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Average Selling Price?
A quick look on Amazon show HP's top selling laptop costs 320 quid. Apples costs 889 quid. Bet Apple make better profits on those machines too.
A vast majority of computers are appliances (both literally and metaphorically). Most get used for writing short documents (usually with clip art) maybe a little spread sheeting and LOADS of web stuff. The rest of use is made up by iTunes type apps, interent radio, CD/DVD burning and some REALLY simple video editing. Oh, and it the hardcore corner we have the gamers. God bless 'em.
No-one goes "Hmmm... I've got 30 mintues spare... I'll hack on that C++ synth backend and my Qt audio streamer is still stuttering... I wonder how far I can push WebGL" except me and the usual sort that hang out here!
I've been engineering for a long time and I've found the largest change over the years has been to adopt a "users" mentality. The "it isn't a computer it's an appliance" is a rather, IMNSHO, meaningless comparison.
Some time ago, when I started doing this for money, I wrote data analysis software for F1. It was a nice app in terms of the GUI (well, as nice as EGA will let you be) but it was techy software aimed at people, who although not computer literate, where engineers themselves.
Now I'm working in mobile and we need to make the sort of applications that my mum or my missus or kids would use. This is very profound change.
Here's a bad car analogy. If we equate the car market and the computer market we are somewhere around 1940 to 1950. There were many people that fixed their own cars and knew how they worked back then. But even then most people took there car to a mechanic. By the 1970s, 1980s very few people worked on their cars. Now, almost nobody (it's a hobby for a few).
Computers will follow that line too. Now we are slowly entering the 60's and 70's (in car terms). They are becoming more robust, they are becoming an object that people use rather than work on.
Over the next 10 years this will happen more and more although we will reach a point were the markets separate I think. It seems to be happening now. In general, users really don't want to be administrators in the same way they don't want to spend there weekends fixing a new exhaust pipe or head gasket. They want to go driving.
Adopting the users mentality is still very hard. Cars have, generally, a fixed set of use cases (most people don't go off-roading). Computers, well, we're still seeing what can be done.
There's a lot of exploration to be had in the big little box.
lower profit margin = lower average selling price = more units sold. If HP has lower profits margin then it wins the market. HP does indeed sell low cost computers but it also sells very expensive servers.
Computers are not just appliances. You rethoric focuses on mum and joe sixpack. You ignore that computers are used business, in all the pretty much any industry, in IT, in finance and banking, in governments, in research, in schools and many other fields. There are about 2 million IT workers in Germany, out a population of 80 million people and that number is increasing. Your mum surfing the internet and sending emails is just the visible part of the computer users, the one that Apple targets. HP targets those but also businesses, ERP, BI, CAD, etc. Apple ignores businesses, except maybe artists.
The users in business, industry, finance etc use the computer as an appliance just as they'd use a fax machine, photo copier, pager or mobile phone.
They don't investigate it, they don't program it - they might be using custom apps.
I'm not sure what "IT Worker" means but I'd also suggest that those who design website, for example, also use the machine as an appliance.