Apple Adding A Second Button To Laptops? (A lesson in Speculation)

by Chris Seibold Nov 01, 2005

Speculating about the future is a common practice for many people. Stock brokers, gamblers and even outstanding Apple pundits like Jon “Hannibal” Stokes enjoy making predictions. While making predictions can be entertaining the real fun comes when the prediction turns out to be correct. Jon’s latest speculation is that the stated reasons for the switch to Intel are but a charade. The real reason, Jon is certain, is because Apple intends to downplay the personal computing market and focus squarely on the gadget market. His argument, seemingly, got a little stronger with the revelation that a super low power G5 is on the way. Since, as previously mentioned, people love it when their predictions are validated it is no wonder why Jon is feeling a little giddy lately. Unfortunately Jon, as anyone can see, is dead wrong on this one. Apple isn’t deemphasizing or getting out of the PC side, they’re just getting started.

With that noted it is time to re-examine the switch to Intel. The reasons Steve gave seemed sufficient for the moment but events since the switch was announced leave the careful observer with only one possible conclusion: Apple isn’t going after Microsoft, Apple is going straight after the high end windows PC market. Before proceeding let us note that the high PC market is, in fact, a coveted niche. Dell has recently made overtures to that market segment and Sony lives there. The reasoning is simple: that segment offers higher margins and lower support costs.

Now stop and think for a moment of where Apple really excels. The answer must be industrial design. Apple’s computers simply look better than anything else on the market, in fact nothing else is even close. Put a Mac and a comparable Dell in a beauty contest and the winner is unmistakable. Yet, for all of Apple’s design acumen, a Mac simply isn’t an option for most people. Sure the Mac may look fantastic and take up a comparatively miniscule amount of desk space but unless it runs the latest version of Norton Anti Virus people don’t view it as a possible choice. How can Apple make the Mac a viable option for the majority of computer buyers? Windows compatibility.

There is, of course, more to this story. Quickly, name the reason most people turn to the Mac. Did you say the plethora of malware, spyware and viruses for present on the Windows platform? Most people would agree, the majority of switchers do seem driven to the Mac more by a horrible Windows experience than by the Mac’s inherent advantages. That may be about to change. Windows Vista is, finally, on the horizon. Vista promises, among other upgrades, a much more secure platform. If Vista comes through Windows users can finally have a relatively safe, if garish, operating system residing on their computer.

If security issues are suddenly not a major problem on Windows computers in the future then Apple has a very serious problem. Their market share suddenly becomes static. It is at this point lessons learned from the iPod are heard loudly and clearly. Apparently, given a choice, people will go for Apple design over uglier and slightly worse mp3 players. Extrapolating this behavior to computers it is easy to see why Apple would think that a slightly more expensive, but infinitely better-designed PC would sell to the masses. In addition, when it comes to case design, Apple has no competition. The only computer maker that even attempts to add a dash of style to their offerings is Sony. Sony does a passable job and compared to most PC makers they clearly come out on top. Compared to Apple’s designs you’re looking at the difference between a Yugo and a Porsche.

Yet surely if Apple were seriously considering going after this market segment, being the BMW of all PCs, we would see something indicating this sea change of philosophy besides a hidden processor switch. Friends I give you the Mighty Mouse. When the Mighty Mouse first came on the scene it was easy to argue that Apple was just selling another gizmo to rake in a few more dollars. That notion changed when the mouse began shipping as standard equipment with the refreshed Power Macs and wildly updated iMacs. The Mighty Mouse became more than just a new gimmick, it became a signal that Apple was shedding their old anti PC philosophy and would soon be courting the PC world.

It isn’t a surprise really. Steve Jobs has always loved hardware. When he started NeXT they made computers. When he purchased Pixar guess what their business model was? Making movies? No. Adding special effects to other people’s movies?  Incorrect. Pixar existed to sell absurdly high-end systems. Systems so advanced you had to use a Sun Workstation to interface with the things. In short expecting Steve to voluntarily give up producing computers is akin to anticipating the day when Hallmark stops producing overly sentimental greeting cards geared towards the better half of the population. Hardware is what Steve, and by extension, Apple lives to create.

Now how much would you pay? Don’t answer yet because we also have promises from Intel that their chips will be able to run multiple systems simultaneously. With Windows on one core and Mac OS X running on another it is plain to see that Apple is anticipating the day when their boxes will do it all. So here’s how you’ll know that Apple is definitely courting the Widows market: When a second mouse button shows up on an Apple laptop. Remember you heard it here first.

All that sounds semi-compelling. We’ve uncovered the real reason for the switch to Intel and learned that if moving more computers means running Windows Apple will swallow that pill. Except everything posited is the purest grade of shinola. Yes the facts are generally correct but the conclusions reached are, at best, farfetched. The arguments have been carefully picked to wildly favor the conclusion. More telling than the examples used are the reasons why such a move would be sheer nonsense. None of which is surprising, cherry-picking arguments to support your position is the nature of punditry. Yet with the Intel switch people, even excellent writers such as Jon “Hannibal” Stokes, are adding in a conspiracy factor that can favor any particular conclusion. Put differently: Once you assume a secret motive the “motive” defines the argument rather than the argument defining the motive.

The motive in this case is fairly clear: Apple has nothing for laptops and Intel promised a way out of PowerBook stagnation. There may have been other technologies on the horizon but Steve had recently been burned about the scalability of PowerPC chips. Faced with the option of trusting that IBM would come through, going with a start up company that was promising great stuff a few years or going to Intel Steve chose safely (the same reason people buy Dells! The Irony). Not that it was the right choice necessarily, Steve Jobs is fallible, but it was a sensible choice that doesn’t demand extraordinary reasoning.


  • Ahh but will it be a “real” second button or a halfass sensor in a single-button that detects (however poorly) which finger I intended to use? 

    Seriously though, the best way to convert Windows users to Mac would be just what is being suggested by Intel - give them both to play with.  Depending on your priorities then you just might find yourself using OS X quite a bit more.

    For me, the switch DID occur because of constant attacks of spyware and the virus problem, as well as all the dumb little driver issues, etc.  but what has kept me here in Macville is simple:  the Pro application software line.  iLife sucks you in but the rest keeps you here.  Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find an email software on Mac I like as much as Outlook 2003 and would love the ability to use Windows just for that purpose (even though I have to tether it relentlessly to Norton AntiVirus).  If one thing will sell me on an Intel-based Mac for certain, the ability to use Windows when I need to would be the thing.  For now my existing Macs are more than fast enough for what I do so there’s just no incentive there.

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 112
  • I fully expect that Apple will add a second button to their trackpads soon.  However, I expect it will be just like the mighty mouse.  Looking at the design of the current trackpads, there is no reason why the button cannot incorporate 2 seperate sensors.  Besides I wish to have only mouse button personally (this is how I have my Mighty set up).

    What would be more interesting would be if Apple were to move the buttons to being above the trackpad (close to the screen).  I’m not an expert in ergonomics but this could “feel” better to use.

    Actually on second thoughts, after emulating this approach for a few moments, it seems the button is bbest left where it is.

    Abdullah the Butcher had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 1
  • A nice little idea might be to be able to switch between Mac and Windows in the same we Mac users can already use “faster user switching”, That way, to switch over to window you only need to choose a menuitem, and with a flashy effect: Voila, you’re in windows! ^^

    Marius_Th had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 11
  • I assure you all that a Windows OS version would never grace my Mac. I don’t trust Vista will ever be secure. Despite MS’s apparent zillions of programmers, the misanthropic hacking community (not to be confused with the hackers that look for justice and world peace) is always one or two steps ahead of them. That said, I wouldn’t dare put my Mac at risk of being shut down because the Windows portion of it was hideously infected.

    Two buttons on the laptops? Go ahead. It doesn’t bother me. I abhor track pads (and those little nubs like some PC laptops have). In fact, I always use a mouse with a laptop. But, hey, that’s just me.

    Whatever the reason for the switch, I just hope Apple doesn’t bungle it. And, for the sake of switchers, I hope it means Macs get a little bit less pricey (even if only by $100).

    Actually, my biggest fear is that if Apple were to drastically increase its market share, the misanthropes would make a slew of malware/viruses/spyware/etc to affect the Mac OS. I think in their eyes it’s just a matter of, “You’re too big, and I have no life, so I’m going to ruin the day of millions of your customers. Jerk.”

    Yeah, good logic… Me likey logic.

    Waa had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 110
  • Haha, Nice Chris. /bow

    Wundryn had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 10
  • After using the Mighty Mouse I think the hidden second button is a good idea.  A lot of people looking at a Mac for the first time can get confused with the one button mouse and it’s easier to just remove that obstacle.

    I was one that switched because of malware.  I was traveling overseas on business and could not take the risk of something killing my notebook half way around the world.  That led me to a 667 15” PB with VPC as I had to demo a Windows app - now updated to the 1.5 PB with a 23” display in the office. 

    Over time I moved everything to Macs and still have VPC with 2000 Pro for those few apps I need.  I do have VPC networking turned off to totally isolate 2000, which is what I believe will be the best option for anyone who has to have Windows on their Macs.  Dual booting would be fine IF Windows can be isolated.

    MacKen had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 88
  • “Put differently: Once you assume a secret motive the “motive” defines the argument rather than the argument defining the motive.”

    It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.
        - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930)

    Still a very nice article..

    martunibo had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 37
  • martunibo, that is exactly what I was trying to say! Only i didn’t say it as well as Sir Arthur.
    Clearly he is plagarizing my efforts…before I write them…that is one crafty guy.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 354
  • Apple Hardware + Apple Software is what makes Apple great. Running crap on a pretty box is even worse than on a piece of junk, the waste becomes much more apparent.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 371
  • Chris: I know, your line made me think of it instantly (I had read the book from which that quote comes a long time ago) so I looked it up on

    martunibo had this to say on Nov 01, 2005 Posts: 37
  • Question is, if we consider computers only, are Apple a hardware company or a software company? The answer IMHO, is software. The OS is the Mac.  Apple would have died years ago if they were a hardware company - just as many many many many PC makers did.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • Even if Apple was a hardware only company they would have done pretty great, they have the most inovating designs for computers. And the biggest share of their income comes off of hardware sales from what i’ve read.

    Marius_Th had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 11
  • I can’t seem to get my head around how a dual-booting Mac would make any considerable difference at all.

    Now I’m quite good at putting myself in other peoples shoes. If I were a PC user and I imagine a Mac come out that can run Windows, it wouldn’t make a darn difference to me. So if I go buy a WinMac that comes with OSX, that means I need to buy Windows too right? That’s kinda expensive. So why don’t I just use the default OSX. Oh wait, that was my option all along. But I had no incentive to switch before… meh, forget the whole thing.

    Being a Windows user up until 14 months ago, I know there is a LOT more to why people don’t buy a Mac over a PC than just not having tried OSX (if they wanna try OSX, they can.) When I moved from Windows to Macintosh, it was nowhere near as incompatible as I was expecting. My videos all work. My images all work. Heck, even my Word documents all work. So it can’t be incompatibility either.

    Now I’m gonna go out on something of a limb here but… PEOPLE DONT BUY APPLE COMPUTERS BECAUSE THEY DONT KNOW ABOUT THEM.

    Now, that’s not to say they don’t know they exist. But rather, they don’t know why they should move to Mac. AND there are many many PC tech people out there giving Macs a bad name. Seriously, it’s the reason I stayed away from Macintosh, because I was told they were for idiots and “you’re not an idiot, are you?? OK good, so go for a PC”

    People need to KNOW they have a choice. People need to be informed of the truth and lies about Mac vs Windows computing. At the moment, the only benefit I’ve seen seep through to average joe (albeit, joe who reads computer websites) is the lack of viruses on Macs. If I had a PC with viruses and I knew I could buy a new Mac and have no more problems with viruses I’d think “so.. that’s it? That’s not really much of an argument to switch.” Same goes for the design.

    There are two main PC markets in discussion here:

    Those very light users who buy a computer for ‘stuff’. - They need to be told of the benefits that would actually make a difference to them in a no BS way.

    Then there are those hardcore users who constantly upgrade their computer. - THEY need to be informed correctly about Macs. They need to know Macs aren’t idiot boxes and don’t run any applications at all. They need to know about spotlight and dashboard and expose and all those ‘cool’ things that hardcore users are interested in.

    I know Apple know this. So why the heck Apple aren’t advertising their computers?! I can’t see the ipod’s ‘halo effect’ working at all on those markets.

    My mom doesn’t know why she should get a Mac over a PC, same goes for my sister, same goes for my brother, same goes for my aunt, same goes for my uncle, heck it’s the same for almost everyone I know. - This is Market A: the market that doesn’t know any better.
    That just leaves those who either: have been convinced Macs are for idiots and not for them and those who consider Macs too expensive to buy over a PC.

    It ALL seems to be coming down to lack of knowledge about Macintosh computers. Yes, the magazine advertising may be stylishly minimal and such. But they can’t continue advertising Macs in the same way as iPods. Or else people will have no reason to switch. The iPod didn’t win over a market. It started with the market and had it all along.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Nov 04, 2005 Posts: 299
  • I totally agree with Luke Mildenhall-Ward…PC user doesn’t switch because they don’t know about Apple…I have convinced lots of people in my 16 years using Apple, and they always start asking “what is Apple?”...

    error had this to say on Nov 05, 2005 Posts: 1
  • AND there are many many PC tech people out there giving Macs a bad name.

    PC techs aren’t the only ones giving Macs a bad name.  Mac users are as guilty of this as anyone.

    Last week, a buddy of mine had a PC laptop die on him.  I asked him if he’d considered a Mac.  He said he had, but the big reason he didn’t want to switch, aside from all of his software for Windows, was that all of the Mac users he’d met (besides me) were crazy fanatics.  And I really couldn’t argue with him.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 05, 2005 Posts: 2220
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