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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Mac Pro Dream Wish List (2012)

Posted by mitch on February 28, 2012

Apple hasn’t updated the Mac Pro for almost 600 days. My 2008 Mac Pro is 1500 days old. I’ve been holding out for a new model; the wait has gotten so long I’ve even pondered whether just buying a second 15″ MBP would be an OK way to go.

Here’s what I’d like in a new Mac Pro offering:

  • New form factor; no taller (wider) than 3U. The case should fit into 3U of rack space, even if it doesn’t come with rack ears.
  • Eight 2.5″ HD bays for internal storage.
  • Nuke the optical drives.
  • Redundant power supplies (two would suffice, as long as the computer can run on one).
  • RAM ceiling increase; at least 128 GB; 256 GB would be better.
  • Four PCIe slots with two double-wide slots.
  • Better video cards; support two 4 GB cards; four displays per card.
  • Two copper 10gigE ports.
  • 16 cores at the high end.

The physical changes are easy: By nuking the optical drives, there is room for 6-8 2.5″ bays (on their side) in front of the power supply. By nuking the 3.5″ carriers, the case can lose about 1.25″, which is enough to drop the height under 19″, which gets rack-friendly. That still leaves the thickness problem–the Mac Pro is currently 8″ wide, but 3U is 5.25″ and 4U is 7″. Perhaps getting to 3U is too aggressive without adding depth to the case–30″ depth would be fine for racks but not as friendly for desktop use.

I really want to see Apple start shipping 10gigE. The price is getting cheaper; switches from NetGear with four 10gigE ports and 20 gigabit ports were around $1,500 last I checked. Apple can help drive the price down rapidly.

Somewhere around $12k nicely equipped (e.g., 8×512 GB SSDs, 96 gb of RAM, 8 cores, one 4 GB video card) would be great. You’ll note I didn’t mention anything about Thunderbolt; I just don’t care about Thunderbolt in a desktop system.

No, I don’t expect Apple to ship this any time soon, but man I’d really like to have this system.

Running low on my 32 GB Mac Pro.

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