The GOP, Apple And The Power Of Magical Thinking

I appreciate the value of myth and storytelling, but nevertheless I'm constantly struck by the power that myths have over us, and the ability of human beings to engage in what psychologists call "magical thinking."

One example is the GOP, whose adherents last week kept believing that Mitt Romney was going to win the Presidency despite a statistical analysis that proved this to be highly unlikely. Even after the numbers came in, some GOPers (I'm looking at you, Karl Rove) refused to believe them. 

GOP supporters simply could not tell the difference between what they wished to be true and what was in fact true. (Of course many of these same people also don't believe in evolution, and think that dinosaurs walked the earth alongside humans, so they have a track record in this space.)

Magical Thinking In Tech

There's also a form of magical thinking that takes place in technology, when people confuse what they wish to be true with what actually is true. One example was Linux. How many times were we told that desktop Linux was going to take over the world and kill Microsoft? 

And now there is Apple, whose legions of supporters continue to believe that what happened to Apple in the PC market (cheaper rival comes along and grabs all the market share) won't happen again in mobile.

But it will happen. It is happening. Heck, in some ways it already has happened.

The latest numbers from IDC show that Google's Android operating system now has 75% share in smartphones, up from 23% two years ago.

And Apple? Two years ago it had 15% share. Today it has ... 15%.

I don't know how much market share a product needs to be considered to have a monopoly, but 75% sure seems close. I mean, people claim Google has a monopoly in search, but there it holds only a 66% market share.

Seriously, tell me: How is this not Windows v. Mac all over again? 

The Magical Counterarguments

Well, the magical counterargument goes, this time things are different because iOS is better than Android. I don't agree, but it's also beside the point. Windows was never as good as the Mac, at least according to Apple fans. That was what made the ascent of Windows so galling, that it won without ever really being the best.

Then comes the tablet argument. You have to look at tablets and smartphones together, as one market, they said. Somehow these folks believed that because Apple once had all the share in tablets, it always would.

In their minds tablets would be different from smartphones (somehow) and thus immune to competition. Just like smartphones were going to be different from PCs and immune to competition.

But here comes reality. Last quarter Apple's share of tablets dropped to 50%, as "Android shipments, led by Samsung and Amazon, surged during the quarter, at the expense of Apple, which saw its share slip notably during the quarter," according to IDC. 

This isn't bias. This isn't ideology. These are numbers.

The Windows-vs.-Mac movie is playing out all over again, with Google in the role that Microsoft played last time.

Apple Still Has An Amazing Business

Don't get me wrong. Apple is a fantastic company that makes great products. I have a house full of them, including every iPhone ever made, up to the iPhone 5, which I have on order.

Apple has a $500 billion market cap and about a zillion dollars in the bank. It still gobbles up most of the profit in the mobile phone market.

Apple isn't "doomed." Apple has built a great business that is the envy of the world. Near term, Apple is probably going to set new records in this holiday quarter. 

The mobile market is so big, and growing so quickly, that all Apple has to do is grow at the same rate as the market and it will have an amazing business for the foreseeable future. (That's precisely what Apple has been doing.)

But if you start believing that we aren't seeing the sequel to Windows-vs.-Mac, if you start ignoring the fact that Google's platform now outsells Apple five-to-one, or pretending that this doesn't matter - well, you might as well believe that evolution isn't real, or that Mitt Romney is President. 

Good luck with that.