Bean Counters

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

When Tim Cook took over for Apple way back in 2011, there was lots of concern around Apple turning the company over to the "bean counters". The concern was that Cook would turn the company into something that was unrecognizable from the Apple we knew and loved and turn it into a company that was only concerned with pinching pennies and making as much money as humanly possible.

In the past 9 years Apple has grown immensely and released hit product after hit product. They're clearly not perfect, but nearly a decade after Steve Jobs' death, the company is still one I'm proud to support on most things; both on this blog and with my wallet. Tim Cook has clearly done well, and the company is on very solid footing.

What I have always loved about the company is how they prioritize great products over anything else. They seemed to care more about their users, and those developing on their platform more than the other guys. What I loved even more was the community that both supported them and called them out when necessary. There have always been fanboys, sure, but as John Siracusa made popular, being "hypercritical" was always part of being an Apple fan.

Apple has done very well, and while I have my issues with some things, ultimately I think they do the right things for their products.

That said, I think the bean counters are taking over the Apple fandom. And if not "taking over" it's at least the lens in which tons more people want to look at the company's decisions.

Take any of the recent App Store controversies and you can find tons of people saying things like "Apple needs to make money too" or "these greedy developers just want more, what about Apple?" or "if you don't like it, just bugger off".

It genuinely concerns me when people cast indie developers as the enemy because they want to make slightly higher margins on their app sales. "But Apple can't lose money" they say, but Apple makes more profit in a day than most of these small companies will make in their entire existence. It's like reading about David and Goliath and thinking, '"hey, Goliath deserves what he's got, David should just go use Android, which is as out of date as this story ohhhhhhhhhhh!"

It worries me how often I see people defend Apple's decisions simply because it makes sure that Apple makes more money. Should Apple take less than 30% for App Store purchases? "What, and go broke?" Should Apple allow the iPad to operate like a Mac (which Apple says the iPad can replace) and allow installs outside the App Store? "And let people use their platform, and access their customers for free? Get out of here!"

On any single issues, it's reasonable to have multiple opinions out there. What worries me is that I am the most loyal, intense Apple fan in basically everyone's life that I know outside the Apple bubble. Yet inside the Apple bubble I often feel like one of their harshest critics. Like if we had an election for some reason in this community, my opponent would label me an AFINO (Apple Fan in Name Only).

Why does this bother me? If I’m being frank, these are the sorts of things Microsoft fanboys would say in the 90s when Microsoft was a the height of their power.

What happened to the Apple fan who loved the products first, and the money second? What happened to caring more about small companies (“local businesses” if you will) more than mega-corps? Apple is currently worth $1.6 trillion and brings in more profit per minute than most Americans earn in two years. I’m very happy for their success, and I love the fact that they’ve become successful by making great products, but I get disheartened when I see people act like this isn’t enough and that the gears of capitalism demand they squeeze every last penny out of their customers and developers.

I don't think the more business-oriented pundits are bad, nor am I saying that Apple can be as “Think Different” as they used to be, but I find it distressing when we argue that Apple should not give up a little bit of profit or power so that more third party developers can stay in business.