Is Apple losing the ‘influencer’ battle?

Anthony Caruana
23 May, 2017
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One of the perks of my job is the opportunity to travel and meet and work with interesting people. Last week, I was a guest at a conference run by a company called Veeam (in New Orleans). Its focus was on backup, recovery and system availability for companies running virtualisation and cloud software.

For most of the last decade, one the one things that has stood out is the number of journalists using Macs. Given that Apple boasts less than 10 percent of global PC sales according to market research company IDC, the Mac is well and truly over-represented in the press-rooms I frequent across the world. But that seems to be changing.

The press-room I am sitting in now has 12 tables, each with five or so people sitting and working. There are perhaps five Macs in the room and a couple of iPads. Everyone else is running a Windows PC with the vast majority using Windows 10, and at least half the room has a computer with a touchscreen.

Technology journalists aren’t always representative of the broader community. We get access to the latest technology and can call on vendor experts when we hit difficulty. But what I’ve observed over the last few months is a turning of the tide. More journalists are turning away from their Macs and prefer using Windows.

I think there are a few reasons for this.

Apple’s hardware advantage has been diminished. It set the bar for exceptional build quality and the Windows market has responded with some very nice hardware.

One the software side, Microsoft has managed to create a very consistent experience for those flicking between desktops, notebooks and tablets. On the other hand, Apple’s approach of splitting iOS and macOS results in users needing to change how they work when they move between devices.

For those who only use one computer it’s not a big deal, but as someone who travels extensively and has a desktop Mac for the office, I find it jarring when something I do with an app on one device doesn’t work the same way on another device.

Then there’s the question of choice. Apple’s product strategy has always been based around a limited number of options. Remember Steve Jobs’ famous product strategy? Two types of computer (pro and consumer) and two form factors (desktop and laptop) giving rise to four distinct categories. That has expanded over recent years but it’s still nowhere near what you can find on the Windows side of town.

With Windows, I can spend between $350 to $4000 on a computer with screen sizes between 11 inches all the way up to over 30 inches in size. I can choose a case in almost any colour, made from a variety of materials and, in many instances, I can elect to have a touchscreen.

Apple’s biggest advantage has always been the fusion between hardware and software. Because it controls the ‘whole widget’ it can ensure things are optimised to work together. Microsoft has done a lot of work to educate computer manufacturers so that they make their computers more reliable and less dependent on the drivers that control how various hardware components work.

I think many of these factors are coalescing and people who rely on their computers for their livelihood are starting to take notice. As a result, more of them are shifting towards Windows systems.

Journalists are considered ‘influencers’ by the public relations industry. And many PR agencies engaged by computer manufacturers are working hard to change the perception that journalists bought Macs because they ‘just work’. I wonder if what I’m seeing in the press-room this week is indicative of what’s coming next for the Mac.

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