Apple is about to resurrect the dying PC industry

Get ready for a new inflection point

Apple, Mac, iPad, OS X, iPhone, PC, PC sales, Samsung, innovation, Steve Jobs
Ed Uthman/Flickr

Does anyone remember the olden days when Microsoft would seemingly try to induce analysts to try to skew results to help create market dominance? That’s part of what the anti-trust case was about, but I digress.

The good old days

Gartner’s latest PC market figures show global PC shipments fell 5.7 percent worldwide in the quarter. Apple’s Mac sales fell much more, by a claimed 13.4 percent, from 5.7 million to 5 million sales.

Now I don’t disbelieve these figures, but it is interesting how they are once again being used to create the now-customary-in-Apple-reporting sense of drama. If you think about it, Apple reporting has focused on the “Doom is coming”, “Doom didn’t come”, “Doom is still coming,” formula since Apple was first incorporated.

“Setting up a ton of straw men and firing them in a volley at Apple is a full-time occupation for many,” Ben Klaiber, “Anatomy of an Apple - The Lessons Steve Taught Us.” (Link).

This kind of straw man reporting isn’t helpful and usually reflects/encourages closed and dogmatic thinking.

“Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind,” said Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs at one time. “You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them.”

[insert company name]

All the same this “doom is coming” formula can be applied to anyone, Samsung, for example (with the exception that doom did come to Samsung). What this does is set up the narrative. This is what is being created right now, because everyone on the planet who cares is probably expecting new Macs to make their first appearance pretty soon.

When they do it’s reasonable to assume that a combination of Christmas consumerism, pent-up desire and the loosening of budgets for new academic and business years will help boost Mac sales. This boost will be reported as a “surprise”, because it isn’t a surprise.

What then?

I’m going to predict we’ll see Mac sales recover all their lost momentum and gain a few clicks. Why the gain? The iPhone halo, of course, as millions of new customers every year switch to the Apple smartphone, fall in love with it, and stick with the same company.

Many tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of these newly hooked customers will want to “Get a Mac”, why wouldn’t they? They already know the platform advantages: A clear commitment to free system upgrades, continuity between all Apple platforms, relative data security and a relatively high cost of entry that’s compensated for by best in the industry customer satisfaction levels and a series of free and useful apps and services.

This magical combination has even transformed Apple’s place in enterprise IT.

These factors have been the secret sauce since Steve Jobs’ launched the 1998 iMac, bringing the company resoundingly back from bankruptcy and utter defeat in a matter of weeks.

The vision thing

Lack of new product isn’t the only reason Apple’s Mac sales have slowed down. The PC industry has shrunk worldwide for eight consecutive quarters. Gartner calls this the “longest duration of decline” in the history of the PC industry.

In part this reflects the philosophical and economic sickness that characterizes our age; in part it reflects the mass-market shift to mobile devices. Why buy a PC when an iPad Pro can do almost everything you need a PC for? Why buy a Surface when the cool kids use Mac? Who was it said in 2010, “PCs are trucks?” People laughed at them (as they often did), but real world events support the claim.

These two contrasting models: PC and tablet, mobile and desktop, are the inflection points that will help define the next generation of IT. In a few weeks time we expect to find a little more about Apple’s response.

The company that ignited the PC industry in the first place remains resolutely unafraid to change it, and we all wait with a degree of interest to see what its plans are in the next Mac release. New processors? New form factors? New user interfaces? The hint of future 3D interfaces? Apple’s hand looks so strong it’s surprising it keeps a straight face in this game.

Poker face

When Apple begins defining the new synthesis between mobile and PC products, competitors will laugh, mock and then imitate it. Just like they have always done. Meanwhile, reports of Apple’s demise remain exaggerated by design.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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