Does Apple Still Have a Future?

I was desperately looking for something to write about when I happened to chance upon Apple’s new shipping system – a dual 1.42GHz Power Mac G4. A new system, a faster system, but does it mean a brighter future for Apple?Editorial Notice: All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of

Everyone who has a little knowledge of computing will know that Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were the founders of Apple, a garage start-up that came up with the first personal computer. They could also be considered the starters of the personal computer revolution which started some twenty years ago. A revolution that has changed the way people do things. But luck does not seem to be on this company’s side. It was not so long ago that their market share far encompasses their competitors. It was also not so long ago that they boasted of a group of followers, people who would never abandon the Mac platform. Now, they are left with a 3% market share and a fellow software company from Redmond breathing down their necks every now and then.

But that does not signal the end of this computing giant. For the second coming of Steve Jobs has certainly moved this sleeping Goliath in the right direction. Firstly, they were able to change their vision. Now, everyone knows they want everyone to own a Mac, and that Mac is supposed to be the digital hub of everyone’s life. Statistics already show that one out of every two household in America owns a digital camera. And there is an increasing amount of people who own cellphones. In the near future, it will no longer be about a single computer in every house. Instead, it will be about plasma tvs, networked computers, cell phones, digital cameras, camcorders, pdas and even game consoles. If Apple can convince consumers that the Mac is the most ideal machine for connecting all such devices, they are going to make a lot of money and at the same time, attract a lot more devoted followers.

But the digital hub concept is but a single piece of jigsaw that is required to complete the whole puzzle. Another bigger piece would be the software that is available for the Macintosh platform. In this area, Apple is doing a fine job. One fine example would be Mac OS X. It brings together two of the finest operating system(s). One is widely-regarded as the OS with the most user-friendly graphical user interface. The other is considered by many as the most stable of all operating systems. And now the equation is finally formed:

Mac OS + Unix = Mac OS X

Suddenly, we have a totally revamped operating system. Combining the stability of BSD and the quality of Quartz, it presents to users a totally new experience. At the same time, it means that Mac developers, Unix developers and even Java developers can write programs and port programs to the Mac platform.

But this new solution has its problems. The lack of native applications is one big problem. Adobe has ported most of its flagship programs to the platform. So has Macromedia. But QuarkXPress 6.0 is still not out. And that presents a problem to desktop editors all over the whole. They just do not have enough incentive to upgrade their operating systems, even if it means a better user experience and more stability.

Apple do have some great software products as well. iDVD, iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iSync and iCal. They represent the future of software development. At the same time, they also represent consumers’ desires. Simplicity, beauty is not lacking, but at the same time, consumers can get the work done. That is what I call a totally awesome experience! At the same time, Apple is further contributing to its desire to let the Mac platform be the whole world’s digital hub.

Now, we have the software. We have a vision and plan. We just need the hardware. In this area, Apple’s is just not performing as well as expected. The fastest machine in Apple’s arsenal is a dual 1.42Ghz system. Intel has a 3.06Ghz Pentium 4 with hyperthreading enabled. AMD is going to release their 64bit solution, named Opteron in a few months’ time. What does Apple have? A 64bit PowerPC 970 solution from IBM that may be introduced in Apple systems.

But thats not all. Their new ‘sunflower’ iMac, with its hyped-up promotion and initial interest, is not generating the kind of sales the original iMac generated. And not everyone is interested in replacing their server farms with a XServ. It may seem compact and to a certain extent, cool, but it is produced by Apple, a company that just does not have the reputation that Dell and Sun enjoys in the server field.

Apple does have its merits though. The iPod’s small form factor, cool design and massive storage capacity had enabled it to establish itself as the leader in the field of MP3 players. It is the new WalkMan of the digital age, the essential gadget if you want to show off to your friend.

Twenty years. That is how long ago the first personal computer was manufactured. That is how long it took for Microsoft to gain the reputation of a monopoly and at the same time, gain a foothold in every computer market out there. It is also the time Apple took to fall from its leadership in the software market and become struggling competitor. It is doing a lot of right things now. It is innovating and most importantly, marketing its products. I just hope it is not too late…

About the Author:
I have been in the computer field for over 5 years now. Throughout these five years, my articles have been published at ActiveWin and ExtremeTech amongst others. I currently live in Singapore.


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