Many would argue that market share is not the same as user base. But it doesn’t ultimately matter. What really matters is to have as many users as possible, so it will attract more developers and create an actual “market” around the platform. Less users, less money flowing, less third party development, which ultimately leads to the death of a platform. I was reading today this and this editorials, even journalists now buy the “cheap PCs with Linux” deal. Apple has to wake up before is too late and should offer a cheap solution. Apple should learn from NeXT’s mistakes, not duplicate them. Update: Look inside for one more idea by some of our readers.The Mac fanatics will hurry up to say how negative to Apple I sound, but that’s not the case. The very reason I type this article right now [in this so hot day here in the Bay Area], is because I care. At the end of the day, more OSes, more OS news. 😉
It is my belief, that Apple should fire back in this new trend of the $199 PC (+monitor) running Linux. Sure, right now, this trend is very small, most people still buy Windows PCs. In fact, Gateway and Dell and eMachines are now offering full-featured PCs with Windows for less than $450 USD. So the day that most Windows PC brands will also offer very-very cheap PCs is not far, because Microsoft will fight for this trend too, even if they have to give Windows XP for free to their OEMs. Apple should act as well, or it will find itself beaten by all sides from both Windows and Linux.
The past few years we see a big decline in Apple’s sales. The year 1995 was the best for Apple, as they sold a few million units. Today, these numbers are in the marks of 750,000 units per quarter, while the market share is down also, between 2% and 3% from a 10% Apple had a few years ago (and continues to decline according to some analysts).
Apple needs to do something about its userbase/market share. What they need, is not even more margins just so they can serve us over-expensive hardware. What they currently need is more new users. More fresh blood. More developers. More cash flowing in their own market. And to get that, you need to lower the prices in general and offer at least one desktop model and one laptop model in the dirt cheap.
I believe that the eMac is suitable for such a discount. Please find below a comparison of a cheap eMac and a current $199 cheap PC that can be found to a number of retail outlets around US today.
Please note that I suggest a 1 GHz G4 and not a 933 Mhz one, because the “1 GHz” is more catchy and it is in compliance with the 1 GHz Duron (even if the G4 might or might not be faster – doesn’t really matter to a not-so-clueful buyer, especially when Intel now offers 3.2 GHz as its maximum).
1 GHz G4 (no L3 cache)
256 MB SDRAM, 1 DIMM
32 MB ATi Radeon AGP 7500
17″ monitor 1152×864@80
DVD/CD-RW combo drive
40 GB IDE 5400 RPM
on board sound, NIC, modem
2 firewire, 5 USB (2 on keyboard)
keyboard, mouse, speakers
Target price: $499
1 GHz AMD Duron
128 MB RAM
On board Savage/Trident/SiS 8-64 MB shared
10 GB IDE
on board AC97 sound, NIC, modem
keyboard, mouse, speakers
Current Price: $199
Now, to make the above $199 cheap PC in compliance with eMac’s more rich feature-set, we add the following (prices as found on Pricegrabber and Pricewatch):
+$20 for 128 MB more RAM
+$40 for combo drive
+$20 for 40 GB hdd
+$10 for firewire card
+$120 for 17″ monitor ~1152×864@80Hz
New price: $409
And don’t forget that this $409 price still offers profit! Now, Apple has 90 more bucks to spend to make the case beautiful, R&D, or whatever else (just don’t tell me that Apple uses “expensive high quality material”, cause I don’t buy that). Sure, I… confess, this strategy won’t make Apple rich. But I don’t think that it be will a product sold in a loss either. There are still margins for profit. The suggestion was not made to give Apple big profits. This suggestion was done so Apple can increase its user base, to save the company for the future. It is a sacrifice Apple has to do today, in order to keep the company still competitive.
I won’t talk about an iBook strategy here, because a lot of things might change soon in the laptop line of Apple, as the G5 has been announced. But I wouldn’t mind seeing the middle-model of the current iBook for $799. For this strategy to succeed, you do need both a cheap desktop and a cheap laptop. Cheap, but powerful. I wish someone from Apple listens though, and sees the danger and the trap Apple has put itself into, and fight back before it’s too late.
If Apple can deliver such a machine as the eMac suggestion above, for $499, you will literally have no excuse to not own a Mac in the future!
Update: Another good idea, started by some readers, “the headless box”. Scroll down the page here.