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Apple on top

This week, Apple surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable technology company based on market capitalization. Most of the news headlines focus on Steve Jobs’ methodical and patient climb to the top. Others touted Apple’s innovative culture and strong design aesthetic as one of their keys to success.—most certainly these are all true.

One of the lesser-covered aspects of this news piece is that consumer products are now the driving force in technology and it is now consumer spending on technology that is propelling business and government, a reversal from decades past.

At the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) trade show earlier this year, I remarked to a colleague how few professional products were on display—a notable departure from even recent shows. As yet, it is unclear to me whether this is due to a) A shrinking market of professional photographers, b) Consumer cameras now meeting or exceeding the needs of professionals or c) Companies focusing on serving their largest and most profitable needs.

Perhaps it is all three, as there are parallels here with Apple. Apple made a name for itself as a platform for creative professionals. They enabled desktop publishing and helped make it mainstream, they supported color management to help it become standard and they were long considered the only choice for anyone serious about photography, design or video.

The Apple of today has heavily trimmed the size of the Final Cut Pro development team, failed to address professional-level color management users in Snow Leopard and are now selling more iPads than Macs.

It will be interesting to see how professional-level technology will be developed in the near future. Will we be forced to make do with consumer technologies in a professional environment or will smaller, innovative companies like RED create the next wave of professional equipment and tools?

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