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  • So Much for Stagnating Mac Growth

    August 24th, 2010

    I have to constantly remind myself that sales estimates can be all over the place, so when a recent report suggested Macs sales weren't improving as fast as some expected, I was ready to attribute that state of affairs to the extreme success of the iPad.

    However, it now appears that Mac sales may actually be growing faster than previously believed.

    There's a story in this week's issue of Fortune that, in June, sales of new Macs to the enterprise actually soared nearly 50%, about three times higher than the rest of the PC industry. In addition, sales to government soared 200%, which is 16 times faster than the rest of the market.

    At the same time, sales to consumers improved by roughly 35%, so it's clear Macs aren't losing their luster for home users either.

    But the enterprise? Now maybe it's just a statistical blip, since Apple has such a small market penetration in the business world. Perhaps the same is true for government users, but maybe, just maybe, so many business users are sick and tired of the ongoing problems with Windows that they're looking for an exit plan. Sure, perhaps Windows 7 is far better than its predecessors, but when Microsoft can only list such silliness as pinning document windows on the corners of the screen as one of the most compelling new features, you just know that they have nothing important to say.

    But what's most fascinating is the fact that this is all happening when the iPad seems to be selling far more copies than anyone expected. At the same time, are new iPad users buying them as extra devices, or are sales being cannibalized from other products?

    If the latter, just what products are we talking about? Macs? Evidently not, unless you want to argue that far more Macs would otherwise be sold. PCs? Perhaps, since sales of new PCs, outside of the business market, haven't gone so well this summer, particularly in the netbook category.

    Of course, you have to realize that a netbook is not a terribly inviting product. There's not an ounce of innovation to be found. All the PC makers did was to shrink notebooks down as small as they can, and use cheaper components, including slow processors. It's hard to take a $300 netbook and expect it to offer anything close to credible performance for all but the most basic tasks. Everything is a compromise.

    The iPad is a totally different product with extremely snappy performance and a smart, intuitive interface that actually takes the PC into a whole new dimension. Consider that, until the iPad came out, no other PC maker had a clue what to do about tablets. After touting the arrival of tablet PCs 10 years ago, the best Microsoft could so was to deliver a clumsy alternative to the regular Windows computer with a stylus to click buttons on the screen.

    Watching one of these tablets in action certainly demonstrates how bad they are, and why they have been abject failures outside of certain business categories.

    Our family doctor, for example, has a network of Fujitsu tablet computers in his office. The doctor and his assistants carry them around while examining patients and consulting records. They employ the ever-present stylus to activate functions using a special vertical market application that's designed for physicians. But actual text is still entered via the keyboard. We're not talking about an iPhone-styletouch interface here, but a kludge based totally on a traditional PC that employs a stylus in place (or in addition to) a touchpad or mouse.

    It's no wonder such devices didn't catch on for the vast majority of users.

    Of course, now that the iPad has been a proven success even early in its lifetime, the rest of the PC world is madly scrambling to deliver a credible competitor. But so far rather than deliver product, they are delivering hype. Claims mean nothing without a powerful product lineup to demonstrate they can truly deliver the goods.

    Consider that recent silly statement from Chang Ma, vice president of marketing for LG Electronics' mobile-devices unit, who praised the iPad and then promised they could build a better tablet. All this without any evidence that LG can develop an operating system that comes close to matching the iOS. Or maybe they plan to rely on the forthcoming Google Chrome OS, but that would put the LG tablet computer in the same range as other products using a Google-based OS. Where's the differentiation?

    Indeed, why are members of the mainstream press taking anything Chang Ma says seriously? Does he have experience in this product category that he can point to in order to prove his claims? Not a chance.

    With all this nonsense, you don't have to wonder why more and more businesses have opted to order the real thing: a Mac.



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    3 Responses to “So Much for Stagnating Mac Growth”

    1. Peter says:

      Well, the article came out after you wrote yours, but check out this article which discusses the increases.

      Basically, when you look at 2009-2010, it shows a large increase. If you look at 2008-2009, it shows a large decrease. So if you look at 2008-2010, they're basically unchanged. And IDC's numbers refer to personal computers, not iPads.

      The other point is that Apple's shipments are so small that any increase produces large percentages. But twice nothing is still nothing.

    2. Andrew says:

      Tablet PCs clearly never caught on, for the reasons you mentioned, however they are very interesting products with advantages over both regular laptops and the iPad.

      I used to own a Toshiba Portege M400 tablet. It was a bit thicker than a Macbook, but also lighter weight and narrower. Overall, the volume of the case was pretty close, if not a tad larger. It had an excellent keyboard, a very nice 12" display at 1400X1050 (SXGA, I believe) and of course its reason for being, a swivel mount display that converted from a conventional 4.5 lb thin and light into a slate.

      Windows XP tablet PC edition was crap, but Vista brought with it extremely accurate handwriting recognition. Such a machine, updated from 2006 to 2010 specs, would be very attractive indeed to many users. It doesn't run OS X, but the combination of a laptop that is as small and slightly lighter than a MacBook, that can also be easily used standing up as your doctor does, is attractive.

      As an attorney, I really liked using the tablet PC, and only abandoned it because the battery life was poor. A more modern example could easily bring 5 hour instead of 2.5 hour battery life. An Apple version would likely combine all of the MacBook advantages with a slight weight and thickness penalty. Not a slate like the Axiotron ModBook, which I seriously considered, but a convertible. Base it off the MacBook Air and it would be thinner and lighter than a MacBook.

      I use an iPad in the courtroom and am quite fond of it, but it is limited in its functionality.

    3. Anonymous says:

      The government, DoD in particular, has been making a conscious effort to diversify OSes to avoid having a "monoculture" which is more vulnerable to a single security threat. This can only be good for Apple. Should Apple actually respond to the government's needs there could be a beneficial spill over into the business market based on the changes made.

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