What Is Apple’s Long-Term Strategy?

Mac users have it pretty good. Apple’s stock is high (despite its recent slide), a new OS is on the way, and market share has stabilized. So what’s next for Apple? How does it intend to remain on top?

Mac Scope

5 iMac colorsColored computers were definitely the lifesaver for Apple, and they continue to deliver knockout products.

What I’m more concerned about is the long-term strategy that Apple will use to survive and thrive.

blueberry iBookProduct announcements have slowed down a lot recently. The slowdown comes after several product successes. The iMac was a hit, the iBook was a hit, the new PowerBook was a hit, and the G3 and G4 desktops were hits. This acceleration of product introductions was probably the result of Apple’s desperate scramble from the brink of death.

On the design front, Apple appears to be coasting. No new designs appear to be in the works. Of course, this could easily be attributed to Apple’s no leak policy that has made the Macintosh rumor an endangered species. For all we know, the iMac’s replacement is heading for production right now. Of course, the iMac, G4, iBook, and PowerBook still look great. Why mess with what works?

It’s still a little disconcerting, however, that no new designs seem to be in the works to keep Mac sales high. The decline in iMac sales isn’t doing anything to reassure investors. I think that OS X is probably affecting new hardware designs and products. OS X is a huge undertaking that requires a fair number of resources. Motorola’s chip problems also seem to be holding Apple back.

I’m still interested in Apple’s long-term design plans. Are new designs waiting in the wings? Will the venerable iMac see something more than a speed and RAM bump in the near future?

On the software side, things are a little clearer: OS X is where we’re going. I firmly believe that OS X is the foundation of Apple’s next great leap forward. This leap would not be possible with the current Mac OS.

Microsoft has been touting its Next Generation Windows Services as the technology that will ensure its market dominance. Unfortunately, Microsoft is basing this strategy on an OS that, while greatly improved, remains less stable than Unix machines. Potential users may also question Microsoft’s ability to keep their data secure over the Internet. Recent bug scares indicate that their doubts would be well founded.

At least if Apple chooses a similar strategy, the Unix-based core will be rock solid and reasonably secure.

As several readers pointed out after my previous column, Apple is making a somewhat low-key push into the server market with a Web Objects price cut. More Web Objects developers and more applications mean more OS X servers. That’s one more cog in the machine to drive Apple forward.

So what’s the deal? I haven’t heard or seen anything on Apple’s strategy beyond OS X. Not much seems to be up as Adam Banks put it in MacUser.

Where is Apple going? I don’t know. But I’m sure they have a plan.

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