Mac Resurgence: Is it all About the Getting Along?

by Chris Seibold Aug 24, 2006

If you spend a reasonable amount of time reading the Mac web you’ll likely notice some patterns emerging. While the content is admirably variable, there are some recurrent themes; things that you’ll see with a certain amount of regularity. The top three predictable Mac articles are: “Windows Sucks”, “The Mac is Awesome” and “Why isn’t Apple’s Market Share Higher?” The stories are written with a wide range of abilities; some are taut and insightful, while others are hoping to reach the status of pure drivel (on a personal note, all my writings are striving to reach the level of “drivel”).

The first two “go to” stories are mere restatements of the same idea: the Mac is just wayyy better than Windows. Interesting thoughts to be sure but more of an unquantifiable opinion containing nothing concrete enough to dissect. Without regard to eloquence, we’re interested in that third story. That is where the interest lies today: Mac market share.

For seemingly eons, Mac writers have been writing stories about why the market share is so low. They cite a myriad of reasons: Macs are too expensive; people see Macs as some hippy artist computer that is little more than a toy; not enough games; no customizable mid-range model; the too prevalent all in one form factor; software incompatibility; the stooge-like adherence of the masses to the Windows platform; etc. The list goes on to whatever arbitrary length one desires. And the arguments are of interest, there are valid points, but the points don’t matter as much as the reality and that was, for the longest time, a very flat market share.

After reasons have been discussed and noted, it is time for the apologizers to kick into high gear. They’ll argue that the stats are skewed (Macs last longer); that market share doesn’t matter (Apple makes plenty of money); or the markets aren’t comparable (businesses opt for PCs with astonishing regularity). Again, interesting points, but the reality is that as far as market share goes, it doesn’t matter.

Then we finally come to the part where the argument changes to why Macs are really going to catch on. The G5 chip and 64-bit computing were supposed to propel Mac sales into the stratosphere. The architecture change sold a few supercomputers. The G4 was going to decimate PC sales because it was just so much faster than a Pentium. No effect. iMovie was going to rock the world of home movie making - everyone would be snapping up Macs. The list continues: iLife, iPod halo effect, unique planetary alignments. All these things were supposed to help the Mac get mainstreamed again (whatever that means). So far, it hasn’t happened.

All that said, the Mac might be catching on. Last quarter saw Apple swipe a very respectable 12% of the laptop market. The introduction of the new Mac Pros might help boost sales further (can’t hurt - the G5 towers were selling like Vespa Scooters at a Harley rally). However, more telling than the number of computers sold is the suddenly hot software.

Witness the miracle that is Parallels. The nifty Mac program that runs Windows on your Intel Mac has sold an astonishing 100,000 copies. That may not sound like many when compared to, say, the number of copies Photoshop sells, but consider that since the introduction of Intel based machines this year, Apple has likely sold somewhere around 2.5 million Macs. That means that 2.5% of people using Intel Macs (actually, the number is higher) are willing to pony up $80 to use Windows on their Macs.

More evidence? Consider Boot Camp, Apple’s not so ideal solution to cross platforming the Mac. Sure Boot Camp is great for games, but since you have to restart your computer to get back to the OS Xy goodness, the solution is a bit cumbersome for someone who wants to run Microsoft Access. Boot Camp, the solution to turn your beautiful Mac into a generic PC, has been downloaded an untold number of times.*

Taking all the above into account, it seems that the years of angst spent wondering why more folks weren’t using a Mac were wasted. It wasn’t the price, the styling, or the chips; it was that the Mac wasn’t PC enough. With Intel inside that has all changed. The Mac is now as PC as you want to be and, for many, that is quite a bit. While the increased flexibility is alluring for some, there is a downside for the long time Mac watcher: No more Steve Jobs hosted Photoshop bake-offs. That will be a very sad loss indeed.

*Where untold means I couldn’t find the reference. It has been downloaded a lot.


  • Hmmmm…Mac Pro…the greatest Windows machine ever made. That should be the new slogan to sell a bunch of these. I use Parallels on my MacBook gem and it is very respectable compared to my single-core Pentium 3.3 GHz tower with VMWare Server 1.0 (Free to those wondering) running XP within XP.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 24, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Another take on the future of computers can be found in an article in today’s Washington Post by Rob Pegoraro, title “PCs’ Mid-Market Blues”.

    He argues that between upscale pricey machines and cheap commodity devices, the middle of the market will not be governed by performance (they’re all about the same), but on tech support.

    “There is one area, however, that computer vendors control completely, and that could set them apart from competitors: tech support. In most other businesses, interacting with the customer after the purchase is not only considered a normal part of the job, it’s one of the primary ways to build repeat business. And it can be done in the PC business, too: Just ask Apple, which has people lining up to talk to the tech-support “geniuses” at its retail stores.”

    doshea had this to say on Aug 24, 2006 Posts: 6
  • Jobs owes the creators of Parallels a drink, or his first born, or something.  The number of sales will go up by at least one when I finally get my Macbook Pro.  And they’re promising “full speed” or at least 3D support in the next version.  Almost too good to be true, eh?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 25, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Still the problem or bug remains. Windows. The problem with Mac sales, I’ve said this for the last 10 years, has NOTHING to do with the hardware or the OS (which is superior in many ways to the PC) but the COMPLETE lack of vertical market applications for the Mac. Sure you’ve got office… But that’s it and anything else has to be customized or custom developed.

    I personally and making strides in this department. The software company I have been running for the last 3 years (formerly windows based) has switched gears, jumped ship, or otherwise turned 180* and are 100% Mac now, developing for the Mac solely. Sure we can use our Filemaker apps on windows but we don’t want the support headaches we had before. Over 80% of all support issues had NOTHING to do with our system, but the OS or hardware issues. We had macs and we both developed and sold for them, never once did we have an OS or hardware conflict.

    This is gonna be hard to explain to the bean counter CPA looking at a new software investment that requires a COMPLETE change over in IT infrastructure as his clients site. It will require re-training (at least an hour) and new IT people familiar with the Mac OS and how to integrate it and protect it (yes, they still think you need anti-virus, firewalls, DMZ’s, Multi switched routers with multi gateways…). W

    So. You wanna see Apple’s share grow against Dell/HP (who’s big money comes from corporate users) your gonna have to train VAR’s on Macs, train more IT specialists, and most importantly push the Vertical Application builders. It would be on Apple’s part to maybe bring out a Speciality Software section for business’s wanting to switch to Macs. Maybe a video should be made and delivered to business that ask for it on thier site showing the pro’s, TOC, software availability… Etc…

    xwiredtva had this to say on Aug 25, 2006 Posts: 172
  • “Taking all the above into account, it seems that the years of angst spent wondering why more folks weren’t using a Mac were wasted. It wasn’t the price, the styling, or the chips; it was that the Mac wasn’t PC enough.”

    Fair point, I think most people think to themselves “I NEED to get a new PC” and “I WANT a Mac.”  For a lot of people there’s no overriding need to buy a Mac like there is to get a new PC, even though a Mac can (for the most part) do the same things, and often times better.  As John Gruber of Daring Fireball put it, “For most people, good enough really is good enough.”  So while my parents, for example, would probably love a Mac Mini, there’s no real reason for them to buy one instead of a Dell or HP, which means they’re next purchase will most likely be from one of those vendors.

    Andrew Harden had this to say on Aug 25, 2006 Posts: 19
  • Also Apple specializes in the HIGH END consumer market as well as Video/Graphics commercial market. Neither of these markets are big enough to make a huge difference in market share.

    So for most people buying a $400 PC every three years is fine, as it’s stated above. Not knowing nor caring about getting a mac. WHY? There accumstumed to buying a new PC every three years. Not by want, but by need. You wouldn’t beleive how many, IMPO 80%, of the public think the computer slowing down means the hardware is getting old… WHOA… Can’t beleive this thinking is running our country right now… Another topic. So they go out and purchase another cheap PC that will get them by. Not knowing a Mac, ANY MAC, will last longer and NOT SLOW DOWN after 6 months. So they can’t make the $1000+ price tag feasable since they THINK they’ll have to get another in 3 years.

    Average PC ownership is roughly 3.4 years. Macs are in the 7-8 year range.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Aug 25, 2006 Posts: 172
  • So while my parents, for example, would probably love a Mac Mini, there’s no real reason for them to buy one instead of a Dell or HP… Andrew

    Up until you show them your Mac mini, that is. Then they’ll be tripping over themselves to the nearest Apple Store uptown. wink

    It would be on Apple’s part to maybe bring out a Speciality Software section for business’s wanting to switch to Macs. -xwired

    I actually like this proposal and Apple may in the near future adopt and implement something in this regard. Apple, we admit, likes to sit on their cash cows - the iPod, the Mac, and OSX - and sitting comfy knowing their diehard fans will perpetually keep buying and upgrading with all their wares.

    But surely Apple will want to expand beyond the realm of the Mac faithful and into the nether region of the PC market. This is where the corporate (including medium and small businesses) predominates with either lowball Dell and HP machines or “works good enough” white boxes.

    Who sells to these folks? The VARs (value added resellers), who else? These folks (CDW is one party) are the ones that interact with the corporate IT person-in-charge.

    So, Apple at its current state-of-affairs is not ready to dive headlong into the corporate market. They have corporate-ready machines in the XServe and XServe RAID, XGrid, OSX Server, etc. that are more than adequate to compete with M$ in the backroom and the desktop. Now that Apple has introduced the Mac Pro/XServe with Quad Xeons, that is more so.

    Apple would need to create a new division entirely to support the corporate customers. This would not disrupt the current hierarchy since this division will be only a PR-kind of division. Marketing and sales force that is focused on the corporate market. Leave the retail and online marketing as it is since they are doing just fine. Apple need not meddle the focus of the two which are completely different.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 25, 2006 Posts: 846
  • For the school I work for, price is the main issue. The IT staff sure as heck doesn’t know Windows. I’ve seen plenty of students surpass the IT Department’s knowledge of MS products. But the price difference is too much—why pay $1,000 per computer for a Mac plus however much it costs for them to buy the Anti-Virus and such software that, like #4 said, they think they need, when they can pay $500-$600? Apple needs to release documents showcasing the lower IT costs and extreme dependability that Macs give. I teach a small computer class, and there is almost always at least one computer down, sometimes up to five. Considering that there are already only 10 computers in the lab that I teach in, I can be guaranteed that there will be a few days in the school year when half of my class is without a computer! That’s ridiculous! I truly wish that they would switch to all MacBooks and get it over with.

    stephencolon had this to say on Aug 25, 2006 Posts: 15
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