Brand on the run

Steve Jobs gets with The Beatles. Peace, love and a fair profit beckon
Written by Leader , Contributor on

Never trust a hippy. So sang Sid Vicious, whose public distaste for all things hairy crystallised the innate suspicions many have about those who preach love and understanding shortly before burning you on a deal.

Until now, the companies Apple have provided good ammunition for the Pistolian philosophy. Apple Inc came from West Coast counterculture, delivering personal electronic empowerment free from the control of big business. Apple Corps delivered acid-soaked sermons on free minds and free love. But neither were too cool to resort to m'learned friends over mutual suspicion of stealing each other's bread.

Fifteen years of armed stand-off later, they've finally learned to just get along. Seasoned Apple-watchers knew something was up when a picture of Sergeant Pepper and his band appeared during the iPhone launch. Coming so soon after Apple Corps lost its latest legal action, Jobs couldn't have given a stronger hint if he'd walked barefoot over the pedestrian crossing outside the Moscone Center.

The most amazing thing about the Apple trademark deal isn't that it has been sorted out — the amount of money both companies stand to make through co-operation would persuade Hell's Angels to swap Harleys for spacehoppers — but that it's so thoroughly sane. Apple Inc is by far the more economically active of the two companies: it gets full custody of the brand and the freedom to sell music however it likes. Apple Corps, by now a pure legacy vehicle for The Beatles, gets a licence. Both can now get on with doing what they do best, and can do so together. Expect a lot to happen, and fast.

It may be too much to hope that this new summer of love will thaw other areas of conflict. Apple Inc's ongoing problem with iPhone is degenerating into a contest between it and Cisco over who's been most reckless — neither side will exit with honour, and it's not certain either will win control of the brand. That benefits nobody.

The lesson is there to be learned. In business, ego will get you a long way — but in the end, a clear-headed appreciation of what's to be won through working together will expand more than just your mind.

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