My Turn

Marketing the Whole Widget

Korin Hasegawa-John - 2002.09.04

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 .

Apple's greatest strength in the computer industry is hardware/software integration. Apple's software engineers know exactly what hardware is being used in the newest Macs, and they don't have to support a tremendous multitude of devices, as does Windows. This is relatively unique in the computer industry. IBM and Sun do the same thing - IBM with AIX, and Sun with Solaris - but these products don't compete with Apple except in the server market, where Apple is not (yet) a major player.

Because of this integration, Apple can make its hardware and software work extremely well together without very many hassles for the end user. Apple also develops not just the core OS, but also many of the apps that run on it. The iApps, Mail, Final Cut Pro, WebObjects, and others are from Apple. Microsoft does this, too, but Microsoft doesn't have the added advantage of hardware development.

The key difference between a Mac and a Windows PC is the completeness of the Mac. Everything comes from Apple. Apple may not design each component, but they makes sure everything works well under the Mac OS and with the other hardware Apple uses in their computers. Apple designs the motherboard, giving them another advantage over the PC end of things.

Even though the hardware/software integration is Apple's strong point, they don't seem to be taking much advantage of it. A few key places where they could:

Web Browsing

I use a 450 MHz PII running Win 98 SR2, 224 MB RAM, and IE 6. I also use a 500 MHz iMac DV SE running Mac OS 9.1 with 256 MB of RAM and both IE 5 and Mozilla Release Candidate 3. Unofficial "this is taking a long time to load" style timings show that the PII is faster than the Mac for browsing. If I bothered to install Win2k, it'd do even better. Even using Mozilla on the Mac - one of the faster browsers - the PII runs IE 6 faster.

This is very bad for the Mac. Web browsing is arguably one of the most common things that computers are used for today. This reinforces the perception that Macs are slow. However, Apple can do something about it.

Using Chimera as a base for an Apple-branded browser (iWeb?), Apple could effectively optimize iWeb for Mac OS X. Since Chimera is already faster than the Mac incarnation of Internet Explorer, it wouldn't be that hard to bring it into parity with Windows browsing using IE.

Games and Game Performance

Apple needs to work more closely with Nvidia (ATI is hobbled with lousy drivers even on Windows) for better game performance on the Mac. The Power Mac G4 would make a great gaming machine if Apple had better drivers. Case in point: There still isn't a real driver for the GeForce 4 Ti, the fastest graphics card on the planet. Users are stuck using GeForce 2mx drivers or GeForce3 drivers.

Apple should also offer a custom gaming configuration. This would be something along the lines of a Power Mac dual 1 GHz with a Combo drive, 512 MB of DDR RAM, no modem (gamers use broadband), a GeForce 4 Ti, Apple Pro Speakers, and maybe several games. Gamers don't really need the SuperDrive but would love to get more RAM and video card power, along with some "free" games for the same price as a standard G4 1 GHz dual.

In order for Apple to expand its market share beyond 5%, it needs to cultivate its integrated advantage. Apple has direct control over all components in a Mac, and they need to use this to their best advantage. They also need to cultivate better relationships with hardware developers (Nvidia, IBM [since Motorola has not had much of a future with the high-end PowerPC for a while now], Pioneer, Creative [for sound hardware], and controller manufacturers like Atek).

Increased partnership and cooperation with the people who supply Apple with the hardware that is used in a Mac can only benefit everyone involved - maybe then we can get that elusive 10% market share.

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