Even if you don't own an iPod or an iPhone and regardless of whether or not you run OS X, there is one inevitable truth that many people may overlook: As consumers and geeks, you and I need Apple.
I'm sure Apple fans are cheering and Windows and Linux users are getting ready to pelt me with virtual tomatoes of disagreement and disdain. Apple is just one of those companies, though. They incite such strong loyalty in many and such fervent hatred in others. Our very own forums and the accompanying log of warnings is a clear indication of that. Love them or hate them, though, you have to admit that Apple has a knack of delivering technologies in a way that nobody else can. Even if the idea isn't new, Apple makes it accessible and beautiful.
You can't discuss Apple without discussing the single product that seemingly turned the company around: the iPod. The MP3 player from that company in Cupertino came out in October of 2001 and within a few years, it managed to revolutionize the personal audio industry. The Microsoft Zune, arguably, wouldn't exist if Apple hadn't taken that faithful first step. What about all of the digital music stores? While they were most likely inevitable, they would definitely be years behind where they are today. Heck, we might still be dealing with DRM choked music files if the iPod hadn't come out so long ago or, even worse, $20 compact discs. If you leave your computer and jump into the living room, almost every company has a speaker system with iPod connectivity on its feature list. That little MP3 player single handedly pushed the industry down this road of digital music and, while audiophiles may boo and hiss at that fact, the mainstream consumer world is gleeful enough to dance as shadows on a bright colorful background with only a white iPod showing through. Thanks, Apple.
If we go a little further down the yellow bricked road that we're already on, we'll eventually arrive at the iPod's beefed up successor, the iPhone. As soon as the device hit the market, with its beautiful design and multi-touch screen, the mobile phone industry (or cell phone industry. for us Americans) changed forever. Two years ago, touch screen devices were part of a niche market and had almost no appeal to anyone outside of that little geek world. Then, one magical day, Apple brought us the iPhone. Everyone took notice. Where would we be today had the iPhone never been released? Would we still be relying on Palm's horrid Palm OS touch screen devices or HTC's ugly as sin line of touch screen mobile phones? Probably. The iPhone singlehandedly forced the market to take the touch screen and not only make it useful, but also wrap it in a more aesthetically pleasing package. If it weren't for Apple's market dominating phone, there's a good chance that none of HTC's latest Touch branded devices would have ever hit the market in the form that they have now. Would Android be around? Would Windows Mobile finally be getting some of the improvements it so desperately needs? Thank you, Apple, for saving us from a world dominated by Palm's and Razrs.
Finally, love it or hate it, Apple's highly advertised operating system, OS X, is one of the driving forces behind the innovation and progress being put into Windows 7. Before Windows and OS X started going head to head on a more mainstream level, Microsoft was perfectly fine with releasing a product that not only looked terrible, but was as secure as a paper bag left in the rain tethered to a pair of scissors. Granted, some bad publicity from some high profile viruses nudged Microsoft along, it was Apple and their marketing that really forced Microsoft's hand, especially with Windows 7. For the first time, Microsoft can't just develop an operating system for the corporate world and give it to the public with a few consumer friendly add-ons. The entire OS is being designed to be more consumer friendly and more secure than ever before. Why? Because Apple has made it very clear to the public that its operating system is as user friendly and safe as a golden retriever puppy in a room full of pillows. Some Apple zealots would probably argue that OS X is even cuter than that puppy in that pillowy room, but they're just crazy. Regardless of those nut jobs, Microsoft fell victim to Apple's very sound OS and amazing marketing machine. Windows 7 wouldn't be half of what it is without Apple's help. Thank you, Apple.
Love them or hate them, Apple is the company we all need. They may not always be original with their ideas, but they wrap them up so tightly and cleanly and present them in a way that drives mass adoption. Even if you don't use Apple products, you benefit from this because there's a good chance the device you're using or the mobile phone you're using was designed to compete with one of Apple's products. Imitation isn't just the greatest form of flattery; it's also the greatest thing that can happen to the consumer, especially when the idea being copied works so darn well. So, when you eventually power on a Windows 7 machine or come across a slick new touch screen device that makes your previous cell phone look like a toy, a little gratitude for Apple may be in order. After all, we need that company from Cupertino.