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I always enjoy my conversations with Andy Law because he’s one of those people with whom I can have a chat and leave feeling that I’ve learned something, but without feeling stupid for not knowing it before.

Yesterday we caught up and he introduced me to the French sociologist Bourdieu’s “Four Forms of Capital” (for a more detailed explanation check out this site which illustrates sociological concepts through the medium of cinema).

The four forms identified by Bourdieu were economic (cash and resources), social (friends, family and other networks), cultural (academic and similar accreditation) and symbolic (prestige).

Apple today have strength in all four: mountains of cash, a powerful network both directly and indirectly through the services they provide, validation as the platform of choice across both arts and computer science (it’s remarkable how many developers now use MacOS), and a prestige both as being seen as a signifier of a certain sort of lifestyle, as well as being seen as a high-achieving peer in both tech and creative circles (regularly winning design accolades).

The relationships between Apple and the creative world are, in my view, the core of their success today. If you are seen as both a crucial provider, and an accoladed peer to arbiters of style and fashion, that can become a virtuous circle. That a techie community now uses its products in increasing volume further reinforces.

Trends and fashions change, but that Apple and MacOS are the tools of choice in design and some development communities gives an interesting lock in that probably hasn’t been seen before. Steve Jobs’ vision of being at the intersection of science and liberal arts was a very canny business position to take.

Would could break this? Well the weak link potentially is Adobe. Whilst not the exclusive tools of choice, Creative Suite, it’s antecedent products (and a belief that it only runs properly on a Mac) are a large part of the creative community domination that Apple has achieved. In a similar way to office suites, I wonder for the mid-term future of Adobe, and it’s struck me as a company without clear direction for some years now.

It has to be said, though, that none of that would happen overnight. And with pockets as deep as Apple’s they could rescue or build products anew (and with products like Final Cut and the iOS development kits, they have kind of hedged already…)

One thought on “Why Apple are so powerful – a sociological view

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