Open Season on Apple

We knew we'd get a spirited response to our December 2007/January 2008 cover story on the future of Apple. And the iAcolytes didn't disappoint, reading our assessment of the company's multifront battles line by line with the intensity of a Talmudic scholar. Many letters began with the faint praise, "Your article is interesting, but ..." before responding to one of our assertions. Our questions could not dampen the nation's Apple praise-a-palooza. Its products "inspire their users, and that is priceless," and "Apple has become a status symbol." No doubt. But as one reader pointed out, with a jaundiced eye, "the logical conclusion of your story is to short Apple stock to the hilt."

Perpetual Innovation Machine

I am actually amazed how a company that has never made a phone before can introduce one and proceed to shake up so much of the industry--from handset makers to content providers, network operators, and regulators--all over the world. Where were these people before the iPhone? At last, the consumer has an advocate.

Robert Koh
Short Hills, New Jersey

What most tech writers and tech-business leaders don't get is that the reasons for Apple's seemingly unstoppable moves forward are its vision and the development engine that translates that vision into products. Give another company a visionary leader, and it still won't be able to keep up with Apple's development tools, which are unique and permit development at a pace that other platforms simply cannot keep up with at the moment. There's also the unified architecture of essentially running Apple's operating system on all of their devices. That reduces costs and development time, and increases stability and interoperability, which augments the brand and product experience of customers.

Paul Gutches
Taos, New Mexico

Steve Jobs, Missing Link

I worked for Steve at Pixar from 1991 to 1997, and was challenged at that time to run against him for CEO, only to have him ultimately go back to Apple. So it has been fun to watch Apple's evolution. The missing DNA for the company had been Steve Jobs. When other companies come out with some new product or service, and then Apple comes out with something better, you just look and smile and know that what that company is missing out on is Jobs's DNA contribution. If scientists were smart, they would find a way to clone Steve. He is the driving force that gets the teams to gel to make it all happen.

Michael Murdock
Scottsdale, Arizona

If Mr. Jobs read articles like yours before deciding how to run his company, I am not sure we'd have the Apple we have today. When my friends buy a SanDisk music player or aDell computer because they thought it was the most aesthetically pleasing and well-designed thing they had ever seen (and not because "it has the same features, but it's cheaper"), I'll start to worry about Apple.

Ram Tantaloor
New York, New York

The Golden Touch

You say that Nokia's touch screen does the iPhone "one better" by offering tactile feedback. But this is still trumped by Apple's revolutionary, not to mention patented, multitouch technology.

Wesley Thorp
Longwood, Florida

Hooray for Macintosh!

We are a small shop working in the brutal, rapidly disintegrating economy of Michigan, needing every competitive advantage we can lay our hands on. From 13 years in business, I've concluded that the more our competitors believe that the third-rate, unstable, productivity-leaching piece of bloatware known as Windows is "pretty much the same thing" as the Mac operating system, the better our chances of survival. Yes, we are sweating plenty, but one thing I don't think I have to wring my hands over anymore is computer temper tantrums translating into ridiculous IT expenses.

Brad Kennedy
Kalamazoo, Michigan

If I followed your article's suggestion, I would get a smartphone from Nokia, a PC from the cheapest seller, an MP3 player from somewhere else, and build my Web sites on a Microsoft platform. Yes, that's an alternative, but I think I can do all of that with Apple, know that it will probably work, and, oh yeah, it will all look really cool.

David Barrack
Atlanta, Georgia

My MacBook Pro has a backlit keyboard. I don't have to worry about dragging it off the coffee table when I pull on the AC adapter, because it's designed to detach easily. No big deal you might say, but Apple is the one that comes up with those features. There's value there, especially when the competition doesn't match it until years later. I agree that Apple's record of innovation may be hard to maintain, but with Steve Jobs there, it's possible it's just getting started.

Brendan Walsh
Charlotte, North Carolina

The Rights Stuff

While your article contains some interesting ideas, many arguments are flawed. You write, "He won't allow music and videos downloaded from iTunes to be played on other MP3 players." ITunes pioneered major-label digital-rights-management-free music sales. The songs are encoded in AAC, an open standard supported by numerous non-Apple players. You also say, "He won't permit music downloaded from competing stores to play on the iPod." Jobs just isn't willing to subscribe to Microsoft digital-rights-management schemes, which most competing stores use. Music purchased without DRM (e.g., at eMusic or Amazon) can be played on an iPod.

Stephan Kippe
Frankfurt, Germany

Writer Adam L. Penenberg responds: Apple did introduce a line of music free from digital rights management for $1.29 a tune in the spring. Then, as we were putting the issue to bed, it introduced millions of indie songs without DRM, but these are mostly from bands we've never heard of. The major-label releases do have DRM and cannot be played on other devices. And Apple has not made any moves to synchronize its DRM standard with other makers. You are correct that music purchased without DRM, such as what Amazon sells, can be played on an iPod. But you have to download a special player from Amazon to automatically place your purchase in iTunes.

Shana Fisher Is Real

I just finished reading your article on Shana Fisher and half-questioned if a person like her could really exist (" Barry Diller's Grand Acquisitor," December/January). Because her background was forged in technology and art, she is seemingly able to empathize with and be truly passionate about her acquisition targets while at the same time exercising complete control and tactfulness, elements she attributes to her investment-banking background. As an investment banker myself, witnessing such passion and control in the complex arena of M&A is like spotting Elvis at Graceland--very rare.

Brian Murphy
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Brand Beliefs Are Not Bigotry

I was dismayed by Rob Walker's column about "brand bigotry" (" Just Say No," December/January). The dictionary defines bigotry as "stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own." While I won't purchase a Ford (I'm a Chevy fan) or clothes by P. Diddy (I don't believe in supporting his lifestyle or being a walking advertisement for him), my beliefs do not rise to the level of intolerance.

Kevin J. Cook
Middleborough, Massachusetts

Over the Moon

Your NASA story (" To the Moon! [in a Minivan]," December/January) reminded me of Ralph Kramden saying, "Bang ... zoom ... straight to the moon." Thus, I propose that we name the first operational Orion capsule ... "Alice." As a nation, we must have this reliable "minivan." Eventually, our commercial/industrial use of space will require a Kramdenesque transit bus, which should, of course, be named "Ralph."

Edward Johnson
Albuquerque, New Mexico

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