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Why Do They Want Apple to Fail?

Just this week, I caught several articles quoting Patrick Lo, CEO and global chairman for Netgear, a maker of network gear, viciously attacking Steve Jobs. Typical of many executives who cannot cope with Apple’s incredible and ongoing success, Lo went after the well-known ego of ailing CEO Steve Jobs, and the company’s closed platform.

The most telling statement demonstrate’s Lo’s bad taste: “Once Steve Jobs goes away, which is probably not far away, then Apple will have to make a strategic decision on whether to open up the platform.”

Forget about the timing of this morbid-flavored comment, coming at a time when Jobs has taken his third leave of absence to deal with ongoing health issues. Lo is one of those forgotten executives that nobody pays attention to, so he clearly hoped to leverage Apple’s success, and the Steve Jobs mystique, to get his name in the papers.

It’s not that the statement is anything new. Apple’s business plan has proven to be amazingly successful. These days, Apple’s total revenue exceeds that of Microsoft, and is only a few billion dollars short of the figures just posted by Ford. Imagine Apple eventually reporting higher sales than the second largest auto maker on the planet.

If Lo has his way, that isn’t going to happen. Like other Apple critics, Lo believes that Apple cannot possibly sustain record growth with a closed, vertically integrated platform that covers all their products, from Macs, to iPhones, even to the Apple TV. How dare they?

To paraphrase an online political blog, maybe we should call this “Apple derangement syndrome.” This ailment apparently infects people who desperately want Apple to fail, and are very frustrated that Apple’s near-death experience of 15 years ago hasn’t been repeated. How dare they?

From stem to stern, Lo’s rant criticizes everything Apple does, warning that we’re about to see a repeat of the Mac versus Windows wars, where Apple was nearly destroyed by Microsoft’s industry dominance.

When it came to Jobs’ concerns about Flash, Lo said, “What’s the reason for him to trash Flash? There’s no reason other than ego.”

What Lo needs to do is actually read Jobs’ blog post on the subject, where he discusses several serious technical issues that define the problems with Flash. The poor performance exhibited by the mobile version of Flash, available in the newest versions of Google’s Android OS, have clearly vindicated Apple’s approach. Besides, Adobe has never been able to demonstrate that they can actually build a functional version of Flash for the iOS that addresses all or most of Apple’s concerns. That, in and of itself, shows how wrongheaded Lo has become.

Oh, and Microsoft wasn’t immune to Lo’s wrath. He trashed them too.

In the real world, Microsoft’s overwhelming Windows dominance is slowly eroding, largely because of the growth of the Mac OS, which is way ahead of most PC makers. Windows Phone 7 remains a non-starter, and the market share of the Internet Explorer browser has been on a steady decline at the expense of Mozilla’s Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and, to a lesser degree, Opera.

Here maybe Lo hit pay dirt: “Microsoft is over — game over — from my point of view.”

So much for open PC platforms, or maybe Lo didn’t notice.

The real issue, however, is that Lo sought his 15 minutes by making Apple and Jobs the main subjects of his wrath. Nobody outside the tech industry ever heard of Patrick Lo, or even Netgear. Few customers of commodity network products actually look at the brand names. They buy on spec. Today it’s Netgear, tomorrow Buffalo Technologies, and the next day, Cisco (or their Linksys subsidiary). There’s little to no innovation to be found, and differences tend to be relatively minor, except where one product exhibits substantial failure in implementing one or more product features.

Attacking is easy, and Apple is a prominent target. That they won’t pay attention to most critics only frustrates those critics more. A reality check doesn’t hurt either. You see, even if Jobs doesn’t return to Apple, there’s little to no chance that they will, of a sudden, alter their marketing strategy. Apple has tens of thousands of employees, and a tightly organized executive team that has carefully managed product development, releases, and sales initiatives.

It’s clear Jobs has assembled a team that is infused with the company DNA and will, at least for a number of years at least, survive the departure of the CEO without suffering or changing direction. Well, at least they won’t change direction unless that’s required by changing market conditions.

Fifty years from now, MBA students will be carefully examining the life and times of Steve Jobs. Nobody will pay a lick of attention to Patrick Lo, then or now. Speaking of which, he’s had far too much time in the limelight, and, in fact, has already begun to walk back some of his more incendiary remarks. Now what was his name again?

Another story that delivered a smile was the frantic wish from a CNET blogger that, based on early sales of Android OS tablets, the iPad’s share took a nosedive in the last quarter. The reason for the smile was the news from Samsung that the initial sales reports actually represented some two million shipped to dealers. Actual sales to customers were described as “quite small.” So much for the alleged popularity of the largest selling iPad killer.