Monthly Archives: July 2012

Who Eliminated the Windows Advantage?

Posted by mitch on July 08, 2012

Much has been written about the new numbers on Apple’s accelerating market share against Windows in the last few weeks. The Business Insider article giving Apple all the credit for making this happen made me wonder–Is it really only Apple who should get credit?

Certainly Apple has done a few things that have enabled its position in the market beyond simple iPod/iPhone/iPad halo:

  1. Moving to Intel. This enabled fast virtualization to come to the Mac vs the old x86 emulation software or weird boards to add x86 processors to the Mac. This meant anyone could run Windows on a Mac for the cost of Windows + $50 for VMware Fusion, or dual boot if running OS X wasn’t in the cards. This reduced cost and risk for folks who wanted to make the switch. Moving to Intel also enabled some of the focused word on smaller machines, such as the Air. I can’t imagine IBM or Motorola spending the R&D dollars to develop PowerPC chips of sufficient caliber and thermal characteristics for a MacBook Air; they didn’t even have the business justification (or technology) for a PowerBook G5.
  2. Building the best hardware and doing it at a ridiculously good price. Remember when laptops like the 11” Air were premium products for executives and no one else? Now the 11” notebook is the 2nd cheapest Mac.
  3. Great marketing. The Mac vs PC commercials are accessible to anyone. Changing the game from a geeky-specification driven purchase to actual objectives or, as was the original vision, an appliance purchase.

But more broadly, applications have changed:

  1. Web-based email. Whether you use web-based email at work or not, many folks use web-based email at home. With Google Apps, lots of businesses can avoid Exchange mess. When my company was bought last year, I had to migrate from Google Apps to Outlook. It really sucked. I’m glad to be using Google Apps again.
  2. Web-based applications are big in business as well. Salesforce and plenty of other vendors provide serious apps for business. I worked at a Fortune 500 a dozen years ago where every engineer had a Sun workstation on their desk for minimally one reason: Access to the bug system. Can you imagine? A $25,000 piece of hardware just to use one proprietary tool that didn’t need Sun performance or really anything else that Sun was providing? Every engineer had a Windows system as well for Outlook and the requirements-tracking software too. It was an expensive operation.
  3. I can’t tell whether or not the Microsoft anti-trust settlement helped with some of the progress we’ve seen. Samba works with Active Directory, finally (though it didn’t until 2003); there’s many client and server implementations of Exchange (which is part of what enables Google Apps, Zimbra, perhaps also Apple Mail to play in an Exchange world?). Bruce Perens wasn’t excited back in 2002, but I don’t know what his perspective now would be.

These influences, in addition to the incredible excitement that Apple has built around first the iPod and later the iPhone and iPad, have enabled Apple to get to where it is today. I don’t think the halo effect, without the above, would have been enough.

I’m sure I missed plenty of influences. What do you think?

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