Recently, I was looking for higher education opportunities around Europe when I was hit by this fact: If you’re not European, you have no chance.
Don’t get this wrong, I am not complaining about that. I wouldn’t expect a foreign country to give me what my own country didn’t. Like it or not, everything today is Money.
What hit me is that I always keep this thought at the back of my head, the thought that Europe is somehow different. I would expect to pay 20,000$ a year in the US but never in Europe. Why?
It’s about the “Image” that Europe markets for itself. In computers’ terms, Europe is like Apple while USA is Microsoft.
Microsoft and Apple both sell a certain image to their customers. Microsoft sells the image of being #1, the top, the richest and the biggest, while Apple sells the image of being classy, prestigious and the choice of the tasteful.
Microsoft is often criticized for being the Evil, it’s the Enemy that dominates by means of monopoly and misuse of power, but Apple – even though it’s more closed than Microsoft – it’s always admired for its elegance and prestige that compensate for any minor faults.
The result is that even though Microsoft and Apple have the same attitude towards their customers and even though they share the same closed mentality, they still differ tremendously in how they show their image, and how people perceive them.
The “Microsoft Dream” is not about being good like Google, or being classy like Apple. It’s about being number ONE. To maintain this position, they would play with the devil (like China nowadays), bend to EU regulations, whatever. It’s the pragmatic American Dream.
Apple – on the other hand – had its ups and downs. From being the empire on which the sun never sets to being a mediocre second class company to being the cool welfare Gadgets company, all along the way, it’s been admired by the Elite for being the classy Designer tool or the most creative teenagers’ gadget etc…
Back to reality: Just a glimpse at recent history, USA made enemies in half of the world, got into a war with two, three or four countries, screwed up many more others. But it’s still number 1 for at least 60 years. America is power, unrefined Cowboys power, just like Microsoft, it knows when to bend, produce a good show from time to time, change management from time to time, may be even get a black president, whatever keeps it as number ONE.
Europe was involved – more or less – in most of America’s wars and fights and they had their own good share as well of many not-so-clean battles, but Europe – like Apple – doesn’t care about being number ONE. Europe feels like it’s bigger than competitions. It has its history, its glamorous picture, nice interface, multi-touch screen that keeps “the image”, an image strengthened by millions of loyal followers who nourish it generation after generation.
Am I getting anywhere with this?
Well, basically, I am not trying to say that I prefer Microsoft more than Apple or that one is better than the other. What I want to say is that when you buy an iPhone for around 400 bugs, it only works with a single network provider, closed for any 3rd party applications unless approved then this is monopoly worse than Microsoft’s.
And when you have to spend 40,000 Euros/Dollars for a university degree, then – whether you call it capitalism, social democracy, democratic socialism, welfare state, whatever – at the end of the day, it is just different faces for the same coin: Microsoft is Apple and Apple is Microsoft.
So who gets to win? Apple or Microsoft?
Strangely enough, they don’t even have to compete; there are enough customers for the American dream as there are customers for the European one.
So ladies and gentlemen, as far as I am concerned – as yet another customer – I don’t give a damn as long as there are boats to take Cubans across the Atlantic and Africans through the Mediterranean, and Western Union and Somalis to transfer money back home.
God bless Apple. God Bless Microsoft. But most importantly, God bless the Somalis.