icon_newspaper.gifJim Stafford, The Oklahoman
Wednesday, May 12, 2004

In the world of business, some companies have customers. Others have “clients.” All of them try to create customer loyalty.

Then there is Apple Computer.

Apple has created millions of fanatical followers who display almost a cult-like devotion to the California-based company that makes Macintosh computers.

Every move Apple makes is chronicled in the technology media the way entertainers are tracked by, say, People magazine.

When it opens a new Apple retail store as it did recently in San Francisco, hundreds camp outside the store the night before to be among the first inside on opening day.

And yet, Apple holds but a 5 percent share of the computer market in a world dominated by Microsoft and PCs that operate its Windows-based operating system.

Apple has created such devotion by creating “cool” products and a
slightly “counter-culture” philosophy that strikes a nerve with its fans, said Michael Gartenberg, technology analyst with Jupiter Research.

“Cool products have a certain cache about them,” Gartenberg said. “When Apple introduced the Macintosh, they created it as the ‘computer for the rest of us.’ It’s always been somewhat about being slightly counter-culture to the rest of the industry in terms of design and innovation. Apple has backed that up consistently with ground-breaking products.”

The ultimate in Apple’s cool image is Steve Jobs, its co-founder and chief executive officer, Gartenberg said.

“Certainly Steve Jobs is the heart and soul of Apple,” he said. “It’s very rare to see another company’s CEO speaking at a public forum with people lining up around the block for hours and hours on end in order to get inside.

“A Macworld keynote where Steve Jobs speaks is some parts marketing message and other parts revival meeting for the faithful.”

A good number of those faithful are Oklahomans and a couple of local “Macheads” recently discussed their devotion to Apple. Dan Lovejoy is associate director of interactive media at Oklahoma Christian University, a college in which every student receives not an Apple computer but a Windows-based Dell.

Dan, however, uses a Macintosh computer in his office, as do most of the folks in OC’s marketing office. He chooses Apple products for both their ease of use and stability.

“I have an ancient Macintosh PowerPC G4 450 dual processor that I use every day,” Lovejoy said. “I leave it on for weeks at a time without rebooting. By contrast, I have to reboot my Windows computer every day for one problem or another. That stability alone is worth using a Mac.”

Creative director Scott Horton with NewsOK has built hundreds of Web pages with Apple computers. He said Apple carries over into other parts of his life with its suite of “iLife’ software products.

“After a hard day at work, iLife allows me to escape to a world with no creative limits,” he said. “What could be more fun than creating and listening to my own music, sorting and editing family photos, creating family videos and burning them to DVD.”

Both Lovejoy and Horton describe themselves as Mac “evangelists.”

“It’s a joy to watch their eyes light up when I show a PC user the Mac world,” Horton said.