Approximately 10 years ago, Microsoft was easily one of the most hated companies in the world. With monopoly-oriented questions swirling around, and Bill Gates acting as the benchmark for just how bad big business can be, public perception of the company couldn't have been worse.
Of course, the most vexing issue surrounding that time was the fact that Microsoft was extremely successful at sitting atop the tech mountain, and much of its competition faded due to poor business practices and not necessarily as the result of product pricing.
If we fast-forward 10 years, the technology industry landscape looks much different. And while Microsoft is still hated by hard-core tech gurus, it has become an aging empire that may be on the verge of a huge collapse. To make matters worse, its figurehead--Bill Gates--is poised for his departure at the Consumer Electronics Show, and the future of his legacy is in doubt.
And with possible turmoil facing Redmond, a new company has emerged that could be in danger of taking the top spot as the world's most hated tech company. Only this time, the company was once an underdog that people hoped could turn things around. Well, it did. And with the help of its deitylike leader, some believe that Apple is on the verge of becoming this generation's so-called evil empire.
Of course, whether it really is an evil company doesn't matter. In this business, the court of public opinion will determine Apple's fate, and if it continues to do what it's doing, it may become one of the most hated tech companies in the world within the next 10 years.
To me, this idea of an 'evil empire' ruling the world of technology is an extremely short-sighted and inconsequential summation of what is really going on behind the scenes in the world's largest tech companies.
Although most people would disagree, I don't think Microsoft was ever evil, and in turn, I will never agree that Apple is evil. But one man's opinion certainly can't speak louder than millions, and so that term will continue to crop up with each passing of the former evil empire.
At its height, the fight against Microsoft revolved around its opponents' belief that the company was using its immense size and power to coerce--either legally or illegally--companies into licensing deals that cemented Microsoft as the de facto leader in the industry, with not a glance at what it was doing to its competitors. In turn, this created a monopolistic fervor among critics who claimed that Microsoft was the epitome of what unbridled growth can do to an industry.
On the Apple side of things, Steve Jobs and company have enjoyed unrivaled success with the iPod, and its integration with iTunes has created an end-to-end solution that some have called unfair.
Why, you ask? Well, take a look at other portable media players, and compare those to the iPod. Isn't it ironic that those players can do almost twice as much as the iPod and yet, we continue to buy the latter? Simply put, the iPod has a stranglehold on the MP3 player market, and some are wondering what can be done to stop it.
A court case filed in 2005 also addresses this issue. Dubbed Slattery v. Apple, the case features 10 counts of monopolistic endeavors through the iPod and iTunes connection, and asks the court to break the link between both solutions.
Of course, the lawsuits don't quite end there. In 2005, Apple was awarded the right to subpoena ThinkSecret, Apple Insider, and PowerPage for leaking details on the company's product plans.
Is Apple really that awful company that throws caution to the wind while doing everything it can to turn an even bigger profit? Some think so.
After making a deal with AT&T--one of the most hated companies in the world--for its iPhone, Apple may have showed its true colors when it bricked iPhones and basically wrested all control from AT&T on iPhone production.
Sure, some Apple apologists would say Apple just knows better, but others claim that it's just another example of Apple becoming evil.
Finally, most Apple haters like to talk about the company's "price gouging," whereby it charges too much for a device that can barely be configured and features most of the same components as a Windows-based machine. To make matters worse, the company charges a premium for its iPods, requires you to pay 99 cents for a ringtone when the same song costs that much, and generally does a fine job of providing a premium experience at a premium price.
Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it?
Now for the truth
Let me say this loud and clear: Apple is not in any way an evil empire and shouldn't even be thought of in that way. Further, Microsoft was never an evil empire, either. Who came up with this idea that just because a company is extremely successful and commands most of the market, it must be evil?
Personally, I think this mind-set is endemic to the entire human population. More often than not, people will find ways to hate large institutions for the sake of hating.
Think about it: people hate the New York Yankees, yet Derek Jeter is probably one of the classiest men to ever play the game; people hate Bill Gates, yet he's one of the biggest philanthropists in the world; some people hate the United States because of its perceived warmongering, yet it's the world's go-to country when something goes wrong. Am I missing something here?
In the end, the term "evil empire" is outdated, stupid, and does nothing to solve one of the biggest issues we face today: are we getting the kinds of products we want? So far, Apple has been able to provide just that. But if it decides to go the way of Microsoft, delivering crap, trust me, Steve Jobs will be the first to know about it.
That said, this is one man's opinion, and unfortunately, this society is ruled by a large group of people who like to beat up on big companies just because they're big. And it's for that reason that--justified or not--Apple will become the next generation's evil empire.
Just don't expect me to agree.