Pete’s post below got me thinking. Apple’s star is rising, and they absolutely are eroding the market-share of Windows. Every quarter this thing of ours becomes more and more mainstream, and it’s not impossible to imagine a time when the Mac will at least have a significant degree of parity with Windows. This raises a bigger question: would we ever want Apple to eclipse Microsoft?
The first thing they teach you in strategic planning is to perform the following assessment:
“What are the benefits of a course of action, versus, what are the negatives of following the same. What are the possible unintended consequences”.
Now certainly we are all excited about Apple’s continued rise, but there may also be come cause for concern. In the rest of this article we’re going to play the “Unintended Consequences Game”.
Consequence #1: There might be no benefit.
Presently my CTO uses a Mac, I have a Mac, several folks in position to make strategic decisions within our corporate IT use Macs either personally, or professionally. Our corporate network is as Apple friendly as it could possibly be without irritating our #1 business partner –The Borg.
This coupled with the fact that every college student I know uses a Mac, means increasing support for our platform within the “Enterprise Ecosystem”. As a result, I can do pretty much anything our retarded Windows cousins can. And yes, per Pete’s point, all my clients use Windows machines, and a few of them raise eye-brows when I whip out the MB Pro. But our clients don’t hire us based on what machines we use (that is not entirely true, Dell is also a client).
The point here is that we’re already reaping the benefits of increased market-share, I’m uncertain as to what additional benefits we’d hope to realize.
Consequence #2: We’d stop being cool
Nick Carr wrote in ‘Does IT Matter?‘, as any technology becomes more commonplace, its ability to be a competitive differentiator is diminished. The same holds true with any fashion accessory. Lets face it, that’s what Apple products are. Sure they’re damn capable, and price for performance competitive with any platform out there, but many people buy Macs because they’re trendy.
In fact, it is because they’re trendy that even when consumer spending recedes, Apple’s market-share increases. A luxury product like a Mac has a totally different buy-cycle than a utility product like a beige box. On products from Rolex to the Macbook Air, exclusivity is part of the draw.
Now you may think I’m playing an over emphasis on being cool, but really: I’m married, and nearly 40 –what else have I got?
In all seriousness, the ubiquity of a product can also be it’s downfall. My general contractor has an iPhone now. Heck, it seems like everyone (but me) has one, and you know what, I don’t even want one. So now, when I go phone shopping, I shop for features, rather than style. Honestly, there are phones out there with better features of those that I will use all day.
With software as a Sservice, and cloud computing both right around the corner, the differentiator that is OS X will become minimized. Apple already overly relies on cultural cache to move product. If that’s removed, their success could wind up becoming their Achilles heel.
Consequence #3: 114,000 Viruses? Maybe on a Mac
By the end of 2005, there were 114,000 known PC Viruses. At that time there had never been a virus in the wild for OS X. This was in fact a marketing slogan for Apple. Now OS X is a lot more secure than Windows, and certainly better architected. But we also have our own vulnerabilities. The primary being that for too long Mac users have relied upon Security Through Obscurity.
Almost no Mac users have anti-virus software installed. What’s more, we lack as a part of our cultural DNA the suspiciousness and fear of software dominant in the Windows world. Sure we have active security measures like having to enter an administrator password to install some software, but how many of us just do that, without question?
With an increase in popularity, so will various forms of malware propagate. We are vulnerable, the “pwn to own“ contests have repeatedly demonstrated this. We are going to need to make active security a greater part of our life-style regardless.
Consequence #4 – The “M-Word”
It’s a game, copyrighted by Parker Brothers. But more than that, it’s a real fact of the Macintosh platform. Apple controls the hardware, OS and much of the software on the platform. Our position as a niche player has protected us from anti-trust litigation for the most-part (the current iTunes lawsuit is baseless). But as the platform becomes more popular, the baselessness of these lawsuits will become less and less apparent.
The first step in regulation, will be to unlock the hardware –count on it. As soon as that’s mandated on Apple, OS X will essentially become a better Windows, but one open to all the vulnerabilities having to support thousands of 3rd party drivers.
There are more, I’m sure. Now I’d ask you all to weigh in, is our platforms rising popularity worth the potential risks we might face as a result, clearly like any highly dedicated fan-base, we crave the status that increased popularity of our platform creates. But are we really ready to go mainstream?