As Mac turns 20, iPod now more important than Mac for Apple

“The iPod has arguably become the product that the Mac was back in the mid 1980s – the icon that defines how people view the company behind it… Beyond their unique styling, construction materials and superior operating system, what really distinguishes Apple’s computers from the Wintel rivals? Some fans will point to their PowerPC processor, but a computer’s CPU is really just a means to an end: providing a user experience,” Tony Smith writes for The Register.

“Apple remains ahead of the pack on both user interface and hardware styling, but the gap is once again narrowing. No matter how many unusual-looking machines it comes up with – the 20th Anniversary Mac one of them, no doubt, alongside the Cube and the anglepoise iMac – they’re unlikely to have quite the immediate attraction that the original Mac and the first iMac had. Or the iPod,” Smith writes.

“Indeed, the iPod’s styling recalls the original Mac – the compact case, the display dominating the top half of the front of the shell, the connection points smoothly moulded into the casing,” Smith writes. “We hope the Mac is around in another 20 years. This piece was typed on one – the fourth in this writer’s ownership, and just one of many I’ve used since the mid-1980s. More than a few of the other Vulture Central scribes use Macs too. Mac OS X provides firm foundation for the platform’s evolution toward that time.”

Smith writes, “But we have a sneaking suspicion that the next big event Apple celebrates will have more to do with its compact, user-friendly music player than the Mac, by then just one hardware line among many.”

Full article here.


  1. This is all well and good. But Apple is first and foremost a computer company. Im all up for the expansion into quality consumer electronics (I love the iPod), as long as it does not detract from the focus and attention committed to making the apple computer experience everything it can be. Merely keeping in front of microsoft is not enough. Apple really needs to surpase it. The upcoming 3 year wait for Longhorn seems like the perfect opportunity. As long as Apple does not commit all its R&D capital to the iPod… what does everyone else think?

  2. I dunno, maybe they have essentially given up on computers in a way….How much better can Macs be? The souped up g5 is the fastest in the world, their servers and laptops are a great value, and the os is still the best, and will be, in another issue, after longhorn comes out. But still apple’s share of the market and overall acceptance is low…..and actually getting lower I guess. Having put a product out that is the best there is (but still pricey) with little “success” as it is usually considered, maybe it is time to move on to something else.

  3. I think 99% of the wintel users will remain with wintel, just as most Mac users stick with Mac. However, kids are using Macs less and less as wintel boxes are finding their way into more schools. By focusing on music with iTunes/iTMS/iPod and GarageBand we will hopefully see an entire generation of kids wanting Macs. In the long run, this may pay off handsomely.

  4. Apple cannot be only a computer company. With PC sales declining (the bubble has burst) to single digit growth Apple needs to expand into other digital areas. Apple is not putting all its R&D into the iPod. In fact, the iPod was put together as a concept with very little expense compared to other products they have devloped. All components were off the self and the operating system was acquired from another company. They spend more money on many, many other projects – both hardware and software.

  5. I thought it was clueless focusing on the iPod. Everybody is talking about convergence and all these devices that just work together. Well Apple has had it since Appletalk and have extended it with Rendevous.

    All of the convergence crap you hear from the other side is about selling you stuff, be it devices or content. With Apple equipment and ideas it’s converged, including sharing what you already have on your computer, as in iTunes sharing.

    I had 3 iPhoto albums on 3 different computers. G4 with photos I take, iMac server with collected photos and a laptop with a few. The laptop only has a few. I don’t have to go out and buy a device to share photos. I only have to turn on a preference.

    Why not a TV with a channel for iTunes, a channel for iPhoto. A channel for iMax (killer application like iTunes but for video).

    Apple proves the point that “we don’t need no stinking badges”, to share content.

    The danger to Apple is in caving in to mediocrity.


  6. I think they need to concentrate on both, but the computer remains the foundation. Apple needs to continue to use their special qualities, namely their innovative prowess and their superior integration resulting from having control of both hardware and software, to create computer products and tightly integrated peripherals that have multiple, tangible benefits over all of the offerings in the PC world. And they need to sustain this over a period of time.

    My very intelligent PC-oriented sister regularly asks me why I use Macs, and although I come back with things like better, more consistent and efficient design, a more stable OS, fewer viruses and the like, none of this really causes her eyebrows to raise. As she is who I consider to be a “lucky” Windows user (i.e. someone who hasn’t had a major crash, infection, or otherwise catastrophic Windows experience . . . yet), I think she’s really looking for a bulleted list of things she can do on a Mac that she can’t do with her enormous, cheap, noisy beige boxes.

    If Apple can continue to create more unique things that can be done with their computers and extend and enhance the experience with peripherals at the calibre of iPod, then I think the interest of people like my sister (who seem to be in the majority) will be well and truly piqued. And with the Longhorn stall, I believe they have a real “Windows of opportunity” to do just this.

  7. Ed, I really appreciate your post. I am very much like your sister, and agree that there are many like us. The big things that prevent switching I think (other than cases where one needs a pc specific program, like many financial apps,and does not want to invest in virtual pc)are the high price of the towers and the all in one aspect of the cheaper models, requiring us to buy an integral monitor that we dont want. The more I think about the way apple has discouraged low end switching the more I wonder wtf they are about anyway.

  8. Why would anyone think that having a successful iPod, which generates profit and is worth devoting work hours and dollars to… subtracts anything from Mac development?

  9. you are forgetting one huge thing. Apple is a PUBLICLY TRADED company – and therefore the markets and investors have huge sway over strategy in search of positive profit margins. the iPod has provided Apple with an excellent high-margin product, more so than the Mac. in that respect, the iPod is a more important product than the Mac right now for Apple.

    the iPod is the next 1984 Macintosh. Steve has been slowly pushing Apple to the creative side of the industry. And let’s be honest, Apple cannot compete with Dell in terms of manufacturing and Apple cannot compete with Microsoft in terms of software volume. Where Apple is KING is in innovation – the Macintosh, the mouse, the GUI OS, the PDA (Newton) and handwriting recognition software, hyper-language stack development (HyperCard), dual audio channel web cam (iSight), the personal jukebox (iPod), the online music service model (iTMS), data transfer standards (Firewire).

    and don’t forget Steve’s other business – Pixar. talk about creative powerhouses in the computer, music and movie industries, Apple and Pixar right now are MARKET leaders. computers are becoming more of a commodity anyways, and do we want Apple to be marginalized as a commodity?

    HELL NO!!!!!

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