My Turn

Open Letter to Steve Jobs about .mac

john droz, jr. - 2002.07.23

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

Steve:

I am one of Apple's absolutely most enthusiastic supporters (e.g. check out my well-known Mac vs. PC website <http://macvspc.info/>). Furthermore, my personal opinion is that you have done a simply superb job of directing Apple forward during the last few years.

Since the buck stops on your desk, I am conveying my disappointment concerning Apple's recently announced Dot-Mac plans directly to you. Here are my views:

  1. The way this situation was handled gives the semblance of a bait-and-switch tactic. This is not good PR for Apple. [Note: bad PR for Apple means lost income to Apple.]
  2. Despite your (hopefully) humorous Macworld comments, there are many worthwhile things for free. Close to home are such nuggets as iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto. Unfortunately, your observation might be interpreted as an omen that these other benefits to being a Mac user will soon evaporate. [Note: undermining users' confidence in Apple's dependability means lost income to Apple.]
  3. I fully understand that Apple has to make a profit, that there are costs associated with maintaining the iTools site, etc. However, the projected annual income from making iTools a fee based service is very small potatoes when you look at Apple's total revenue.
  4. For any manufacturer of a 5% market product to survive against a 95% competitor, they must maintain a significant array of distinctly better benefits. Free iTools fits this description. [Note: reducing these benefits means lost income to Apple.]
  5. One of Apple's main selling points to counter the often lower initial cost of Wintel PCs is that a user should take into account more than just the initial price. In a similar vein, Apple should apply this thinking to having free iTools: they get compensated in many indirect ways (e.g., by offering services and a mentality not available in the Wintel world). [Note: lessening these distinctions means lost income to Apple.]
  6. Free iTools is an important selling tool for selling to the education market (e.g., for students to use to transfer files to their home computer). Success in the education market is absolutely critical for Apple's survival. [Note: eliminating this education market selling point means lost income to Apple.]
  7. Free iTools encourages Mac users to be more expressive, exchange more files, write more software, etc. All of these are beneficial to keeping Mac users happy and creative, which means dollars in Apple's coffers. Just one example of this is my Mac vs. PC site (posted on iTools). I never would have done this if I had to start by signing up for a $100/year service!
      Why is that? Well, although I have been willing to donate many hundreds of hours of my time for the benefit of Apple, I would not be interested in paying for that privilege. Based on the feedback I have received, my little iTools site has been responsible for a minimum of hundreds of Mac sales.
  8. In a similar vein that I would never have started my Mac vs. PC site with iTools if I had to pay for it, I will also not continue it on Dot-Mac if I have to pay for it (for the same reasons).
  9. When users have "homepage.mac.com" URLS or "@mac.com" email addresses, this is free advertising for Apple. I have had many PC users comment on my "johndroz@mac.com" email. I tell them that this is a free service - another benefit to being a Mac user. They are always impressed. A fee based service will severely reduce both of these (estimates are by 90%). [Note: reducing free advertising means lost income to Apple.]
  10. In summary it seems like this decision was made by accounting types vs. insightful leaders who have the big picture. Apple cannot afford to be led by accountants.

When Apple is at a crossroads and has to make such a decision, they need to answer the Big Question. Accounting types think that the Big Question is, "Will this be a profit center?" Visionary leaders know that the Big Question is, "Will this increase our market share?"

The answer to the Big Question when applied to this situation is no! (Charging for iTools will not increase our market share, in fact [for reasons stated above] it may reduce it....)


I there any solution? I'm sure that others can offer even more (and probably even better) alternatives, but I would suggest these:
  1. Have a two tiered setup: continue a basic free iTools program and also offer a more comprehensive Dot-Mac option for a fee (much less than $100/yr. - $50 max).
  2. Continue to offer free mac.com email addresses.
  3. If Apple must stick with the $100/yr. iTools fee, then some additional incentives are needed, like a free hosting service for Mac users who have their own domain names, inclusion of QuickTime Pro, etc.
  4. In any case, iTools should be free to new users for at least six months.

I could go on, but I'm sure that you get the message: I find this plan - and the mentality behind it - to be most disappointing.

Again this is coming from an ardent Apple supporter.

regards,

john droz, jr.
johndroz@mac.com (until September 30th)

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