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6 Reasons Your Apple Product Has Become Very Uncool

The cult of Apple is starting to disintegrate.

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It’s hard to identify the moment when a company once beloved by trendsetters becomes uncool. Sometimes the firm gets too big for its britches and starts pissing off its customers. Others times the hipsters who first embraced the products grow too long in the tooth to seem cool anymore. Lots of times innovation starts to lag as a firm shifts its focus from making cool stuff to shoveling money toward executives.

Apple’s cool factor seems to be suffering for all of these reasons and then some. So what, you say. It’s just a vibe. They still have gobs of money. Well, the problem for Apple is that its marketability has been built on the cool factor, and once you lose it, it’s not easy to get it back. Here are six unmistakable signs that Apple is on the downward slide.

1. Apple is boring. That’s not what you want to hear when you’re trying to be the cool company. And yet USA Today reports that college students are feeling unbedazzled by Apple CEO Tim Cook’s promises of amazing new gadgets at a recent conference. “Some college students are losing their enthusiasm for Apple after recent product upgrades have been underwhelming,” notes collegiate correspondent Mark Lieberman. Among the student complaints were overpricing, lack of ability to customize Apple products, and various technical challenges.

Other Apple-watchers have voiced similar beefs, pointing out that for all the iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, the whole just adds up to a big yawn. Ashraff Eassa at the Seeking Alpha blog doesn’t mince any words: “Apple’s problem today is that it's just plain boring. Yeah, it makes a lot of money, and yeah, it makes good products, but people forget that tech stocks are all about who's got the most glam.”

2. Headline headaches. One minute Tim Cook is defending tax-dodging practices that screw American taxpayers out of billions and leave us with no money to pay for decent schools that, you know, educate Apple’s workers or roads that, ahem, allow the company to ship its products around the country. The next minute Apple is on the hot seat for allegedly fixing prices on ebooks -- and we’re talking emails between Steve Jobs and James Murdoch (son of Rupert) in which Jobs essentially says, hey, let’s make a deal that screws our customers!

These are not the sorts of activities many customers will find endearing. Making headlines for all the wrong reasons is not going to help Apple get its mojo back. Gangsta-style capitalism is a lot of things – cool is not one of them.

3. Going Wall Street. Apple’s customers have long hailed the company for its snazzy designs and user-friendly interface. But its ability to excel in playing Wall Street casino games was never really on the list.

These days, however, Apple is all about Wall Street. The company is sitting on a mountain of cash, but instead of doing something useful and intelligent with that money such as, I dunno, paying workers a decent salary or investing in innovative new products, Apple announced it is spending an eye-popping $60 billion on a buyback. Stock buybacks, a practice that took off in the go-go ‘80s, is a pernicious trend in which a company buys back its own shares from the marketplace and thereby reduces the number of outstanding shares. It’s a terrible way to allocate resources, and it’s mainly about making executives richer. As Eamonn Fingleton recently put it over at Forbes, “every dollar spent on a buyback is one dollar less invested in a corporation’s future.”