Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Oct 2013 16:37 UTC
Apple

Insightful article by John Gruber.

So the irony here is that iOS vs. Android (or, if you prefer, iPhone and iPad vs. commodity smartphones and tablets) is in fact a replay Mac vs. Windows - but not in the way that most who make the comparison would have you believe. Judging by its actions, Apple is keenly aware of the lessons to be learned from 20 years ago. To wit, this has nothing to do with focusing on raw market share, and everything to do with keeping the pedal to the metal on design and quality. If Apple maintains a lead over its rivals in those regards, the Mac suggests that Apple can occupy a dominant, stable, long-term position as the profit leader in the mobile market as well - a market that is already bigger than the PC market ever was, and unlike the PC market, is still growing.

As insightful as the article is, it does pivot on the assumption that Apple does, indeed, "[maintain] a lead over its rivals" in design and quality. Design is largely a matter of taste, but as far as quality goes, Apple has, in my view, been surpassed in almost every aspect by Android - at least, when it comes to software. And let's not even get started on internet services, where Apple is a complete and utter joke compared to its competitors. As far as hardware goes, however, Apple's supposed lead is harder to debate - I've held a lot of phones and tablets in my hands over the years, and while many come close to Apple's, I've never held anything that outright surpassed it (save for maybe the HTC One which no one is buying).

Unsurprisingly, Gruber believes Apple does maintain that lead, and as such, arguing his point becomes relatively easy. However, if you ascribe to the view that Android has surpassed iOS in quality (and certainly in design, in my view), it becomes a lot harder to accept that Apple can, this time, avoid the trap it fell into in the '90s.

Now, before people will twist and turn this into me saying Apple is doomed - I don't believe for a second that it is. However, that doesn't mean a repeat of the '90s is somehow magically off the table - Apple has a lot of work to do in order to avoid it. As Tom Dale stated so aptly almost a year ago, "Google is getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at web services". With Motorola and the Moto X, design might not be the only thing Google is getting better at faster.

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Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

There is a tech urban myth which goes like this. Apple made the Mac and it was closed and costly and they wouldn't license the OS. Microsoft made Windows which was almost as good as the Mac OS and it was licensed to lots of OEMs who drove innovation and costs down. As a result Windows took over the market and as a result of being reduced to a small market share the Mac fell behind technologically and Apple nearly went bankrupt.

The followup tech urban myth is that the same thing is about to happen all over again because once again Apple has a closed OS and now Android is playing the role of Windows by offering an open OS that lots of OEMs can deploy, etc, etc,.

The problem with the first tech urban myth, the one that people think is happening again, is that it never actually happened in the first place.

What really happened is that the from the beginning the Mac was vastly outsold by DOS PCs almost all of which were sold to businesses on the basis of price and the familiarity of corporate IT with particular sales channels. Much later, a full decade later, Windows 95 eventually came along and accelerated the growth of the non-enterprise consumer PC sales.

In parallel to all this but not synchronised with it or caused by it Apple drifted into a state of dysfunctional management and eventually a short lived profitability crises, a crises that came after ten years of the Mac having a small market share. Eventually Steve Jobs came back with his team from Next and remade Apple as a company as well as completely transforming Apple's product range and Apple once again became profitable and financially stable. Simultaneously with this return to profitability Apple's market share continued to decline for quite some time and it is only now, and only in some markets, that the Mac is once again approaching the 10% to 15% market share it had back at it's peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Mac software and peripheral markets are now more healthy than ever and there are no 'compatibility' disadvantages to using a Mac resulting from it's low market share. Apple now makes more money from the Mac than all the biggest PC OEMs added together.

Apple is currently the most successful digital goods, smart phone, tablet and PC company in the world. If in the future Apple ends up with just 10% or even 5%, of the world's PC, phone and tablet business it is perfectly possible, if as a company it remains focussed on the right goals and is managed in the right way, that it could remain the most successful digital goods, smart phone, tablet and PC company. It is also perfectly possible that users of Apple computing devices will not suffer any subpar experience as a result of Apple having a small market share.

Currently the only threat is that with a small market share Apple devices may suffer from attracting less developer and third party support and as result offer an impoverished user experience. The example of the Mac, stuck at 10% or below of the PC market at birth and for for decades after, indicates that that is not an inevitable consequence of smaller market share.

Not only is the future not likely to be like the past but it is even less likely to be like an imaginary past.

Reply Score: 2

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Tony Swash,

To be honest, I'm glad that apple has lost their market lead. IMHO they don't deserve a larger share so long as they continue to treat mobile devices like nanny platforms by forcing their customers into using a locked down app store and then censoring applications that end users are allowed to install. I for one do not accept that consumer technology should preclude owners from being in control over their own devices. A platform which restricts control to the hands of the few who built it yields a narrow approach to innovation on that platform. Locked platforms are a decidedly bad direction for the future of technology.

You may not believe it, but this view is driven by pragmatism rather than animosity towards apple. If apple were to turn around and begin championing the owner's right to choose their own software, then I'd be far more supportive of them. I dare say even many fanboys who've been publicly defending the walled garden approach would secretly turn a smile inside too.

Job's fixation on control came to the detriment of the platform insofar as it relates to openness. Apple's products have historically been confined to *his* vision because that was all he ever allowed, yet I believe this egocentric mindset is needlessly costing apple market share. If apple doesn't want to become marginalized again, they should re-evaluate their rigid approach and learn how to play nicer with others. How popular would they be if they hadn't created such high friction with open aficionados with no real gains for their users? I'm not sure if it would be in Apple's character to create a mobile platform that embodies openness and third party innovation, but if they did I think it would be the game changer they need.

Edited 2013-10-11 05:58 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

Job's fixation on control came to the detriment of the platform insofar as it relates to openness. Apple's products have historically been confined to *his* vision because that was all he ever allowed, yet I believe this egocentric mindset is needlessly costing apple market share.


Apple doesn't care about market share. I don't care about market share. Why should anybody care about market share?

If apple doesn't want to become marginalized again, they should re-evaluate their rigid approach and learn how to play nicer with others. How popular would they be if they hadn't created such high friction with open aficionados with no real gains for their users? I'm not sure if it would be in Apple's character to create a mobile platform that embodies openness and third party innovation, but if they did I think it would be the game changer they need.


I have no idea what you mean about openness, if you mean licensing their OS Apple tried that and it nearly bankrupted them. Their 'closed' business model has made them the mosts successful computer and device maker on the planet, who should they be copying? Dell? HTC?

I would love to know what you mean by Apple becoming marginalized again. And if it happened how would that manifest itself as a problem for Apple or it's customers?

Reply Parent Score: 0

moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

There is a tech urban myth which goes like this. Apple made the Mac and it was closed and costly and they wouldn't license the OS. Microsoft made Windows which was almost as good as the Mac OS and it was licensed to lots of OEMs who drove innovation and costs down. As a result Windows took over the market and as a result of being reduced to a small market share the Mac fell behind technologically and Apple nearly went bankrupt.

The followup tech urban myth is that the same thing is about to happen all over again because once again Apple has a closed OS and now Android is playing the role of Windows by offering an open OS that lots of OEMs can deploy, etc, etc,.

The problem with the first tech urban myth, the one that people think is happening again, is that it never actually happened in the first place.

What really happened is that the from the beginning the Mac was vastly outsold by DOS PCs almost all of which were sold to businesses on the basis of price and the familiarity of corporate IT with particular sales channels. Much later, a full decade later, Windows 95 eventually came along and accelerated the growth of the non-enterprise consumer PC sales.


Maybe in US, because in Portugal was quite different.

My first PC, a 386SX in 1991, when converting the old price in Escudos to Euros, it costed around 1500 euros and had to be payed on credit, given our average salaries.

I could buy a PC everywhere in the country, almost every computer shop assembled their own brands, besides selling Amiga and Atari computers alongside. The later were mostly seen as programmable games consoles.

A Mac would cost me over 2000 euros, if I recall correctly, with one single importer, Interlog, available only in Lisbon and Porto. Plus, I had to buy Mac specific hardware, while PCs were already full of standard parts I could buy anywhere in the country.

It had nothing to do with Windows 95.

Edited 2013-10-11 07:37 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

dpJudas Member since:
2009-12-10

Currently the only threat is that with a small market share Apple devices may suffer from attracting less developer and third party support and as result offer an impoverished user experience. The example of the Mac, stuck at 10% or below of the PC market at birth and for for decades after, indicates that that is not an inevitable consequence of smaller market share.

I admit I am probably slightly too young to properly comment on the computer market in the 80's, but from growing up in that decade gave me the impression there were a lot more players in the game at the time. It wasn't really until the 90's that it turned into the two player game it is today.

The openness part of the myth comes from the fact that during the 90's Microsoft benefitted greatly from the innovation from 3rd party developers, which in many ways can be compared to the more open model in how Android can be customized.

So while overall I agree comparing the past and now reveals too many inaccuracies, there is enough similarities too to merit the question if iOS could end up marginalized in the same way Mac OS became in the late 90's. Right now I don't see the risk that great (it is much bigger for Windows Phone atm), but it will be interesting to follow. ;)

Reply Parent Score: 3

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

Eventually Steve Jobs came back with his team from Next and remade Apple as a company as well as completely transforming Apple's product range and Apple once again became profitable and financially stable.


A wonderful fable. The truth is totally different. Bill Gates saved Apple to avoid MS being broken up for antitrust violations. MS was almost totally paralysed for a decade by ongoing numerous lawsuits in the USA and EU that prevented them from taking any competitive action against Google or Apple.

Apple had very little worthwhile to offer for at least 3-4 years after Jobs returned. OSX was basically unusable until about 2004 and the PowerPC architecture was totally uncompetitive.

Reply Parent Score: 8

Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

A wonderful fable. The truth is totally different. Bill Gates saved Apple to avoid MS being broken up for antitrust violations.


Apple had over a billion dollars in cash when MS invested $150 million in stock. Getting the MS investment was just PR.

MS was almost totally paralysed for a decade by ongoing numerous lawsuits in the USA and EU that prevented them from taking any competitive action against Google or Apple.


Microsoft were inhibited from deploying their monopoly on desktop OS as aggressively as they would have liked but they could have innovated. Microsoft could have invented the iPhone. They didn't because they are not a product innovation company, they are a company for whom market share is very important because they have always depended on the leveraging of monopoly power against competing products in order to win.

Apple had very little worthwhile to offer for at least 3-4 years after Jobs returned. OSX was basically unusable until about 2004 and the PowerPC architecture was totally uncompetitive.


Most of what Jobs did at Apple in the first few years was internal. He cleared the warehouses stuffed with unsold stock, he drastically reduced the number of SKUs, he closed dozens of in house research programmes and projects that were going nowhere, he remade the Apple Board and the top management and he brought in a little known executive called Tim Cook to revolutionise Apple's supple chain.

The first new product was the iMac in 1998 a year after Job's return, not very technological innovative although it's adoption of the new and barely used USB port standard was startling and made it the first legacy-free PC. It was the product that marked the return of innovative design to Apple.

On January 7th 1998 Jobs announced a projected $47 million profit for the first quarter at Macworld Expo, finally bringing Apple back to profitability.

None of your errors or my corrections in anyway effect the argument I was making in my original comment.

Reply Parent Score: 0

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

What really happened is that the from the beginning the Mac was vastly outsold by DOS PCs almost all of which were sold to businesses on the basis of price and the familiarity of corporate IT with particular sales channels. Much later, a full decade later, Windows 95 eventually came along and accelerated the growth of the non-enterprise consumer PC sales.


Macs had mostly disappeared from the education and corporate market in Australia by about 1991-2. My university had stopped supporting any Apple technology by 1995 (except for specialist graphics use).

Reply Parent Score: 5

Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

"What really happened is that the from the beginning the Mac was vastly outsold by DOS PCs almost all of which were sold to businesses on the basis of price and the familiarity of corporate IT with particular sales channels. Much later, a full decade later, Windows 95 eventually came along and accelerated the growth of the non-enterprise consumer PC sales.


Macs had mostly disappeared from the education and corporate market in Australia by about 1991-2. My university had stopped supporting any Apple technology by 1995 (except for specialist graphics use).
"

That does not contradict what I said. The Mac never had anything other than a small minority market share, and until Windows 3.1 came along the Mac was being easily and hugely outsold by DOS PCs. During that whole period Apple was profitable.

Reply Parent Score: 0

Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

As a result Windows took over the market and as a result of being reduced to a small market share the Mac fell behind technologically and Apple nearly went bankrupt.


Well, I guess it's a myth in the sense that Apple didn't have any market share to begin with for MS to take over.

that the Mac is once again approaching the 10% to 15% market share it had back at it's peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s.


Talk about myths...
I don't know where that 10-15% comes from but it sure wasn't like that in Sweden. I had friends with PC's, Amiga's, C64's, ZX Spectrum's and TI-99's and whatnot but I didn't know a single person that had a Mac. In fact, I didn't even see a Mac in the wild until I went to Uni in the 90's and then I encountered exactly one.
Mac's where kinda like SGI workstations: some kind of mythical and cool computer but you'd have to be insane or filthy rich to buy one for personal use.

Edited 2013-10-11 09:48 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Those are US figures. Apple fanatics have silently moved from supplying worldwide figures to US figures.

Reply Parent Score: 3

Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

"As a result Windows took over the market and as a result of being reduced to a small market share the Mac fell behind technologically and Apple nearly went bankrupt.


Well, I guess it's a myth in the sense that Apple didn't have any market share to begin with for MS to take over.

that the Mac is once again approaching the 10% to 15% market share it had back at it's peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s.


Talk about myths...
I don't know where that 10-15% comes from but it sure wasn't like that in Sweden. I had friends with PC's, Amiga's, C64's, ZX Spectrum's and TI-99's and whatnot but I didn't know a single person that had a Mac. In fact, I didn't even see a Mac in the wild until I went to Uni in the 90's and then I encountered exactly one.
Mac's where kinda like SGI workstations: some kind of mythical and cool computer but you'd have to be insane or filthy rich to buy one for personal use.
"

Whether the Mac has 1% or 20% of the current PC market is utterly irrelevant to the argument I was making. If it's a lot less globally than the US figure I quoted that doesn't matter and I bow to your greater statistical knowledge. It doesn't effect the argument I was making and it it doesn't bother me as an Apple fan and customer.

I think non-Apple fans, and in particular Fandroids, often completely fail to understand what is important to Apple fans and Apple customers. Speaking as both a customer and fan of Apple I love to see Apple products achieving high sales and a large market share because I want more people to experience the benefits of using well designed software combined and integrated with well designed hardware and wrapped in first class customer support and service. But if other people want to use non-Apple devices and if a large majority of customers reject Apple I don't care.

The state of market share is of intellectual interest, as is occasionally offering a response to the relentless rubbish that is talked about mobile market share, but I don't think and have never thought that market share matters much in and of itself.

What matters to me, and to other fans and customers of Apple, is that Apple continues to be a successful and profitable business with ample resources to allow it to continue to develop and innovate new products, and that even if reduced to a permanent minority platform status there are no significant disincentives to using the minority Apple platform. On both counts I am very confident about the future.

There is no sign that Apple is going to encounter any sort of financial or business problems in the foreseeable future. Based on the current state of the Mac platform (a small minority player in terms of market share) and iOS (a minority player in terms of market share) it is very unlikely that using either MacOSX or iOS is going to become problematic or impoverished because of it's minority status, quite the contrary as iOS, and I would argue MacOSX, have a richer ecosystem of software offerings. So things are looking very rosy indeed.

I liked this comment by Horace Dediu at Asymco


At this point of time, as at all other points of time in the past, no activity by Apple has been seen as sufficient for its survival. Apple has always been priced as a company that is in a perpetual state of free-fall. It’s a consequence of being dependent on breakthrough products for its survival. No matter how many breakthroughs it makes, the assumption is (and has always been) that there will never be another. When Apple was the Apple II company, its end was imminent because the Apple II had an easily foreseen demise. When Apple was a Mac company its end was imminent because the Mac was predictably going to decline. Repeat for iPod, iPhone and iPad. It’s a wonder that the company is worth anything at all.”

Reply Parent Score: 1

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

In fact, I didn't even see a Mac in the wild until I went to Uni in the 90's and then I encountered exactly one.


That was literally my experience. I saw my first Mac in 1993. During my undergrad studies in the 80s we used PCs or terminals on mainframes. Most people used C64s or Amigas at home.

Reply Parent Score: 3