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Macworld: Panel of 'Apple fans' defends company from critics

February 01, 2013|By Chris O'Brien
  • Macworld panel from left to right: moderator Dan Moren and panelists Ryan Block, Christina Bonnington, Jacqui Cheng and John Gruber.
Macworld panel from left to right: moderator Dan Moren and panelists Ryan… (Chris O'Brien / Los Angeles…)

[This post has been updated.]

The panel at Macworld was called "The State of Apple 2013." But it could just as well have been called "In Defense of Apple." 

The Friday afternoon panel was moderated by Macworld senior editor Dan Moren and gathered four panelists he described as Apple fans. The group included Ryan Block, co-founder of the blog gdgt; Christina Bonnington, a Wired writer; Jacqui Cheng, a senior editor at Ars Technica; and John Gruber, who writes the influential Daring Fireball blog.

Moren kicked things off by painting Apple as a company lately under siege by the media. Why?

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Gruber said he thought Apple's business was largely misunderstood. The company looks to get a small market share in places where it can earn big profits. He thinks investors panic over whether Apple is gaining or losing market share, but that's the wrong way to view the company's business, Gruber said. 

"It comes down to the church of market share," Gruber said. "Apple really turns that on its head. Because Apple sells to the small part of the market where there's a lot of money to be made."

Block suggested Apple didn't have a customer problem, but that perhaps it did have an investor problem. 

"This is an investor issue," Block said. "People who care about Apple don’t think there’s a problem.... Apple has to do more in terms of managing its investors."

The panelists also agreed that Apple's success meant there was a target on its back, with some people naturally rooting for the big guy to fail and the underdog to triumph. 

"They’ve entered an orbit where they don’t have any peers," Gruber said. "Even just a rumor in one newspaper that they've cut supply orders is a sensation for two days. No other company gets that kind of scrutiny."

Panelists gently mocked critics who say that Apple can no longer innovate now that Steve Jobs is no longer chief executive or that the company hasn't released a world-changing product during Tim Cook's 18-month tenure as CEO. 

"People may not even know what they want," Cheng said. "The just know that they want something new and exciting. I think people need to be more patient."

Gruber also said Jobs created a process at the company that delivered breakthroughs and world class products. He think Jobs' day-to-day role in building those products was probably overstated.

"I don’t think it depends on him that much," Gruber said. "I don’t think he was a linchpin the way a lot of people thought he was."  

[Updated: A previous version of this post misidentified the moderator as Dan Frakes of Macworld. It was Dan Moren of Macworld.]

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Follow me on Twitter @obrien.

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