What runs the engine at Apple has changed dramatically over the last few years. Someone who just moved on from Apple sent me this article about Chromebooks making up half of US classroom devices sold.
The article did not surprise me. I predicted it long ago, but even I am surprised with how quick it happened.
Apple's early brand was built on a couple of things, productivity and the education market.
Over thirty-three years ago, I bought my first Apple product. It was an Apple II+ and it revolutionized the way that I wrote and mailed a newsletter. I was a field representative for the Canadian Angus Association. My Apple with Apple Writer II, an Epson MX-80 printer, and DB Master changed the way that I worked. It turned a week's worth of frustration into something that could be done in a day.
Just six weeks after figuring that out in September 1982, I went to work for a TI mini-computer VAR that was dabbling in microcomputers. The one I bought was one of the first few that they sold. I became the microcomputer sales coordinator. Within a year we were selling over three million dollars of Apple product. I was hiring and training sales people as fast as I could. We opened four more stores across three provinces in the next two years. Eventually we had over twenty people dedicated to selling Apple's products.
The vast majority of those first sales were to education. In November 1984, a little over two years after I dispersed our cattle herd of over 200 Angus, I went to work for Apple. We moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the next year I closed an order for 1,300 Apple IIes. The order at the time was the largest single purchase order ever received by Apple Canada. It put an Apple IIe in every fifth grade classroom in Nova Scotia. I ended up finishing as the number two sales person in Apple's international division that year.
If you fast forward a few years to 1992, I had moved and was working with Apple in education in Virginia. My efforts had turned the colleges and universities in Virginia into an unbelievable success. I was named higher education account executive of the year for Apple USA. I was also promoted to higher education manager and joined Apple's extremely successful but short-lived higher education division with Jim Buckley at the head. I still wear the sweatshirt that I got at the first higher education managers' meeting in Colorado Springs.
Success in education was at the heart of my success at Apple. The education business along with the support of the creative community was also keeping Apple alive.
Apple's Higher Education division disappeared sometime around 1996 and I believe that the decline in Apple's education business began shortly after that. Part of the problem Apple was having at that time was trying to be a consumer company.
There was a lot of window dressing on the education market in subsequent years, but what Apple and Steve really wanted to do was become a consumer company. The iPod, iPad, and iPhone made that a reality.
Apple has probably become the most successful consumer products company the world has ever seen. However, I have to wonder if Apple sold its soul for that success?
Products that come out of Apple are still very nice and I am sure many educators still love them. Certainly there are some creative people still enthralled with their Macs, iPads, and iPhones.
From my perspective Apple products have become more suited for content consumers than content creators. I know the commercials say otherwise, but the people writing the commercials probably do not use Pages, Numbers, or Apple's Photo program. Even Apple rarely uses Pages or Numbers. Just ask someone who works there.
In the last year I have written about how Apple is no longer at the center of my world and that there would be no Apple under our tree in 2014. In the computer world, I cannot see how the equation has improved for an Apple. I still very pleased with the Lenovo desktop that was under the tree. Nothing Apple has introduced has sent me rushing to an Apple Store.
I am using El Capitan on my repaired iLemon. It is not a bad operating system, but I prefer Windows 10. I work for a Mac-based company and we struggle daily with Apple's software. Not long ago I had to export a document from Pages to Word to fix a problem and then import it back into Pages. Today I ended up doing a mail merge in Word on Windows. After I sent the file to our CEO, he commented about how much work it saved the home office because I got that and the labels all done so quickly.
It used to be that you used a Mac because things just worked on Macs. That not necessarily the case anymore. A lot depends on how hard you push the applications. Mail does not do a good job with all my email accounts so I use PostBox across all platforms. I am not an Outlook fan either. Photo does not accomplish anything I want. I average about 40,000 photos a year and they get processed in Lightroom on Windows. The long documents which were created with multiple style sheets in Pages O9 by our company are not much fun in the new Pages. I am happy to have almost no contact with Numbers.
As someone who spent many years selling Apple's computers to the education world at the CIO level, I feel some sadness in seeing Apple let that market slip through its fingers. As someone who depended on Macs for years to get my work done, I am disappointed at the state of Apple software. I also hate to say that there is no Apple hardware product with the features and pricing to earn a spot on my desktop or under the Christmas tree. I will stick with my current iMac, Mac mini, and my three Lenovos.
Time will tell if focusing everything on the iPhone world will be the right long term strategy for Apple. Certainly it has been a great money making strategy, but a legacy of money might not be what I would have hoped for the company that brought us so many amazing innovations.
To find out what life was really like in Apple sales, check out my book the Pomme Company. The stories are true. I am pleased to have over eleven wonderful years between me and my last day at Apple. That my life here on North Carolina's Crystal Coast only intersects a little with Apple is just fine with me.