Why Apple Can’t Afford A Mistake…

by Tommy Thomas Aug 14, 2007

The tide is turning; Apple’s been on the rise for quite some time now. Everything they’ve done and are currently doing has been working for them. They’ve even managed to grow the Mac’s market share. That’s the crux of why Apple can’t afford to make a mistake. The world’s eyes are on Apple now, due in part to the halo effect the iPod and the iPhone have created. Microsoft Vista has been nothing short of disastrous, and Apple has taken advantage, becoming the darling of the computer industry. How long the upswing continues is dependent upon Apple not making mistakes.

History has shown time and time again where Apple failed to leverage the innovation it brought to market. The most painfully evident example of this was the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. High prices, very little software development, failure to adequately market the Macintosh, and outright shortsightedness on the part of Steve Jobs and later management led to the niche that Mac finds itself in today. In the Macintosh, they had something no other company had—a GUI (Graphical User Interface) in a world full of command-line based machines. They held the proverbial key to the kingdom. What was missing in Apple’s plans to dominate the market? Good old-fashioned common sense. What Apple failed to realize is that although people like and appreciate ease-of-use, they will not, and in many cases cannot, afford to pay a hefty premium just to have it. Apple lost the initial war for the OS market to Microsoft. Will they get a second shot at it?

Apple has the potential to unseat Microsoft from atop the mountain that once could not be climbed. The Mac is growing in popularity every day. More developers are jumping on board every day. Hell has even frozen over a few times in recent years with iTunes being ported to Windows, the switch to Intel processors, and most recently, Safari’s debut on Windows. iTunes, Safari, and, most of all, the iPod and the iPhone are teasers, the drug that addicts you. In other words, surrounding people in the Apple user experience and hopefully getting them hooked enough to jump from the sinking vessel of Windows to Mac. Since the move to Intel and with the advent of Boot Camp and Parallels, the barriers that kept Windows users from switching are breaking.

Apple is a company that prides itself on image. Lets face it: image seems to be everything these days, and Apple is no exception, but rather the rule. Because they’ve clothed themselves in an eloquent image, they need to remain strategic and just as eloquent going forward. For Apple to continue the charge to dethrone Microsoft, they cannot afford to slip in terms of quality and wow factor. The Mac’s future depends on Apple learning from past mistakes and not repeating them in the here and now. The question is: have they learned?


I’d like to say thanks to all who read my first article for AppleMatters, Where were you when the hammer flew? I’ve got a few goodies in the form of emails to share:

The first email comes from John Boyarsky. He writes:

“Hmmmmm—Now I feel old….

I was a junior in high school watching the Raiders kick Washington’s collective butt. I don’t exactly remember seeing the commercial, as it was a COMMERCIAL and I was watching the game with the family at home. That was back in the day when I watched the Super Bowl for the football…which was usually pretty good.

Watching the Super Bowl for the Commercials all started with 1984…and IN 1984.

John Boyarsky
7th & 8th Grade Math & Yearbook Guy
Randy Smith Middle School”

John, thanks for the email! I may not have been old enough to remember it, but even after all this time the commercial rocks, and it along with the Macintosh set the standard for Apple and the masses! grin

The second and last email comes from AppleMatters’ own James Bain! He wrote:

“I was initially wowed by MacPaint. I remember drawing/painting stuff on the MacPlus and printing it out and thinking that this was going to be the future, SuperPaint, MacDraw, Aldus PageMaker, PhotoShop 1.0, and it just went on.

Anyhow, welcome aboard.

Take Care,

James Bain, PhD. (Miskatonic University)
Staff Writer and Consulting Exorcist
Apple Matters

Thanks for the welcome James! Glad to be here! Amongst the many programs I’m still in awe of, MacPaint has to be one of them. It’s absolutely amazing what the GUI represented at that time in computing history! True goodness at its best! :-D

Feel free to send me your thoughts to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)! Until next time, keep it real, keep it Mac!


  • I think Apple’s main mistake in the mid 80s was allowing Steve Jobs to leave. When he left, the company was seemingly in bad shape. However, less than two years later they were on top again because of desktop publishing. This was an initiative that Jobs spearheaded. It just took time for it to bear fruit.

    Apple’s current success is due to a lot of synergy between products they have been making for the past ten years. By letting Jobs go, they became adrift and stopped having his vision to invest in technology development that will come together in the future.

    soft_guy had this to say on Aug 14, 2007 Posts: 21
  • soft_guy,
    I think Jobs needed to leave to get the perspective he now has. People often forget that Jobs contributed to many of the problems Apple had before he left.

    He needed to learn from the failures of NeXT Computer as well as the successes of Pixar. What makes him a pretty good CEO today is that he’s *not* that arrogant kid anymore (though many would argue he’s an arrogant adult. smile

    Price parity is one of the most important features in today’s Macintosh. Back then, the Mac was sold with super-high profit margins that made its price un-competitive to its Windows counterparts.

    Today, the Macs are competitive when you compare feature for feature. Apple can not forget this and start to price themselves only for the high end again, or create machines lacking in certain features present on the Windows side.

    The average user still doesn’t see the difference between Windows and the Mac OS from a value standpoint. Features and price are still determining factor in most people’s buying decisions.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 14, 2007 Posts: 243
  • Forget the mountain. 

    Apple is a computer company and is ranked against other computer companies.  Now 4th in size, closing in on Gateway to be #3.

    Take a hard look at what really matters to the Mac faithful, or even the newbie user.  It’s a good design, quality parts and local support from an actual Apple employee.

    It’s also Apple selling at a fair price and investing part of those revenues into R & D - for hardware and software.  It’s surprising the industry with new ideas and products, like the ipod, iTunes and the iPhone.

    All the neat things that make Apple what it is would probably fall by the wayside if Apple was to focus on climbing that mountain - like the level of customer service they offer.

    And let’s face it - why is it important to outdo MS?  Right now Apple is very profitable, they have sufficient cash in the bank to hold them through a downturn in the economy, and their market cap is about twice what Dell’s is.  Name a hardware company that is close to Apple in these areas.

    MacKen had this to say on Aug 14, 2007 Posts: 88
  • Hey MacKen! While I’m willing to say that Apple isn’t exactly trying to climb the mountain, they are automatically whether they realize it or not. For what it’s worth, I fully agree with you. They need to concentrate on quality and customer service. But on the other hand, they are inevitably going to climb in market share especially with the management blunders Microsoft seemingly can’t seem to quit making lately.

    They’re climbing the mountain, it’s just a matter of whether they’re actively trying to climb the mountain or just taking small steps based on a collapse that’s coming.

    Tommy Thomas had this to say on Aug 14, 2007 Posts: 2
  • Microsoft Vista has been nothing short of disastrous

    That’s a ridiculous overstatement.  But less so than this one:

    Apple has the potential to unseat Microsoft from atop the mountain that once could not be climbed.

    Sorry, but this is all utter delusion.  I’m glad Apple is doing well, but after 10 years of steady growth and the media constantly fellating Steve Jobs and his products, their OS market share is still <6?.  They’ve got a LONG way to go, and whether or not it’s a good thing if they do get there eventually is a highly debatable point.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 15, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • “For the Mac to win, Microsoft has to lose” sentiment is an old, tired, beaten battlecry, folks. It no longer holds true these days.

    Just look out your window’s vista (ahemm…pun intended) and witness the wasteland that Redmond has dumped all over your neighborhood. There are few twinklings in that dreary, dark place and they are Mac users risking their daily lives from these Redmond drones’ ridicules.

    But, oh what unbelievable rewards these Macs behold ye loyal users - fantastic experience, no viruses nor trojans nor worms, just minor nuisances like the very rare spinning beachball. Even in those rare instances, you can always “relaunch” the Finder desktop and, 99% of the time, gets you back where you belong.

    Have we heard of same sentiments fessed-up from these Redmond drones? No, just anguish on a daily basis. Their PC experience involves running anti-spyware, anti-virus, anti-worm applications on every startup - and that can be multiple times a day! The frightening reality that these malcontents can obliterate your very critical data in a mere milliseconds of access is unacceptable.

    Supporting Redmond’s technology can be really expensive both in software, hardware, and manual labor to support it. Macs (like my G5 Quad) has been coasting for the past 3 years without IT intervention. $Priceless! Compare that to my XP Pro which have been rebuilt twice by IT in that same span!

    So, do we really need, or even should care, Apple to dethrone Redmond one of these days? No. Apple is just fine as it is.

    There will be a time when Apple’s mindshare reaches the inflection point and will accelerate its share growth. But even then, the overall market is also growing at or near that pace so Apple’s share will only appear to be skating along its apparent pace - 5-6%

    Meanwhile back at Redmond, the Beastmasters will only be more satisfied knowing big business will keep swallowing their bitter pill in Vista (desktop & server) for these sorry folks have no other choice but to keep the status quo and keep justifying past hardware investment. IT mentality in MS reaches far and up the corporate chain even when the CEOs or COOs insists in having Macs in their offices.

    Now, if and when Steve decides to enter big business with Macs designed for corporate abuses - namely “ease-of-upgrades” by IT bandits and an special edition of Mac OSX just for big business use on generic PC hardware, then I might be convinced that Apple and the Mac may someday take over the whole world.

    Until then Apple and the Mac today is just fantastic for personal and small biz use.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 16, 2007 Posts: 846
  • “For the Mac to win, Microsoft has to lose” sentiment is an old, tired, beaten battlecry, folks. It no longer holds true these days.

    I know that is the current zeitgeist, for that is what Steve Jobs spake that fateful MacWorld, but if i am honest and lay my reputation such as it isn’t on the line here, I believe that.

    Not that Apple can or should wish to conquer the entire personal computer ecosystem. Those who require hardware flexibility above that which Apple offers are not served by Apple’s products. Duh. But Apple will to some extent improve its reach in the computer markets as more people realise that their specific hardware choice is not as integral to their computing happiness as the component vendors have trained them to think.

    An apple that formed a monopoly would inevitably lose the qualities that make Apple worth watching closely, as we with hundreds of comments on this site (losers, i call us, collectively) can avow. Those qualities come down to competing: striving to create products that compete on their merit in a market sadly lacking in that ethos. This is why the iPhone is exciting, it’s a fundamentally Apple-like foray into territory unknown but strangely reminiscent of the Microsoft universe we loathe if we know anything about it.

    It is fundamentally against that universe or weltanschauung that Apple is competing. For every mind infested with the joy of purchasing on merit alone, or merit and ethics, Microsoft loses. For every person who discovers the wider, more exciting world of open source-based competitive *nixiness, who realises what can be achieved through high quality compliance to open standards, that is a loss for Microsoft and its thought control.

    My experience over the last 37 months, since I Switched (thanks coconut battery), has been an eye-opening exploration of this Other Realm, to appreciate quite how anticompetitive the basic scheme of Microsoft’s functioning is, how many improvements and how much diversity and progress could be achieved in the antithetic industry where competition actually happens. Apple has not always acted to help this, but we have recently seen its support of open standards growing impressively. We can only hope it continues to improve. For now, open standards support benefits apple as much as everyone else. When/if apple becomes too successful, that will change.

    My dearest wish for the computer industry is that we can find an alternative to Microsoft as the dominant force controlling the way computers are sold and information is shared. Apple is making some progress here, but cannot take us all the way because past a certain point it become the vengeful tyrant, the enemy of us all, monopolism, Microsoft.

    Benji had this to say on Aug 16, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Not that Apple can or should wish to conquer the entire personal computer ecosystem.

    I should really say, not that apple can hope to, nor should we wish it to.

    What we need is DIVERSITY. Indeed, when I run Microsoft, that will be my first speech to the masses: DIVERSITY DIVERSITY DIVERSITY DIVERSITY DIVERSITY! You know the drill.

    Only then I intend to make some salient comments. Rather than, you know, throwing things around like a sweaty ape.

    Benji had this to say on Aug 16, 2007 Posts: 927
  • I’m seeing lots of new users to the Mac. Especially college students with MacBooks. A large majority seem very impressed ... especially if they’ve lugged a Windows laptop for the past year or so with their weight and battery issues.

    Neil Anderson had this to say on Aug 16, 2007 Posts: 23
  • They have already made their biggest mistake, ticking me off!


    Steve Ballmer had this to say on Aug 22, 2007 Posts: 3
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