I saw an interesting blog post this week regarding how Apple is immune to the innovator’s dilemma (for those unfamiliar with the term). First, I don’t think the company is immune at all, I think that OS X and MacBooks ARE the innovation relative to Windows Vista and PCs. Second, there’ve been tons of recent articles regarding the company’s climb in market share. Finally, in the interests of full disclosure, I am personally a (small) AAPL stockholder.
Consumers are turning increasingly to their peers, friends, and family for recommendations of products. I’ve personally referred four people to purchase Panasonic plasmas after buying my own (of course, they all got the newer model, but no, I’m not extremely bitter). In each case my friends actually made purchases on nothing but my recommendation. That’s a pretty hefty price tag for a word-of-mouth referral. While there’s constant debate on the “power of influencers” there’s almost no question we all like to have a friendly opinion to back up a purchase decision.
Today, when buying a new notebook, I’ll make the following two statements that I believe are true:
- Virtually all MacBook owners will recommend most MacBook models when asked
- Virtually no Vista notebook owners will recommend most models from any given manufacturer when asked
The second point is probably the more debatable one. I’m not saying there’s *no* PC worth recommending. But, even a person happy with, say a Dell, cannot make a blanket statement “all Dell notebooks are worth buying.” Further, this situation worsens, not improves, over time. A year ago I’d have recommended a Vaio hands-down. Today I cannot (despite mine working quite well now – thanks again Ed!), because I simply don’t believe that all configurations are recommendable. So I’d have to say “Get model XX, with the YY screen and the ZZ video card” and even then, still leave a lot to chance. I wouldn’t be able to personally vouch for it, the cornerstone to any recommendation.
MacBooks do not have this issue, despite the occasional glitch here and there. They are almost completely recommendable, all of the time (although I’d never personally imagine buying the SSD version of the Air, but that’s more a budget/performance issue than anything else).
Also, I think there is a bit of a “trickle-down” effect happening. When I decided to make the switch, virtually all of my peers and industry thought leaders I read, know, and respect had moved to Macs. I had lunch with a VC friend of mine today, he confirmed that well over 90% of the startups who pitch him come in with MacBooks.
I truly believe this is a “perfect storm” for the MacBook (regardless of whether or not there are new models coming):
- Vista is just a disaster (I can count on one hand the number of people I know personally who think it’s a step up from XP), and there’s no solution imminently on the horizon.
- The PC manufacturer’s are caught in an Innovator’s Dilemma moment where the thousands of configurable options on a PC are what their customers have asked for, yet don’t truly want.
- The price point of an entry level MacBook is on par with a Windows notebook.
- Finally, and possibly most importantly, the introduction of BootCamp and Parallels have enabled the “tentative” customers to make the leap, knowing they can run Windows for anything they miss (Outlook!)
It’s not about the 3, 4, 6, or 12% market share they may or may not have across all computer sales. That’s almost irrelevant to address, since desktops have so many types of uses. But notebooks are much more telling of the shifting trends. Notebooks are for both personal and professional use, they have their place in the office and the home (and everywhere in between). Notebooks afford us more choice in the computer we choose to purchase and use.
Will I be wrong on the timing? Time will tell. Is this a slam dunk? Not at all! Can the PC guys do anything to stop it? Absolutely. But all the signs on the walls I read point to a very dominant iFuture.
Updated: a point I forgot to mention was production capacity (thanks yoshi). As was stated there, it’s pretty unrealistic to think that Apple could possibly ramp production up to the capacity that would be necessary to accomplish the feat. But then again, that’s what my friend Peter calls a “high class” problem to solve…