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Friday, April 07, 2006

Apple BOOT CAMP - Future Software? Who Needs It?

Yes, no one really knows what's going to happen in regards to developers and Mac apps going forward but here are some things to consider:

"AVERAGE" CONSUMERS - For most consumers, they are pretty much covered with iLife, Safari, Mail & Front Row. You have Dashboard to add nearly any little add-on feature & functionality you want. Most are free or cost no more than $20. They will probably buy a few utilities - which pretty much has to be OS specific for virii, file management, and repairs. We are seeing more and more apps that run on the web itself - of course, there is WRITELY, you can fax online (or use the built in OSX feature), and even do your taxes online now. Clearly the trend is moving many apps online to use temporarily or pay-as-you-go, even MS is talking about offering that functionality because honestly, most people do not need much more word processing functionality beyond tabbing, making things bold and spell checking.

The big category is of course, GAMES. Let's face facts. Even if Macs got to a 25% market share for consumers, most game programmers still have to re-learn how to program for a Mac (versus using MS's components/ graphics/rendering tools, etc ...) and the fact, PC games are a shrinking market so they are clearly going to chase those remaining dollars and not worry about writing to the Mac audience - an audience that is also much pickier and stringent about user interface guidelines - while PC gamers will accept any interface as long as they start playing the game, a port of a game to a Mac not only has to play well, but the game must look & feel like a Mac app - otherwise, it's dead. And of course, once PS3 and Nintendo's Revolution comes out, how much more processing power does a PC offer over those games? MS makes more money from selling Xbox games (they get a % of every Xbox game sold whether it's from MS or not) and ZERO from PC games they did not create themselves so MS has an incentive to make sure the best play is from an Xbox game and not XP/Vista.

Of course, most games not only offer an online component, quite a few games are really just online - especially the MMP games - once you are online, it hardly what OS you are running as long as you have a large screen and in most cases, a fast computer - as quite a few real world examples can attest, the Intel Macs seem to run some PC games faster under Dual Boot versus an Intel Pc just running XP (with the same Intel processor - of course, a true desktop Intel Mac is not out yet). The pattern was quite clear - while a few heavyweight games were ported to the Mac, some were always a few months behind the PC versions or in some cases, years behind ... Or there simply wasn't a Mac version - yes, the best solution would've been to get a Mac port but you can't bend everybody's will - it is better for Apple to sell Macs by being able to gather in online PC gamers who might consider a Mac now that they can hop right online and pick up right where they left off?

Does this hurt future Mac ports? Yes. But isn't that the direction of the industry anyway? To move most everything online or to consoles?  Once virtualization is presumably added to 10.5 (LEOPARD), won’t it feel pretty seamless and feel Mac-like with Finder bar, your itunes playing, a dashboard widget up and playing a “PC-game” on the left side?

Again, just for ‘average’ consumers, isn’t Apple counting on them to use OSX, to use iLife and be hooked so they’ll spend more time there? These new Mac users will clamor for more Mac-like apps so they don’t have to launch the XP virtualization?

Aren’t the tools that Apple provides now and the framework of OSX pretty good so that we are getting some amazing “small-shop” apps like DELICIOUS, CARBON COPY CLONER or MAC THE RIPPER (just to name 3)? Why would these smaller developers change? Why would they stop developing for Macs? Isn’t the audience growing ever larger and presumably ever larger with the addition of quasi-switchers? If you look at overall personal computer app development in the past 2-3 years, what are some of the new & innovative apps? Are we missing anything on the Mac side? Or is the PC side pretty stagnant? Look at the widgets on the Mac side and the PC side – there is no comparison. The Mac side is clearly the showcase side for developers – with the broad acceptance of the internet, there’s no real need to find a publisher. You just do it. Post it. Get feedback and either keep it small and compact to do one thing – and one thing great – or keep it growing larger. That’s not going to change in the next few years. For consumer-oriented second tier publishers like Symantec or Intuit who seem to losing interest in the Mac, the reality is that it hardly matters – Norton Utilities has been nicely replaced by Micromat or ProSoft’s products – with internet distribution, with online stores – you don’t need to be a major player to get sales – you just need to develop a quality product.

“ADVANCED USERS” - This is of course the more difficult question. MS is actual more straightforward. Since they make more per sale at Mac Office (PC Office is discounted heavily and bundled with computers or maintenance contracts), there’s no real reason to stop selling it. They have pretty much developed 99.99% of all the features it’s ever going to get and if we truly move to the web based apps, it won’t matter at all. People using Excel are not going to switch anyway and of course, the rumor of APPLE’s mysterious NUMBERS app is that it’s a spreadsheet if MS every stops selling Excel but really – it’s a spreadsheet – yawn. Same thing with PowerPoint. It’s really more perception than anything else. By using your mail app & its spell checker, you are pretty much using 90% of the features most people use in WORD anyway. Even it’s specialty functions are replicated with a widget like envelope or label printing. The bigger question is ADOBE now with DreamWeaver, PhotoShop, InDesign, etc ... Adobe seems to have never gotten over Apple trying to dump Postscript as a page description language in Apple’s laserprinters and on-screen display years and years ago ... And Apple crushing Premiere with iMovie & at the high end with FCP didn’t help Adobe’s lingering bitterness. Never mind that Adobe neglected Premiere and told the guy who developed an all new easy to use movie editing app to take a hike ... Which he did to Apple who later called it iMovie. If given a choice, I honestly believe Adobe would prefer not to have to develop any apps for the Mac and probably don’t understand why Mac users are so damn loyalty and vocal. That I think is the only reason Adobe will not stop development for most apps on the Mac – they are really not that large ($2 Billion in sales) so they cannot afford to tick off Mac users (well, anymore than they already have). Apple adding dual booting should put a halt to any companies who try to yank out Macs in their creative departments ... The cold dead hands, prying thing certainly applies here ... And of course, APERATURE is about 2 upgrades from matching the functions that most people use in PhotoShop. Don’t get me wrong – PhotoShop is still a world class app and unlike Word or Excel, hard to make a web app but its base of users is not going to substantially increase – as Picasa, iPhoto ,etc ... Have taken away any chance of it ever becoming more popular (and of course, Elements from Adobe themselves). So, why would Adobe go out of its way to antagonize its strident, vocal and willing to take the streets Mac users? It probably isn’t – at least not for years and years to come ... And by then, Apple & Mac users may not care ... Maybe it’s GIMP, maybe it’s yet another secret Apple app but for the foreseeable future (two years), nothing should change much. The Adobe apps not available on the Mac will still not be available but the others, they’ll still be available. What’s true of second tier consumer apps is also true of smaller high-end/enterprise or IT apps – the users are willing to pay the price for the apps they want to use in the OS format they prefer – from FileMaker to Chronos to BBEdit, that won’t change very much.

So, while change and the unknown easily startles some people – the market and user situation is that the software retail hegemony era is already over.

  1. With Apple (and MS) providing a lot of apps onboard, a lot of categories have simply diminished already.
  2. With the ease of establishing a new software brand online through downloads and perhaps eventually through online retailers, the users and reviews are your advertising and channel distribution.
  3. With the cost of storage dropping, you have “online” apps like FLICKR, YOUTUBE, GMAIL (and dozens of others) that serve as a part of your desktop – and with you being online always – feels just like another HDD.
  4. Even the growing power of console tends to diminish the importance of the ‘games’ factor.
  5. We live in the ‘hacker’ era – if you don’t provide the solution, somebody somewhere will. It might be a teenage boy, it might be 3 people who quit to form their own company or it might even be someone like Apple who drops a hack like BOOT CAMP :-)

Will there be some old-time Mac developer that folds up shop or moves to the Windows side? Sure but just as there will be some Windows developers suddenly get emails and cries for a “Mac” version and now that they both are are running on the same chips - their excuses will only sound flimsier – and more importantly – if you fail to deliver what people want – people will simply write their own and post it – others will improve and pretty soon you have the equivalent for free or at a very low cost that’s sometimes way better than the retail version. Yes, I know some people jump at any change and think of the worst case scenario and yes it will be different but the past is the past anyway. Who knows what the future will bring but it won’t be dull – that’s for sure.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Apple BOOT CAMP - Winners & Losers

It’s hardly ever boring in the new Mac-age we all live now.

WINNERS – Through 2006

Apple OSX Marketing – of course, there’s only so much convincing you can do in getting switchers. The Mac Mini was a nice start. Buy a Mac Mini, plug in the mouse, keyboard & monitor you’re already using – you have a Mac. That was nice but people are set in their ways. Okay then, how about this new feature? How about being able to load that other OS used by hundred of millions of people. In theory, if you hate the Mac OS after using it for a while, just use the Windows XP portion. Obviously Apple is not going to spell that out but people can connect the dots ... Of course, Apple is figuring most people will realize the conclusion they draw after connecting the dots is that OSX is just a wee bit nicer of an OS. In fact, I’ll bet you by this weekend, there are a thousand PC users who rushed out to buy a MacProBook to test out – and be STUNNED that after a few clicks, the mac installer has partitioned their drive and guided them through to installing and installed WinXP with hardly a hiccup ... And with nary a guy flinging folders across the screen ... Or a dancing paperclip.

Apple OSX Hardware – whether it’s true or not – the perception is that you’ve suddenly doubled the ‘value’ of the Mac personal computer. It’s like the PS2 being able to play PS1 games – doesn’t matter that 90% of people sold off their old PS1 games, the fact that you have that option and none of Apple’ competitors can offer that appeals to a great many people (since most individuals loading Linux do not “buy it,” it doesn’t count as a direct competitor). Now, does this mean people who are buying $399 are going to buying Macs in droves? No, but if your budget is $1,500 or $2,000 for a PC – only the most rabid anti-Mac user is going to not consider the Mac. I don’t think there will be a massive shift but there aren’t many PC users who don’t glance over at the Mac and wish they could have that build quality and style on the PC side – again, the perception is that it’s a no-lose scenario. They can use most if not all their old software and the OS they know and maybe they’ll “never” use the OSX ... Well, maybe I’ll just see what the fuss is all about with iPhoto ... Or iMovie or GarageBand ... Humm, this Spotlight thing seems tow work spookily well or this Expose thing ... I keep pressing the same F-Key in WinXP but nothing is happening!

Apple – okay, d’uh on this one. It further cements their reputation with the tech geeks. There is only one company pushing the envelope.

Microsoft XP Retail Sales – yea okay, d’uh on this one also. Though the retail marketing alternative channels is going to have to suddenly put down the pool cues and have to work overtime up with POP along the lines of, “Um, Now for your Mac, Windows XP! (No, Really!)”

LOSERS – Through 2006

PC Makers – First, they have no VISTA to sell this sell this Christmas but they did get a crapload of stickers from Microsoft that reads VISTA CAPABLE or VISTA READY ... Because the first thing all PC’s need are a few more stickers on the case or the trackpad. AND NOW THIS. But their pain won’t be evenly divided. DELL probably won’t feel much of an effect since 98% of their buyers are corporate or agency buyers who are just shopping by price. These are companies or gov’t agencies who just need to put X number of PC’s on X number of desks and the capital goods budget is all about the most for the least – never mind TCO or anything else – that’s not their budget. HP will probably feel a little more but not much more. Both Dell & HP have plenty of enterprise sales & support to grind away. Many people advocate that Apple goes hard & heavy into the enterprise market but frankly, it takes a lot of work and staffing and frankly, it goes against Apple’ philosophy. The philosophy that – hey, we make a great product. If you want it – buy it – if you don’t – well, that’s your loss. Yes, Apple is giving up sales but it also takes a lot of work to get to a point where you have a well-oiled selling machine and Apple is smart to stick to the server end. Gateway probably won’t feel that much of an affect as long as they can go on selling sub $600 machines and continue as an on-going business because above that – even their skinflint customers are going to look at the their 1987 plastic PC cases and notice that for $100 to $300 more, they can have a PC that runs OSX & WinXP – let’s them use their old software and looks just a tad better ... The Pc makers that will actually be hurt most are those in the $1,200 to $2,500 range. For individuals given a choice of spending $2,500 – you want a PC that looks pretty much like the $399 PC or would you want a computer that looks like the G5? (my guess is the Mac Intel desktops are not going to look like crap ...) AND of course, only an Apple Mac gives you two (or more Oses) to run. While this will appeal somewhat to enterprise buyers, their main focus is still the bottom line but for individuals or departments that have more say over their choice of computers – and while not everyone is clearly going to choose a Mac – they are now in that ballgame. This will hurt Sony, Toshiba and many others.

LOSERS – Through 2007

Microsoft Vista – Enterprise/corporate buyers has already said announced that VISTA is on a slow rollout path. After 4 years, there are still some 45% of enterprise who have not upgraded to XP so this will slow down the upgrade path even more. For the people who switched over, why bother upgrading – they have all the advanced features AND they can run all their old software? What more do they need from VISTA? Wonkiness and patches for 11 months –um, no thanks. Will Mac’s LEOPARD spotlight include the XP partition? Probably. Will LEOPARD have virtualization or offer file access across partitions? I wouldn’t bet against it. So, while they’ll eventually get around to upgrading to VISTA, no reason to hurry. After all. VISTA 2.0 might actually offer all the features stripped out this year ... Features they will have been using all along in OSX ... Maybe the switch will be complete.


Software Makers – This is an interesting one. For companies without Mac versions, they should see some increased sales – probably the best example is AUTOCAD or games but while others are quick to say that Mac software makers will just issue PC versions going forward – even if they do so, they’ll have to come back around. Once people have expectations of how software should install and work from using OSX, they will expect the same from their PC installers ... And since they are writing apps for the Intel chip anyway ... Many will probably start offering a dual installer and let people choose the one they prefer or people will want/demand that ... My belief is that people will gravitate towards using the Mac OS as their main one and use VISTA like 2nd gear, using that only when they are traversing down a hill so people will demand Mac versions and as the audience/users grow ... Their voices will grow louder – as Mac users tend to grow :-)

And let this be a lesson to all things who prefer a simple life where history repeats itself ... It’s a complicated and chaotic world now ... Certainly not for Steve Jobs and Apple ... It will be interesting to see who can keep up ...