Thursday, March 24, 2011

How Apple has come to dominate the PC market.

Recent article in Computer World predicts that Apple will dominate the PC market in 2011. This was a company that had but a fringe of user a just over a decade ago, and Windows seemed like an immovable Juggernaut in control of the whole industry. So what happened?

The article suggest the tablet dominance of the iPad for it's dominance of the market, but I disagree. I don't think that's what's going on here, that's just the symptom.

I think the reason for this boils down to one thing: users, users users!

In a rather popular internet video the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, goes around yelling what windows was all about: "developers, developers, developers." This focus had served the company well. After all Microsoft's early success lay in its business contracts. Few people outside hobbyists had personal computers. Computers were business tools used for spreadsheets, word processing and data processing outside the hands of most users. The world where music, video, photography and reading would happen inside a computer in your house or your hand was years ahead and so Windows paid it little attention.

Apple on the other hand was aimed straight at the user, and to it's detriment at the beginning, it mostly ignored business (and some of it's users like gamers). But while not changing its focus, Apple courted certain businesses rather aggressively, particularly the arts with professional programs like Final Cut that gave Apple a niche and secure market in the arts.

Then came Vista.

While the Mac continued to get better and better in different areas in small incremental steps (adding new applications like Pages, or Keynote) its  switch to Intel processor leveled the playing field.

Vista was a disaster on too many fronts (worth its blog) but it let down the key constituency of windows: businesses. It was expensive, without really any benefit that for the very long cycle of XP companies had not had to already meet with other programs. And this happened at a critical time on the hardware side of the industry.

Finally after laptops being just mere underpowered PC they'd become powerful enough to be the only computer you needed to have. But the premiere manufacturer of laptops was Apple, by far. Windows (and the PC world) had missed the move to mobile computing and user-centered computing. Computers were now media centers by default. And Apple computers delivered on the promise with many bundled applications that made it ready to go. Macs ship with fantastic media apps: iTunes, Garage Band and iMovie. I know people that have edited movies on iMovie with ease.

When the move to mobile moved from laptop to mobile phones (and then tablets as it is now). Microsoft was left behind. And it's still there, unable to figure that it's its focus on business that made them unable to move into this area smoothly. While in the meantime Apple is enjoying the economies of scale it has lacked for most its existence. It can offer one of the cheapest tablets because it sells the most tablets and can buy really large orders from suppliers.

Apple dominates the Mobile market in 2011 mostly because it stands alone. While the giant of Microsoft wasted time and went to sleep, and the Google Android is still polishing itself.

We'll see what happens in 2012.
 (I'm watching HP carefully now, they have Palm's WebOS and seem to be transitioning fast to a post-desktop PC post-Windows world.)

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