As American as Apple Computer

It was a harmless enough comment. Something that I let slide at the time because I didn’t really know the person who said it. And then there was the small technicality of his being my new boss’; friend—both of us being invited to his house to watch the NFC Championship game—which didn’t exactly elicit the atmosphere for a techno-intellectual debate.

Still, that didn’t stop my new acquaintance from asking me during a well-placed ad for Dell computer who my choice of PC (that’s personal computer) was at the time. Having introduced myself as a web designer earlier, he probably thought it was the polite thing to do. But when I responded simply, “I’ve always been a Macintosh man, myself” an unexpected look of perplexity struck his face. I could almost see him searching for a way to escape his next offense. Then, with an instinctual knee-jerk reaction, he let it slip.

“That’s pretty much un-American these days, isn’t it?”

Now, I could speculate what would make someone say something so off base, but instead I think I’ll focus on the reverse, for there are a number of reasons that I believe Apple represents certain core values that are, in fact, quintessentially American.

In fact, it’s almost so obvious to me that I hardly find it necessary to write about. However, as I’ve learned, what is obvious to me is not necessarily the norm in this society, nor has it become quite well known or popularized into a larger train of thought.

So here are few facts worth noting.

Apple is all about innovation. Simply put, no other company innovates like Apple because no other company has to like Apple. The company survives today because it puts innovation first. From FireWire to Rendezvous, from ditching outdated floppies to designing candy plastic works of desktop art, no company strives to bring out as much innovation in a year as Apple. While not an overt American value, I believe that the same can be said about America and Americans in general—that we strive to make innovation happen, through technology, hard work, and diligence in design, engineering, and production. That’s something of an American heritage.

Apple is all about competition. Well, sort of… Let’s just face the fact that the computer desktop is in dire need of competition and that Gates and company have held off the opposition through some questionable means, even the government agrees. By providing a desktop interface in Mac OS X that is on par (and far exceeding, IMHO) the desktop environment of Windows, Apple is giving Americans the benefits of our free market—at least as long as that market is safe from monopolistic misuse of power. That’s an American value I want to see a lot more of in the future.

Apple is all about creativity. There’s no question that the Califorinia based computer maker is a big hit among creative types. In fact, they’re so popular among the creative crowd, they’re almost synonymous with computing in industries such as desktop publishing, video, and music production. Again, while not an inherent national value, I believe creativity in general is growing into something of an American truism. Modern scholars already see a “creative class” emerging into a dominant position in America. If that happens, I see Apple playing a pivotal role to that realization.

Apple is all about standards. Hard to believe given their proprietary legacy, but under the hood of Mac OS X lies Free BSD, a POSIX (Portable Operating System Interface) UNIX system. What that means to American businesses and casual users in general is that the Operating System meets certain standards in accordance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In other words, Mac OS X does its best to be a good operating (and network) citizen. Porting software from similarly standard systems and having devices interface with other hardware and software components in predictable ways is usually possible. Again, while not an American value per se, this point underscores the power and wisdom that true competition brings to any capitalist society. In short, we all benefit when standards are used.

Apple is all about good karma. Perhaps the biggest stretch here but what else would you expect from someone crowing on and on about a company lead by Steve Jobs. Apple brings good karma, nowadays especially, with the advent of things like the iTunes Music Store. Certain peer to peer file sharing networks provide unlimited access to music, video, and software, regardless of copy protection or royalty rights. Apple, however, has provided an ingenious way to purchase music in a cost-effective, totally legal means that’s user friendly and easy to do. This capitalizes on something that’s been sorely missing in the recording industry. It may be premature to make a call on this one, but I think it bears mentioning as I define what makes Apple such a great American company.

Apple is all about individuality. If you haven’t been following along, you’ve probably missed what Apple stands for. If the motto “Think Different” doesn’t spell it out for you clear enough, then maybe you should get on over to Circuit City and start pricing out a PC clone. Apple represents individuality—in thought, promotion, mindshare, and just about everything else they approach. This is unquestionably an American value. Our country was founded on principles such as liberty and freedom of expression. The fact that we still have choice as consumers today should be celebrated.

Apple is all about empowerment. Suffice to say, all of these things combined make for a pretty convincing argument that Apple computer is quite possibly a unique American value, which couldn’t have happened anywhere else. Over the years, the company has empowered the little guy—the independent artist, the publisher, the business person, the lawyer, and a slew of other smart minded individuals—people who have realized success when success wasn’t possible by any other means.

And this brings me to my last point.

Apple is indeed American. Let’s look at the cold, hard facts. The company was started in a garage by a couple of entrepreneurs with nothing more than a few bucks, a can-do attitude, and an American dream. Over time they have inspired industry leaders, sparked a few million followers, educated countless children, and created some great (and great looking) tools for everyday people like you and me to achieve great things. Apple has changed, shaped, and given benefits to our country in extraordinary ways.

It’s really just as simple as that.