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We may be watching the demise of Apple as a PC company and its rebirth as a cross-platform multimedia company. This has been going on for some time, but it just became obvious to me when I had a chance to review Apple's latest financials. The PC market grew at a good rate -- at least compared with previous years -- with 16 to 20 percent growth, depending on who provided the numbers. Apple grew its PC business at a near-flat 5 percent and lost share, again.
You write:but after seeing what IBM did to Linux, I'm not sure I even want to suggest that any company get more involved than it is today with FreeBSD for fear of spoiling that platform as well.
So by that I suppose you mean to say that somehow, IBM ruined the Linux platform right?
Would you care to elaborate on that? How exactly did IBM "ruin" Linux? Are you refering to the SCO case where SCO, after claiming millions of lines, has now dropped all patent claims, and now has also made a point to drop all copyright claims against IBM contributions?
I mean, you drop this line in your article as if it was just an offhaded unimportant comment. But you're in fact taking the position thet the fastest growing server operating system on the planet is "ruined".
As you probably know the definition of ruined means " destroyed physically or morally", " doomed to extinction".
Really now? You propose that Linux is Ruined???
May I suggest that you mesure your words maybe? Because surely you didn't mean to say that this whole worldwide trend is based on a ruined OS. That would just be a frivolous statement. And since writing is your living...you should REALLY concentrate on using proper words....unless you're that bad at analysing trends...
The article is based on a faulty premise mixed with flawed conventional wisdom. The premise is this: since Apple is having so much success with the iPod, it must want to de-emphasize itself as a maker of computers. Ridiculous. The whole reason the iPod exists is as a direct consequence of Apple's "digital hub" strategy. In turn, this strategy is made possible by Apple's dreaded "vertical integration" as a company. Apple controls the whole widget, and therefore it can make hardware that dovetails into software. So here's where the conventional wisdom comes in--vertical integration is supposed to be bad. Mind you, in Apple's case vertical integration isn't bad, but it's *supposed* to be bad, and every business pundit in the country says it's bad, so by-golly it is.
Sure, you can make the iPod work with Windows. But Windows is just an ersatz Mac. Always has been. Don't look for Jobs to say, "Well, I know we just spent all this time on Mac OS X--arguably the best GUI ever to sit on Unix--and Apple has written all this wonderful software to fit hand-in-glove with Mac OS X and our hardware--but screw it. We'd rather port all Apple's software to the virus-infected playground which is Windows."
Steve Jobs has been talking about Apple's Digital Hub for a few years now. Certainly, if you write about technology, this is the big picture you shouldn't be missing. If Apple does abandon the Mac and the digital hub, it will be because Apple found a better alternative, not because the company suddenly adopted acquiescence as a corporate strategy.
The truth is that Apple has been more successful at switching Windoze users than the creative pros still using OS9 and they are STILL not budging. OS9 was and is fantastic for pros working alone or in small groups. The cost of buying all new apps is just too prohibitive, and for what? Is moving to OS X going to improve the quality of output? For many people the answer is emphatically no; in fact, it could make things worse for a while at the very least. The other worrying thing is that with every OS X release, the culture gap between OS9 and OS X grows ever wider.
Seems like it would be better to port OSX to Intel than to spend a lot of time moving iApps (except for iTunes) to Linux and Windows.
Apple can carve out the hardware areas they do the best: laptops, workstation class PCs and designer PCs but roll a version of OSX for the cheap PC market. Put in a good facility for copy protection and online payment and Apple would make back the investment purely on people buying it to kick the tires.
No way. I'd frankly be interested to see that happen, but Apple would not survive the shocking upheaval to their cash flow. I'm TOTALLY guessing, here, but their hardware sales would totally TANK if they allowed OS X to run on anything. In order for them to make a profit as an OS to the x86 platform, how much installed base would they need to prosper? I'd say 15%. FIFTEEN PERCENT!! But, they'd be bankrupt before they hit 10% -- and can you imagine ANYTHING hauling off with 15% of Microsoft's Windows marketshare?? I can't. Linux might, but as it's open-source, it has little lose in the risk. No, Apple going x86 is a well worn wish of many PC users, because they realize how great OS X is. But, once again, their fixation on their hardware clouds their objectivity. Meanwhile, I couldn't care less about Apple's hardware. Sure, it's slick stuff, but if you put a Windows system inside the G5 tower (and some punk is alleged to have done this), I'd totally take a pass on it. I'd be happy using an ugly beige box, so long as it had Mac OS on it.
You are missing my point. Currently, if Apple sold a version of OSX for a white box PC very little of Apple's hardware sales would be affected. Look at what Apple sells today. People who buy a laptop are not affected. Apple would not need to support PC laptops. Few people who today buy an iMac is not going to buy a white box PC - they are very different machines. One is super simple with ideal design the other is a computing box. If you really want to save money you get a PC, Macs cost too much if price is the deciding issue. The G5 is price-performance competative on the high-end, so it would not make much difference if low-end competition comes in. The only loser is the eMac - and even there you still will have a following for low-end all in one machines. I just think that given what Apple has done to encourage switching - everyone who might switch, has for the most part. So the downside is that current Mac owners buy PC instead of mac hardware. But I bet you that most Mac owners love Apple hardware enough that they would not want to move to a PC box even with OSX. On the upside you get all these geeks, who use linux, who are windows weenies but want to try soemthing else that is less painful. Lots of people that may want to use the iApps on their hardware. Think of the implications for those who develop on OSX. Or for game makers. The options for server administrators to use OSX rather than linux. Simpler administration, etc. Apple hardware sells itself. It is competative. You might find people who get their feet wet running OSX for x86 and later buy Apple hardware. You might not find the migration that you expect - if Apple can keep performance parity and maintain a design advantage.
If Apple is getting into making toasters, then why do they have Final Cut Pro (Final Cut Express), DVD Studio Pro, Shake, Logic Audio and JUST released a competitor to Adobe After Effects, called "Motion"?
I think that the iPod's success and Jobs' success with bringing legal music retailing to life has blinded your objectivity. Yes, G5 sales are not as high as expected, but there's a couple of reasons: one is that it hasn't had a speed bump yet, thanks to the problems IBM had at their East Fishkill plant that makes the G5 processor. Supplies were constrained. Number two is that the G5 Powermac IS a first edition design with many radical differences when compared to the G4's architecture. Some people prefer to not buy the first version of anything, waiting until the "Rev. B" version comes out.
The iPod phenomenon is also a temporary thing. it'll probably last a few years, but eventually, the demand will level off. So, i don't think that Apple is banking their future on gadgets -- and neither should you.
About Apple's computer sales: although the market overall is increasing faster, Apple DID sell more CPUs last quarter than in previous quarters. More people ARE buying Apple computers. Everybody fixates on quarterly marketshare, and that is certainly an important factor, but so are Apple's actual units sold numbers. Frankly, THAT number indicates more accurately the health off the platform, because it is specific to Apple's own market. Is THEIR userbase expanding? It would seem so. How about the installed userbase? how is it doing? How big is it? I just spent CAN$1,500.00 upgrading my over four year old Mac to be pretty well as fast as any G4-based Powermac Apple ever made. I also spent CAN$800.00 on software upgrades -- and yet, I haven't bought A NEW MAC in years. Don't I count for this in a developer's eye?
If people hear about low quarterly marketshare and see THAT as the only barometer, then Apple -- in the perception of the masses (and apparently the pundits) -- is doomed... for no good reason (how can one company with a unique platform ever be able to do the numbers equal to MANY companies selling on an open OS platform, anyway??). In this day and age, a Mac really is the BEST solution for the masses. They're easy to use, virus free and way more securely designed than Windows. All the popular uses of a computer can be handled by a Mac. The only thing that keeps the masses from buying Macs more often is misperception... and quarterly marketshare figures do nothing but add to that misperception.
One last thing about marketshare, and maybe you can help on this: At what point did Apple command the largest quarterly marketshare? I don't now myself, but I'll guess it might have been in the late 1980's. Say, just for argument's sake, their share was 15%. Now, here's a question for you: what is bigger? 15% of the 1989 installed base of computers -- when the internet was an obscure thing used by few and far less homes and businesses had computers than there are today... or, is 3% of 2004's marketshare bigger? I wish i knew what the data was on this, because 2004 is NOT the same world as 1989.
Anyway, the Mac platform has never been a better place to be than it is, today. More people need to know this, especially given the frustration that can occur with Windows, and the relative immaturity of Linux for the Desktop.
The Problem for Apple as a PC company is that the market continues to reject vertically integrated companies. This isnít just education, government, and general business either but consumer as well. Memory Stick, BetaMax, and MiniDisk all did poorly against more widely adopted technologies and even Sony has learned (though they still need work on execution) that if you canít move beyond your own hardware you will be bypassed by someone who can. Sun, on the business side, has been learning this painful lesson of late. When Steve killed the Apple clones he effectively took Apple out of the PC business and blocked entry into the server segment (it is surprising how many Apple servers actually run other OSs and Apple has to know this).
Whether for good or bad, the path that Apple is on is out of the PC business that they are known for and towards something else. You can see it very clearly in how they are expending their marketing resources. PCs are getting zip, the software and peripherals are getting virtually everything. That alone should result in an increasing sales disparity between the new businesses and the old.
Apple builds a great platform with lots of advantages, but like the steam powered cars, the market has apparently voted with its feet and it is increasingly clear that Apple management isnít fighting the outcome of that vote any longer.
> the market has apparently voted with its feet.
What does the market -- or more specifically, the masses -- really know of Apple? Right here and now, the masses have an excellent option to Windows -- for those tired of living with a virus-ridden and hacked into bulls-eye on their backs, that is. Generally, the Mac platform is a great option for WAY MORE people than those people realize. And yet, they either know nothing about Macs, or believe misperceptions about Macs, or are told by the MSCE dudes at work (who have built their career on an OS that is NOT Mac OS) to not bother because "it's a toy/there's no software/they're only good for video/Apple is going bankrupt/nobody uses a Mac" blah-blah-yada-yada-you've heard them all before. Apple's biggest challenge these days is to try to dispel the misperceptions -- and BTW, their "switch" ads were a poor solution to this. For heaven's sake, I wish Apple would FIRE their ad agency. Now as for the corporate IT, that's a more challenging ball of wax. Apple is trying to mend the bridges they burned in the pre-Jobs era. I have no prediction one way or the other on this. If they gain more traction, groovy. if they don't I wouldn't be surprised. As for that vertical integration though, to paraphrase Steve Jobs who paraphrased Clinton just last week, "It's the OS, stupid." The economics of hardware alone are difficult for Apple to compete against -- although, they've gotten a lot better in recent years -- but there's that old TOC to consider... and many corporations and individuals simply ignore that. To me, people scratching around for how much PC they can dump in their car's trunk one day for how little money are missing the point that it's THE OPERATING SYSTEM that they REALLY have to live with EVERY DAY FROM THEN ON. In daily use, they'll long forget how cheap they got that system for, when their DLL library gets messed up or a nice little virus either trashes their hard drive or turns their computer into a hacker's little zombie (DDOS attacks) and they probably just have to wipe the drive and reinstall Windows. people come to accept a sub-par user experience because that's all they think there is. It's a joke, Ron! And, is Microsoft REALLY that non-proprietary? I know you were referring to the hardware when talking vertical vs horizontal, but they will most likely b running Microsoft Windows on those PCs -- and Windows AINT open-source, baby. They design their wares to be VERY vertical. So, I'm ending a little off-topic here, but I think Apple's biggest challenge is to fight misperception. "Switch" tried it, but it wasn't the right approach IMHO.
One question, Rob: do you know of a resource of info past marketshare numbers and total userbase for persona computers? I'd sure like to know how Apple fared in the old days.
You are right to a point, but the reality is that the horizontal model has some serious issues as well, and for most people it is far more satisfactory to overcome the issues related to the vertical model than the horizontal model. The trouble is not enough people get to try the vertical solution to appreciate the benefits. It also costs more in initial outlay but TCO is less with a Mac. Having both feet in both camps this is as clear to me as night and day, but most people will never know the joy of using a tight vertically integrated solution apart from using an iPod.