Is Apple Inc. (AAPL) Microsoftening?

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s recent iPhone news was disappointing. Gone are the days when Steve Jobs’ announcements would galvanize fans with some amazing new features or groundbreaking new products. The iPhone 5 news felt “meh.” Even the previously interesting concept of the iPhone 5c not only left a lot to be desired, but there’s also good reason to believe it’s simply a fail.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

Is Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)ening? In other words, will it end up like Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), with once-mighty advantage eroded as the company’s supposed innovations continue to fall short of the amazement we became accustomed to under much of Steve Jobs’ reign?

Holding Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) with guarded optimism
I bought shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) for the Prosocial Portfolio I manage for Fool.com mostly because it had become incredibly cheap (check out its 52-week high); at some price levels, buying shares of great companies is difficult to resist.

It was also improving some of its social aspects, which has weight for inclusion in the portfolio. I still don’t believe it’s particularly overvalued, but we shouldn’t underestimate the missteps it could make, and should keep our eyes on the developments.

For a while there, Wall Street and general investors seemed to be pessimistic to the point of thinking Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was going to do a swan-dive into nothingness, and common sense tells us that certainly isn’t the case. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) still has many beautiful, well-designed products and extremely loyal customers.

However, the recent iPhone hoopla indeed turned out to be “meh,” if not worse. The biggest shocker — and logic disconnect — is that the supposedly “cheaper” iPhone 5c is actually $549 without subsidies. From the consumer side, that makes no sense if they’re not getting the cheaper deal through a plan.

Why pay for a phone with fewer features made of cheaper (albeit colorful) materials when, if you shelled out just a little more money, you could get the high-end version? That’s not customer-friendly — it’s friendly for Apple’s profit margins. That’s a chilling sign that bears watching, because those are the kinds of profit-driving tricks that eventually can make consumers very mad.

Microsoftening
Why am I bringing up the possibility of Apple’s “Microsoftening” in competitive advantage? Long ago, Apple was a niche player — albeit possessing an extremely loyal fan base. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) had a major advantage, to the point of being viewed as downright monopolistic, both by consumers and government antitrust entities.