What is it about Apple?

That makes it so popular?

Is it the stylish packaging that screams “buy me, I’m an Apple”?

Or the hip commercials that whisper “be unique, like everybody else”?

Could it be the slavish devotion of hundred of thousands of  Apple geeks which guarantee that the first run of each new shiny object of technology will be a success thus lowering subsequent prices due to the power of mass production?

Maybe it is Steve Jobs unique hippie genius that allows him to divine what people want the most but don’t really know until he hands it to them?

Or the “oh so easy to use that even your 98 year grandmother will be surfing the web before she is out the store door” interfaces with pretty graphics and intuitive performance?

The answer is: all of the above.

The wrong answer is: the price.

So is this one: cutting edge technology.

Once Apple was the domain of cheap home computers (Apple II series) but once the Mac hit the market, the prices, while not outrageous, they are certainly steep compared to the competition. And the tech you see in the iPhone, iPad or iPod is not cutting edge. Phones had touch screens, Windows™  based operating systems, text readers, or cameras or any one particular thing. The genius of Steve Jobs/Apple reside in the unique way the package/market their products. Macs look sleek and easy to use, iPod are fun for everyone, iPads are the new must have accessory. Add clever tie ins such as iTunes (buying music at .99$ did more for the iPod than the click wheel) and you have yourself not only a sales winner but a market conqueror (named the second to fourth most popular music players after the iPod, I bet you can’t even spell Zune and Sony Discman/Walkman don’t count).

Not that everything has gone according to plan. The Mac did not conquer the desktop market and it is even loosing some territory on the graphic artist area to PCs and tablets. While MacBooks may be the preferred portable computer of the trendy college student, yet for years Apple refused to even enter the market and a few Mac clones clawed out a miserable existence in a landscape dominated my their PC cousins.  But you can’t deny that Apple bounced back with a vengeance in the late 1990’s and has dominated key sectors of the pop culture driven consumer electronic markets (although the Apple TV ties, while interesting, did not take off). Their biggest rival is still Micro$oft who while having a barb-wire enclosed monopoly on the PC software market still can’t break out of the IBM PC office shell of it’s birth (except for the Xbox and even then when was the last time you heard someone say Microsoft’s Xbox in a complete sentence?).

In part it is because Apple knows marketing and knows that people will pay for products that do not overwhelm them with obscure operating systems that require you to take classes at CalTech just to turn on the damn thing. Apple products invite the user to explore them and customize them; it’s your games, your music, your graphics, not someone else. They also know the fine balance between standing on the ledge of pop culture trends while blending in into the ubiquitous fabric of everyday life.

And as long as Apple can maintain that balance, the kids will be alright!

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