Mac Musings

Microsoft Nonsense

Daniel Knight - 2002.07.16 -

Some call it FUD, for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. I prefer to call the latest round of FUD from Microsoft pure nonsense.

Round One

One of Monday's top news stories came secondhand, since most of us won't pay $79 a year for online access to the Wall Street Journal. According to coverage on MacCentral, Microsoft and Corel are a bit disappointed that their products for Mac OS X just aren't selling quite as nicely as they'd like.

Cry me a river, Microsoft, but isn't this the company that owns over 90% of the personal computer market - and has an even higher installed base for Microsoft Word? And they're complaining about not selling enough software.

Excuse me, I'm trying not to laugh.

And the really depressing news is this: Microsoft has sold only 300,000 copies of Office v. X since November 2001, not the 750,000 they wanted to. That's 300,000 copies of a program that Microsoft probably sells to retailers for $360 or so. That's over $100 million dollars - yeah, Microsoft, cry me a river.

Okay, maybe that's just pocket change for the Beast of Redmond, but it sure sounds like a lot to me.

I can't speak to Corel, since I'm not familiar with their software. However, some of the comments I've read online say that Corel is very good at alienating customers.

Round Two

Apple has come out with some helpful statistics. They believe that the installed base for OS X is 2.5 million, about 10% of the 25 million Macs in use around the world. Apple predicts that will double within a year.

Apple sells somewhat over 3 million new Macs per year, and today they all ship with Mac OS X as the default operating system. Yeah, I can see Apple doubling the installed base within a year. Easily.

But look back a few years. The earliest Macs supported under Mac OS X are the beige G3s, which were introduced in November 1997. It took about a year before Apple dumped the Performas, PowerBooks, and other models that weren't designed around the G3. So let's write off all 1998 Mac sales.

In January 1999, Apple released the blue & white G3. There was a machine with the oomph to handle OS X decently. The same can be said of any Macs released since then.

Let's figure 2 million 1999 Macs in use today, 2.5 million 2000 models, 3 million from 2001, and about 1.5 million sold so far this year. Even counting in some of the 1998 production, that's maybe 10 million potential OS X users at present.

And Apple believes 25% of them are already using OS X. Not bad at all.

Also remember that the older a Mac, the less likely it's going to have enough memory, a big enough hard drive, a fast enough processor, or good enough graphics to do justice to OS X. And a lot of these are in use in schools, where upgrades are not a way of life, and businesses, where they may be approaching the end of life and also not receive upgrades.

Put that way, maybe half of the Macs that can support OS X are already running it. It's a ballpark guess, but that means that Apple will create more OS X users by building and selling new Macs than by converting another 2.5 million Mac owners with old hardware.

Of course, it would be best to do both.

Still, with 2.5 million OS X users, there's something very suspicious about Microsoft's accusation that Apple isn't promoting the OS. I think it's more likely that the Microsoft Mac Business Unit is trying to deflect attention from the abysmal sales of Office v. X. Blame Apple.

Round Three

Now MacUser UK is reporting that Microsoft is expanding on their allegations that Apple hasn't done enough to promote Mac OS X. In short, Microsoft wants Apple to spend millions advertising their $129 operating system so Microsoft can sell their $450 (street price) Office v. X.

The problem isn't a lack of OS X users; it's a lack of OS X users willing to buy Office v. X.

People are switching to the Mac in part to get away from Windows and away from Microsoft. Only about 12% of OS X users can justify the expense of adding a $450 office suite to their hardware. I'd never put it on my $2,600 TiBook, and I'll bet it would never occur to a lot of user to put it on an $800 iMac.

Longtime Mac users are also adopting Mac OS X, but not at a breakneck pace. We're comfortable with the "classic" Mac OS. It works, it works well, and we haven't yet seen the benefit of changing. Or we have purchased OS X and decided that classic mode performance is so good that we don't need Office v. X on our computers.

Also remember that most new Macs leave the factory with AppleWorks, which is all to productivity software most users need. It can read and write Word and Excel files, and even if you have to buy a copy, it's a heck of a lot less expensive than Microsoft's bloatware.

And then there's a really strange comment at the end of the MacUser article - Microsoft is selling more copies of Office 2001 for Mac than Office v. X. That's more than 300,000 copies of a software package that's just as expensive as Office v. X, so easily another $100 million plus in Microsoft's coffers.

If they want to sell more copies of Office v. X, maybe it's Microsoft who should be marketing more or making the package more attractive by reducing the price.

Microsoft has made more money selling Office 2001 and Office v. X to Mac users since November than Apple has made in the last year. I really can't understand what they're complaining about.