Particle Debris (Wk. ending 6/24) Heroic Thinking

| Particle Debris

It’s been awhile since anyone explored the uncomfortable question of why, in 2011, Macs are still so expensive. Of course, we know that Apple has always been a premium brand and that served Apple well in the past when commodity PCs were both poorly built and had an embarrassingly insecure OS named Windows XP.

Nowadays, things are different. Apple is a fantastically successful company, loved by its customers. Apple is making a lot of money from iPhones and iPads. Apple cannot do anything wrong. So why is the Mac’s market share still a paltry 8.5 percent in the U.S. and 4 percent world wide? If Apple is such a great company and is doing fabulously well, why isn’t the Mac more popular? Sure, Tim Cook points out every quarter, for the last 20 quarters, that Mac sales growth is outpacing PCs, but the effect isn’t showing up in dramatic gains in overall market share. Could Apple do better?


If you also consider that Apple has over US$65B in the bank, you might conclude that Macs don’t need to be quite so overpriced in 2011 — compared to when Apple was slugging it out against PCs without iOS in 2001-2006. In fact, a lot of people want Macs, but can’t afford them. Is Apple in such a hurry to put the PC/Mac behind them in this post-PC era that they’re passing up the opportunity to make big market share gains? These and a boatload of other uncomfortable questions are addressed at length by Dario D. in this long but thoughtful article: “Apple’s Problem: Selling Macs.

In the Star Trek, TOS, episode “City on the Edge Forever,” Mr. Spock (my hero) constructs a primitive Tricorder with vacuum tubes and gets it working for a time. Could you build a working 8-bit computer from Radio Shack parts and a small CRT? (I admit that I could not.) But Jack Eisenmann did. With a soldering iron no less. It has 256 bytes of RAM, so it’s “Pong ready.” “This 8-bit computer is hand-made, down to the motherboard.

Spock's Tricorder

Spock’s makeshift tricorder

Would you like to learn to play chess? Why not learn it from International Master and Arizona state champion Dr. Mark Ginsburg who has written an iPhone app to help you. Here’s the story: “Educational chess software ‘Chess U’ introduced on iPhone.” It’s free. I hope to review it soon.

Have you ever done creative work for hire? Have you been stiffed? I forgot who told me about this video, and it’s not current. But something came up this week that reminded me of Mike Monteiro’s charming presentation on how to protect yourself and run a grown-up business that gets paid. If you don’t mind his low-key profanity, check it out. And even if you’re not a developer or creative artist, you’ll enjoy his words of wisdom. “F*ck You. Pay Me.” Get paid; be a hero.

With the discussion this week of whether Apple might get into the HDTV business, here is a timely article that updates us on the Plasma vs. LCD/LED TV competition. I have been an unabashed fan of Plasma for many years, but Will Greenwald at PC Magazine argues that LED backlit LCD TVs are outpacing Plasma. I don’t agree, but the article is still chock full of technical details that will bring you up to date on the technologies. “Plasma vs. LCD vs. LED: Which HDTV Type is Best?“ 

One issue he doesn’t address is that of array LEDs vs edge-lit LEDs. So far as I know, array LEDs are better, but more expensive. I think edge-LEDs are inferior because they don’t have the fine area control of the backlighting, but the advantage may be that they can be thinner. And with today’s LCDs, black levels are better, negating, perhaps the advantages of array LEDs.  In any case, I liked the article because it’s chock full of numbers for future reference.

Jason Hiner is one my favorite writers, and this article shows why. In “White iPhone debacle shows why Apple is winning,” Mr. Hiner nicely explains how Apple does so well by saying “No” and not rushing out products. The white iPhone is a case in point. We knew that Apple was looking out for us, and that earns our loyalty. If only other companies had so much sheer courage.

The Apple spaceship design for the new headquarters looks really cool, but in addition to the architectural issues, there will also be significant ecological, physics, energy, structural, lighting, security and thermal issues. That’s all behind the scenes stuff, and we know it will be taken care of. But, on the surface, one can have a little fun thinking about some of these issues, and Discovery does just that in: “Is Apple’s ‘Spaceship’ Campus Too Far Out?” The issue isn’t whether the author, Ms. Conger, has thought of everything in a virtual Ph.D. thesis. Rather, it’s that she was astute enough to bring up the basics for our consideration.

Apple Proposed HQ

Apple’s Proposed Spaceship HQ in Cupertino

If you like comparison articles with lots of technical charts, you’ll really like this heroic evaluation of the iPad’s display from Displaymate. It compares the iPad display to the Moto Xoom and Asus Transformer. It has it all: the specs, assessments, reflection analysis, brightness and contrast, photometrics, viewing angles, power consumption … everything — in beautiful color tables. There’s even a wrap-up of the current rumors for future iPad displays. “Tablet Display Technology Shoot-Out.

Did you know that Netflix has quietly introduced a user preference for the data rate? Just in case you’re a victim of bandwidth caps. Here’s the scoop: “Got Bandwidth Caps? Netflix Has You Covered.

The possibilities for the mobile phone market in China are staggering. “China already accounts for around 10 percent of Apple’s revenues, and this is growing insanely fast,” according to Jonny Evans as he lays it all out in “Apple-crazy China will become biggest iPhone market.” Now you know why Apple’s Tim Cook was in China this week.

My own opinion is that the only company left that has a shot at competing successfully against the iPad is Hewlett Packard with its TouchPad and webOS. Ryan Faas, in his typical thorough style, fills us in and tells us everything we can know right now about the TouchPad in “Can HP’s webOS and TouchPad slow down the iPad?”.

Apple needs this kind of heroic tablet competition, and HP is just the company that can supply it.

HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad ships 1 July 2011


David Atkinson

I watched CNBC’s “Titans” last night, which featured Steve Jobs.  One of the things mentioned were all of the things that he (and Apple) did that literally changed the world.  The first mass-market personal computer.  The first mass-market personal computer with the now-familiar graphical interface.  A new way of taking all of your music with you, and later on, a new way of purchasing it from the iTunes Store.  A cell phone like no other, and now a tablet like no other.  Retail stores like no other.  Animated movies like no other.  Probably a few more things I forgot.  And then it ended with his health issues.

It made me wonder what is the Next Big Thing that Apple will do (and no, I don’t mean building their “spaceship” campus).  It will probably be video-related - I think even Stevie Wonder could see that down the road.  But what else would make sense?

I’d love to see Apple get into the field of personal robotics.  It doesn’t have to sell something like David from Steven Spielberg’s movie A.I., but that wouldn’t hurt as a long-term goal.  Robotics require lots of computing horsepower, lots of human interface (including speech synthesis and recognition), and lots of design expertise in strong but lightweight materials and battery technology.  As the Baby Boomers age, I see a huge demand for robots that could clean up around the house, prepare meals and even help with personal hygiene (either self-contained or via remote control, like a drone).

Lee Dronick

I watched CNBC?s ?Titans? last night, which featured Steve Jobs.

I too watched that, it was very well done. They talked about how Steve wants things to be perfect. Makes me wonder if Steve approved the new Final Cut Pro X, if he is pitching a fit about it, or he has something up his sleeve.


The issue isn?t whether the author, Ms. Conger, has thought of everything in a virtual Ph.D. thesis. Rather, it?s that she was astute enough to bring up the basics for our consideration.

Ahem…  I believe I brought up “the basics” when the building was first announced right here on TMO.


I’m not sure Apple really has a problem selling Macs.  If you look at their market share growth in laptops, seems that they’re on a fine year over year trajectory.

A lot of people assume that Apple could sell more Macs if they lowered the price.  Well that’s just half the equation, the demand side half, the part that everyone sees.

The other half of the equation however is the part that only Apple insiders see. It’s a supply side issue:  Apple might very well be able to sell more Macs but can they build enough of them?  This is critical.  Maybe Apple doesn’t want to ramp up production too fast because it might cause their product quality to plummet?  Maybe Apple doesn’t want to ramp up too fast because their support infrastructure cannot handle the increased unit sales?  (Remember Apple tech support is heads and shoulders above everyones else’s and probably a lot harder to expand really fast.)

There is no way you can evaluate whether Apple is pricing too high for their own good unless you look at both the demand and supply sides of their business.



Regarding Apple selling more Macs: Computers, for the most part, aren’t consumer electronic devices in the same way as are cellphones and tablets, two areas where Apple is doing extremely well. Instead, computers are often just another type of office equipment, with purchasing decisions being made by corporate IT departments.

Corporate IT departments are usually Windows-certified, Windows-centric, and Mac/Apple hostile. So long as they control the purchase of computers—and I’d love to see specs on the total number of computers purchased by IT departments versus consumers—the Mac’s market share will never come close to that of Windows, regardless of price.

I believe Apple knows this, and I believe that’s why they embrace the high end of “consumer computers”—computers bought by consumers for personal use. That’s where they know they can compete, and sell the kind of product that makes them proud. The commodity PCs purchased by IT departments? Apple has chosen not to even attempt to compete there, market share be damned. So unless the “consumerization of IT” spills over from smartphones and tablets into computers as well, I don’t forsee any massive market share gains for the Mac ever happening.

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