Could being the biggest create an image problem for Apple?

Sounds daft we know but for decades Apple has been the discerning techies’ choice and many a heated argument has taken place between designers and writers praising its wares with quasi-religious zeal and other people saying ‘get a life,’ everybody uses Windows.

But this ultimate maker of niche products is now the biggest tech company in the world by value at $223bn, just ahead of the once all-conquering Microsoft on $219bn. Not just that, but it’s second-biggest company in the whole wide world after US oil giant Exxon Mobile ($282bn).

There are two things here. One is that Apple is no longer a tech company as we used to know them. Yes it makes gadgets but, ever since the iPod, they’re things everybody wants. So they compete with games, toys, even holidays and other leisure activities. Go away for a week or a buy an iPad (on sale today in the UK).

Microsoft, by contrast, has failed to move beyond Windows, its unloved PC operating system. Yes, it operates in lots of other areas but its offerings are widely seen to be clunky (rightly or wrongly) and it’s anything but cool.

Apple’s challenge is to stay the biggest and the coolest, not easy when rival offerings are appearing from all over the world. Its recent spat when it called in the legal heavies after a journalist from Gawker Media came across a new generation iPhone shows the perils it faces.

Being big on this scale just changes companies and the attitude of consumers towards them.

So it’s a problem on the horizon for Apple leader Steve Jobs. But not one he’ll be worrying about too much this morning.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.