Apple Will Never Do Business With Business: Not Now, Not Ever


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Hey, there are exceptions to every rule. I’m talking about Apple becoming a “player” in the business market, okay?

Not long ago I read a piece claiming that younger workers would soon band together at work to demand Macs, whether IT wants them or not, and iPhones too. Hey, why not iPods so sales people can multi-task on calls? Or service people can tune out angry voices on the other end of the line? Hey, I can remember many a dull meeting when I could have used a sound track for the daydream I was having.

But Mac desktops and laptops–that part at least sounded plausible, although a Mac flack could have written the piece. Of course, Apple would have to stop making hard drives out of aluminum foil, but less likely things have happened.

So much for plausible. The other night punctured the balloon. For the gazillionth time this month, our teenage son needed to be two places at once. He blamed the events, of course. After all, how could they dare schedule themselves at the same time? So he finally raced off to one or the other, having made himself late for both by standing around fuming. And after he left, I wondered–does his high school issued Apple laptop have even a rudimentary calendar program?

I didn’t know, and I’d be afraid to open that laptop, so I went online to see what he might have or what I could buy him. After lots of fruitless navigating here, there and everywhere, I finally stumbled across iCal. But then things got really frustrating. I couldn’t find a lick of information about this program. Not the features. Not the price. Just the name.

So I called our local store, where I used to accompany our son, before he drove, on seemingly endless visits to replace the aluminum foil. It was 6:00 on a weekday evening. No answer. Waited interminably while the phone rang, then hung up and dialed again. Same no answer. But there was a menu option for business customers only. Not being shy about going through side doors, I tried that option. Gone for the day. So I went back online and found the national 800#, the place you have to call if the store can’t replace the aluminum foil. Interminable hold again.

Finally, I got disgusted and hung up. And when my son came home from wherever, I asked him about iCal. He already had it. But use it? That would take away his freedom.

The whole episode was instructive. What occurred to me, thinking back to the article, is that doing business with business requires an entirely different culture than doing business with consumers–especially consumers like our son. Some companies can fit both cultures under one roof. But not Apple.

We all recognize that Apple has built an iconic product line. But what this incident drove home to me is that Apple has also built an iconic culture. There’s an Apple way of doing business. And as a business customer, I wouldn’t stand for it. Not now. Not ever.


  1. Dick

    My long-seving Sony Vaio died around Christmas. So I had to replace it. I didn’t want another Sony as I wasn’t happy with Sony the company, nor did I want anything with MS Vista on it. So I bought an entry-level MacBook from last year’s stock.

    Having used it extensively over the last four months, I couldn’t go back to a clunky PC anymore. Nor to the frequent errors, crashes and restarts that PC users have to become accustomed to. The Mac does everything I want to with style and aplomb that I never had in two decades of using PCs.

    Oh, and iCal comes bundled with the Mac OS. It’s on the tool bar at the bottom of the Mac desktop.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  2. Graham – I don’t dispute that Macs have their virtues. I could never use one because we run lots of specialized software – especially our process design applications – that only run on Windows. But they are slick in some regards.

    That said, XP on my Thinkpad (my 3rd one in 10 years) is rock solid stable, and everything I’ve herard about Windows 7 (which will replace stupid Vista) is positive. It apparantly has a smaller footprint than XP, which would be remarkable.

    But Apple’s hardware has never approached its software in reliability. And when you do have problems, Apple’s entire service and support network is designed for consumer business, inluding the direct distribution channel that drastically limits support options as well as development of 3rd-party applications.

    As a business buyer, I’d prefer to put up with some PC disadvantages for the security of having much more available support designed for business. That was my point.

    Also, my son absolurely knows where iCal is. He just won’t use it (so far…)

    Hope you’re well.

  3. Dick,

    Like Graham I made the switch to a MacBook about 6 months ago and am very unlikely to go back.

    Unlike you, I got tremendous support both online and in the store. My MacBook was flaky because the memory chip would not seat properly or stay seated. After fixing it temporarily several times, the store manager brought out a new computer and said, “this is not right, here’s a new one.” She also offered to have the Genius Bar (their in-store help people) help load my software.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  4. John – I realize in-store service is good, but Apple has a long track record of hardware problems. And not having repair options other than in-Apple store can make life miserable (especially if you live in East Elephant’s Breath Idaho). To me, so closely gaurding your technology that third-parties can’t work on your stuff is a very consumer – and business unfriendly – posture.

  5. Though MACs seem to be very slick and intuitive, I’m not so sure about realiability or compatibility with the business world.

    A colleague of mine has been a MAC user forever, and swears by them. He purchased his laptop about the same time that I purchased my Dell which was about four years ago. He has had to replace the keyboard three times and the hard drive twice. Additionally, he cannot communicate well with the business world. For example, when folks send him a meeting invitation via Outlook he cannot decipher the message easily (maybe he should be using iCal?). And there are subtle differences in functionality of MS software that creates frustration to say the least.

    Meanwhile, my Dell keeps on chugging along getting quite the work out every day.


  6. Dick,

    I agree that Apple’s control of hardware service leave people and businesses without options. However, in the PC world there are too many options who are unqualified and unethical. I left one Sony Vaio with an unscrupulous repair guy because the cost just keep rising. The diagnosis on my last HP laptop cost me one quarter of the cost on my new Macbook. All PC options came with Vista an operating system that everyone panned.

    Customers face challenges on either side of the computer divide.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  7. John – you’re absolutely right about the Vista problem, which I forgot about. I wouldn’t use it either. Fortunately for me, Lenovo was among the short list of firms allowed to continue offering an XP option for an extended period of time, so I was able to sneak in buying a new workstation (no more HP hardware) as well my new ThinkPad well after Vista’s release.

    From a Window’s perspective, the good news is that Windows 7, which will replace Vista soon, is apparantly drastically simplified. Although I can’t confirm this, I read that W7 will have a smaller footprint than XP. Hard to believe.

    Good to be trading messages again.

  8. Dick –

    Since 2002, I have used Macs exclusively in my consulting practice. And, I do pay $99/year for Apples ProCare support which gives me “go to the front of the line” access to their help experts including their Genius Bar experts at any Apple Store.

    Apple has never been keen on “bucketizing” customers into personal, business, etc. They tend to look at each customer individually and uniquely. They would prefer not to segment along personal, residential, business lines because it tends to yield inconsistent products and services.

    In “What Makes Apple Golden”, Fortune Magazine, March 8, 2008, Betsy Morris reports “[At Apple there] is no such thing as hedging your bets. ‘One traditional management philosophy that’s taught in many business schools is diversification. Well, that’s not us.’ says [COO Tim] Cook. ‘We are the anti-business school.’ Apple’s philosophy goes like this: Too many companies spread themselves thin, making a profusion of products to defuse risk, so they get mired in the mediocre. Apple’s approach is to put every resource it has behind just a few products and make them exceedingly well.”

    This “a man for all seasons” approach to its business is at the heart of what makes Apple so successful.

    In my consulting practice when I discuss Successful Customer Outcomes and my clients’ “Reasons for Being” I tell them that as important as it is to understand who your customers are and what you are to them is understanding who your customers are not and what you will never be to them. Apple has done this exceedingly well.

    David Novick


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