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Is an Apple Mac-lash coming?

To some, Steve Jobs has created a 'walled garden' that ultimately must wither. Google represents an 'open' way that invites everyone to play. But there's no clear winner yet.

By / February 22, 2011

Apple chief Steve Jobs works the iPad.

CEET Fotógrafo/Newscom

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I recently interviewed a "genius" at MIT, officially so designated by the MacArthur Foundation, which grants the title and a pile of cash to a limited number of people each year.

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He wanted to show me some of his latest work. Using just his fingertip, he spun his pencil-thin, elegant MacAir laptop around on his desk to show me some photos and videos. It's sleek design seemed to match the new ultra-modern MIT Media Lab building, all glass walls and airy openness, that surrounded us.

Recently a colleague here, who writes on technology, said that his No. 1 tech "want" was a MacBook Air, a sweet combination of flash and substance. And friends still like to show off their iPhones (the light sabre is a must-show-off download). One colleague just got her first iPhone – and likes it so much she signed up her mother for one too.

Apple is ... well, the Apple of our eyes. It's delicious. We're beguiled by the beauty, simplicity, and ease of use of its products, how they all work seamlessly, from MacBooks to iPhones, iPods, and iPads. One lives comfortably, and elegantly, in an Apple world.

The company has been amply rewarded for pleasing its customers. It ranks as the most respected company in the world, according to a recent Barron's magazine survey. It's now the second-largest US company, behind only Exxon Mobil.

But now a little shade is creeping into that sunny Apple outlook. It's not just the ongoing speculation about CEO Steve Jobs, now taking a medical leave, and whether he'll continue to guide the company – though that's certainly part of it. Do a Google search for "Apple and evil" and you get more than 56 million hits. Yes, Google, whose mission statement is "don't be evil" – has 99 million hits for "Google and evil," but Apple appears to be catching up. (Microsoft, seen by some as the epitome of an evil tech empire in the 1990s, rates only 37 million hits for "Microsoft and evil." It's in danger of becoming so irrelevant that it doesn't even stir outrage anymore.)

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