Macs — Forever!

June 18th, 2015

From the time that Michael Dell first claimed that Apple should shut down the company and return the money to investors, the critics have been claiming our favorite fruit company ought to be dead and buried. Or it will be shortly. Even when sales and profits hit record levels, it wasn’t taken seriously by some. It must be a fluke. Reality will take over someday soon. Just you wait!

After the WWDC events in 2014 and 2015, some members of the tech media pronounced them failures. Last year, it was the result of not having any new hardware to announce. Said pundits failed to understand the meaning of the letter “D” in that acronym, which obviously stands for “developers.”

And, yes, I realize Apple has sometimes used a WWDC to announce hardware that’s usually focused towards professionals, such as the 2013 launch of a redesigned Mac Pro. But still!

This year, the complaint was about the perceived lack of substantive new features for OS X El Capitan and iOS 9. It was more of a refinement of last year’s edition. Worse, some members of the media reminded us of features “borrowed” from other platforms, particularly Split View, or Proactive Siri, while ignoring the fact that such influences go both ways. Besides, the number of new features on these two operating systems might still be more than you’ll find on Android M or Windows 10.

Regardless, it’s clear Apple has been investing heavily in the Mac platform. The arrival of the two-pound MacBook, and the introduction of Force Touch, are prime examples of continued faith in the platform. But that hasn’t stopped a columnist in a certain major financially-oriented daily newspaper from suggesting that Apple would do better to kill the Mac platform?

Why? Well, I suppose because Macs only account for a fraction of Apple’s revenue and profits, so why allow it to divert attention from the mobile platforms? Take a deep breath!

Now it happens to be true that Apple earns higher profits from Macs than other PC makers manage. The Mac, while a small player in the global PC market, delivers a much higher percentage of sales in the medium to high-priced tiers, where the real money is made. Other companies may sell more gear, but a lot of it is low-margin junk that delivers poor performance and reliability. Yes, I suppose cheap PC desktops and note-books are suitable for email and Internet surfing, perhaps a little word processing and such, but how long will they survive under intense use?

Remember, too, that the Mac is still Apple’s go-to product for developing apps and creating content. Yes, even iPhone and iPad apps are built on Macs using simulators. Sure, perhaps the new multitasking features might allow Apple to provide native iPad developer tools, but not yet.

When it comes to productivity, the Mac still has it all over the iPad. I’ve already written two columns in recent days that explain why I cannot use an iPad for my workflow. That situation is not going to change unless or until Apple allows developers to build apps that would allow me to record my radio show, and perform all the editing functions I do now. And maybe not even then, depending on how well touchscreens can handle the chores I now perform quickly and easily with mouse and keyboard.

Most of this is pretty obvious, except to Apple critics who, perhaps deliberately, choose to ignore facts and engage in foolish flights of fancy. The general attitude is that they know more than Apple about how to run a company, and that Tim Cook, who made the company the largest in the world by market cap, hasn’t a clue. Just put them in his office for a few weeks, and things will change. But I’d rather not think how.

I do realize that, if the iPad becomes a more compelling alternative for productivity, some people won’t buy new Macs, or avoid any PC. Apple has clearly demonstrated that it isn’t afraid to lose a sale, particularly if you buy another Apple product instead. So while the iPad may have cannibalized the Mac somewhat early on, these days both the iPhone and Mac are taking sales from the iPad.

Sure, personal computers will become less and less relevant over time. I have little doubt that some people, particularly younger folk, will live to see the day when there are no more Macs, and that PCs are, in general, mostly history. Apple’s future prospects may, in part, depend on adapting to the new technologies, assuming they aren’t simply outgrowths of existing mobile gear.

At my advanced age, however, I expect to hang on to my Macs for a long time. Erosion of the platform may very well be gradual, unless there is a sudden rush to a next great thing. Macs forever? Well, that depends. But the suggestion Apple is on the wrong track with Macs is just plain dumb!

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One Response to “Macs — Forever!”

  1. Peter says:

    A few years ago, I got interviewed at WWDC with that same question about hardware–was I disappointed that Apple didn’t show off any new hardware.

    “There was a time,” I explained to the pretty young girl, “when Apple used these shows to unveil new hardware. The reason was that nobody really cared all that much about what Apple was doing. So Apple needed to do these announcements in a show where the press would show up.”

    “Now-a-days, though, it’s a bit different. If, say, next week you got an announcement for a press event at Cupertino, do you think you’d have a hard time convincing your editor to spring for airfare for you to go?”

    “Not really,” she replied.

    “So why should Apple announce something now if it isn’t ready? They used to have to do that, but they don’t anymore because they’ll have coverage whenever they decide to unveil it.”

    Needless to say, that didn’t make the paper. But I think it’s an important point to remember.

    Keep in mind that, yes, the keynote plays to the press and less to the developer. While I’m sure Apple Music will be a suitable entry in the field (I’m still old and grumpy enough that I buy my music), as a developer I don’t really care if Apple is getting into the music streaming field. The same things they show the press in iOS and OS X in the keynote, they’ll show again in sessions.

    Frankly, last time I went to WWDC, I skipped the keynote, slept in, and showed up for the intro sessions. Far better use of my time.

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