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DO APPLE CARE?

By Ross Churchill

You can also read this article over at Melody Nights.

With the release of the iPad Mini, the eyes of the world are once again pointed at Apple, with every exciting development being put under unenviable scrutiny.

One main talking point of the iPad Mini focuses on Steve Jobs’ repeated insistence that Apple would never move into the small tablets market. This raises a very interesting question: does Apple’s growth indicate a real passion for innovative media consumption, or does their continued expansion reveal an underlying desire to monopolise the industry?

Let’s rewind to the early days of Apple’s second-coming. The iPod was primarily developed as an upgrade to the mp3 players available at the start of the 2000’s, which were bulky and hosted clunky user-interfaces. It could be argued that their leap into hardware was only done to cement their dominance as software leaders (having just launched iTunes) and to close the gap in the market, but their reasoning rings true of genuine dissatisfaction, coupled with a desire to bring quality devices to the consumer.

iTunes and its associated devices are constantly changing and upgrading, now enabling the instant purchase and enjoyment of music, TV shows, games, books, podcasts, and movies. There continues to be criticism for the elitist partnering of their software and hardware, but this could just be viewed as economical self-preservation.

In fact, this business strategy illustrates Apple’s dedication for a unique, gratifying consumer experience.

The iTunes service encourages a wider exploration of artists, with the Ping, Genius and Library Sharing features incorporating a social element into the software – seeing your friends’ recommendations may lead you to discover new content that you like (and will purchase direct from Apple, due to the ease of doing so).

This all-encompassing media web has lead to a few darker moments in their recent history, however.

Apple have been plagued by patent infringement cases, the most recent one with Samsung coming to a head earlier this week (read more here).

The courts have ordered Apple to publish a statement retracting their claim that Samsung infringed their copyright on various technologies present within their tablet systems, to which they have courteously obliged. Like a previous case in which iPods were removed from shelves due to exceeding the legal volume limit in France, it seems Apple care enough to sacrifice and amend stock; from the fifth generation onwards, iPods have included user-configurable volume limits, a threshold of 100db being instated in EU markets. This proves that Apple do care – although perhaps only after being legally persuaded to.

Let us return to where we started, with the iPad Mini. Technologically inferior to even the 2nd generation iPad, there have been accusations of Apple shouldering their way in to conquer this previously-snubbed niche with a product that, although not even the most advanced small tablet available, will surely fly off the shelves due to the esteem of the brand.

The same principal seems to apply with their global stores, which seem to take precedent from McDonald’s original business plan. McDonald’s knew straight away that the real money was not in product, but in real estate. Selling burgers merely allowed them franchise the business endlessly, and they are now one of the biggest property owners in the world. Apple plan to open 35 new retail stores in 2013.

Apple stores are beautifully crafted environments, a wonderland of gadgetry and lustful hedonism. It’s near impossible to walk past one without craning your neck, staring inside longingly to the sound of vertebrae after vertebrae rupturing like calcified bubble wrap.

But then the sadness descends. With Britain only just recovering from recession, it’s a gargantuan kick in the teeth to browse in a high street shop where you can’t actually afford anything. A lot of people would struggle to scrape together the money to buy the earphones, let alone the iPod to use them with.

At the end of the day, Apple have revolutionised the way we consume media in the 21st century, and surely such innovation and craftsmanship cannot prosper without a true drive and passion at source?

What do you think? Does Apple’s loyalty lie with profiteering, or with customer satisfaction?

Join in the conversation @melodynights

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