The notion of Apple as a ruthless competitor in the technology marketplace isn't well established in the minds of consumers, but some industry watchers say that could change if the company's recent behavior continues.
Apple is engaged in conflict on multiple fronts: Google, Adobe, HTC, Ellen Degeneres and the tech blog Gizmodo have all felt its wrath in recent weeks. U.S. regulators are reportedly considering launching a full blown antitrust investigation into Apple's iPhone developer licensing tactics.
As a result of all this, some industry watchers are predicting that Apple's image could be tarnished if the company continues to engage in the sort of tactics that led to deep-rooted public distrust of companies like Microsoft and Intel more than a decade ago.
But to Apple partners, the company's willingness to fight anyone who would disparage it isn't surprising at all.
"It's clear that Apple has zero tolerance for anything that is contrary to their opinion," said one Apple partner, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from Apple. "Apparently, they're not concerned about public opinion on their actions, because if they were, their behavior would have been more strategic. Apple acts like a monopoly until someone, or a government, complains."
Apple last month changed the developer agreement for its iPhone 4.0 SDK beta to prohibit cross-compilers, which allow coders to write iPhone apps using languages other than Apple's Objective-C. The move came days before Adobe released Flash Professional CS5, and Adobe was understandably furious at the timing.
Apple's changes also shut out Microsoft developers from the iPhone, and Microsoft partners have pointed out that Apple's move as the sort of behavior that Microsoft would be vilified over.
In the opinion of some Apple partners, however, all of this is just down to the realities of business. "Apple's shine won't diminish due to their recent actions," said David Doyle, vice president of Simply Computing, a Vancouver-based Apple partner.
"Apple has done a great job building a loyal following based on well-made, leading-edge products that give customers a great experience. Why wouldn't they have a right to maintain that experience with all their might?" said Doyle.
Nick Gold, senior account executive for Baltimore, Md.-based Apple VAR Chesapeake Systems, finds it ironic that Apple is taking heat for aggressively defending its corporate interests.
"Apple is often derided because of its cool, hip status, and Apple haters have a problem with the image Apple exhibits in its advertising," Gold said. "On the other hand, the moment Apple acts like every other corporation, it is attacked for doing so."
Consumers that don't follow technology news aren’t seeing this all play out, and so their view of Apple as the "cool" foil to Microsoft's "nerd" -- perpetuated brilliantly for the past for years with Apple's now apparently defunct "Get A Mac" campaign -- remains intact.
However, if the Apple antitrust investigation does comes to pass, Apple's image will undoubtedly take a hit. After all, Microsoft's reputation suffered immeasurable damage from having corporate e-mails depicting its inner machinations splashed out on front pages everywhere.