Why Apple’s Mac platform fell into crisis

“Apple’s recent quarterly earnings report blew past all expectations. More importantly, dramatic unit sales growth shows the company is executing a working strategy for building the Mac platform,” Daniel Eran writes for RoughlyDrafted. “That raises the obvious question: why has Apple’s market share historically been so low, and why did Apple fail to make any progress in the 1990’s?”

“Here’s a look at why Apple’s platform fell into crisis, and why the solutions prescribed by analysts didn’t work,” Eran writes.

Eran takes a look at the following:
• Market share
• Apple’s premium PCs
• Creating and maintaining a functional Mac market
• Disasters in retail (Sears et al.)
• Mac clones disaster
• Disasters in direct sales
• No compelling reason to buy a Mac
• Delayed migration to NeXT/Mac OS X

Full article here.

42 Comments

  1. me –

    I’ve gotta disagree with ya’ there, buddy. It all sounds very ‘Oprah’ to have a benign kibbutz of altruistic creative minds who have no concern whatsoever for the bottom line of the company, but Apple is, in fact, a business. In the dark years, it was still an innovative, high-minded company – it just made a series of very poor business decisions. That’s what happens when there are no businessmen among the ‘creatives’.

    In addition, I guarantee that the primary focus of the current CFO of Apple is to “make as much money as possible”. It’s just that now, a wiser, more long-range, and more sweeping business strategy is underway. Your apparent disdain for the monetary motive is surprising, considering that Apple and most other innovative companies always seem to appear in capitalist countries.

    It’s the creative minds at Apple that make the mac superior. It’s the creative business people at Apple that are making the mac resurgent and, hopefully, dominant in the marketplace.

  2. babagamoosh: who cares history? Is all past. Future is Mac. Whole story.

    A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. What we have here is a continuing saga and we’ll never live to see the outcome of Apple’s story, but our children’s children might. By then though, the computers we use today will seem to them, as charming as those early wooden telephones are to us now.

    History IS important and cannot be dismissed as the past, for without a well-documented history, people can say whatever they want to bolster the providence of their perspective!

    One need only listen to a conversation between PC users where Apple is the topic, to get an idea of just how profoundly fictitious their knowledge is about Apple Computer. Some of their comments make my teeth itch!

    Apple Computer has been swift-boated for years and unfortunately many of us were powerless to combat the outrageous beliefs held by millions of PC users and much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Apple’s leadership.

    Mike is right about Apple’s schizophrenia and as long as Apple continued to define itself by comparison to the PC market it would stagnate. Apple lost their way in the ’90s and the decline into chaos was lead by the very man Steve Jobs brought onboard to change the world; a sugar water salesman no less!

    Daniel Eran understands the matter completely and his perspective should be assimilated by us all but especially the zealots continue to foster the adversarial relationship. Far too many of them don’t even know what’s at stake, much less what the fight is all about. Like moths to flame-bait.

  3. It starts with leadership. Show me a caretaker CEO and I’ll show you a company that regrets it, given time. This is even more critical in certain markets such as high technology, the creative arts & media. Apple is at the very intersection of these markets and has been for a very long time.

    Sculley frittered away years of fat profits without taking the next step and the next one after that. Apple had a ton of people chasing their own tail, spending money, time and mind-power and came out with very little to show for it. No unifying vision. The same was true for his successors.

    The great things Steve Jobs has going for him are these:
    1- He has a clear vision for where he wants the company to go and what he wants to do.
    2- He, as founder and Silicon Valley Geek God, has the cache to attract and guide the people necessary to make the vision real.
    3- He has the drive to push and push to get it where he wants it. He doesn’t take ‘it can’t be done’ well.
    4- He has great faith in his gut and is willing to bet the farm to get it done. He spent most of his huge Apple fortune founding NeXT and transforming Pixar from a small project at ILM into a full-fledged animation studio. He then cleared out the chaff and bet Apple on the Mac platform when he returned.

    People like that are called leaders. Not by position, but by actions and results.

  4. The article makes a long story of what I said here many many many times: Apple could not care less of global market share because Apple always had 100% of its market share. There is no way one can run Apple sw and the Mac OS but buying an Apple computer. There is no competition. It is 100% coverage of its market share.
    This is the main reason Apple never died as did many other PC makers crushed by big ones. The only thing was that Apple market was much smaller than PC market. Now the Mac market is making a dent into the PC market and getting PC users switching into Mac users, hence Apple market is growing. But the share is still the very same:

    100% before

    100% now

    100% in the future.

    The only thing that the global market share of Apple will tell is the increasing number of Mac users vs Windows only users on PCs. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Only remember one thing: Apple will always have 100% of the Mac market.

  5. One further explanation for the Mac losing ground in the 90’s, the PC gaining ground and the Mac re-gaining ground these days, is word of mouth.

    In the 90’s most people who were considering buying a computer would ask their friends for recommendations. Computers cost a significant amount of money and there were a confusing number of options, so people turned to others for advice and most would trust what their friends said. Their friends mostly had PCs, so getting a PC just like those of your friends seemed like a good idea. This trend then created a spiral, with increasing numbers of PCs and fewer Macs, so there were fewer chances to encountering a Mac or a Mac owner.

    Since the iMac, more so since the iPod and very much more so since the switch to Intel, Macs have become much more plentiful again. There is now much more chance that somebody you know will recommend a Mac and the shortcomings of Windows are becoming better known.

    Once again we find ourselves in a spiral, but this time it’s a spiral that’s going the right way for Apple and the rate of Mac adoption could accelerate very rapidly indeed over the next few years.

    The iPod benefited from exactly this sort of spiral. We know that Apple advertised iPods widely, but the real sales force were the millions of users who appreciated their iPods and discovered that they did exactly what they were supposed to do. Their friends were curious, asked about them and before you know it another interested onlooker became a customer and in turn became another unpaid salesman.

    The modern phrase for this is ‘tipping point’, but the principle has been understood throughout history.

  6. Good article. However, the only real key to why Mac sales are doing so much better today, is the switch to Intel. While many of us were arguing the technical merits of moving the Mac platform from PPC to Intel, I think Jobs and Co. understood the true benefit of going Intel all along.

    During the revival of the Mac platform this decade, Apple focused more on removing the objections to buying a Mac, rather than banging away at why Macs were superior. The final step was the transition to Intel. Now, when someone objects to buying a Mac because it doesn’t run Windows, overcoming that objection is simple. Yes it does run Windows. So once the consumer actually understands this, the decision comes down to desireability of the hardware versus price. Unless the consumer is looking for a $299 piece-of-junk PC, Apple wins.

  7. Funny.

    You can tell when professional Mac users
    have nothing to do on a weekend;
    MDN gets hit by detailed,
    well written, replies from
    people with better-than-luke-warm
    IQs that have real lives during the week.

    Nice.

    Very refreshing,
    especially in here.

    Thanks, everyone!

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