Friday, 11 March 2011

Taking a bite out of Apple

Some people never learn. Already there's a queue outside New York's iconic Apple Store, as premature adopters line up to be the first to get their hands on the eagerly awaited iPad 2. So eagerly awaited, in fact, that people were already anticipating it before the original model even launched.

When iPad made its debut, Apple was dogged by rumours that it was already planning version 2.0 - especially since there was a suspicious space near the top of the unit seemingly set aside for a camera interface to be added at a later date. Last week, a sickly-looking Steve Jobs made a rare public appearance to showcase the new slimmer, lighter iPad, prompting cruel commentators to suggest that he was taking the concept of 'living the brand' a little too far.

Since the launch announcement, I've been taunted by colleagues keen to point out how obsolete my own iPad is, now that the new version is about to be released. Because Apple's true genius comes not from its product design, marketing or usability, but the extraordinary levels of brand loyalty that it's been able to cultivate.

In his original version of the script for Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino wrote an extended version of the date between Mia and Vincent, where Uma Thurman grills John Travolta on his personal preferences. Mia asks her evening escort whether he's a Beatles or an Elvis man, followed by "Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family?" It's safe to assume that, if Tarantino was making the film today, his heroin-hoovering heroine would be trying to determine whether her date was an Apple or a PC?

During the course of last year, I underwent the conversion process, gradually replacing all my clunky computer hardware with shiny, brushed metal gorgeousness, to the point that we are now an all-Mac household. And even though the technology itself may go out of date quicker than mayonnaise, at least everything looks lovely.

When it comes to Mac-ownership, there's little to regret. Or at least, so I thought, until I saw a study conducted by UC Berkeley computer science major Kyle Conroy. With Apple currently being predicted to take the title of the world's first trillion-dollar company, Kyle wondered how rich he'd be if he'd invested in the company, rather than its lovingly-designed products.

I may have a pathological inability to read anything even resembling a spreadsheet, but even I can see the stark lesson that his studies present. Starting back in 1997, when Apple launched the PowerBook G3, Kyle has taken the initial market price of each new product and worked out what the same amount would be worth if it had been spent on shares instead. It's pretty depressing stuff.

The $5,700 needed for that G3 laptop would now be worth a staggering $330,000 - not a bad return on a fourteen year investment. Even the equivalent of a G3 Power Macintosh Desktop ($2,400 in 1997) could have delivered a $139,185 dividend. But you wouldn't get a cool, white drawstring bag.

Of course, as one commenter on The Daily What points out, Apple stock has soared precisely because people spent their hard-earned money on their products. Even so, you might want to think twice before you join the queue outside your local store for the new iPad. It doesn't take an Apple Genius to work out that there may be better uses for your money.

No comments:

Post a Comment