iPhone and the Mac’s Slow Slog Towards iDeath

by Chris Seibold Jan 25, 2007

Wishing to learn more about his chosen business, Hiroshi Yamauchi braved the perils of intercontinental travel to visit the home of the world’s largest manufacturer of easily randomized two-dimensional representative cardboard. Perhaps expecting a huge manufacturing facility, Mr. Yamauchi was disappointed to discover that America’s largest manufacturer of playing cards occupied a single office, and a small one at that. It didn’t take long for Mr. Yamauchi to realize that even if his company came to dominate the playing card market, they wouldn’t exactly be major industrialists. Which explains why Nintendo gave up making playing cards, but can also tell us something about the future of Apple.

Apple, everyone will recall, changed names from the informative but increasingly inaccurate “Apple Computer” to the accurate but completely unrevealing “Apple.” The quick reaction was, “Omigod, Apple is giving up on computers.” A notion that was immediately countered by Apple Exec Phil Schiller who said, “We sell Macintoshes and will continue to do so and are very happy with that business.” Thank goodness for that.

Or maybe not, as the Mac hasn’t always been a cash machine for Apple. A lot of folks remember the mid-nineties when Apple was burning through cash like a dot com era online pet store. Judging by Mr. Schiller’s statement, should Vista or Linux suddenly start a Windows 95 style beat down on OS X, the faithful will suddenly undergo a quick transformation from an active OS X user to a person who remembered when Apple made home computers. 

How likely is that scenario? Vista is finally here and people are running OS X on generic PCs with the help of virtualization products, so it is easy to imagine that the days of the Mac are short indeed. While that conclusion is seemingly logical, it is also erroneous. The surprise with the switch to Intel wasn’t that people didn’t want to run OS X on generic hardware, but how badly people wanted run Windows on Mac hardware. Keeping the lessons of the last year in mind, it is obvious that people want the Mac experience, they want supposedly overpriced laptops, they want the aura of cool that surrounds Mac users, they want the image of being someone with enough disposable income that they can afford a Mac, and they want the whole Mac package, but they want it with a side of Windows.

The Mac is safe from the effects of the “cheapest possible computer” syndrome. What the Mac isn’t safe from is Apple and the biggest threat to the platform since Sun was poised to buy the entire company: the iPhone. Apple’s goal for the iPhone is a seemingly underwhelming 1% of the cell phone market. That unimpressive number becomes a very tough target to hit when it is recast in terms of smartphones only. The truth is that Apple isn’t competing in the smartphone or the regular cell phone market. Apple is competing in the “phone so cool it will get you laid” market, and while the iPhone may be pricey, it is a ton cheaper than a Ferrari.

In short, the iPhone will do very well, and the better the iPhone does, the worse the news is for the Mac. If Apple hits its sales targets for the iPhone, the profit derived from the Mac segment will be roughly equal to the iPhone segment. If Apple can keep the hype machine running (and if there is one thing Steve Jobs has mastered it is how to push the buttons on the hype machine) for two years the sales could be phenomenal when the iPhone is no longer exclusive to Cingular.*

If the iPhone is a smash hit, a self-perpetuating cycle will be set up. As the profits from the iPhone increase, Apple’s attention will become more squarely focused on the iPhone and the cellular market. The more talented engineers will move to the iPhone and the talents that make the Mac what is will be busy making the iPhone even better. Apple isn’t a company like Honda that

makes a large variety of tenuously connected devices, Apple is a company that believes success comes by maintaining a narrow focus on only the most important aspects of the business. Success of the iPhone could easily change what the company sees as the integral parts of Apple.


  • One aspect of this you forget is that the Mac is the center of what Steve Jobs calls the Digital Hub.  So far, all of Apple’s products revolve around the Mac as that center.  Everything syncs with it, and it can stream content to those products from iTunes.

    Making the iPhone touched a very large part of most of Apple’s different divisions, since it uses a variety of different functions common to the computers.  That synergy is part of what will keep the computer at Apple important, at least until the computer morphs into something different than it is today.

    Which, I think is what Steve has in mind.  In 5 to 10 years, you will not recognize a computer for what it is, compared to computers today.

    rahrens had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 18
  • So far, all of Apple’s products revolve around the Mac as that center.  Everything syncs with it, and it can stream content to those products from iTunes.

    Except that all of those products have no problems syncing with the PC. iTunes runs on Windows. iPod works with Windows. AppleTV will as will the iPhone.

    So it isn’t given that the Mac will be the center of this universe.

    SterlingNorth had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 121
  • The fact is that there is not a short supply of engineers that can make the Mac great. There are plenty of them. The best and the brightest are going to want to work at Apple. What engineer wants to go work on the Dell DJ Ditty? The core of Apple isn’t a product, it’s an idea. Make technology easy to use. That’s why they’ve been able to survive and will always survive. I knew it instinctively in 1987 when I started working on the Plus and it’s been reinforced ever since. Even bad stewardship in the early 90’s couldn’t dilute that promise. Apple does the hard thinking on making things easier to use. Hence the one button mouse. You reap the benefits.

    mcloki had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 25
  • I agree the iPhone will make headway into a market with too many inferior products, but it’s far too early to predict Apple discontinuing the Mac to focus on the iPhone. They could have done that already with the iPod.

    In contrast, the iPod and iPhone are excellent devices because they sync to your primary computer. Sure, someday they’ll do it automagically via the Internet but there’s far more to be done before it’s a reality. It was only in 2006 that Nokia smartphones could upload photos to Flickr. My iTunes and iPhoto libraries are far too large to be hosted online.

    The foreseeable future will see the Mac (and Windows) as the hub for tethered devices. Predicting a 5-10 year demise of the Mac is too far out but as rahrens stated, there’s no question what we think of a computer will change by then. Or not.

    Since we’re throwing out predictions, I’ll predict that Microsoft never releases another version of Windows and in fact, they have (and currently are) developing the Xbox 360 into an entertainment appliance that’s easier to use and maintain than Windows will ever be. In 10 years we’ll see MS maintaining Windows for businesses while their consumer division focusses on the Xbox. Meanwhile, Mac becomes a bigger player in the consumer market and die-hard techies devote themselves to Linux.

    The ability to run OS X in a Windows VM is compelling for PC users that want the Mac experience without the headaches of Windows. I did that way back when with an Atari 520ST and the MagicSac - all the Mac goodness less the Mac price.

    I don’t believe Windows users are truly in love with Windows, they’ve been conditioned to think so. Anything else is (rather, was) incompatible and simply unspeakable. Those days are long gone but the stereotype remains.

    As for the cost of Mac goods? That stereotype needs to change as well. The “premium” to own a Mac is much less today, it’s only because you can buy a PC for $100 with a two-year subscription to AOL that the “Mac’s are more expensive” myth lives on.

    Eric Brodeur had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 23
  • The price war between Mac’s and PC’s is OVER! As Microsoft trys to emulate OS X more and more the hardware requirements go through the roof which means, and it doesn’t take a complete moroon to understand this one, the cost of the hardware goes up as well. So COMPARE IT SIMPLY, Vista to OS X and compare machines that can do equal work, not equal specs.

    Take Linux vs. Windows for example. Linux rules the server market for most, as does BSD (hey that’s the heart of OS X too) and why do they rule? Because Servers are supposed to do ALOT of work for the units connected to it. They must have uptime better than or equal to a rolex watch. And they need to do the work of thousands with only one OS. Windows CAN NOT DO THIS ON ANY SCALE I don’t care how crazy you are. You cannot connect 1000 users to an SQL database running Windows on a PIII like you can running Linux. The operating system is FAR MORE EFFECIENT!

    Same goes with the Mac OS X. There’s no Backwards compatibility to inferior applications that cause nothing but problems. Also you have NTFS which is past it’s prime by years. HFS+ is still better and ZFS sounds to be very promissing in it’s allotment of LARGE file sizes and cluster sections etc. So the OS X only has to support applications that are designed to run on it, not apps designed to run on old DOS based systems from… YES 1982!

    So in OS X we have less code to load, less overhead to deal with. Thus we have a faster and spirited operating enviroment. We can throw Windows on it through VM and it’s FINE.

    You want the OS X expereince? Buy a mac. You want to deal with more headaches than a migrane doctor? Buy windows. The “it works on a pc too” is so Apple can garner more customers thus garner more attention. Think about it this way, if everything you use is made by Apple. And they make computers. And your tired of having to re-load your OS, reinstall drivers, update drivers, make this work with that but all the time everything Apple works perfectly together what they hell are you gonna think?

    Windows users are simply ignorant to Macs and the OS X enviroment. They know there expensive but what do you can expensive? The time missed with my family reinstalling this or that is priceless to me. I also like to sleep at night. YOU CAN’T DO THAT WITH WINDOWS as your dominat computer experience, YOU CAN’T!

    It’s rediculous to think 5 min bootups and taking nearly a min to load IE6 on a 1 year old PC is Normal and Fine. Bullshit.

    You think the Macs are gonna die? I beleive your going to see a SURGE in sales as the word spreads how much easier to use, faster, and far more effecient these machines are when compared to Window machines.

    It’s going to take 3 things to jump the Mac usage. 1) Enterprise support. 2) Word of mouth from converts. 3) Distribution and education of the channel partners.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Not like I NEED to add but… Apple is HIRING MORE PEOPLE to take on the iPhone project, not diverting resources. The iPhone will attract attention to the Macs.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Yawn. YAWN. The next time I hear that people actually want Windows to run on their Macs I will just leave. It might serve some uneasy switchers, but once they unpack the Mac I doubt that many folks actually ever install or use it to really run Windows. The Net is likely to distort reality in a major way. The “and it runs Windows” thing got juge coverage, and every self-respecting geek wants to fiddle with it, yet this is not the majority of buyers. It’s like the swimming vest under your seat. It eases your mind even on a cross-continent flight, yet you will likely never need it as the plane flies pretty well.

    The other way around is much more interesting, OS X on non-Apple hardware. Apple decided to ignore certain markets (say..ultraportables) at the moment. I would love to have a really small & light notebook, but I do not want it enough to bear Windows or introduce myself to Linux.

    And for the iPhone… am I so sick of all these portentous articles. I’m on the Mac for nine years now, and those calls will seemingly never end. Either it is the whole of Apple, or the Mac, or the iPod, or OS X… GOING DOWN TOMORROW, OMG!
    Bah. The Mac is around since 1984. It changed a lot, but it is still there. For a reason. And whenever Apple comes up with a new product it always adds to the improvement of the Mac experience, which is controlled A-Z.

    So PLEASE, writers, find something else to agonize about. There is so much choice out there.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 371
  • I watched the OS X State of the Union thingy from itunes the other day. The attention they’ve paid to improving the developer experience, to improving the platform, is deeply impressive. Because platforms are important, one thing is clear to me. However exciting the iPhone is, the Mac is far more exciting.

    It is, actually, more exciting than it has ever been, because thanks to the combination of managementand world-class engineers at apple, the Mac is not only in many senses far better now than its immediate competition, but it is improving at a rate higher, and more evenly high, than it ever has. Specifically, Apple is increasingly managing to utilise and combine the powers of open source and proprietary development to achieve a level of intra- and inter-platform integration that is exceptionally high and getting higher.

    I disagree with Chris’s last paragraph, not because I think the iPhone won’t be a success: it will. But it won’t be a success forever. Where the iPhone treads, others will follow. High quality consumer electronic devices like the iPhone will likely serve to invigorate the industry and restore competition in areas that matter - usability rather than feature-set-on-paper.

    In the long term, other companies than apple must learn how to develop technologies to produce good products. Because they must, they will. And when that happens, when the iPhone falls, I will, probably literally, be dancing with glee.


    Benji had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 927
  • This years Keynote was all about the Mac, even if it was never mentioned.  Apple is taking the “Mac” - a computer - and distributing the pieces throughout the home in appropriate ways.  Your “monitor” is now any TV in the house with Apple TV connected.  Your giant terabyte disc array is plugged in to your wireless router and both are sitting in a closet somewhere so you don’t have to hear exhaust fans.  Your input device is either your iPhone or a similiar touch-device.

    The Mac is not is not dead, it is morphing in to the computer of the 21st century.  Gone are the days of the “computer room”.  It is now everywhere , even in your pocket.

    BergenDog had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 18
  • Let me see if I’ve got this straight.  The Mac is going away and the iPod’s and iPhones of the world are going to be left dependent on Windows in order for us to communicate with them?  What’s wrong with this picture?

    rich58b had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 1
  • One aspect of this you forget is that the Mac is the center of what Steve Jobs calls the Digital Hub.

    And one thing you forget is that Steve Jobs will literally say ANYTHING to get you to buy the product he’s holding in his hand at that particular moment.  And shifting gears and changing his mind are not unprecedented.

    That’s not to say that Apple will ever stop making the Mac, but whatever Jobs says is no proof of anything.

    Frankly, I’d hope that they’d opt to start (finally) licensing the OS before it ever reached that point.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • I also like to sleep at night. YOU CAN’T DO THAT WITH WINDOWS as your dominat computer experience, YOU CAN’T!

    FUD.  Bullshit.  Malarky. 

    You act like you can just make shit up as if no one here has ever actually used Windows before.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Maybe not the way I use it. It’s garbage, trash, not worth the box it comes in.

    53 Certifications including MCSE, MCDBA, MCSA, MCP in NT, 2000, XP, 2003. Every CompTIA certification minus Linux and Home Theater. 18 years of IT work in SMB’s and my last 5 in VERY large organazations. And 3 awards of excellence, 2 in programming and 2 from MS. I also USED to teach classes for Microsoft products some were sponsored by Microsoft.

    Yea, I think I Know what I’m talking about. It’s garbage when you compare it to some of the Latest Linux distro’s, ANY BSD, and Mac OS.

    I could go on, but you’d actually have to know what I’m talking about and how it relates to a system, OS in this case, and it’s usage in daily enviroments.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jan 25, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Yea, I think I Know what I’m talking about.

    Really?  Cause I can actually use my Windows system without it crashing, without reinstalling the OS, or without staying awake all night fixing it, and I didn’t spend one penny or second on certification.

    And yes, I use it every day - mostly for heavy graphics work in AE, Flash, and Photoshop.  Not a problem.

    Maybe you’re just not very good at your job.  I know a lot of users on this site complain quite often about Windows IT guys and how they like to keep Windows systems broken so they can protect their jobs.  And since no one I know has the kind of problems you describe, maybe it’s just you.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 26, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • I appreciate the comments, intersting stuff.
    Most future mided folks will tell you that the desktop is on the way out anyway. That, supposedly, is why Microsoft is so heavily invested in the Xbox.

    It is a constant puzzlement to many tech folks as to why people insist on full blown computers instead say, and connected game machine and a smartphone, when all most folks do is type emails, play games and surf the net. Do you need a Mac for that? Do you even need a “computer”?

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Jan 26, 2007 Posts: 354
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