Is Apple Up or Down These Days?

2004: Apple has been doing well, as usual. Or has it?

If I turn one way, I see a great number of reports that indicate that Apple, which by most accounts looks good, is slowly but surely losing the battle to remain relevant.

Mac Scope

No, this is not a John Dvorak column. However, there are a few worrying signs that things aren’t so rosy. For example, Adobe recently dropped FrameMaker for the Mac. Not a big deal for most people, but considering that Frame is the dominant piece of software for publishing technical documents, this isn’t a good sign. Throw in the fact that the Unix version seems to be chugging along nicely, and it’s a bit of a mystery why the Mac OS X version (which is built on the FreeBSD flavor of Unix) was never in the hopper.

Other worrying signs include Apple’s market share, which hasn’t budged significantly even with all the great products being delivered. If you look too closely, you might get downright depressed looking at the numbers.

And a recent article (Apple, Adobe Drifting Apart) makes some rather discouraging remarks about Adobe’s general support for the Mac.

On the other side of the coin, Apple seems to be going great guns in several areas. It seems scientists are lapping up the Power Mac G5 for their research. Free advertising regarding a dirt-cheap supercomputer can do that for sales.

There are also some encouraging signs that at least some system administrators are taking a second look at the Mac.

On the music side, it’s all good news as the iPod continues to dominate the market, and the iTunes Music Store has not only a healthy lead but may actually have claimed the life of its first competitor, BuyMusic.

This swinging back and forth is nauseating, really – up after reading one article and down after reading the next.

What to make of it? The pessimist in me sees the computer market for Apple at a standstill with the music market picking up the slack. It’s likely that Apple wouldn’t have had successive profitable quarters without the iPod.

The optimist in me sees success in the iPod and future success with Macs. Climbing out of a market share hole as deep as Apple’s is no mean feat and will take years to accomplish. Apple has performed consistently over the last several years, and more people are recognizing (Average Joe notwithstanding) that it can consistently deliver outstanding products. The recent enthusiasm for the Mac in the science community is just a small example of Apple gaining ground with users who had pretty much given it up for dead a long time ago.

If nothing else, it will be some time before things settle down one way or the other.