Apple's Fickleness Reflects On Us

Last Updated Aug 31, 2009 11:05 AM EDT

Word to the wise: if Apple were your wing man, it would steal your girl. If you were going steady with Apple, it would fool around with your worst enemy. When Apple's back is against the wall, it throws its friends under the bus.

Apple is likely to pull the rug out from under AT&T's exclusive iPhone arrangement, marking yet another decline in the company's increasingly unethical and narcissistic corporate culture.

  • News today is that Apple is going to start dating Verizon, whether AT&T likes it or not. Objectively, it could be the right decision (there's an awful lot of pressure coming from the FCC, among other quarters, to drop the "going steady" part of their relationship), but it's not what a true friend would do;
  • Apple didn't hesitate to cut former BFF Google off at the knees when it came to Google Voice;
  • Apple let AT&T twist in the wind when it was suggested the carrier was responsible for the decision to pull the Google Voice app from the iPhone;
  • Apple has a history of switching carriers abroad, most notably in France. AppleInsider quotes Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster as writing that
For various reasons the company moved from an exclusive relationship with French wireless carrier Orange to a multi-carrier model... In France, the company now enjoys dramatically higher market share... than in countries with exclusive carrier agreements (such as AT&T in the U.S. where the iPhone has market share in the mid-teens).
Apple doesn't stick up for its friends or its own principles, unless of course it's easy to do so. Kind of like dating the last person on earth.

Forgive me if personalizing things this way seems puerile, but I'm trying to make a larger point about Apple's business. Apple is the personification of the ethos enunciated by Michael Corleone: "it's not personal. It's strictly business."

"It's business, not personal" seems to have permeated our culture, so it's fitting that Apple, the purest reflection of our consumer culture, should embody it most vividly. But the Michael Corleone character was a gangster. Putting business ahead of qualities like loyalty and honesty is bankrupt in every sense of the word. Putting business ahead of doing the right thing, failing to consider the long-term effects of any action, is exactly what caused the current economic collapse; it's what's made it possible for two generations of business executives to rationalize shipping jobs overseas, pay scab labor, destroy the environment and generally strip-mine the communities where they do business.

It's business, not personal, is even more pernicious than "greed... is good" because greed could in some cases be put to good use. Taking the personal out of business can't be put to any good use.
It will be interesting to see whether legions of its fans turn on the increasingly despicable Apple culture and its supercilious, imperious leader, Steve Jobs.

[Image source: Wikimedia Commons]

  • Michael Hickins

    Michael Hickins has written about technology and business for BNET, InformationWeek, InternetNews.com, eWEEK -- where he was executive editor from 2007-2008 -- The Curator, Pseudo.com, Multex Investor, Reuters, and Conde Nast's WWD.com. Hickins is the author of The Actual Adventures of Michael Missing, a collection of short stories published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991. He also published Blomqvist, a picaresque novel set in 11th century Europe, in 2006. Hickins remains passionately interested in the intersections of business, technology, politics and culture, and endures a life-long obsession with baseball. He is married with two children and lives in Manhattan.