The Potential Downsides
Wilcox stressed that there are potential downsides for Apple. Though he downplayed any thought of an "Osborne effect" due to Apples announcement of its transition to Intel processors, "the transition isnt an immediate sales problem, but a long-term logistical one," he said. This transition will occur, Wilcox noted, over the same time frame during which Microsoft will be rolling out Vista, its new Windows operating system, some time in 2006. "The challenge for Apple is to make sure developers are on board," Wilcox said, referring to the need for existing Mac software to be at least recompiled to run natively on the upcoming Intel-based Macs.Still, Wilcox said, "I would be surprised if the [Intel] transition has any impact on Mac sales in the short term." "In fact," he said, "the opposite might be the case." "Switcher consumers probably dont know or dont care" about whats inside their computers, Wilcox said. Businesses, he said, want to purchase computers that they can keep in service as long as possible; this, he said, might mean that the "least complicated option would be to buy Macs now rather than being an early adopter [of Intel-based Macs]." And the Mac faithful, he added, may want to buy PowerPC-based Macs now, out of platform loyalty. He qualified his deductions as educated guesses, though. "Its too early to call the numbers," he said. Ted Schadler, a vice president and principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., agreed that it was too early to analyze hard data about sales behavior in response to Apples Intel switch. However, he said, Forrester does have hard numbers showing a rise in Apples market share and installed base, which he attributes at least in part to an iPod halo effect. Forrester surveys between 60,000 and 70,000 U.S. and Canadian households each year, asking them what brand of personal computer they have purchased most recently. (Schadler stressed that this question measures installed base, which, he said, gives a more reliable sense of market penetration than market share.) The survey is done in the January/February time period, after the holiday shopping season. "A little rise in the survey translates into a large rise in sales," Schadler said. The numbers showed Apple moving from a 3.0 to 3.3 percent market share, Schadler said, representing a 10 percent gain. This, Schadler said, was much higher than any other manufacturer and much greater than the industry average. "The iPod halo is very measurable," Schadler said. "Awareness in one product raises awareness of the entire brand," he said, noting that multiple surveys showed many iPod purchasers ended up also buying a first Mac computer. Next Page: Fear of Windows dangers attracts customers to Macs.
Though existing software will run on the new computers through the Rosetta dynamic translation software, Wilcox noted, most developers will still have to update their applications, which could put pressure on companies also trying to deal with supporting a new version of Windows. "For companies with limited resources," Wilcox said, "they have to make a choiceMac OS X for Intel or Windows Vista?"