Is Apple Vindictive and Evil?

by Colin Berkshire

Apple has not won all of its lawsuits. In fact, other than one big jury award it has for the most part been losing cases. Certainly, outside of the “home court advantage” here in America it has done rather poorly.

In an especially humiliating loss outside of the US, Apple was instructed to modify its home page and to run large advertisements in national publications stating that Samsung did not copy their designs. That reminds me of when a judge would order somebody to stand on a corner wearing a sign “I am a thief.” How humiliating! That judge must have been pissed at Apple!

To say that Apple didn’t carry out the spirit of the court’s order is an understatement. Apple’s published statements are nothing short of arrogant. Buried among a lot of self-serving language are the required sentences. But it is a masterwork of PR how they managed to dilute the court-ordered language.

This got me to thinking: Apple has become arrogant.

I don’t mean the type of arrogance that Steve Jobs always had. Steve was simply a superior person. He earned the right to drive without a license plate (perfectly legally) and to look down on Microsoft’s inelegant designs. He was brilliant, a true visionary, and his arrogance was tolerable because we knew he was making our lives better.

The new Apple Arrogance is like that of AT&T, or the old IBM, or of the War Department. It is the type you experience when a rich lady cuts into line because she feels more important than “the little people.” (I knew of a woman who actually referred to average people as “the little people.”) Apple seems to be evolving into one of those types of Arrogance.

Good corporate management is goal driven and purposeful. It drives new products, innovates, and out markets its competition. Good corporate management is focused on productive outcomes.

As I watch all of the Apple litigation now it doesn’t seem to actually be focused on business goals. It seems to be purely vengeful. And, that is not a good thing for employees or shareholders. I must wonder if Tim Cook has become conceited or mean spirited. What is he trying to accomplish? Is it anything at all beyond kicking sand?
Any major corporation knows that the patent system is a morass. No major corporation can survive without infringing upon the patents of others. So, what happens is companies all cross-license each other. This creates an oligopoly between a few cross-licensed players who have agreed to split and exclusively share a marketplace. Motorola cross-licenses with Samsung who would cross-license with Apple who would cross-license with Microsoft and who would cross license with HP, etc. It’s an exclusive club. The purpose of such a club is to exclude small companies and also to keep from spending meaningful amounts of profits on zero-sum-gain litigation.

Yes, Samsung probably copies some Apple stuff. But H-E-L-L-O Apple, Samsung holds an awful lot of patents that Apple uses, many of which are in cellular communications. Apple needs those patents. So what sense does it make for Apple to sue Samsung? Eventually, Samsung is going to sue back.

Now, this schoolyard brawl is going further. Apple is canceling their orders for LCD displays and eventually for processor and other chips supplied by Samsung. Of course, this is retaliatory and intended to harm Samsung. And, in the short-term it will certainly make Samsung squirm.

But let’s assume that Apple chose to use Samsung as a supplier for good reason in the first place. Then, to use any other company is to compromise on cost, quality, or innovation. None of those compromises help Apple’s shareholders or customers. It is solely for the ego of an arrogant senior management.

For the life of me I don’t understand how Apple’s litigation helps them in the end. I worry that Tim Cook has lost track of what is important and has decided that he wants to be an arrogant bully.

I am reminded of grade school: When somebody gets into too many fights with too many people you start to think that there is a disturbed child at work. When normally peaceful students are engaged in negative behavior, and when every time there is a school problem there is one child always involved you begin to understand that this child has not learned to socialize.

This worry is not inconsistent with other decisions we are starting to see Apple make… The Lightning cable on the new IOS devices offers no consumer benefits. It is a net-negative for consumers. Apple just picked a fight with its consumers. Apple’s refusal to offer anti-theft features on their phones is anti-customer. Apple’s disingenuous compliance with the court orders to publicly apologize to Samsung is more about ego than compliance.

The management pattern that I am seeing is starting to look like this: Steve Jobs was all about control & innovation. Tim Cook seems to be all about power and ego. Initially, those two things can look confusingly similar. In the end, only one of them is good for both consumers and shareholders.

Is Apple becoming evil?