According to a published report, Mac sales are not just down, but dropping somewhat faster than the PC market as a whole. Now this is something that hasn't happened in a while, so could it be an area of concern? Well, maybe, but it does call for a reality check.
First and foremost, the published reports are based on estimates, samplings, and they do not reflect the actual sales reported by Apple. You won't know that until the 28th of the month. The numbers also focus on U.S. sales, and an ever larger portion of Apple's sales are overseas.
The long and short of it is that Mac sales will likely be flat or somewhat lower, but the picture is not complete. However, that doesn't mean there isn't room for some reasoned speculation about what's going on, and what Apple might do to reverse the trend.
Or can they reverse the trend?
Overall, PC sales aren't looking too great. The clear failure of Windows 8 to generate much interest has only moved the trend along. We are clearly in the twilight of the PC era, where more and more personal computing functions are being taken over by smartphones and tablets. Indeed, I suspect more and more people would consider a tablet rather than a Mac or PC for their next purchase. I know of several people who are clearly weighing the pros and the cons, and the answers aren't certain.
My son is one example. He's been a Mac user since his early childhood. Today he's 27, and his 2008 black MacBook is on its last legs. He's hoping to keep it running until he gets his graduate degree, at which time he'll seriously consider replacing it with an iPad.
So far as Apple is concerned, a sale is a sale. More to the point, an iPad is less apt to be shared in a family than a Mac, so one sale might become two or more.
But Apple would clearly want to improve Mac sales as much as possible. Sales are still far higher than just a few years ago, and the PC isn't dead by a long shot. There are still many tasks that are better done in the traditional form factor. So it's very likely Apple might want to make some moves to keep Macs in demand.
Certainly, the company hasn't given up on Mac workstations. There will be an all-new Mac Pro very soon now. Some might object to the unique design that abandons the concept of internal expansion, though I can see the logic behind Apple's approach. Allowing for wide external expansion possibilities may give professional users more flexibility. And having a smaller, lighter computer to take with you is an undeniable advantage, particularly if raw performance far exceeds current models.
It is clear that the Mac Pro won't sell in the same quantities as an iMac, or any other model in the lineup. But Apple is indicating to high-end users that they are not going to be ignored.
As to the iMac, there's a published report about a cheaper low-end model in light of rumors that sales aren't meeting expectations. It's also true that the entry-level iMacs became more expensive starting with the 2012 model. Sure, the cheapest iMac is priced the same as the original Bondi blue model released in 1998, but these days average computer prices are far less.
Yes, the MacBook Air continues to outsell all or most equivalent PC Ultrabooks. One reason is that the latter isn't always price competitive. Microsoft is pushing PC vendors to add touchscreens, a costly option that simply hasn't caught on with customers. Indeed, the value of a convertible or hybrid notebook has yet to be demonstrated. Apple clearly doesn't accept the concept, at least for now, and continues to believe that a personal computer and a tablet are separate products, with separate operating systems.
There is a published report claiming that Apple is working on a large iPad, perhaps 12.9 or 13 inches. Well maybe, although I hardly see it as a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro replacement. If such an animal is produced, the audience would be far smaller than a regular iPad, and quite distant from the best-seller in the lineup, the iPad mini. Business users might embrace them, and I can see the value for graphic artists, musicians and video editors, not to mention scientists and engineers. But it doesn't seem to make sense as a potential Mac replacement, and Apple is most likely not going to consider a product that serves both needs, unless they can develop a form factor that actually makes such a product convenient to use.
So consider the MacPad, something that can run both iOS and OS X, assuming Apple can make an A-series processor compatible with the latter, perhaps in some sort of virtual machine layout that's chip based to minimize performance loss. It would, on the surface, be an iPad, but an easily attached keyboard would make it a very thin and light MacBook alternative that could run all or most of your OS X apps.
But I'm not a product designer. My rough concept of a potential convergence product may never come to be, but it's nonetheless intriguing. As always, feel free to disagree.
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