Apple Take Two…

Apple Computer loves a controlled environment. What do I mean by a closed environment? When it comes to their computers it means that they build the hardware, they write the operating system, and they control and update the main APIs that most third party software utilize and adhere to when creating software. The Iphone is a chip off the old block – it has the same benefits and drawbacks.

This view is great for several reasons and bad for just as many. Lets explore the good first – When you have limited hardware to support you generally can maintain very good driver support for that hardware. SO many of Microsofts problems come from poor driver support by hardware manufacturers that have buggy or incomplete hardware support. This makes Windows XP/Vista appear far more buggy than it actually is, and Microsoft is generally blamed by the end user when when this happens. This problem is mitigated when you have a limited set of hardware to maintain. Another benefit to this model is that you can have a clear direction and focus for where you want to take your platform. Do you want to appeal to the very low end cost conscious consumer? Only the high end? Apple has ALWAYS been about quality first – even when it hurt the bottom line. Apple has sacrificed market share to develop products that they think are superior. Let me be clear (Because I know I will get email about this!!) – This is not intentional on Apples part. They want the most market share they can get, but when faced with cutting product quality and producing cheaper hardware vs making a quality product they almost always choose the latter option. I like that about the company. There are VERY few companies that I trust to make a quality product every time, but Apple is one of them. The last reason I will write about is perceived by many as a problem at Apple, but I see it as one of their biggest strengths. Because they control their environment so closely they can and will make “drastic” changes when necessary to take the hardware/software in a new direction that ultimately will benefit their users. Often these decisions alienated a portion of their user base, but overall I see this as a huge positive. Examples of these changes are (Starting from my first experience with Apple at age 14 – 22 years ago EEK) – Changing Apple II OS to a completely different outlook with their Mac 128/LISA computers with a mouse, switching to the 720K 3.5″ drives when everyone still used 35-40 track 5.25″ drives with 90K storage per side, “all in one” design, using 68000 series processors when 6502s/8086-88 were the norm for the time. REAL multitasking with the 68040. Skip forward to their decision to abandon Mac OS, and base a new OS on the rock solid BSD kernel – OS X is born. Other recent “painful” decisions include their decision to switch to Intel processors when all their code was based on the power processor. This change was hard for MANY companies, but necessary. Microsoft is too beholden to other companies to make such a switch – they still are trying to maintain backward compatibility with software that is 15 years old. That is a recipe for software stagnation.

Whats bad – Economics! No competition on hardware makes the cost higher. I don’t care what anyone says, Apple hardware is more expensive. I buy millions of dollars of hardware every year. I used to own three computer hardware stores. I know hardware! To me the value is there so I buy Apple products, but I know I pay more when I buy the machines. This is the number one reason Apple isn’t sitting where Microsoft is now. Cost is king and always will be for the overall marketplace. Second problem – As good as Apple is its “micromanage” everything attitude makes it impossible to grow as fast as it could. You need to “let go” to take over! Steve Jobs is way too much of a perfectionist to ever let that happen. Apples nimble nature with regard to its software and hardware changes also makes it a poor choice for enterprise customers that demand longevity and compatibility with legacy systems. Given the choice between innovation and compatibility Ill choose innovation every time, but that is a hard thing to force on customers that don’t share that vision.

What do you think? Did I peg Apple right on, or am I worse than a clueless pundit?

Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com

13 Responses to “Apple Take Two…”

  1. Good post, and this is the first time I’ve seen you mention Microsoft in a non-negative way.
    Cheers,
    Robert

  2. Luke says:

    Matt,
    I worked “for” you for a short time and have been reading your blog almost ever since. I agree with almost everything you’ve got to say here. Of course I’m saying almost. I think that with the switch from PowerPC to Intel Apple is actually competitively priced in the higher end computers that they excel in. Of course you can’t buy a few hundred dollar Apple. But with the recent release of computers, they stack up very well against other machines. Sure if you buy bulk you’ll still beat it probably, and if you buy ALL Apple direct upgrades you surely will pay more, especially on things like RAM. When the new MacPro’s came out a friend of mine, also former BHer, and I priced it out compared to some other big companies and Apple had the better deal.
    Another thing of note with Apple controlling both Hardware and Software they can better keep their software up to date with the Hardware industry, since they don’t have to wait years for a new OS Release that will take advantage of the latest Hardware advancements.
    Finally, I was both intrigued and a little shocked to learn of Apple’s Monday Meetings with Steve. I think it’s a great thing for they people in charge to know as much as they can about every aspect of the company, but I do wonder if the amount of personal attention from Steve is a good thing, or if it will be a problem in the future.

    :Luke

  3. Dru Richman says:

    If you don’t care what anyone says, then you’ll always be right (at least in your eyes). But the diatribe that Apple’s hardware is more expensive than PCs, is getting seriously long in the tooth. Several years ago, it WAS true. Now? Not so much. Case in point, compare a similarly configured Mac and a Dell (or HP, Gateway, etc). At virtually every price point, the differential in cost is under $20! Check here for more info – http://systemshootouts.org.

    But most savvy people will agree, the purchase price of a product is not a good indicator to determine if one product costs less than another. Other factors like ‘Return on Investment (ROI) and ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ (TCO) must be figured into the mix. For example – A year or so ago, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer asked why anyone would spend $599 for an iPhone when a MotoQ phone cost $99. Seemed like an easy decision until you factored in the cost of the service. Two years worth of service for the iPhone was $1440. Two years worth of service for the MotoQ was $2400. So in the end the ‘more expensive’ iPhone cost $2039, and the ‘less expensive’ MotoQ phone cost $2499.

  4. Jacob says:

    I think that you are right on the money with this post! (as with many others) I am a big fan of Apples idea of holding all the cards, except for the fact that they also hold the price card. I do understand that if you take a Mac Pro and any similarly configured competitors computer they will be priced the same if not a little cheaper. But what about those of us that dont want to drop over two grand in a computer and dont need server grade hardware. So that brings us to the iMac, it is a nice computer but it was built with Laptop parts and offers very little after market upgrades. You can upgrade the RAM and add external drives, but that is it. There are allot of people that I know that would by a Mac, but Apple doesnt have a Power Users computer, they have a professional and a family room computer. If Apple were to offer a “super” Mac Mini with two HDD bays, at least one bay for an optical drive and at least one PCI-E slot at a reasonable price they would have more switchers than they would know what to do with.
    I am sure that Apple will never offer a super users computer because it would ruin their current lineup, but we can dream cant we.

  5. Eric says:

    I agree with Dru. It appears as mac being more expensive because they don’t make junk 300$-600$ desktops/laptops/craptops like the Dell’s of the world do. Reliability, innovation, and momentum are what make a company go. Apple scores high on all three and based on the trending market share people are well aware of the benefits.

  6. David says:

    The biggest “hidden” costs in non-Apple hardware/software are the FF or PF. The “Frustration Fee” or the “Pain Factor”. Maybe TCOP (total cost of pain) would better describe it. These hidden taxes manage to bite you repeatedly so that reasonably priced box you plunked down for, after you’ve wasted enough time and gray hairs getting it right, won’t seem so reasonable after all. They arrive unannounced and unwelcome like bad relatives.

    As a lifetime user of PC’s, and a support technician, I will get the bug to buy another power tower thinking I’ve saved some moolah only to find I’m wasting more time fiddling and tinkering with it. It’s the inner geek, I know, but time is the one asset I can’t get back and a Mac lets me get on with life. PC’s pay the bills for me, in THAT I’ve been thankful, but the best thing you could do for a non-technical first time user is move them toward an iMac and let them actually enjoy the experience for a change.

  7. ThirstyJon says:

    Paragraph Breaks. Use them more often!

    :-)

    ThirstyJon

    A guy with a Bluehosted Blog.

  8. Apple has tightly bound hardware, operating system, and software… As you say, this makes control of the overall experience manageable. Some users are satisfied to release control of their experience in order to achieve a smoothly running system.

    Other users, on the other hand, desire (or require) greater control over their overall computing experience. Some require software independence, others need to use hardware that may not be part of the “Apple (Jobs) vision.”

    Really, the market share situation is not financial. It is based on degree of control of the user experience. Apple retains a high degree of control while Unix, Windows, etc. allow users much broader control of their computing experiences. Of course, as user control increases, so does responsibility for maintaining the experience.

    In the 80′s when many computer users, both individual and collective, were choosing the degree of control they desired over their computing experience, the great majority opted for greater control, accepting the greater complexity and responsiblity to achieve the control they desired. As Apple slipped to a 3% market share, it could not realize the economies of scale necessary to compete on price, so it concentrated on providing a quality experience at a premium to the mass-marketed computers that ran stock operating systems.

    Now, as Apple moves away from computers to music, entertainment, and communications, it continues to retain a high degree of control at a premium price. Is this the correct strategy? Only time will tell. Perhaps, though, Apple should consider opening its standards to retain higher market share.

  9. Linda King says:

    I’m a longtime Mac user, designer, and photographer. I found this thread while researching new hosting companies that I can recommend to my clients. Up to now I’ve been using iPower for all my own and my client’s web hosting. I also use their affiliate program which is very generous. However, iPower is not without it’s reputation of problems, particularly with service. I’ve not had too many problems, but when I do they seem to be big and quite troublesome to resolve.

    Yesterday morning a new client’s server went down just as I was about to make their website live to the public. It’s been two days of emails, online chat, and online ticket submissions trying to get the problem resolved with iPower.

    I finally decided to research other hosting companies. I like the interface of Host Monster, but I have to say, I am encouraged to have found this thread with Matt Heaton in support of Apple. It might be the determining factor for me.

    I do have a suggestion though. It would be a great psychological plus if the interface tools were more like the Mac environment, or at least made to look a little more interesting and beefed up. I have worked with your tools in the past when asked to update another client’s site, and I found them lacking esthetically.

    That said, I am considering moving future clients over to BlueDomain based on the ratings and now based on Matt Heaton’s support of Apple.

    And if I can’t get iPower to resolve my new client’s server problems soon I might pay personally to move them over even though they are paid up for the next two years at iPower. When a hosting server goes down, I feel responsibly as the web master, especially since I recommended them to my clients.

    If I do starting moving clients to Blue Domain, I just hope there are no plans of selling out to another company. This happened to me previously with Burlee and now iPower. It seems once these companies changed hands, things seem to go downhill from there.

    Matt, I wish you the best and continual success as you continue to maintain a good reputation with service and value.

    Linda King
    Graphics Palm Beach

  10. Steve Henderson says:

    “they write the operating system”
    Jobs crew wrote the OSX predisessor @ Next not @ apple.
    The Unix compliant OS is what makes OSX shine.

    Apple hardware is now just generic Intel–AMD being the other choice.
    Apples computers are made by cheep labor in China by the same people as others use.

    Their are a lot of hardware quality comments here, but no mention of benchmarks or 3D rendering abilities–these are as important as keeping it from crashing to many like myself. Living on the edje of maximum performance / new technology will cause some problems–it’s a trade off. Until recently Apple lived the tried and proved beyond a dought world. Thus they got left in the dust. You can’t develop all you own software / hardware / drivers or you will be blown away by the competition–this is what caused the death of Digital. Look @ Ubuntu it is getting rave reviews and is being maintained by as little as 20 people, because it has millions of OSF / Linux coders in the background. Dose this distributed development model make it buggy–I think not it gets bugs fixed.

    In the future cheep is were it will be $200 laptops that run Google type apps in their browser will become common place. They will have more sophisticated phone capabilities than Skype. You think a Mac is easy–my 9 year old is pounding away on a Asus EEE PC now. She rarely asks me any questions and you can go anywhere in Madison an be on the city wide wifi with it.

    The original post seams like a commercial for (someone who owns Apple stock), or wants to (reign in their loyal user base which is like a cult) or just (belongs to the Microsoft bashing club). I cant imagine Luke using any hardware from apple for his business. Most all his customers that develop websites are no dought developing on Linux or more likely using third party web development software that primarily runs on Microsoft Windows variants.

    My 2 cents

  11. Lane Roathe says:

    For mass market, it is true that cheep is where the future is. However, cheep is also where short term profits become more important and long term customer satisfaction fades.

    In the past I’ve had to purchase a new Windows machine every two years because that was the max life span for the hardware. No longer, I’ve found that the new Mac systems actually make the very best Windows machines, either directly via bootcamp or VM wise with Fusion or Parallels. Stable XP, it’s wonderful!

    Anyway, there’s no need for Apple to be #1 in hardware sales … take a look at where GM and Ford are now as an example of why that’s not always a good thing. Apple’s more like Honda, a good thing imho.

  12. Minh Nguyen says:

    I love/hate your blog. Your opinions are interesting at times but you really need to get your facts straight:

    Mac OS X is based on the Mach kernel (therefore it inherits many negative points of Mach) and not the BSD kernel. There are many shared libraries because Apple didn’t want to completely re-invent the wheel .

    Seeing how you say you’re a Mac OS X user you should’ve known/noticed that early on. Additionally a lot of the GNU tools aren’t readily available and are mapped a funky aliases.

    It’s also ironic that you say that Apple makes “quality” products. I own a Macbook (in fact I am using it to write this comment) and the build quality pales in comparison to my Thinkpad. Even the hardware isn’t spectacular in any way (intel chipset, intel wireless card, intel integrated graphics, etc.). I’ve also had to send it in and my iPod on several occasions. Granted, Apple was willing to fix the problem with no hassle under warranty.

    But don’t just become a fanboy of apple because they’re “popular.” You’ll find that you’ll hate them as well for every reason that you hate Microsoft and Google.

  13. Hello Matt,

    First, let me say that I have enjoyed my association with Blue Host. Thanks for the Simple Script addition. Could you please upgrade to the new version of WordPress? I hate having to install a new blog using Fantastico then immediately having to do an upgrade. I have been having trouble with the compatibility of some plugins. Any help would be appreciated.

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