Monday, September 17, 2007

Macs taking the Desktop: Missed Opportunity?

An interesting article A Window of Opportunity for Macs, Soon to Close, came out in the Sunday edition of the New York Times alleging that Apple has dropped the ball in taking the desktop away from Microsoft Windows, especially in the light that consumers aren't all that happy with Vista and Windows in general. Many people from the Linux camp can argue the same thing. But is it really that imperative to fight yesterday's war, again today

The 1990s saw the rise of Windows into a global juggernaut, it runs virtually every machine in every business throughout the world. In his book, "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?" by former IBM boss, Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., he talked about how IBM killed OS/2--- the then rival to Windows. One of his arguments was--- Windows had already won. Why would IBM waste money, fighting a battle that it could not possibly win? Especially when that money is best spent elsewhere? 

Why shouldn't Apple spend great attention in keeping their Music business from its competitors when it has already a foot in that business? Or to develop a business around the iPhone? Or push for great products that work well with services and new frontiers like online video and podcasting and music in the clouds? Why step back? 

Contras with the whole desktop world--- a mature market where the players have limited growth, and limited profit as evident by the profit margins of Dell, HP, etc--- why allocate resources in that market segment more than absolutely necessary? Why limit yourself to just that and the old way? 

Being on Windows via Safari and iTunes is a great way for people to know about the brand. Not to mention, advertising revenue from google via Safari searches likewise is also good. That said, Apple also has a brand identity to protect. Being too accessible is bad. Being in too many places other than online or by the Apple Store or through select channels that has the huge Apple logo and the Apple identity (colors, look and feel and support of an Apple store, the experience) diminishes the "coolness" of the brand. After all you don't get a Porsche from just about any place right? 

It's a different world now. Windows actually runs on a Mac.  I'm sure that'll help Microsoft's market share--- where people dual boot via boot camp or run Windows on their Mac via Fusion and Parallels. not to mention the new and exciting things happening on the Internet--- the ability to run all sorts of Apps online like Google Docs.  This world of gaining interoperability has changed the landscape and makes it less compelling to be fighting over old turf wars because the battle ground has shifted.

Apple is all about integration. Beyond OS X and the Mac--- just look at the product line from the Minis to the Mac Pros to the iPods and iPhones (save for the nano and the shuffle), everything fits and integrated and runs on OS X. OS X on iPods and iPhones, ensures that developing for OS X also goes to iPods and iPhones. it is all integrated, every effort exerted is used everywhere. And this going forward, this tight symphony is brilliant.  

Macs v. PC. Linux v. PC. Linux v. Macs. Like Christianity and Islam and Judisim--- this whole us versus them is highly religious and never ending.  At the end of the day, Apple's stock price has soared. It has made a lot of money for a whole lot of people. The company's war chest of cash is great--- I'm sure something Steve Jobs has learned from his time spent away from the Company and something that's good for the company, long term.  That money ensures that Apple can keep making innovative products, even if some of them may not fly just now *cough Apple TV, cough*. And hey, the Newton was ahead of its time and look at where it is now: iPhone. 

Should everyone see the light of day and use Macs and the Child-like wonder that the OS X experience gives? you bet! The world would be a better place. I'm sure Linux people would say the same thing for their side. Then again, Apple is more than just iPods or Macs. It is a company out to make the most profit and shouldn't waste its resources in fighting old wars and it should continue doing what it is doing now: developing and bringing to market innovative products and services. Apple is also a company that promotes an elitist culture: that culture is what separates it from Dell and others. Not everyone drives a Porsche, the same can be said of Apple.  So it is a missed opportunity or different war all together?


missingpoints said...

Something I don't understand re: this "elitist culture" that Apple tries to develop. How does using something that touts itself as extremely user-friendly a sign of being elite?

Anyhoo, Apple will never win the desktop war unless it allows its OS to be run on generic machines. As long as it insists on running only on its own hardware, it'll be too expensive for most regular folks. WIndows won because it's "pang-masa."

The iPod is quickly becoming the same, too. If I were Apple, I'd concentrate on small, well-designed consumer products. Which is what they're really good at anyway,

Cocoy said...

The elitist thing is all about branding, almost cult like. ever seen a macworld-- the mac faithful expo or the developer's conference (wwdc)? Remember that line back in June for the iPhone, for a phone people fell inline for hours which they could buy the next day without the line. that's a sample of the cult-like legion that every mac user is proud to be part of because elitist is "we're cool," a club of our own kinda thing.

Mac users actually /love/ buying from the apple store. it's akin to going to church. no self respecting mac user pirates os x... because mac users support apple, they actually "like to" and are willing to pay for all it. it's very cult-like, for sure.

Well, my point in the post was, Apple doesn't need to win any desktop war. nobody does, not even linux. it doesn't make great business sense to do it because Windows has already won. it's like still fighting world war 2, when the japanese have already surrendered and everybody else is fighting the "next war." The next war is being waged all around us--- fighting for the "services" that grow around our networks and our computers and re-imagining of all things.

Apple based on the play that they've been making doesn't plan nor desire to wage an OS war. you've already pointed out the plan: Apple is building well designed consumer products and around those products through ecosystems like iTunes.

As for the Mac line of Computers that's still the heart of the company, still the driving force for Apple business because they make a ton of profit--- more than Dell or HP, anyway per box and that is the most important thing. Just as OS X is becoming the heart of every Mac product out there, so will OS X and software in general be the impetus for using innovations in hardware and user interfaces.

Licensing OSX to others that will never happen. it will be the wrong thing to do because that's not the name of the game anymore. Playing nice with every device on the planet is one of the many reasons why Windows sucks, and in fairness to Microsoft, that's the nature of the PC standard and the whole industry that grew around it. It's the inherent problem of windows is that it needs to maintain all that legacy. Don't get me wrong: that's not bad, not at all evil. It's great in fact for building huge clusters of computers. it's great when you need to pump out volume after volume of computers. it doesn't fit with Apple's drive for great profit margins and like the Apple brand-- licensing OS X to others will dilute the value of OS X.

Truthfully, OS X runs on Unix--- the same commands you'll find in a Linux box. OS X runs a different kernel--- it is bsd. LInux runs on the linux kernel. both are open source. What's the difference then aside from them apples and oranges is the User interface. You can mimic the OS X ui on linux but apple has a specific vision for that ui and it is in the heart of every product they ship and the heart of their corporate strategy. open source is great for all that under the hood thing, but sadly it fails when it comes to consumer specific needs because that's not the focus of the distros, not in their business interest. Can linux distros do the same, build a specific UI? yep, if they so desired.

When it comes right down to cost: they're both the same. the Mac looks more expensive because everything is already there. in the windows world, it's more bits and pieces, more commodity and when you add all that cost, you're going to see a similarly priced device along side the mac. There are also PCs that are priced on the US$7,000--- targeted for games, over kill for most of us.

the mac looks great--- it works just as great as it looks. who would have thought beauty and brains would go hand in hand? At the end of the day, it will be consumers who will decide. I'll pay the price for the mac because I want a Mac and it lets me do more. It lets me use it the way i want to use a computer and in the off chance, i need to use windows or linux, there is software that lets me do that while running side-by-side with os x. It's why i became a mac user: it just lets you do work, no bs. when you've gone mac, there is no turning back.

that said, everything is religious: mac v. pc. windows v. linux, os x v. windows... etc. so if windows lets you do your work, great. if linux does, good for you. if the mac is more your machine, excellent. At the end of the day, they're just tools for people to use and as great as how we use them. peace, man.

missingpoints said...

I'm in graphic design. We have a G4 desktop which we turn on just to open Mac fonts. It runs slower than my Sempron-based PCs (which, admittedly, are tweaked to perform faster for their tasks). It's not the Mac's fault either, it's the model that even fans are complaining about. Got it secondhand cheap just to open fonts.

The "when you've gone Mac, there's no turning back" is an article of faith, it seems, among fans. But it's not entirely true. I've worked with Macs and was dissatisfied. The "cult" just makes it more irritating. As a guy who works in marketing/advertising, I refuse to be carried away by the hype.

I also like the customizability of assembled PCs. For mid-end users, they really give more bang for the buck. Macs are "sulit" for the low and high-end extremes: Mac minis for beginners who don't want to wrestle with XP, Tower Pros for, er, pros.

That said, I'm not a hater. I'm buying a Macbook when Leopard comes out, mainly for keynote. And because there is no PC laptop out there that has that weird keyboard. :)

Cocoy said...

"That said, I'm not a hater. I'm buying a Macbook when Leopard comes out, mainly for keynote. And because there is no PC laptop out there that has that weird keyboard. :)"

hehehehe... one more month until Leopard comes... hopefully!