I saw a post in a mailing list I belong to today and asked for permission to re-post it here at Geek News Central:
Apple has announced today that it’s introducing software to allow Macs to run Windows XP. If there was ever an indication that your product is not serving the public well, it would be that you must offer your customers your main competitor’s product to get them to remain your customers.
I’m not going to enter the Mac v. PC debate as it has been beaten to death. But, from a pure business standpoint, they have pinpointed a need – the Mac doesn’t work with a large amount of the products computer users desire. Their solution for this need is to create additional market for their main competitor’s product instead of changing their own product. The added irony is that windows is the very same product dedicated Mac users have badmouthed for years, all the while apparently coveting it if we are to believe the press material.
Apple’s thought is that selling more of their competitor’s product will increase their own market share somehow. That’s an interesting approach. I’m afraid that PC users do not believe in the superiority of Apple products, regardless of how often their executives say it, so I’m not sure that’s going to work. I managed to make a living for years as a graphic designer without ever touching a Mac, although to hear some devotees talk, you would think that impossible.
Mac users have an emotional attachment to the product that I don’t think is something you can duplicate in the general public. The brand name on my box doesn’t excite me in the least. If something comparable had been $12 cheaper, I’d own that now instead. I’m brand loyal to very few products and so far no computer company has done anything to engender my loyalty. Software companies, on the other hand, have managed. I’m running XP, how about you? Apparently nearly everyone wants to run XP – even those who own Macs and despised anything Bill Gates ever touched just months ago. I couldn’t have made a living as a graphic designer without Photoshop at my disposal. I don’t care what else is available, I want my Photoshop. So, software, yes, I have some loyalty. The box it’s running on – as long as it works well I don’t care. I don’t even care – shock – what color the plastic casing is.
Most computer users are just that – users – we are not into the intricacies of how they work. We just want to sit down and do what we need to do with little fuss. How we use computers has changed dramatically in the last few years. At one time Macs were a tool for largely stand-alone products, used by graphics people, newspapers and print shops – and a wonderful tool from what I understand. That’s not how we use computers now – they are communications tools. They have to do much more than create a product that exists in a vacuum. And they have to speak the same language as the other computers. If you speak only French in an English speaking country, you’re going to have a hard time fully communicating with most people. Admittedly, they’ve gotten much better at this in the last few years, but it’s still a struggle at times – at least for people I know who have Macs.
When I worked with printers a lot, I was continually frustrated by their inability to use the products I was bringing them, camera ready, because they were on a Mac. I learned to put in the bid that I would deliver the product camera ready on my software and if they had to redesign it on their end I was not paying additional for it and I was not taking responsibility for proofing their work once it was done. They would show up with a proof, wanting me to look it over when I’d already done all that work once. I also stopped trying to export files in a dozen different ways until they found something they could use on their system. I gave it to them in my file format and it was their baby after that. Apparently everyone got tired of that game about the same time because printers suddenly realized they had to move out into the real world with the other 95% of us and use PCs. It’s fine if you love your Mac and are devoted to it, but don’t make more work for me because of it. It’s OK with me if you’re still watching betamax because it’s the superior format, too. I’ll just use my DVD player.
The computer industry has always offered new business models and this is certainly a new twist – promoting your competitor’s product – but it worked in “Miracle on 34th Street.” I don’t have an MBA, but selling someone else’s product seems less than profitable to me. But, we’ve been surprised before and maybe in two years we’ll all be happily running windows on our Macs and thinking it’s the best of both worlds.