Mac 2.0 or How Apple Could Win the Desktop Wars

by Hadley Stern Jul 02, 2009

With the original Mac, the iPod and the iPhone, Apple did the same thing; introduce a product that was leaps and bounds ahead of anything else and define a category. Before the original Mac there was no such thing as a WYSIWYG computer. Before the the iPod there were portable mp3 players but they all sucked and the iPod's physical design, user interface, and the way it interacted with iTunes was a category buster. Finally, before the iPhone there was no such thing as a touch-screen phone or an application store where anyone could distribute an application.

Looking back at these 3 products the Macintosh, for a variety of reasons mainly related to it ignoring the reality of cloning and a different model of distributing OS software (AKA, Microsoft), the Mac is now languishing. Yes the Macintosh experience is fantastic and OS X is a better operating system than Windows (although Windows 7 is creeping up) but for the foreseeable future the Macintosh will forever remain at 10 percent market share.

The iPod has won. Even its competition realizes that the game is over.

With the iPhone it is too soon to say, and given the immense size and complexity of the mobile market it is probably safe to say that the iPhone simply cannot ever dominate that market the way it has done with the iPod. But Apple has a substantial head start over any of the competition with a software ecosystem and distribution model that is in place and working.

The time is now for Apple to do something that takes personal computing to a place we haven't imagined. Remember when the iPhone was announced at MacWorld (I was there!) the notion of a phone that was a flat screen with only one physical button was something from the future? Right now the Mac is something from the past. Yes the iterative improvements of OS X are great but Apple needs to do something new before it runs out of cats.

What could this new thing be? There are a number of technologies that Apple could be looking at most notably multi-touch. I'm not going to even pretend that I can specify what the new Macintosh should be or could be; I know that somewhere in the depths of Cupertino someone is able to figure this out.

The alternative is to continue duking it out with Microsoft and that is not a viable option unless Apple wants to forever be a niche player in desktop computing. Microsoft has had since 1984 to catch up with the Mac, and 25 years later with Windows 7 it is going to be pretty much there. Yes Windows 7 is not as elegant, has an uglier interface, and uses inferior technology to power its operating system but unlike Vista it is usable. There are still many things to harp on with Windows, the ugliness I just mentioned, the lack of integrated hardware and software solutions that comes with a Mac, but with Windows 7 Apple won't be able to make funny commercials dissing Microsoft with the same punch.

Plus this shouldn't all be about Microsoft it should be about doing what Apple has done on its own; creating revolutionary devices for the mass market that change the way we compute. Its time for Mac 2.0.


  • I think an 8x10 inch iPod TouchPad paired with an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mighty mouse would do it for me. Since I got an iPod touch I hardly take my MacBook out of the house. It’s perfect for browsing the web, firing off few quick emails, and updating facebook and Twitter. If Apple made a larger screen iPod Touch type device with a faster processor my dreams would come true.

    Khürt Williams had this to say on Jul 02, 2009 Posts: 45
  • I honestly do not think that Apple cares all that much about being a niche player in the desktop OS market. At this point I think that they are content with trying to continue to grow share, or hold on to as much as they have gained in the last five years, realizing that they have a huge advantage now in the mobile market that people will be slowly migrating to as the devices become more powerful.

    Apple pretty much said that in their last quarterly financial phone conference; that they care more about growing profits that they do about short-term fluctuations in market share, and that they will not sacrifice profit for the sake of share. And as Microsoft’s hardware partners continue to compete themselves into lower profitability with crappier products, Apple will, in the long-term, do just fine.

    doogald had this to say on Jul 02, 2009 Posts: 4
  • I’m waiting for Apple or Microsoft (or whoever) to come out with a Surface-like computer for the home.  I think that could be the new paradigm that replaces the 25-year-old desktop GUI.  The computing experience would be supplemented by smart phones and notebooks.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 02, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • Microsoft has a conquer-the-world and dominate-the-market mentality. The result is obvious.

    Steve Jobs said that for Apple to win, Microsoft does not have to lose. That is a very keen insight. It’s not necessary for Apple to make every product, saturate every market, and eliminate all competition. If they tried, quality and profitability would suffer and regulatory agencies would be on their backs about monopolistic practices.

    The day that Apple goes into conquer-the-world mode is the day that Apple dies.

    Hugmup had this to say on Jul 02, 2009 Posts: 40
  • Re:  “Finally, before the iPhone there was no such thing as a touch-screen phone or an application store where anyone could distribute an application.”

    You can’t seriously mean that.  The Palm Treo 650 came out how many years before the iPhone?  Touchscreen UI, downloadable applications from Palm and various 3rd-party sites…

    Not saying the iPhone isn’t revolutionary in its near-perfection of the mobile phone arts, but the above statement is flat-out wrong.

    Homeworld had this to say on Jul 02, 2009 Posts: 3
  • Bravo! The current version of the Leopard and the Windows Vista desktop paradigm is getting very old and tired. Both desktops are just lots of incremental improvements over the first Macintosh finder and mouse circa 1984. Macintosh brought the GUI to the general public and Microsoft has spent the last 25 years catching up. Apple needs to make the next leap forward, either a desktop/laptop version of the iPhone software or something in an entirely new direction. Apple is the company that ‘Thinks Different’ and hopefully they are doing just that in Cupertino behind closed doors.

    Flyboybob had this to say on Jul 04, 2009 Posts: 33
  • Run out of cats? Hey, there are always dogs. How about Mac OS XI, “Timberwolf”? With complete voice command and touch screen interface, like something out of “Minority Report”? New Macs could ship without a mouse or a keyboard, just a headset. I don’t reasonably expect this, but it wouldn’t surprise me, either. And what IS a paradigm shift in computer interfaces, unless it involves a more “direct connection” in human terms. The keyboard and mouse are next to go…

    tao51nyc had this to say on Jul 08, 2009 Posts: 45
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