IDC researcher: iMac, MacBook Pro ‘nice,’ but Apple will have to innovate more or they’ll disappear

“From this point forward, Apple Computer will have to innovate toward a unique and perhaps unparalleled computing platform, if the company expects Macintosh to remain a competitive force in a rapidly changing consumer computer market. That’s the opinion of David Daoud, IDC’s research manager for personal computing,” Scott M. Fulton, III reports for TG Daily. “‘A company that has a 4% market share cannot afford remaining stable from a product line perspective,’ Daoud told TG Daily this afternoon. ‘They need to innovate, or otherwise they will simply just disappear.’ …Both the new iMac desktop units and the completely new MacBooks ‘certainly have all the nice features, like Front Row [media player], iSight [built-in camera], but they need to do a little more than that if they really want to gain market share in substantial ways,’ said Daoud.”

“The problem facing Apple is innovating the Macintosh to a degree as substantive and as market-changing as its innovations to the iPod. Consumers interested in new systems are going to be comparing the new Intel-based Macs with the well-established established array of Intel-based PCs, feature for feature. At that point, they’re going to discover some very familiar features – half-a-gigabyte of memory, 80 Gb hard drive, ATI Radeon X1800 graphics card, and others – and then compare the new MacBook Pro’s entry level price tag with a comparable system from Dell, which Daoud calculated at about $1,400. Add-ons for such a system, like Bluetooth, WiFi, camera, and maybe even a little remote control, could bring the Dell system up to about $1,750,” Fulton reports. “Apple has slimmed down its ‘Macintosh premium’ – the extra price consumers will pay for the right to say they own a Mac – to a gap of perhaps less than $200, assuming that these consumers necessarily want all the MacBook Pro’s high-end features. Is this reduced premium enough to convince current or would-be Windows notebook users to make the jump? IDC’s Daoud says no…. ‘It’s going to be very difficult for a company like Apple, or anyone, to really move market share beyond one or two points. It’s just not going to be possible.'”

“Apple… already has three factors in its favor, Daoud says. One is the Mac OS operating system, which is comparatively stable. Second is the front end, the user interface – Apple’s traditional jewel in the crown. Apple is still the company associated with ease of use. Third is the very intriguing fact that Apple now knows how to define new markets – it’s already done it, with spectacular success. ‘The company is a model that a lot of competitors in other industries should follow,” said Daoud, “i.e., take ownership of what you do, take ownership of your market… On the computer side, they’re making the move towards Intel, a very good sign; they have relationships with software makers, including Microsoft, which is [also] a good sign. So let’s see where they’re going to go… I think there has to be a lot more in planning than what was announced today.'”

Full article here.
By SteveJack: You know what? Daoud’s right. To anyone unfamiliar with a Mac, like Daoud seems to be, the same problem continues to crop up when trying to convince them to get a Mac: a lack of understanding that Mac OS X and Apple software like iLife is greatly superior to Windows. They just cannot believe it without being shown it. And that is Apple’s fault for not explaining it properly and forcefully enough. So, if someone’s unfamiliar with the benefits of owning a Mac OS X machine over a Windows XP box, what are they going to do? They’re going to compare Macs to Windows PCs based on features and specs. A checklist of RAM, hard drives, video cards, media drives, and, mainly, price. Then off to Best Buy or Dell.com they trot. A computer’s just a tool, they’re all the same, Mac users are part of some weird cult, right?

Of course, Apple’s growing army of retail stores aren’t appropriately considered by Daoud. Those stores are the front lines and a major way Apple can show people what they’re missing. So, Apple’s not going to disappear anytime soon.

If you’re reading this, chances are that you know that Apple Mac OS X, iLife, iWork, .Mac, Safari, etc. – the whole Mac experience is vastly superior to Windows, but the average person does not know it and simply does not believe it. They need to be shown it. And for Daoud to say that Mac gaining one or two points of share is “just not going to be possible,” is ridiculous. Mac has already gained over a point in the last year alone. The issue is not that Apple’s not innovating, the problem is that Apple’s pretty bad at telling the world about their Mac innovations.

Apple’s new Intel ad fails once more. It’s another very refined, very well shot, immaculately produced advertisement that’s designed to make Apple Mac users feel superior, but imagine a Windows-only user’s reaction. The ad tells them that their computer, the one for which they spent a good chunk of change, is “dull.” It tells them that their processor is being wasted “trapped inside their [Windows] PC, when it could have been doing so much more.” Boy, you’re just so stupid, the new Apple Intel ads tells the world. You should’ve bought a Mac because, drum roll please, now the Intel chip will get to live inside a Mac. Showing an iMac with a blank blue desktop and the Apple logo with the word “Mac.” That’s it, not even a Dock. Huh, the Windows-only using world asks? Why should I buy a Mac, again? Pretty cases? “Imagine the possibilities,” the ad smugly concludes. Fade to black. Thud. Give me a @#%&! break!

How is the Windows-only world supposed to imagine the possibilities when you never, ever deign tell them what possibilities exist? All they know or think they know is maybe that the Mac has less software choices, not many good new games, some Internet sites don’t work right, all their friends’ software won’t run on it, and “it costs more.” The few people that use Macs must like the pretty cases.

Microsoft tells the world how Windows XP allows a young girl to hook up her guitar and create beautiful music. Microsoft tells the world how Windows XP helps people learn languages, making models, discovering lost cities. Apple should copy Microsoft’s Windows XP ads; at least they’d actually be telling the truth and they’d sell more Macs in the process. Oh, I know, Apple ads are “art.” What’s Apple’s artistic statement exactly? That our Macs are so superior that we can throw away millions in advertising without selling a thing?

Apple needs to continue what they’re doing in almost very other area, but if they’re going to run TV ads for the Mac, they need to hire someone who can explain WHY the Mac is better, not just churn out ads designed to make Mac users (and Steve Jobs?) feel superior. Otherwise, just forget the ads and concentrate on building Apple Stores. We Mac users already know we have the superior personal computing platform, Mr. Jobs. The rest of the world is left with no clue as to why, as usual. You and Apple should them try telling them someday.

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

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124 Comments

  1. Absolutely correct. The new ad is alll position with no substance. Why? because it is nearly impossible to communicate genuine substance about a fairly complex topic in 30 seconds. So…what’s the solution? There are several..

    1. Produce a VERY cool infomercial…use some celebrities…but SHOW the system doing what it does DIFFERENTLY and BETTER. You’d have to softpedal the lack of viruses..but mention it…
    2. Create a series of Apple Touring systems that would go to music festivals, state fairs, and other large public gatherings. Have smart engaging people on board that can SHOW what the gear can do.
    3. Do some simple magazine and newspaper ads that show the pricing from high end to low in a comparison with other kinds of computers. Be honest.
    And show the difference in software being bundled too.

    Last year Apple spent $165 million on advertising. MOST of that went to the ipod. It worked. The time to go BIG with MAC advertising is now…BEFORE Vista comes out…and BEFORE Samsung, Sony, and Dell gear up to try and overwhelm Apple with high end advertising.

  2. Nail on the head. Good MDN take. The Apple/Intel ad is slick but smug. And a big problems is that the same Intel Core Duo is cropping in a lot of competing products, so all that beautiful semicon fab footage doesn’t differentiate the Mac. The iLife demos are a whole ‘nother story. Steve J… we need more steak with the sizzle.

  3. Man, that was a great MDN take. I do know that when I saw the new Intel ad, I was like, “Huge waste of money.” It (the ad) does nothing to explain what can be done on a Mac and how it will benefit the user. Apple is going to have to come stronger than that with its advertising to make any real difference. Sometimes I wonder if Apple advertises like this on purpose to control growth, or keep its product in a niche. MP3 players and computers, while most seem they are the same, are in totally different category spaces and supporting tens of millions of MP3 toting fans is a lot easier than supporting hundreds of millions of OS X users.

  4. ‘They need to innovate, or otherwise they will simply just disappear.’ …Both the new iMac desktop units and the completely new MacBooks ‘certainly have all the nice features, like Front Row [media player], iSight [built-in camera], but they need to do a little more than that if they really want to gain market share in substantial ways,’ said Daoud.”

    ‘…certainly have all the nice features’? As if Dell or HP has these same features? It’s obvious that David Daoud knows next to nothing about Macs (e.g. Front Row is NOT a media player). It’s the same old denial and chauvinism masking ignorance. Yes, Apple needs to do a better job of educating consumers with advertising. With the amount of money I have invested in Apple stock I’m as frustrated as anybody else about that. But to say that Apple needs to try harder to innovate simply exposes a lack of having paid attention over the last few years.

  5. Um, is there a current problem with the recent market size of Apple? Obviously a mac web site could only dream about having the masses IMMEDIATELY interested in the mac, but I’m not seeing a problem at the moment. In fact, things are going very, very well for the user experience. Very well.

    Apple waited a long time to switch to Intel. But the transition is only just beginning, though certainly at a rapid pace.

    Let’s get the bugs out, the products out, the Universal Binaries out, and then make a push for greater marketshare.

    There have been significant marketshare gains in the past two years, far outpacing the industry. Do you really want nightmare office chick with her chaotic life calling you up to find out how to install something?

  6. A well thought out MDN take.

    Does it strike anyone else as funny that the first day Apple announces Intel based Macs – the Apple share price closes at 8086 (80.86) – the processor that started it all for Intel?

  7. SteveJack writes: “The issue is not that Apple’s not innovating, the problem is that Apple’s pretty bad at telling the world about their Mac innovations.”

    A guy I know once told me this:

    “He that toot-eth not his own horn, the same shall go untooted.”

    Apple has the best personal computing hardware & software available. They need to be better at letting people know about it.

    MaWo: ‘function’. As in, “Does Apple’s marketing department have one?”

  8. I may be the only person here who actually thinks that the MDN take is spot-on, but I also see the advertisement as only the tip of the iceberg and that it actually might work.

    It’s a nice intro, but now they need to expand on that. People are already familiar with Apple via the ubiquitous iPod. Now they’ve got the idea in their head, they just need to have a little push. I liked the ad, but it was a little smug. On the other hand, maybe Windows people need a little kick in the butt to make them realize that their computer is crappy, or at least not as good as they probably think. I’m sure Apple has consulted many marketing gurus and along with Intel, they may have made the right decision. All I know is they need to expand on it. I’m sure they will.

  9. Daoud’s wrong. I’ve gone to Dell and priced out a Dell with an Intel Core Duo. It’s the 9300 series. It starts at $2000, for a stripped configuration.

    Here are the specs for the 9300 configured closely to a MacBook:
    Inspiron E1705
    List $2592
    Coupon $300 off
    Limited Offer $2292

    Intel CoreDuo 1.83G
    XP Pro
    17″XGA+(same number of pixels as Apple’s 15″)
    1G ram
    256MB Nvidia Go7800 (don’t know if this is better or worse; but is it DualLink?)
    80G SATA
    DVD burner
    MS Works
    std battery
    1yr warranty
    basic entertainment software

    This is the closest I could spec a Dell. Other than the larger screen, there’s nothing too special, and the price is not all that different than what Apple is pricing its MacBooks at.

    And, you don’t get an 8 pound laptop 1.6″ thick.

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