I pledge allegiance to my gadgets: Fanboys and the rise of the megacorporation

apple store line fanboyPretty much any article you read online that sings the praises of one company or product while denigrating a competitor will garner comments from a flock of fanboys. In the tech world, discussions can boil over as self-appointed defenders of a brand flame anyone who disagrees with them. The term fanboy has become an insult. It’s almost a dirty word that’s thrown at anyone who shows a little too much blind faith in the subject of their undying loyalty.

The term fanboy really just means a “passionate fan,” but some people are so determined and blinkered in their love of a specific brand that they push beyond reason or logic. Why do people get so worked up?

The rise of the megacorporations

William Gibson popularized the term megacorporation, but sci-fi writers from Philip K. Dick to Robert A. Heinlein have also written about them. In theory, massive conglomerates enjoy near monopolies in multiple markets and generate greater income than many nations. Consequently, they wield a great deal of power and represent different cultures to their employees and loyal customers.

As tech giants like Apple, Microsoft and Google spread their tentacles into many aspects of our lives, you have to wonder if we’re really that far away from megacorporations becoming a reality. Anti-trust laws may hold them back right now, but the power some companies already wield is both impressive and frightening. Why do people get so attached?

The cult of Apple

Apple fans have become so notorious for their allegiance, even The Simpsons lampooned “Mapple” and its brainwashed fans. The loyalty that the company commands is unbelievable. As traditional brick and mortar outlets seemed to be crumbling, Apple somehow launched retail stores to huge success. People camp out days in advance for the chance to buy the latest releases at premium prices. The iPod, the iPhone, and now the iPad have become permanent fixtures in the popular vernacular.

Apple is worth more than any other company in the world. We’re talking more than $600 billion. It has around $100 billion in the bank, and generated total sales worth more than $100 billion in 2011. That’s more than the GDP of many nations round the world.

Whenever anyone posts anything negative about Apple, there’s usually a flurry of defensive strikes. A lot of companies have fanboys, but no one else can boast the support Apple has. I’ve given up understanding it. I get the stylish design. I understand the “it just works” mantra. But the smug attitude, the restrictive walled garden, and the unjustified premium prices put me off. I look at Apple and just see greed.

Obviously Apple fans see something else. There was a great study last year that showed Apple devotees are stimulated by Apple imagery in the same way that the brains of religious people are stimulated by religious imagery.

Other minions

Worth a paltry $260 billion now, Microsoft also once hit that $600 billion high tide mark. In fact Microsoft is the only other company to have been valued that highly. Anyone who believes Microsoft is winning the tech battle should take a look at that fall.

There’s no denying Microsoft is not well liked, but there are still plenty of fanboys out there who ride to the rescue every time a negative word is uttered about the company. In the mobile space, Microsoft is nowhere, yet many analysts continue to predict a big market share. The fact Microsoft muscled into the game console space is often cited as proof the company will succeed wherever it aims to.

microsoft logo headquarters redmondI get it even less with Microsoft. The company has engaged in countless dodgy practices. Windows Phone is clearly inferior to iOS and Android. Plenty of people, including Adam Hartung at Forbes, have questioned CEO, Steve Ballmer’s abilities, or lack of. What’s to like?

I know what you’re thinking

You’re thinking “Shut up you Google fanboy”. You were, weren’t you? Well you’re wrong. I hate Google too. I just hate them less than Apple and Microsoft.

Google is worth less than $200 billion, but rising pretty steadily. Personally, I think Google Maps was an awesome giveaway. I think Android is a good mobile platform, but the credit for the hardware goes to the manufacturers rather than Google. When I first used Google it was simply the best search engine around. Nowadays it isn’t. The quality of search results has declined. The whole ad-serving personalization movement is annoying. I get why people dislike Google, but it still seems to draw a surprising and disproportionate amount of vitriol.

Am I a fanboy?

I like to think I buy products because they are good, and not because of the brand. (Yes, I realize this is unlikely to be entirely true.) I have an Android smartphone because it’s the best smartphone on the market (my shiny new Samsung Galaxy S3 just arrived). I have a Kindle. I have an iPod. I have a PS3. I have a Sony TV. I have a Sony laptop. Oh right… wait a minute.

The closest I come to feeling that fanboy fervor is Sony. Up until the big PlayStation Network debacle and ongoing outages, I never had a bad word to say about the company. That gleaming, perfect record that stretched back to the original PlayStation has now been ruined. Although I do still find Sony products more alluring than other brands, I’ve never felt compelled to defend them. I can read pages of criticism and it doesn’t really bother me, at least it doesn’t bother me as much as people singing the praises of Apple or Microsoft.

Defending Goliath

For me, the idea that these multi-billion dollar companies need defending at all just grates. Apple makes some pretty cool products, but the insistence that it’s the origin of all innovation is a total fallacy. Microsoft makes Windows, which I use, but surely no one is laboring under the impression that it’s the leading light of tech. It’s questionable whether the “You can make money without doing evil” philosophy still holds true for Google.

None of these companies needs rabid fans attacking their detractors. Fanboys are so annoying because it’s not enough for them to vote with their dollars and offer an opinion when asked for it – they have a burning desire to force their uninvited views on others. (I was asked to write this column, by the way.) How they can get so angry about someone criticizing their brand of choice is beyond me. Could it be that a brand becomes so embedded in a person’s self-image that attacks on a company like Apple start to feel like personal attacks? How far would they take it? Can you imagine running battles between Apple and Google fans in the streets?

Honestly, I don’t care what tech products you choose to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. That’s between you and the device in question.

Please excuse the use of hyperbole in this article. If you read it all the way through to here without the urge to skip down and post a hateful comment, then you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’re probably not a fanboy.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Product Review

Honor schools other phone makers on design with the hole-punch View 20

The Honor View 20 is Honor’s best phone to date. Why? Just look at the punch hole screen, the striking design, and the exciting 48-megapixel camera for evidence. Here’s our review.
Mobile

Android vs. iOS: Which smartphone platform is the best?

If you’re trying to choose a new phone and you’re not sure about the merits and pitfalls of the leading smartphone operating systems, then come on in for a detailed breakdown as we pit Android vs. iOS in various categories.
Home Theater

Wireless headphones are finally awesome, and these are our favorites

With sleek form factors, prime audio quality, and the freedom of untethered listening, there has never been a better time to pick up a pair of wireless headphones. These are the best ones currently available.
Digital Trends Live

Microsoft has #*!@ed up to-do lists on an epic scale

Microsoft has mucked up to-do lists on a scale you simply can’t imagine, a failure that spans multiple products and teams, like a lil’ bit of salmonella that contaminates the entire output from a factory.
Opinion

As Amazon turns up the volume on streaming, Spotify should shudder

Multiple players are all looking to capitalize on the popularity of streaming, but it has thus far proved nearly impossible to make a profit. Could major tech companies like Amazon be primed for a streaming take-over?
Gaming

Throw out the sandbox. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is a fully realized western world

Despite featuring around 100 story missions, the real destination in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the journey you make for yourself in the Rockstar's open world, and the game is better for it.
Gaming

‘Diablo Immortal’ is just the beginning. Mobile games are the future

Diablo fans were furious about Diablo Immortal, but in truth, mobile games are the future. From Apple and Samsung to Bethesda and Blizzard, we’re seeing a new incentive for games that fit on your phone.
Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Music

Brian Eno sets out to change music (again) with Bloom: 10 World

We always felt that Bloom was a musical system that could be developed further -- it was as if we’d built a CD player and only ever released one CD. For this release, we’ve created ten new worlds, starting with a reimagined version of…
Computing

Can two operating systems coexist? The Pixel Slate thinks so

The Pixel Slate is a 2-in-1 device like no other. It’s not the most polished product we’ve ever used, but Google has laid the foundation for letting mobile and desktop software live side-by-side in peace.
Android

Why commercials in Android Auto could turn your dashboard into a dumpster fire

Google announced some tweaks to the Android Auto experience, focused on making messaging and media easier, but I worry about the future of the platform. For better or worse, there’s a real chance our dashboards could turn into dumpster…
Gaming

These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.
Home Theater

Will Marvel’s shows lose their punch if they move from Netflix to Disney Plus?

Disney could pick up the Marvel shows being canceled by Netflix, but the idea raises all sorts of questions. Is continuing Daredevil, Punisher, or Jessica Jones on Disney's own streaming service a good move?