Google is about to overtake Apple, and Apple couldn't be happier

If Apple can make more money coming second, why would it want to come first?

No one could ever call me an Apple fan (their walled garden approach is something I could never get on board with) but the reports that Android is about to catch up and overtake iOS as the most popular app platform can be nothing but good news for Apple - and in particular their world-class marketing department.

Google’s Android has sold around 300m more devices worldwide than Apple, with Android seeing half a billion more downloads a month on its Play store than through Apple's App store. Not that this means much, though, as Apple continues to rake in more cash with their 30 per cent cut of apps sold than Google (who now take 27 per cent - up from 19 per cent in November 2012).

So if Apple can still make more money when being number two, why would they want to be number one?

The reason Apple historically sold so many products and had people queuing around the block was that it was the alternative to the mainstream. There is a magic associated with the Apple brand that being number one is eroding away. If Google takes this crown and becomes the everyday product that everyone and their mum uses, Apple could hold on to that special something that made people spend twice as much on them rather than settle for one of their many competitors.

As a company, Apple spent so long trying to break out from under Microsoft’s shadow that now it has, and it stands as the undisputed king of the technology industry, it doesn’t know what to do with itself. It doesn’t know how to market its products, or who to aim them at, so it veers wildly between trying to come across as the cool alternative for young creative types and trying to convince corporate clients that it’s a steady mainstay – as reliable as IBM, or the company previously known as RIM.

The Mac vs PC days of boring corporate suits being mocked by the cool, young music-maker seem a far cry from today as the US Department of Defence approves iPhones for military use and executives demand iPhones from their companies to replace their once beloved BlackBerrys.

We’ve seen Apple’s market value fall consistently every month since its peak, from just over $700 per share in September last year, something that is likely to continue if Apple remains on the road to becoming the Everyman’s Microsoft 2.0 in a tightly controlled aluminium case.

Apple needs a corporate behemoth to be second to, to outdo and feel superior to; it’s built into the company’s history and its soul. Like the rebel who becomes king and realises sitting on the throne isn’t much fun, Apple needs to be out, fighting its cause. Apple should be glad that Google has stepped up to fill that role in the mobile arena.

Photograph: Getty Images

Billy Bambrough writes for Retail Banker International at VRL financial news.
 

ELLIE FOREMAN-PECK FOR NEW STATESMAN
Show Hide image

Craig Oliver, Cameron's attack dog, finally bites

A new book reveals the spiteful after life of Downing Street's unlikely spin doctor.

It must be hard being a spin doctor: always in the shadows but always on-message. The murky control that the role requires might explain why David Cameron’s former director of communications Craig Oliver has rushed out his political memoirs so soon after his boss left Downing Street. Now that he has been freed from the shackles of power, Oliver has chosen to expose the bitterness that lingers among those on the losing side in the EU referendum.

The book, which is aptly titled Unleashing Demons, made headlines with its revelation that Cameron felt “badly let down” by Theresa May during the campaign, and that some in the Remain camp regarded the then home secretary as an “enemy agent”. It makes for gripping reading – yet seems uncharacteristically provocative in style for a man who eschewed the sweary spin doctor stereotype, instead advising Cameron to “be Zen” while Tory civil war raged during the Brexit campaign.

It may be not only politicians who find the book a tough read. Oliver’s visceral account of his side’s defeat on 24 June includes a description of how he staggered in a daze down Whitehall until he retched “harder than I have done in my life. Nothing comes up. I retch again – so hard, it feels as if I’ll turn inside out.”

It’s easy to see why losing hit Oliver – who was knighted in Cameron’s resignation honours list – so hard. Arguably, this was the first time the 47-year-old father-of-three had ever failed at anything. The son of a former police chief constable, he grew up in Scotland, went to a state school and studied English at St Andrews University. He then became a broadcast journalist, holding senior posts at the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

When the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson resigned as No 10’s communications director in January 2011 because of unceasing references in the press to his alleged involvement in the phone-hacking scandal, Oliver was not the obvious replacement. But he was seen as a scandal-free BBC pen-pusher who exuded calm authority, and that won him the job. The Cameron administration, tainted by its association with the Murdoch media empire, needed somebody uncontroversial who could blend into the background.

It wasn’t just Oliver’s relative blandness that recommended him. At the BBC, he had made his name revamping the corporation’s flagship News at Ten by identifying the news angles that would resonate with Middle England. The Conservatives then put this skill to very good use during their 2015 election campaign. His broadcast expertise also qualified him to sharpen up the then prime minister’s image.

Oliver’s own sense of style, however, was widely ridiculed when he showed up for his first week at Downing Street looking every inch the metropolitan media male with a trendy man bag and expensive Beats by Dre headphones, iPad in hand.

His apparent lack of political affiliation caused a stir at Westminster. Political hacks were perplexed by his anti-spin attitude. His style was the antithesis of the attack-dog mode popularised by Alastair Campbell and Damian McBride in the New Labour years. As Robert Peston told the Daily Mail: “Despite working closely with Oliver for three years, I had no clue about his politics or that he was interested in politics.” Five years on, critics still cast aspersions and question his commitment to the Conservative cause.

Oliver survived despite early wobbles. The most sinister of these was the allegation that in 2012 he tried to prevent the Daily Telegraph publishing a story about expenses claimed by the then culture secretary, Maria Miller, using her links to the Leveson inquiry as leverage – an accusation that Downing Street denied. Nevertheless, he became indispensable to Cameron, one of a handful of trusted advisers always at the prime minister’s side.

Newspapers grumbled about Oliver’s preference for broadcast and social media over print. “He’s made it clear he [Oliver] doesn’t give a s*** about us, so I don’t really give a s*** about him,” a veteran correspondent from a national newspaper told Politico.

Yet that approach was why he was hired. There was the occasional gaffe, including the clumsy shot of a stern-looking Cameron, apparently on the phone to President Obama discussing Putin’s incursion into Ukraine, which was widely mocked on Twitter. But overall, reducing Downing Street’s dependence on print media worked: Scotland voted against independence in 2014 and the Tories won a majority in the 2015 general election.

Then came Brexit, a blow to the whole Cameroon inner circle. In his rush to set the record straight and defend Cameron’s legacy – as well as his own – Oliver has finally broken free of the toned-down, straight-guy persona he perfected in power. His memoir is spiteful and melodramatic, like something straight from the mouth of Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. Perhaps, with this vengeful encore to his mild political career, the unlikely spin doctor has finally fulfilled his potential. 

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories