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  • What About Future Mac Growth?

    September 6th, 2012

    All right, let’s see here. Mac sales in the June quarter were only slightly ahead of the comparable quarter in 2011, whereas iPad sales soared. Sure, some of that might be attributed to the late arrival of the upgraded MacBook lineup, particularly the MacBook Pro with Retina display. But how many people actually postponed Mac purchases because new models were perceived as late?

    Sure, Mountain Lion appears to be pretty successful so far After less than a month on sale, it was reported that some 20% of the Mac user base was using the $19.99 OS upgrade, though some of that number consists of new Mac purchases. And, yes, I did see stats putting the figure at closer to 10%, so there seems some variance in such surveys, which are based on Web traffic. The larger question is how fast Mac the user base is growing, and what are the future prospects.

    Now PC makers are doing less well, with flagging sales for most of the companies. There’s some hope that Windows 8 will change the equation, but since the PC you buy today can get a free upgrade, it’s not as if sales should be severely impacted in anticipation. Microsoft’s real fear maybe be that large numbers of Windows users will simply stick with Windows 7, if it’s already loaded on their new computers, or downgrade after Windows 8 takes over. Sure, some buyers may wait for a new iPhone or an iPad before making a purchase, but even that phenomenon is debatable.

    Consider that it’s only recently that Windows 7 took over from Windows XP, circa 2001, as the OS with the world’s largest market share. It boggles the mind, or maybe Microsoft has failed to make subsequent OS upgrades compelling enough to entice Windows users to upgrade. Indeed, I wonder how many Windows users still prefer XP because they don’t have to contend with those awful ribbon toolbars.

    Now Microsoft wants you to believe that regular PCs and tablets are both PCs, thus we are in the PC+ era. The Windows interface, which under Windows 8 actually doesn’t use windows except in a legacy desktop interface, is meant to be available on all sorts of devices. I suppose consistency isn’t bad, except where usability takes a back seat. And on a traditional computer, relying heavily on touch and tiles may just be taking things a tad too far.

    Apple’s vision is PostPC, that more and more people will embrace mobile devices such as the iPad and iPhone with a special mobile OS, and that traditional PCs will be more and more confined to heavy-lifting tasks, which essentially explains why Steve Jobs once said he regarded them as trucks.

    This is a trend you can already see. More and more schools are using iPads instead of PCs, while Macs are holding onto their share of the educational market, though it’s not necessarily growing all that much.

    For travel, an iPad will probably suit most of you. On a recent trip out of state to attend a family function, I did take my 2010 vintage 17-inch MacBook Pro along with me. I didn’t have much writing to do, so it was largely a matter of keeping tabs on my email and getting up to speed on my favorite online watering holes.

    In short, I really didn’t need to lug my MacBook Pro and that huge case along. Everything I did could have been accomplished just as well with an iPad, and perhaps an accessory keyboard for writing longer messages or blog entries. Sure, I wouldn’t want to rely on an iPad for editing my radio shows. Not that there aren’t tools for that purpose, but I haven’t yet tested them to see if my workflow could be done as efficiently. Certainly the actual recording process, where I use an analog mixer, would be a non-starter, but I’d have no problem with my Yeti Pro studio mic, since it also has a USB port.

    To a large extent, I expect that many of you, if you actually took note of your needs, would find that the iPad really does perform many of the tasks for which you depend on a Mac or a PC. For Apple, a sale is a sale, but PC makers have to be freaking. Sure, perhaps they believe — or hope — that Windows 8 tablets will make up the difference, but that hope may never be realized.

    Now I have to admit that, except for that brief out-of-town trip, I am not prepared to give up my MacBook Pro anytime soon. For long-form writing and for recording and editing my radio shows, I am perfectly happy with a regular Mac. In fact, I spend most of my time on a late 2009 iMac. The note-book is only used occasionally.

    On the other hand, when I go to bed at night, I keep my iPhone 4s next to me, and I will, perhaps while watching TV, check it on occasion for email messages that require a quick response, or message board posts on my various forums. When there’s a news update on the TV, I will often use the iPhone to get more details, or perhaps an alternate point of view.

    But I do see where the PC world has changed. Microsoft won’t admit it, of course, but it does appear to me that Apple’s PostPC vision is the one that will rule.



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