June 24, 2008, 4:26 PM — Apple and Google zealots may not like to hear that their beloved will be hated one day like Microsoft, but it's true. In an industry where users are fickle and power translates to evilness, no one is safe from the wrath of anonymous haters that dislike anything that looks like an empire.
Let's take a trip down memory lane.
Believe it or not, there was once a day when Bill Gates and Microsoft were loved by millions across the globe. Long before the company was put on trial for its questionable business practices, it was heralded as the leader of the PC revolution and the one saving grace in an industry that was dominated by that "evil" IBM. But eventually, all that changed. Instead of looking like the David to IBM's Goliath, Microsoft became too big and used its considerable size to kill off other browsers, dominate the software industry through sweetheart deals with PC manufacturers and solidify itself as the world's most powerful tech company. In the process, millions vilified the firm and Gates was suddenly thrust into the limelight as an evil CEO who appeared "evasive" during his deposition in the anti-trust case brought against his company.
And although Bill survived the case in the federal court, he lost it in the court of public opinion. Until Microsoft finally enters the pantheon of forgotten companies years from now, it'll always be thought of as the bully and there's nothing Gates or Ballmer can do about it.
But alas, Microsoft's plight is not unique. In the technology industry where consumers are fickle and major companies are always kept at arm's length, there will be many more examples of a once beloved company becoming the object of distaste and hatred. And if you ask me, both Apple and Google are sitting atop that list.
Does anyone honestly believe that Steve Jobs and Apple will always be the beacon of hope and affection going forward? If so, that person is either a ridiculously misguided Apple zealot or someone who simply doesn't know how this industry works.
As it stands, Apple's iPod is easily the most important MP3 player on the market and its iTunes Store has become the second-largest music retailer in the world. Aside from that, the company is one of the fastest growing firms in the industry and has established itself as the leader in consumer mindshare. Taking all that into consideration, how long will it possibly take before the general public realizes that Apple's strategy of controlling its OS and iPhone with an iron fist are more of a money-grab than an attempt to "keep us safe"?
If nothing else, Apple has shown us all that it will do everything it can to solidify its position as a leader in the industry even if that means it continues its questionable practice of locking down its software and services on its own device. And eventually, that will come back to bite it.
Long before Apple will ever be hated, Google will supplant Microsoft as the world's most hated organization. Why? It's simple - Google has all the traits necessary to ensure that the real tech followers will hate this company for years to come.
So far, Google has become the world's leader in online advertising - a perceived scourge on the Internet that will never get worse; a provider of some of the most popular services on the Web and the world's most popular search engine. Sounds great, right? Think again.
As I've shown, popularity and success breeds jealousy and disdain. Knowing that, what other company is nearly as popular or successful as Google right now? Depending on the service you believe, Google currently commands between 60 percent and 70 percent of the US search market and now that its DoubleClick deal has been approved, it's the de facto leader in online advertising. Even better, the company is enjoying over $1 billion each quarter in profits and although it has slipped in the past month, its stock price is still hovering at about $430 per share. If that doesn't ooze success, nothing does.
But it's that same success and its own questionable privacy practices that will lead to Google's PR downfall and propel it into a position of disdain going forward. Trust me, the future of Apple and Google may look bright from an economic standpoint, but these companies will be hated one day too. Sad, but true.