Rhodri Marsden: Your products were very good. But they were also overpriced – and overhyped

Our lust for its strangely covetable gizmos made it the most valuable tech firm in the world

Friday 26 August 2011 00:00
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For a period in the 1990s when Steve Jobs wasn't at the helm of Apple, its fortunes floundered under a succession of faceless CEOs, producing overpriced products that hardly anyone wanted. On his return, Jobs changed that; Apple now produces overpriced products that millions of people want. Our lust for its strangely covetable gizmos has made it the most valuable technology company in the world – but critics say its customers have more money than sense, they're seduced by form over function and even shout "we love you" at Jobs during product launches.

These days it's hard to knock either the function or the form of most Apple products. But while Jobs' tenure as CEO will be remembered for a string of hugely popular, ground-breaking devices, there's an associated legacy that isn't quite as glittering. Apple's media players have given it total dominance over the legal music-download market – around 70 per cent; the songs we download from the iTunes Store can't be played on competing players, creating a tied-in model that we have little choice but to which remain loyal. The music business may be thankful to Apple for creating a business model that brings it revenue, but now its utterly beholden to the firm. Similarly, Apple's strategy of controlling distribution and delivery leaves a bittersweet taste in the mouths of app developers for the iPhone and iPad; nearly $1.8bn (£1.1bn) of app revenue flowed into Apple's coffers last year; while grateful for their cut, developers simply have no other way of reaching Apple customers.

Consumers may get het up over Apple for any number of other reasons: its proprietary cables, expensive to buy and unusable with any other make of device; its stubborn refusal to allow its touch-screen devices to view websites using Flash; its smug adverts that convey surprise and disbelief that we aren't all Apple devotees; its swift development schedule that leaves customers with outdated peripherals that suddenly need upgrading; or just the relentless hype, now in full swing again in the wake of Jobs' resignation.

Of course, we can always walk away. But we've undoubtedly given Apple more money over the years than we've really needed to.

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