Macs, everywhere

Mystery Writer
9 October, 2009
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With all the hype around the iPhone, it’s important not to forget that Apple continues to have a strong business designing, manufacturing and selling a popular line of computers known as the Mac.

It’s easy to get sidetracked, I know. Talking about iPhones is sexy, there’s a new ‘must-have’ app each week, and well, Apple are selling them by the bucket load.

But lets not forget that the Mac really made a name for Apple, and like it or not, it’s still of great strategic value and will continue to be in the medium term. Apple’s line-up of portables and desktops has never been stronger, from the monster Mac Pro with 16 cores of processing power to the budget Mac Mini.

According to a recent report from NPD, 91 percent of all computers sold at US retail for more than US$1000 were Macs.
That’s up from 66 percent a year ago, and even marks a slight increase from the 88 percent in May.

If you don’t trust NPD data then look to Apple’s own books for the information. In its most recent earnings call Apple confirmed that it sold 13 percent more Macs during April, May and June of this year than the same period a year ago, despite the down economy.

Anecdotally I see Macs everywhere. I’m sure you do to. It’s not just in the homes of family and friends but in cafes, office buildings and schools. A few years back, it used to be hard to convince someone to buy a Mac, now it’s easy.

So what’s behind this shift to the Mac?

The first reason is the iPhone/iPod effect. Both products are now so entrenched in the consumer’s psyche that the Apple brand touches nearly everyone, in a positive way. I believe this ‘halo-effect’ directly translates to sales of Macs when consumers are ready to buy a new computer. I know it has for a number of my friends and family who have been impressed with their iPhones and decided on a Mac for their next computer.

When consumers are ready to buy a Mac they can find them just about anywhere. No longer are Macs just available from Apple centres. There are hundreds of suppliers around the country and online ready to sell you a Mac. In Victoria, NSW and Queensland there are also dedicated Apple Stores in high-trafficked shopping centres.

If you’ve visited one you’ll understand that consumers love them, and a recent article from Bloomberg says that the flagship Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York is now the highest grossing retailer on the strip.

The second reason is the Internet, the great platform leveller. More and more services are moving to the web and therefore becoming platform independent. The Internet is slowly undoing the lock-in that Microsoft created. Now, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on a Mac or a PC; you can do it all from a browser. If you’re still not sure about this just look to Microsoft, who just recently announced they’d make a version of Office available via the browser in a move that lets them compete with Google Docs, the most popular cloud-based office suite.

Even if the platform is still an issue for some users who require legacy support for older applications, buying a Mac is now a low-risk option thanks to Boot Camp, Parallels and VMWare. All of these products give potential Mac buyers the confidence that if it all goes wrong they can always run Windows and use their old programs without problem. Ironically, installing Windows on a Mac is not easier than installing Windows on a PC.

And finally it comes down to the hardware and software – the absence of viruses, spyware and bloatware and the inclusion of great free software like iPhoto, Garageband and iMovie. The hardware looks great, works well and, when compared to a comparable PC brand like HP, costs about the same – and in many cases less when you add in the overhead costs of running a PC. Another killer punch is Snow Leopard and Exchange support which means Macs can plug in to Microsoft Exchange networks out of the box, something a PC can’t even do.

This confluence of reasons is causing a tidal wave and Mac sales are now at the tipping point. In fact, they’ve already tipped at the high end of the market, but what’s left is for more businesses to consider Macs as PC replacements.

Look no further than Snow Leopard to help usher in this change. Snow Leopard is stable, mature and comes with free Exchange support; a significant cost saving for organisations that rely on Microsoft Exchange.

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