Apple's SIGGRAPH Presence: Leaving the Mac Ghetto Behind?

LOS ANGELES, CA -- Perhaps Appleis biggest announcement at SIGGRAPH 2004 was not its shipment of Motion or the accompanying Production Suite, but instead the way in which the company went about showing off these new products.

Apple not only put together the biggest display at SIGGRAPH, its monochromatic exhibit (designed to contrast nicely with all the color generated by the rows of Cinema Displays) was the first thing attendees saw on entering the halls. It seemed to announce the companyis ascension into this particular space.

Now contrast this image with Appleis presence at Macworld Boston. Instead of monochromatic kiosks, there was a big black hole.

Increasingly, Apple is making its presence known not at Mac-centered events -- Macworld San Francisco excepted -- but at events in industries in which Apple either is growing a presence, or has the potential to grow one.

Preaching to the Choir

Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio said that she wasnit surprised at Appleis 2002 decision to not participate at future Macworld Boston events. "Itis preaching to the choir."

For his part, TidBITS publisher Adam Engst said he also wasnit surprised that Apple pulled away from Macworld Boston.

"Iim not sure itis quite fair to say that Appleis trying to escape the Mac ghetto, as such," Mr. Engst told The Mac Observer. "From a business standpoint, Apple customers are intensely loyal, so it makes sense for Apple to serve them by producing great hardware and software, rather than by marketing to them."

More Targeted Conferences

"Letis face it;" said Ms. DiDio, "trade shows are not the same as they were in the late 80s to mid 90s, when offices would literally clear out for a week to have a presence at one."

According to Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox, many vendors now are moving away from those blockbuster trade shows of yore in favor of more affordable, targeted conferences.

"Consider that after years of declining attendance, Comdex is cancelled this year," Mr. Wilcox told The Mac Observer. "The smaller shows are easier for vendors to manage and expose their products and services to regional or vertical-market audiences."

"Apple desperately wants to reach people who are not currently using the Mac, so it makes perfect sense that the company would market heavily in areas where it is strong, [such as] video, audio, graphics, education, and servers, but where it doesnit have that much market penetration currently," Mr. Engst said.

Added Mr. Wilcox: "For Apple, these smaller shows increase in importance as the company expands its enterprise product portfolio."

Back To Being the Be-All-and-End-All

For her part, Ms. DiDio said that Appleis change in strategy to targeting commercial markets and specific verticals makes perfect sense, adding that the company has a good grasp of its products and knows what it must do to get back on top.

"Whatis interesting about this though is that in following this strategy, Apple is trying to return to its roots. Back in the late 80s, it was the be-all-and-end-all in graphics, publishing -- really, in the real world, not just among a small niche," Ms. DiDio said.

According to DiDio, losing the GUI interface suit against Microsoft at the end of that decade was what did Apple in at that point. After that defeat, Apple then was consigned in many peopleis minds to niche markets, such as the K-12 education space, graphics, and productions.

"I give Apple a lot of credit. From a marketing standpoint, few organizations are on par with Apple: Dell, Microsoft, and IBM, and thatis it," Ms. DiDio said.

"Itis hard to regain lost momentum, but Apple sells a good product, and you tend to root for them," Ms. DiDio continued.

"They have the opportunity to actually regain a foothold in the commercial enterprise marketplace -- but they need to get with the program on pricing. In my opinion, Appleis biggest mistake has been pricing all along."