Can Apple Blow It Before Microsoft Self Destructs?

February 17th, 2009

After looking at the mock-up for Windows Mobile 6.5, I am apt to think that there’s nothing that Microsoft can do that’s innovative in any fashion. The upgraded interface merely comes across as a mixture of the cheesy Windows desktop environment, along with a Home button essentially copied from the Mac OS, sans the chimney.

Now I don’t know about you, but the effort strikes me as downright pathetic, and I have to wonder whether Microsoft’s kool aid drinkers are actually consuming stronger stuff, and not to their benefit.

Besides, aren’t we past the point where people are going to blindly accept warmed over imitations from Microsoft rather than the real things from Apple and other companies?

Maybe not, because whenever Apple comes up with a new product, Microsoft’s shrinking legion of fanboys will tell us just how pathetic the concept is, and that it’s destined to fail. You read that when the original iPod came out, and when the iPhone was released.

In each case, pretenders from other companies got absolute raves. We had iPod killers and iPhone killers, but none were shown to be superior to Apple’s offerings in any way, except for a handful of features that people may or may not need. In the areas where Apple excels, the ultra-elegant user interface, the competition falls down, and certainly Microsoft is one of the worst offenders.

These days Microsoft is having some struggles with which to contend. PC sales are declining and they recently announced plans to shed 5,000 from their bloated staff. That, of course, doesn’t apparently include contractors, of which there may be thousands more. A contractor would be a freelancer hired directly or through a third-party agency, and they wouldn’t be eligible for the advantages of being a real salaried employee, and could be dismissed far more easily.

This doesn’t mean Apple has a clear field, or that you will wake up soon and find that the Mac OS has beaten Windows in terms of market share fair and square. If it happens at all, it would take years to accomplish, and it’s quite possible that Linux and operating systems we don’t even know about yet will splinter the market so much that no single company can attain the sort of dominance Microsoft held for so long.

More to the point, Apple could make some huge mistakes that would slow or halt its incredible progress.

Let’s take a look at 2009, for example. Now the fact that Steve Jobs isn’t working full-time as CEO probably isn’t much of a factor. It does appear as if he’d be called upon to make critical decisions regardless of the state of his health — unless it gets really bad — and the product releases and marketing concepts are probably pretty much etched in stone at this point.

Now I suppose you can forgive Apple for not paying any heed to the 25th anniversary of the Mac. It might have been nice to release something fancy on the day in question, but that’s not something that would represent a serious calamity. However, just what new stuff have we seen from Apple so far?

The unibody version of the 17-inch MacBook Pro is evidently beginning to ship. Other than that fancy new and non-removable battery, it’s simply a grown up version of the Mac Pro released last fall. While iLife ’09 and iWork ’09 are worthy upgrades, they aren’t earth-shattering either.

So far, at least, there is no new iMac or Mac mini on the horizon, although they’ve both been expected for weeks now. The real question is why the delay, particularly since Mac desktop sales suffered during the last quarter. That, in and of itself, would be good reason to want to expedite release of substantial refreshes.

If Apple were simply to incorporate MacBook Pro parts into the iMac and MacBook parts into the Mac mini, it would seem doubtful that the effort would require any large amount of engineering expense. If the changes are going to be of a more significant nature, of course, maybe that would explain the apparent delay, though I hasten to mention that Apple never promised anything at any particular time. They seldom do.

There is a new quad-core mobile processor from Intel that might really soup up the iMac, particularly with Snow Leopard and its enhanced multiprocessor support in the wings. Is that the factor? It wouldn’t explain a delay in the Mac mini, unless Apple is seriously reworking that form factor.

I’m not saying much about the Mac Pro, except that the newest generation of Intel Xeon processors is due at the end of March, and it may be a trivial effort to incorporate them into Apple’s high-end workstation. Maybe potential customers will even have the money to buy the new models in a few months, to take advantage of the expected substantial performance boost.

As to netbooks, I suppose the jury is still out. Right now, they appear to be mostly cannibalizing sales of more expensive PC note-books. If that represents the major portion of their market penetration, it’s Microsoft’s problem, since none of them can run Vista, and some come with Linux. Moreover, the forthcoming Windows Mobile update is surely not suited to a PC, even a low-end one.

As it stands, Microsoft may continue to suffer regardless. But it would be nice to see some compelling new product action from Apple, if only to demonstrate that they haven’t fallen asleep at the wheel.

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8 Responses to “Can Apple Blow It Before Microsoft Self Destructs?”

  1. Karl says:

    Now-a-days it seems most companies are trying to weather the storm. I think Apple is waiting for the economy to rebound before releasing a flurry of new products.

    I would love to see an update to AppleTV. I’ve been waiting for one. But the final decision to purchase one will be how they update it. If it still seems like a “hobby” for them, I might just wait longer to buy.

    I would also like to see Snow Leopard released sooner versus later. While Leopard is ok. I’m still have issues with it. Both with stability and performance. Nothing that isn’t livable but enough to get under the skin.

  2. Viswakarma says:

    Is Apple making OS X as the core and all hardware (Mac, iPod, iPhone, Apple TV and other upcoming products) as variations of delivery systems?

  3. Alfred Schmidt says:

    Don’t forget that Snow Leopard is a large rewrite under the hood, it makes perfect sense to wait with new computers to show off the the multi-core power with a new clean mean cat!
    Patience will be rewarded.

  4. chark says:

    Apple is not waiting for the economy to improve – it could be months or years and is too much of an unknown. I am ready to immediately purchase a quad-core i7 iMac. The upgrade is significant enough to prevent me from buying a current model. When Snow Leopard comes out, the differences between Mac and Windows will be much more apparent. It will take years for Microsoft to catch up and Apple is not standing still.

  5. Jon T says:

    I’m inclined to agree with the poster above who suggests the catalyst for new Apple hardware will be Snow Leopard…

    That, and new generation multi-cores from Intel should do the trick. Better for Apple to focus on the software and skip a few evolutionary upgrades (not that the unibody wasn’t revolutionary).

  6. Richard says:

    Sure, Apple can blow it. And they very well may blow it if things do not change.

    Their product development cycles have fallen further and further behind even before the recent turn of events. The product offering are consistently old, out of date, and not even given minor refreshes as other manufacturers routinely do. Much of what does come out is riddled with problems that should have been caught by any reasonable testing program.

    Even so, the product offerings have huge holes in the lineup, leaving people to wonder just what is up at Apple. There have been extended discussions on other sites about Apple appearing to have abandoned some of its core markets and product segments.

    They are a company at a cross roads. If Apple continues to be unable to produce up-to-date products, how long can it be before the company’s reputation declines too. It could be a sad transition from a computer company that also produced other interesting things to a former computer company that is just a gadget maker.

    I hope they will change the situation, and soon.

    “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
    The Yogi

  7. All right Richard let’s look at the implications.

    What product segments has Apple abandoned in recent years that they should return to? I’m not talking about what Steve Jobs jettisoned back in the mid-1990s. I’m thinking in more recent terms.

    What products should they be adding?

    For a company with record sales and profits, how do you conclude they are making huge mistakes?

    Just curious.


  8. Richard says:

    “Lets look at the implications.” I don’t like them any more than I suspect you do.

    How many years has it been since Apple refreshed the monitor lineup? They have not only not kept up, but have deleted most of the lineup. Are they going to bring out new ones? Who knows? I was at a recent meeting where the subject of discussion, before things got started, was the lack of Apple monitors to order with a new Mac Pro…people wanting to spend money, but having no offering from the company to do so. There seems to be some doubt whether Apple will even replace most of the discontinued models. (The screens of the MacBook Pro lineup have been the subject of discussion amongst professional photographers. Some noted ones have pronounced the screen “unacceptable”. Ouch!)

    The Mac Pro lineup is starting to show the neglect that it has been shown for some time now. There is also a lack of choices for something other than a near workstation class machine. There are a great many people who do not like the iMac form factor, but there are few choices. (I happen to be one of the people who, while believing that the iMac is a decent machine that will fit the needs of many people, am not one of the people who wants to be so restricted in changing or adding things to a “tower”.)

    It appears that Apple is now embarking on a annual product refresh cycle. That is to say, they will refresh the product once a year (or sometimes longer). In the technology world that is an eternity. Other manufacturers appear to be much more timely in getting new products shipped. (Where oh where is the new Mac Mini?)

    If this is the way things are to be, perhaps this would be an appropriate time for Apple to license the OS to other manufacturers who will provide hardware to fill the gaps and Apple still make some money off of the sales of these things.

    As to the record sales, if one looks at the sources of revenue, they are increasingly things other than computers, and, in particular, computers other than Mac Pros. Even though the laptop sales have become the dominant factor in computer sales for Apple (and the rest of the industry for that matter), people are increasingly disappointed by the offerings.

    One of the great benefits of the move to Intel processors was the access to the engineering resources of Intel for things that Apple really did not need to devote their time and effort and at the same time achieve a “currency” of the hardware. What happened?

    I could go on about recent decisions to manufacture the aluminum out of “billet” aluminum and machine it down to what you want being inefficient, both in terms of cost, energy, and waste in the production process, but you probably already realize that…and it is not a “green” manufacturing process.

    Anyway, as I said, I do not like the implications of what everyone is seeing. I hope we have all been fooled.


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