up and died. An hour later, we walked out with a 15-inch MacBook Pro, a gorgeous little machine sculpted out of a slab of aluminum that going on two years later has performed flawlessly. We added a 13-inch MacBook last year and it too is a thing of operational beauty.
We have not had to avail ourselves of Apple's customer service, although the DF&C has signed up for several tutorials, and there is no question -- none whatsoever -- that when our Macs start to get a little long in tooth they will be replaced by newer Macs. Not because Apple makes a better product than everyone else, but because they have convinced us that they do.Portrait of Steve Jobs using Apple products by Charis Tevis