Apple’s New Goliath Status
Apple’s market cap is now about $230B up from about $35B five years ago. That is super impressive performance driven by the release of truly great products, for which Apple deserves hearty congratulations. But Apple’s size will necessitate a change in corporate behaviors, as they’ve moved from Underdog to Goliath status. In particular, Apple will need to be careful to avoid the Bully label.
Look at Apple’s $230B market cap compared with those of the companies around it. IBM (Apple’s Goliath in the 80’s): $170B; Microsoft (Apple’s Goliath in the 90’s and 00’s): $270B; Google: $170B; Nokia: $44B; HTC: $10B. Apple’s a big boy now, and they need to be careful about public perception. A couple of recent happenings could turn against them.
At Apple’s request, there is a police investigation that leads them to breaking down the door of the home of the Gizmodo editor who got the fourth generation iPhone prototype, to take his server, computer, and hard drives (SJ Biz Journal article). Wow. That’s some serious Gestapo-like stuff! That can look cool/gutsy when you’re the Underdog, but as the Goliath, it could really turn into an ugly PR nightmare.
Apple sued HTC (23X smaller market cap) over some UI items earlier this year. Recall that HTC has had forward facing cameras in many of their phones for a long time, and they’ve got new IP from MSFT, so there may be some potential for IP infringement by Apple, or one of their suppliers, with the upcoming forward facing camera iPhone capabilities. HTC could suck a lot of oxygen out of the room at the fourth generation iPhone announcement in June with a well executed PR/Legal strategy painting HTC as the scrappy innovative underdog and Apple as the abusive IP stealing Goliath. If (to be clear, I’ve got no knowledge as to whether this is possible) the HTC CEO is able to say “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours,” (word for word from Apple Sues HTC press release) Apple might be surprised at how many reporters are ready to take up that cause.
It seems like Apple should proceed with care. If the Bully label is affixed, it will be very difficult to shake off, and very bad for their brand.