Peter Merholz wonders aloud about the propensity of Mac fanatics to laud Apple while simultaneously celebrating openness. Apple he suggests is decidedly not open—-the company, he says, doesn't blog and has kept its music DRM, among many other things, within the kimono.
It hasn't hurt Apple to do it, but Peter and others often point to Apple's market share as proof of failure. According to this reasoning, Porsche, BMW and Lexus are failures, too. Peter writes: "Apple's desire for total control relegated them to a niche player in the PC industry," assumes market dominance is the only goal a company could have.
Since when is small and highly profitable a bad thing? Eventually, Apple will lose some of its massive market share in portable audio players and online music sales, but the closely held and elite status it conveys in the experience of its brand satisfies a certain sick yearning to own "the best."
Now, you can argue endlessly what the best is. Plenty of people drive Fords and Chevys, but the companies are incredibly unprofitable compared to more "elite" competitors, whether BMW, Porsche or Lexus. Try to find after-market parts and service for those cars and see if it isn't reminiscent of the Apple customer experience.
So, is it hypocritical to be closely held whilst your customers celebrate openness in almost everything else?
The answer is "No." If it said one thing and did another, that would be hypocritical. (Keep in mind that I constantly argue Google is hypocritical for claiming to be "not evil" even as it does semi- and totally evil things.)
Apple doesn't make many claims it doesn't live up to. Except for Apple Care, which has pissed off more than a few people though I've never had a problem getting a Mac or iPod fixed quickly and completely, Apple keeps the high-end, high-price promises it makes. And it ships development tools with every copy of the OS and made the Darwin kernel open, so it even embraces a certain measure of open source values even as it concentrates its own development efforts on proprietary hardware.
Apple's market share isn't proof of failure. If it is, Porsche, BMW and Lexus are failures, too. And they are not. Furthermore, I don't feel hypocritical being both a supporter of open software and an Apple customer.