Does Apple Actually Help Competitors?

Apple is one of the few companies in the technology industry that isn't viewed the same by the majority of consumers. There are some that view Apple as the greatest company in the world, delivering products and services that no other company can match. To those folks, Apple, and its late co-founder Steve Jobs, are worthy of the highest praise. To other folks, however, Apple is despised.

Those people view Apple as a monolithic bad guy that looks out only for its own interests and couldn't care less about the average consumer. What's worse, they say, Apple does whatever it can to hurt competitors to the detriment not only of those companies and their employees, but also consumers.

That argument has always fascinated me. In fact, I've always been shocked by the blanket statement that seems to indicate that as soon as Apple enters a market, it kills off any and all competitors. And on the off chance it leaves some scraps for other companies to pick up, they're forced to beg Apple for whatever is there.

[aquote]The only market Apple ever actually dominated was the music player[/aquote]

But perhaps those critics give Apple too much credit. Sure, Apple is the world's largest technology company and generates billions of dollars each quarter, but I'd be interested to see folks pluck out too many markets where it has outright killed competitors. From where I sit, the only market that Apple has ever actually dominated to the degree with which its critics say it has is the music-player space. Apple's iPod was pretty much the product to own.

But elsewhere, I just don't see what the critics claim is happening. Apple's iPhone is wildly popular in the smartphone market, but Samsung is now shipping more smartphones than Apple. And together, the companies combine to score over 100 percent of the mobile market's profits.

Before Apple joined the smartphone market, Samsung had no such luck in that space. Companies like Nokia and Research In Motion dominated the smartphone market in 2007. Today, while those companies have gone by the wayside, others, like Samsung, have taken their spot.

In the tablet space, Apple's iPad owns about 50 percent of the market, according to IDC, but its market share is on the decline. Meanwhile, companies like Samsung and Google continue to see their shares rise. If Apple is really a competitor killer, how can that happen?

Even in the computer space where Macs are now among the most popular products customers buy, we see the overall market continue to expand. Apple's success, in other words, has not necessarily hurt the overall state of the industry.

So, is all of the Apple hatred really overblown? Perhaps Apple isn't the mean, brooding company that everyone thinks. Perhaps Apple is actually helping competitors. After all, Apple brings more customers into markets and in some way that helps every single company competing in that space.

Say what you will about Apple's other corporate practices, but to say that it's actually hurting competitors might be a bit of a longshot. In reality, Apple might just be helping them.