As American as Apple Inc. (AAPL): a Brief Retrospective

The phrase “as American as apple pie” is so common as to be practically meaningless, especially in light of the fact that apples originate not in the United States but in the shadow of the Tien Shan Mountains on the eastern border of Kazakhstan. In fact, the name of the mountainside city of Almaty in Kazakhstan derives from the title “Grandfather of Apples” (Alma-Ata), and is still locally famous for the huge, red, sweet apples that grow in its orchards. Saying “as American as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)” might be nearer to the mark.

Microsoft and Apple, in fact, represent two sides of American technological development. Microsoft focuses on “workhorse” designs, with aesthetics taking a distant back seat to versatility and adaptability. This company might be described as the “Ford” or “Dodge” of the computer world. Apple (AAPL), on the other hand, focuses on aesthetics, prestige, and streamlined designs, while customer choice is strictly limited and flexibility is far lower. It might be likened to the “Cadillac” or “Oldsmobile” of electronics firms.

U.S.A flagAccording to legend at least, the name “Apple” was picked due to a bit of Machiavellian cunning on the part of Steve Jobs. When the company was founded, its chief competitor was Atari, a firm eventually destined to be absorbed by the amoebic spread of Hasbro, Inc.. Mr. Jobs, it is rumored, picked the name “Apple” so that his company would be listed before Atari in the telephone book, and also due to his enjoyment of working at picking apples previous to his entry into the world of computers.

The name of the most famous Apple personal computer, the Macintosh, was chosen to match the McIntosh Apple cultivar, which originated in the New World. Though Mr. Jobs was likely motivated by his own personal memories and the placement of his company name in the telephone directory, it is quite conceivable that he also picked “American” names for his firm and products due to the association of the apple with the United States. Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman, Peter Stuyvesant’s 1647 apple tree on Manhattan Island, and the aforementioned pies are just a sampling of the legends and lore of the apple in America.

Apple Inc. (AAPL) is sometimes used as a stand-in for the United States abroad. For example, when Russia’s Vladimir Putin was outraged over America’s opposition to his invasion of the Crimea in Ukraine, it was Apple hardware that Russian officials were forbidden to use, and not Microsoft, and iOS was banned while Android was still permitted.

As the United States celebrates the founding of the world’s oldest still-functioning democracy on July 4th, it is perhaps fitting that many of the celebrations, family reunions, renditions of the national anthem or the “Star Spangled Banner,” parades, and firework displays are being recorded on America’s single most popular smartphone platform, the Apple iPhone, which commands 42% of the U.S. market, nearly double the market share of runner-up Samsung.