Apple Should Stay the Mac Course

Some call for Apple to choose between PC and consumer electronics markets for its future. Could the company's record of making quality hardware and software be held against it?

Before I begin what will undoubtedly sound like another one of those Mac-o-phile rants in defense against anti-Apple sacrilege, let me first make full disclosure. I am, generally speaking, operating system- and processor-agnostic. Ive seen many who dedicated their careers to a specific technology base wind their way to obscurity and underemployment. For example, you dont see too many OS/2 columnists around these days.

At the same time, I am also a command-line geek. In the early 90s, I was writing complex software distribution and system configuration routines in DOS batch script. I installed WordPerfect 2.0 for SCO Unix/386 at a Baltimore law firm and taught a paralegal the secret wonders of chmod.

So, when I say that I think that Jim Louderback and Rob Enderle have entered some reality-distortion field of their own making on the topic of Apples viability on the desktop, its not the ravings of some Cupertino-is-Mecca crackpot. Not at all. When I say that theyve taken leave of their senses, I say it out of respect and admiration for their otherwise flawless logic.

But theyve both clearly taken leave of their senses when it comes to Apple.

Louderback says that "Apple has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dominate the emerging convergence world. But its legacy operations are dragging it down. Kill the computers, Steve, and embrace the home."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more of Jim Louderbacks "Apple: Get Out of Desktops" column.

This thesis on Apple is flawed in one simple way—Louderback believes that success as a "media center" means abandoning the desktop. The digital hub doesnt have to live in the living room, and theres little evidence that people actually want it there. Home networking technology will be integrated into consumer electronics devices easily enough without needing to make the PC another component of the entertainment center.

Meanwhile, Rob Enderle points to Apples declining market share. "The PC market is growing at a rate of between 16 and 20 percent, but Apple is growing its PC business at only a 5 percent clip. This means Apple is still dropping market share at a rapid pace," he says.

Enderle continues with the stats: "On the other hand, the MP3 player market is growing at a whopping 85 to 90 percent pace. Apples growth in that market is an almost unbelievable 900 percent, currently accounting for much of the companys profit and revenue growth."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more of Rob Enderles "Should Apple Get Out of the PC Business?" column.

Well, theres more to being successful than market share, as Bill Ford finally figured out—you have to be profitable, too. Simply jockeying for market share means forgetting about things like sustainable quality.

Next Page: Apples problem? Hardware thats too good.