Mac Scope

Still Waiting for the Tipping Point

Stephen Van Esch - 2004.01.07

By all accounts, the goodies unveiled at Macworld will satisfy most Mac user's cravings for new and better hardware and software. The new iPod mini should maintain if not extend Apple's dominance of the portable music player market. Updated iLife applications have finally arrived. The G5 Xserve will bring more power to enterprise customers.

While I'm happy to see such great products from a great company, the cynic in me wonders how much of an impact this will have on Apple's market share. Of course, market share is hardly the end all and be all of a successful company. After all, Apple posts consistent quarterly profits and has a hefty chunk of change in the bank. All well and good.

It seems, though, that Apple still hasn't been making inroads when it comes to market share. While it's clear that many companies exist just fine in niches (BMW anyone?), market share equals security for Apple.

It almost seems like a hopeless job to increase Apple market share. No matter what Apple does or which cool hardware and software products it produces, it can't seem to attract a mass audience. For example, iDVD was designed to take advantage of the fact that there has been a tremendous uptake in the DVD player market. Has the simple and user-friendly iDVD boosted Apple market share? No.

Apple seems to be taking another kick at the can with GarageBand. Jobs sees a good market for this product. However, are vast numbers of people going to purchase a Mac because of Garage Band? Most likely not.

Apple is still trying to replicate its success with desktop publishing. However, the market has changed drastically since then. Windows users can now purchase inferior products that compete with Apple's software. There's little compelling reason to make the switch to Mac when no product Apple produces can get past the "it's good enough" attitude of people who use PC software.

iPod

To be fair, Apple's computer market share matters less now than it did even a few years ago. The iPod, for example, generates scads of cash for Apple and dominates its category.

However, Apple is able to research and develop new products based on its profits from its computer line. The more successful it is there, the better off Apple will be.

While market share may not have grown as expected over the last few years, there are still some encouraging signs. Apple continues to gain respect in the enterprise and consumer market. Its brand remains strong. Its innovative edge is still sharp.

But I'm still waiting for the tipping point.

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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