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Posted at 06:06 PM ET, 08/09/2011

Why Apple beat Exxon — the new economy


Hello, new economy! (Kainaz Amaria - BLOOMBERG)
Good job, Apple!

(Or should there be an S on the end of that second word?)

Regardless, Apple is now the most valuable company — more valuable than Exxon-Mobil! Now we’ll have to start coming up with a new set of metaphors. There’s a new black gold in town, and soon it might come in a white version too, with better reception.

If you had told me, ten years ago, that something called an iPad would be more profitable than oil, I would have scoffed. If you had told me, five hundred years ago, that something called an iPhone would be more profitable than oil, I would have tried to have you exorcised.

But Apple does convey a real value. These days, what we value is the opportunity to bother people who want to converse with us. “I can look that up,” we say. “I hear what you’re saying, but here’s a YouTube video that I find more visually stimulating.”

Oil only gets you so far. You can bother people with it a little — especially if you spill it in environmentally sensitive regions — but generally the most you can bother someone with it is if you forget to put it in his gas tank after you borrow the car, or if you insist on bringing it with you to parties as your date.

But this does point out that we live in a new sort of economy. This isn’t our father’s economy — in fact, your father probably can’t get it to work because his fingers are the wrong size. This is the economy of the Neverending Parade of Cool Stuff You Must Buy Now. What generates income is no longer What You Find In The Earth or What You Build In The Factory, but rather What You Make With Your Mind. The canonical example of that has always been Steve Jobs, master of the new imaginative universe, whom some call the greatest sci-fi artist of our time. That’s where we’re headed — buying things we make up out of thin air. In fact, I think there’s a MacBook named after that.

Oil? Found object. Boring but necessary. We won’t stop needing it any time soon.

But potential for growth? Apple all the way. There is an almost infinite supply of words that look cooler if you start them with small i’s.

But how will Apple cope with being so mainstream?

Next the hipsters will be ritually chucking their iPhones into a bonfire and dousing it with now-trendy gasoline. “Let’s bring back oil,” they’ll mutter inaudibly into their plaid. "I liked those before they were hip," they'll murmur. "Now they’ve sold out. My new phone is made of vinyl and only answers calls ironically."

Thanks to today, iPhone guy is now the hope and future of our entire economy! As though he weren’t irritating enough to begin with.

By  |  06:06 PM ET, 08/09/2011

Tags:  Apple, Steve Jobs, iPhone

 
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