BusinessWeek: ‘unlike Windows, OS X is a true breakthrough’

“I’m often asked: Why do I write columns about Apple Computer products? After all, the Macintosh has considerably less than 5% of the market for personal computers, and among the business computer users who are the core of BusinessWeek’s readership, the share is even lower. Add to that the fact that secretive Apple (AAPL ) is a difficult company to deal with — which would make it doubly easy to ignore its products,” writes Stephen H. Wildstrom in his article, “Why I Have to Write about Apple” for BusinessWeek’s Special Report, “Apple’s Strategic Shift.”

“That would also be very foolish of me, however. For all of its many faults, Apple is a fountain of innovation in the generally parched landscape of personal computing. That’s why its influence — what’s known as the tech industry as mindshare — vastly exceeds its market share,” writes Wildstrom.

Wildstrom looks at the impact Apple has already had on the music industry with its iPod and iTunes Music Store. Wildstrom covers Apple’s breakthrough portable Macs, the iBook and the PowerBook lines.

Wildstrom writes, “Microsoft gets grief from corporate buyers any time it tries to change anything in the Windows user interface, which has seen no significant enhancements since the introduction of Windows 95. And improvements in Windows are hobbled by the need to maintain compatibility with thousands of applications and accessories, some of them a decade or more old. Apple, however, declared a clean break when it introduced Mac OS X, its latest operating system — the software that controls the machine’s basic functions. At the time it was shipped, OS X could run on only a minority of the Macs in existence. But unlike the incremental improvements that have characterized the Windows operating system, OS X was a true breakthrough.”

Wildstrom writes, “There’s no reason its small market share should deny it either viability or influence. The personal-computer market is huge, after all. No one questions the viability of BMW, to take an example from another industry, or doubts its ability to influence car design, just because it has less than 3% of the car market… [while] relatively few of my readers will ever use the Apple products I write about. Yet as long as Apple continues to push the envelope and turn out remarkable products, I’ll continue to give them a degree of attention that vastly exceeds it minor market share.”

Full article here.

20 Comments

  1. “There’s no reason its small market share should deny it either viability or influence. The personal-computer market is huge, after all. No one questions the viability of BMW, to take an example from another industry, or doubts its ability to influence car design, just because it has less than 3% of the car market.”

    Exactly.

  2. I think we also have to ask the question “How much bigger can Apple get without degrading its desire (and perhaps also ability) to innovate. Despite what Jobs might wish for Apple (and I have no idea what that is), how much success can they actually handle. Business history is strewn with successful small companies who floundered on their own size at some point. At the risk of being selfish, can we afford to have that happen to Apple?

  3. There is a problem, however. Even though Apple hasn’t been above 10% market share for quite a while now, it cannot continue as it has been. Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller know this, and you are going to see a much more business oriented Apple Computer in the near future.
    In the past, Apple could always rack up profits in high-margin markets it OWNED such as desktop publishing, music, video, etc. That is not the case today. Apple is rapidly losing market share in education, a market it held a 70% of in the not too distant past. Despite any personal dislike for Microsoft, Windows XP and P4 boxes have closed most of the performance gap.
    With a narrowed performance gap, a price gap, and a ton of Windows-biased IT people in the corporate world, Apple has a tough job ahead of it. Apple cannot in it’s current form slug it out in the commodity desktop market, nor should it want to as margins are paper-thin. However, Apple has to reclaim the specialized computer market and with the G5, assault the workstation and low-end server market.
    If Apple cannot crack these markets, OS X will be consigned to a small niche in the market, despite how good it is. We, as Mac users, are going to have to campaign within our respective workplaces to get Mac in the door. Most execs and IT types last impression of Mac OS is System 7x,8x, etc. The day of the Mac Evangelist has come again, and it’s your turn, and mine.

  4. NoPC Zone is right, the Mac community need to become evangelists, but we need Apple to give us something that we can ram down the throats of the pc advocates who always come out with the same tired response to even the mention of a Mac.

    Both our sysadmin and technical director have between them about an hour’s worth of experience using a Mac and that was on system 7. They seem to think that m$ windows is the only operating system worth worrying about, and that the Mac doesn’t have much software, is slower than a pc and isn’t a serious business machine. At the moment they wouldn’t even consider using a Mac let alone replacing the office machines with them.

    Maybe the G5 is going to change all this misconception, I hope so.

  5. nd what’s this crap about Office for Mac? Maybe people who can’t READ think its future is in doubt, but MS has assured the world SEVERAL times that they will continue to develop it.

    He also mentiones “Adobe (ADBE ), Macromedia (MACR ), and Quark have shifted the emphasis of their development efforts to Windows.” which to the average reader sounds like they aren’t going to make Mac products any more.

    On a side note, the Adobe Premier announcement last month had an interesting effect on consumers…many thought Adobe was dropping ALL MAC DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL THEIR PRODUCTS. Interesting how the spin of a headline can give the wrong impression.

  6. Well I’ll be delivering a new computer lab this week with new eMacs, so hopefully the education share % will go up slightly ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  7. Too bad he’s wrong, eh?

    Mac OS X is very much the same kind of desktop OS we’ve had since the first Mac, and since Windows 3.0.

    Windows XP introduced a true task-based UI that makes the computer easier to use. Unlike the Mac OS, all the good underpinning stuff–security, reliability, multi-processor support, etc.–was already in Windows by the time XP shipped.

    Now which was the real innovation? XP.

    This guy, like all Mac advocates, has blinders on.

  8. The infamous BMW example is BS too, BTW.

    Children.

    BMW doesn’t market a car that runs on a different kind of gas. It doens’t include a stereo that plays a format of disc only BMW supplies. It doesn’t offer different types of tires you can only get from BMW or a select group of BMW-linked companies. BMWs aren’t forced to ride on different roads than other cars.

    Most importantly, BMW doesn’t compete in a market where there are two other car makers, GM, which was 95 percent of the market, and Ford, which has 2 percent, compared to BMW’s 3 percent. In the real car market, most companies have much smaller shares. BMW’s share is not uncommon.

    In other words, cars are not computers. And Apple’s 2 percent of the market (it’s not 3) is a problem. Deal with it.

  9. Paul, Paul, Paul. Why on earth are you trolling in the Mac waters? Your idiotic comments have given us all a nice laugh. Now go take a nap, you silly toddler.

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