How Apple’s Mac Could Start to Fail in the Marketplace

Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro

Those Mac users who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with Windows aren’t like to jump ship. However, those who are bilingual in OSes may, in their need for better hardware, tell a different story. Apple’s Mac isn’t invulnerable.

Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro
Apple’s MacBook Pros didn’t get refreshed at WWDC 2018. We wait.

One-off stories don’t represent the whole market. I know that. But I still want to explore an interesting notion. Here’s what started me thinking.

Read that title carefully. MateBook.

Windows Disasters of Old: Gone

What I thought was interesting about this tale was author Casey’s utter neutrality when it came to OS preference combined with a keen eye towards what makes a notebook powerful and useful. After all, it’s Laptop Magazine. You’d expect the contributors to be well versed in Windows. It was likely however, that Windows 10 made the author’s decision easier than it would have been in in the past.

Of course, what I’ve learned over the years is that when one is very well versed in multiple OSes, one comes to appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses of each. For most Mac enthusiasts who don’t have the time or incentive to explore Windows, the standard take is the horrific stories of Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 8. That should be enough to cause most Mac users to clutch their MacBook Pros with a confident smile.

The New Microsoft

And yet. Having worked with Windows over the years, I can affirm that several things are happening.

  1. Windows 7 (as a first step) led to Windows 10—a respectable and secure OS.
  2. Microsoft, under CEO Satya Nadella, is a new company. He’s a very, very smart guy. And that means Apple would be unwise to take its Mac users for granted.
  3. PC makers, as the above referenced article punctuates, have a knack for building laptops that are cool looking, sexy, powerful and chock full of handy ports.

Today, Apple doesn’t have much to fear. Mac users are very loyal. Even so, the PC makers have an ally in Microsoft, a smarter company these days that wouldn’t mind making life more difficult for Apple.

Apple's Mac lineup needs refreshed.
Apple iMac last updated in 2017

Complacency Kills

In saying this, I am mindful of Apple’s inability, for the past few years, to consistently deliver exciting and periodically refreshed Macs that are powerful and practical—in addition to looking great. For now, I remain optimistic based on some bits of evidence.

[Apple May Be Ready to Unleash a Slew of New Macs ]

In addition, Apple uses the incredibly popular iPhone and its services ecosystem as a means to keep consumers locked into loyal to the fold. For now, that’s keeping Apple confident that it need not worry.

But, as we know, nothing ever stays the same in the computer industry. Former leaders succumb. Those playing catchup are hungry and easily spot signs of weakness in the competition. What is likely coming in a future version of Windows is an OS that continues to leverage its strengths to the point where just enough business users, not obsessed with music or video, who have demanding work to do will jump ship and opt for Windows in order to get the best hardware. It’ll be a subtle shift and something to be watchful of. Apple probably has nothing to fear for now.

Even so, trends often start out as something innocuous looking. And then pick up steam if unchecked. Apple, if it lingers on the way it has been with the neglected Mac, may find that it’ll be in a race just to hold its position. It’s already happened with Chromebooks in education. And we know what happens next. Sour grapes sets in.

I’m just being watchful of trends. I recall how Microsoft’s Windows NT, then Linux, utterly destroyed the premium UNIX workstation market. No matter how cool Mojave looks, Apple’s Mac isn’t invulnerable to a smart, concerted assault on it and its services ecosystem combined with an unexpected fervor of disaffection by customers.

7 thoughts on “How Apple’s Mac Could Start to Fail in the Marketplace

  • Very well spoken, John.

    Your word to Apple’s ear.

    That said, my wife has a Win10 enabled laptop from work that she brings home. The OS is not bad, but it is not bug free. When I’m conferences with colleagues, particularly in low resource settings, for some reason my Apple kit, MBP, iPad Pro or even iPhone, manage to connect to wireless services and remain connected easier than do most of my Windows using colleague’s devices. I’m not sure why.

    Still, your points are all sound.

    @geoduck:

    Andrew Orr just posted a link to story about one group that benefits from the much-maligned TB. https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/8stpog/dyslexia_and_the_touch_bar/

    I for one find myself using it increasingly often when it offers access to a one-touch command that I would otherwise go searching for. I still see this as sub-optimally exploited tech that, in a bolder offering, could be game changing in keyboard dependent devices. Think Enterprise command console that allows for infinite configurability. Now, if I could do that with my MBP’s keyboard…

  • I use Mac and iOS for my own stuff, but I did computer support from DOS, Win3.1, all the way through 7. Now I use Win10 as my desk system all day.
    Win10 is stable, reliable, and secure. I have no qualms saying that it’s the best Windows they’ve made. It still has some issues that while not deal breakers are very annoying. I use macOS at home because it’s less annoying. However for the casual user, or the new user Win10 is just fine, unlike previous versions. We cannot say that macOS is clearly better than Windows.
    Which brings me to hardware. As others have said Apple has dropped the ball and kicked it into the long grass over the last ten years. No user upgradeable RAM is annoying, but couple with the obscene prices they charge for RAM, 2X-4X the market price, it is unforgivable. I got my iMac in late 2016. Yes I knew that there would be newer systems in 2017, but it was good enough and I feared they would take away that option. I was able to save a huge amount by adding 16GB on my own something I would not have been able to do if I had waited six months.
    Then there are their laptops. Only one port on the MacBook is stupid. The same port used for charging and peripherals, so it’s either one or the other. Unless you go and but a dock from some third party. But if it was so essential Apple should have offered their own. That is unless they had put two USB-C ports on it, one on each side. That would have been the logical solution. Of course the MacBook Pro models do have more ports, and a touch bar thingy that looks like it will go the way of ZipDrives, and the Dodo. Nobody seems to support it, and Apple hasn’t put it on their desktop keyboard so many users don’t demand developers support it. It’s looking mko0re and more like a gee whiz gimmick that will fade from view.
    Let’s not mention the MacMini that’s an embarrassment, or the MacPro that’s being updated, someday.
    So yes Apple still has a small edge in OS and overall environment. Their hardware has fallen badly behind. Apple needs to seriously up their game.

  • I am a long time UNIX SysAdmin who remembers the days of Sun workstations with fondness. I had used the Mac periodically in the 80’s and 90’s, but only wholeheartedly embraced it when OS X was introduced.

    But when that happened, I jumped in with no reservations … an honest to goodness UNIX box that could also run Office and Lotus Notes (yep, needed that at the time) … it was AWESOME!

    And now … now I am still a Mac user … but not because it’s the best choice … only because all the alternatives suck even more.

    Old UNIX Guy

  • I left the Windows platform in the late ’90s for the Mac platform. I have yet to look back and I am multilingual when it comes to operating systems, especially with the big 3… Mac, Windows, and GNU/Linux. If I were to leave the Mac platform for anything else, it would most likely be for the GNU/Linux platform. Of course if Commodore is ever raised from the dead and new life was breathed into the Amiga platform, I’d be there in a red hot minute 😎

  • I made my first Hackintosh last year. The problem as I see it is that Apple has taken the non-upgradability to a new level which has me seeking out years-old Macs even when I want a new one. I was not one to complain when consumer-level Macs lost their card slots and SCSI ports (remember those?), because I knew that the vast majority of people just didn’t use them. But the non-upgradeable RAM really irks me. I can usually not afford the higher-up models of iMac, but I’ve always had the reassurance that I would be able to upgrade the RAM and hard drive down the line when the prices come down. Last time I shopped for an iMac the base models has LESS RAM (forever) than my upgraded mid-2010 unless I spend hundreds of extra dollars right off the bat. That’s outrageous.

  • There is a great deal of misinformation regarding the current state of Windows.

    I’ve worked with every Windows version from Windows 3.1 through Windows 10 and I’ve written hundreds of thousands of lines of custom Windows code. As a result, I have a clear picture of how Windows works.

    Under the hood, Windows hasn’t changed much in the past 18 years. In fact, Windows 10 is really just another coat of UI paint on top of the same underlying code. Drill down a few levels in the UI and you can even find the exact same 18 year old UI, just slightly re-skinned.

    More troubling, Windows’ underpinnings and developer frameworks are fundamentally unchanged since 2005. Windows has the same bugs, instability, security problems, and performance issues has it always had. This is true even with Windows 10.

    Macs a have always had better industrial design and build quality than Windows machines, although this gap is narrowing.

    Macs and Windows machines have always had roughly equivalent electronics, although build-to-order Windows machines could always be had with better specs.

    As always, the real differentiator between a Windows machine and Mac is the operating system, the developer frameworks, the quality of the hardware drivers, and the overall system integration.

    Because of these factors, Macs are just better. Modestly equipped Macs routinely outperform decked out Windows machines when running properly optimized software written for macOS.

    Sadly, Microsoft and Adobe software products do not fit the definition of properly optimized Mac software. Such “multi-platform“ software is a real problem for the Mac today. It erodes the Mac advantage for users of this software. Is this by design? I wonder…

  • My experience Microsoft goes back to Window and MS-Dos 3.1. I moved to Apple in 2007 when I began my graduate studies and never looked back. I currently have a 2017 Macbook Pro using Microsoft office for Mac, which I have used since 2007. I purchased Windows 10 to run on my 2017 Macbook Pro using Boot Camp. I did this to help the students I teach on the college level when they have questions, which helped me learn how to navigate. I still do not like Microsoft Wndows because it is extremely cumbersome compared to Microsoft office for Mac. Only time will tell whether the Microsoft machines will have the long term life of Apple’s MacBook line. My 2007 MacBook running Lion still boots up in 24 seconds after almost 12 years, my 2012 MacBook Pro boots up in 16 seconds and neither of them have gotten a virus or crashed. I plan to be using my 2017 model for the next 10 to 15 years, if not longer. My motto is get a Mac and you will never go back.

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