Apple’s Mac OS X was a game changer for many reasons. First of all, it made Apple relevant again. The days of Microsoft pumping money into Apple to simply have a competitor and Mac being a hobbyist platform were now behind Apple. Secondly, and most impactful, was the effect OS X had on Microsoft. From a consumer’s point-of-view, Windows was headed down a boring path of features that only mattered in large corporate environments. The success of OS X made Microsoft reevaluate their strategy that if you used Windows at work, then you would also use it home. This was true in the 1990s, but not true in the mid 2000s.
Vista helped boost OS X sales. Win 7 only helps Microsoft.
The success of OS X was at a high-point during the Windows Vista era. During this time, OS X reached a previously unfathomable 7% market share. Vista, the much anticipated and long overdue upgrade to XP, disappointed many early adopters. There were so many early disenchanted users that the operating system earned a horrid reputation from which Vista would never be able to recover. Many of these users decided a change was in order and jumped to OS X. Obviously, this made Microsoft re-think many things and eventually recovered their desktop dominance with the release of Windows 7. (See my previous post how Microsoft took Windows from a Vista flop to a success with 7.) For the year ending 2010, the OS X worldwide market share dropped to 4.13% — that is a significant drop in the 1.5 years Windows 7 has been available. The entire drop in market share cannot be attributed to Windows 7 alone because a good portion of the drop is from the iPad cannibalizing Mac sales.
Keep in mind that Apple is experiencing record revenues each quarter. When you consider that Mac sales are down, it’s clear that Apple doesn’t make extraordinary amounts of money from its desktop operating system. (Mobile and iTunes, that’s another amazing story.)
So what should Apple do with OS X and their desktop line of business? I’m glad you asked, here’s my plan!
Step 1: Sell Macs Running Windows
Sell Macs with Windows pre-loaded. I mean Windows only, not a hokey dual boot with OS X and Windows. No, I’m not crazy. This is very simple. I am not suggesting that Apple stop selling Macs with OS X, but they should give consumers a choice which system they want to buy (yes, I know consumer choice isn’t one of Apples business tenets). Windows is an open system so any hardware maker can create a device and write drivers – even competitors like Apple. In fact, this is possible today through Apple’s Boot Camp utility. Think about this, inside that cool Mac case is standard hardware. They have used ATI & Nvidia for graphics drivers, Intel for the CPU and so on. These Windows drivers already exist! I have met several people that buy Macs to dump OS X in order to run Windows 7. I guess these people like the cool Apple hardware but refuse to give up the conveniences and compatibility of Windows. Before the iPod saved Apple’s bacon, I had the theory that Boot Camp was a market test to see if people would be willing to run Windows (XP at the time) on a Mac. The answer was and still is yes.
Step 2: Sell Macs Running iOS (and OS X too!)
I know that many Apple purists would not run Windows based purely on principle. For those people there would be two options:
- Run iOS on entry and mid level Macs
- Run OS X for higher-end solutions
Again, you may think I am crazy, but OS X development has seemingly stalled and it appears that Apple is near the end of its innovation road. Recent additions like a Mac App Store and a going back in time animation for Time Machine don’t really count as innovative. These “features” actually make my point for me. iOS (Yes, Apple’s mobile platform) has significantly outsold OS X. Now that iOS has a primitive form of multitasking, it’s not a far reach to think it could power a full featured Mac with keyboard, monitor, USB ports, etc. This would be an appealing upgrade to iPod and iPad devotees. You could even have a mobile phone in your Mac!
Of course iOS, in its current form, is limited and couldn’t handle the heavy-duty processing required for more intensive tasks like photo and video editing. For these users, they could opt for a Mac running OS X just like today.
Step 3: Open Source OS X
If the majority of Macs now run Windows or iOS, Apple’s attention to OSX will further decline. That would be a shame because Apple has done a ton of good work over the last 10 years with the operating system. (There’s actually more than 10 years of coding if you consider they didn’t start from scratch and recycled NeXT.) To ensure that OS X doesn’t become extinct (NeXT and OS/2 come to mind), OS X should become an open source project like Linux. Can you imagine what the open source community could do for OS X? Excitement for Linux has fallen off year over year, but Open OSX would be a huge hit in the software community. Just think, within months, you would be able to install OS X on a computer of choice – not just those made by Apple!
There you have it — Joey’s road map for Apple’s operating systems. Yes, I know you Apple fans think I have committed the ultimate sin, but let’s face it. Apple has shifted itself from a software company to a gadget and media company. in the process, many resources have been shifted from the OS X product group. If this trend continues (and it looks like it will) OS X will continue to be an afterthought in the Apple portfolio. If Apple sold Macs pre-loaded with Windows then sells would increase making yet even more money for the company.