None of us would argue that the Apple of today is anything but a very successful company. However, no matter how much you love Apple products, it is hard to argue that Apple is anywhere near in control of the computer desktop.
Statistics show that Windows owns the desktop. While I know many folks are moving away from traditional computing, that does not change the fact Windows is on far more desktops than the Mac OS.
If you know anything about my book, The Pomme Company, you likely know that I was at Apple from 1984 through 2004. Lots of people have asked me why a company with arguably better hardware and software could never beat a company that took years to produce an operating system with a good graphical user interface?
Some might argue that it was because Apple was always a company that needed adult leadership but never quite found it. I put the tipping point for Apple on the desktop at one pricing decision.
The Mac II was introduced in 1987. My family and I had just moved back to the states. I had just finished three years at Apple Canada. The Mac II had capabilities that made it sell like hotcakes in the government market. It was an unbelievable product. Architects, designers, graphic artists and publishers fell in love with it. However, Apple had priced the product very high and the high cost limited its appeal beyond those markets.
Many of us in the Apple field sales force argued that Apple should drop its margins on the Mac II while we still had a significant technological and software lead on the Windows world.
Apple management made the decision to keep the Mac II expensive and enjoy over 50% margins while they tried to try to develop other machines that delivered color but not all the capabilities of the Mac II. For years, the company struggled to deliver a competitive low cost color computer. It was over five years later before Apple got a good low cost color machine out the door and by the time they did, the Windows world was close enough in capabilities and so much less expensive that the die was cast. Apple had lost the desktop.
It is a fundamental rule of business that if you price your product very high, there is usually an opportunity for other enterprising people to come up with a similar, less expensive product and steal some or most of your future business. Sometimes it takes years, but if the reward is great enough, plenty of people will go after your market and someone might just be successful.
It is fortunate that Apple developed the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Those products created the success that was to elude Apple on the desktop. Some might say that a similar scenario could be playing out today in world of iPhones and iPads but Apple still has a very loyal customer base that is willing to pay higher prices.
However, Apple pricing continues to be extremely high in more traditional computers. While the company is making boatloads of money, one has to wonder how things might have been different. More importantly I wonder if the company is setting itself up to let history repeat itself.
We will never know what might have happened if Apple had made the Mac II much more affordable in its early years.
However, we might get to watch a plethora of other vendors continue to eat Apple's lunch in smart phones and tablets. Will Apple's customers stay with the company? iPhone users have proven to be a very loyal group.
Apple is certainly going to be a money machine for many years to come, but you have to wonder just how many $3,000 Mac Pros the company will sell?