Can Apple afford to piss off its power users?

Mac loyalists are feeling marginalized, and it doesn’t feel good.

Apple 3.0 readers weigh in on a growing list of grievances:

Fred Stein: Apple would be wise to ignore “the bloody ROI”, and support the Pro Creative market with product suited to their needs. High-end users tend to have high influence, and high customer life-time value.

Richard Wanderman: This has bugged me for the longest time. United knows how many miles I’ve flown. Credit cards give me cash back. Costco sends me a check every year. Apple doesn’t seem to give a damn how many computers and how much other gear I’ve bought over the years, not to mention how many thousands of people I’ve influenced.

Dave EmeryIf Mac loses the Creative market, what is its target market? Household users can do fine with iPad (or Chromebooks). Targeting business users (e.g. IBM) is an uphill battle.

And this, from a software engineer who has consulted for Apple:

via Wanderman: For video production work or Photoshop or Lightroom, the apps look virtually the same running on Mac or PC. So the computer is just a commodity providing raw horse power under the software. As we have seen pretty consistently through the years, Apple is careful (and smart) to avoid the commodity product business. They have just done that again by getting out of the monitor and network router businesses. These items are commodities and the incremental value they can add there is not great (now that other companies are supplying very good products in these areas). We have to adjust.

See also:

38 Comments

  1. John Blackburn said:
    Apple needs Macs because Macs > macOS > Xcode > iOS.

    2
    November 27, 2016
  2. John Kirk said:
    “Dave Emery: If Mac loses the Creative market, what is its target market? Household users can do fine with iPad (or Chromebooks).”

    I don’t think Dave gets it. Everyone will own a smartphone. Only some will own a second screen. And the vast majority of second screen owners will use a tablet, not a PC. And Apple OWNS the “tablet as a computer” market. (Android owns the “tablet as a media viewing” market.)

    I wish Apple would support power users more with updated computers. But power users should NEVER be Apple’s target market. Power users want to work on their computers. Apple’s target market wants their computers to “just work.” There’s a world of difference between the two.

    0
    November 27, 2016
    • David Emery said:
      Go back to the previous thread here and read my full post. I do ‘get it’. But I tell you I will not do email on a phone (turned down a crackberry in ’02 and have never regretted that decision.) I want a full size mechanical keyboard to write something longer than a paragraph, and that’s true for both personal stuff (e.g. this post) and for work.

      In 31 years using the Mac, I’ve been a ‘power user who wants stuff to just work.’ I want to be able to establish and maintain the home network with minimum hassle. I want to plug my machine into the corporate network, and do email, file sharing, etc, with minimum hassle. I want an environment that I can customize to do what I need to (e.g. I’ve been running Default Folder for almost as long as I’ve been using Macs) And I don’t want to have to deal with IT Nazis who insist “one size fits all, our way or the highway.”

      1
      November 27, 2016
      • John Kirk said:
        “I will not do email on a phone… I want a full size mechanical keyboard to write something longer than a paragraph.” ~ DAVID EMERY

        I’m like you in that regard, David, but we’re dinosaurs. First, kids don’t even DO email. Second, although I’ve been a touch typist for over 40 years, my college aged daughter can type faster with two thumbs on her phone than I can on the physical keyboard on my MacBook. The times they are a-changing even if we’re not willing to change with them.

        1
        November 27, 2016
        • David Emery said:
          If Apple chooses to abandon “dinosaurs”, I’ll both stop buying their computers and sell my stock. That means that Apple will be self-limiting their market in a way I find unacceptable.

          0
          November 27, 2016
          • John Kirk said:
            Desktops and Notebooks are a diminishing market. I love my MacBook, but it’s not Apple’s future and it’s barely their present. The Macintosh was introduced in 1984. That’s 32 years ago. In computing terms, that’s a long, long time. It’s on it’s way out, whether we accept it or not.

            1
            November 27, 2016
            • Jonathan Mackenzie said:
              I think a Venn diagram of AAPL investors and Mac using dinosaurs would overlap quite a bit. The very people who are impacted by Apple’s decisions about the Mac are those who hold stock in the company.

              Younger people are probably more comfortable with the idea of total mobile computing, but of course fewer of them hold AAPL stock or even follow the stock market. This makes for interesting discussions about whether the company can succeed without these Mac customers or how soon they will be dying off.

              0
              November 27, 2016
              • John Kirk said:
                “I think a Venn diagram of AAPL investors and Mac using dinosaurs would overlap quite a bit”

                While I’m sure that Mac owners own a lot of Apple stock, I doubt it’s enough to make much of a difference. Institutional investors probably far outweigh the influence of Mac owners.

                0
                November 28, 2016
              • Jonathan Mackenzie said:
                “While I’m sure that Mac owners own a lot of Apple stock, I doubt it’s enough to make much of a difference. Institutional investors probably far outweigh the influence of Mac owners.”

                You’re right of course. I didn’t mean Mac users influenced the stock. I meant people on sites like these, who follow the company closely, are more likely to be Mac users than the average Apple customer. This biases the conversation about the importance of the Mac.

                0
                November 28, 2016
    • Richard Wanderman said:
      I would think that Apple could have more than one “target market” and therein lies the rub.

      I doubt any of us, especially on this site, who are concerned about the state of Mac think Apple ought to shift primary focus away from the iPhone and iOS. It’s just that a company with the resources of Apple should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time: put focus on iOS and Mac OS and acknowledge that there are a group* of users who have stuck with Apple through some tough times and many years and are using Macintosh computers to make a living.

      *I don’t know how big this group is but it’s bigger than hundreds, bigger than thousands, probably bigger than tens or even hundreds of thousands. Maybe millions. I don’t know and it doesn’t seem like Apple does either.

      2
      November 27, 2016
  3. David Drinkwater said:
    I think financially, Apple can clearly afford to piss off its power users. The iPhone is powerful, but it’s not a power user’s instrument of choice. The Mac may still yet be, but it is a sliver of Apple’s business. So Apple can afford to lose it financially, but if it did, the “rest of us”, “the misfits,” etc., would fall away. It is not impossible to make that transition successfully (to mainstream boring), but I would hate to see it after 32 years of loyally owning Macs for pleasure (and business where possible). And I don’t really see today’s front-facing management pulling it off.

    In spite of the fact that I say that Apple “can” afford to piss off its power users, no, I don’t really think so, because so many of its average users are wanna-be followers. Image=Brand=Everything.

    1
    November 27, 2016
    • Fred Stein said:
      Yes, David, there are two ways to think about ‘can afford’. One is the short-term financial. The other is the long-term ecosystem. The high-end or ‘pro’ user create Apps that make iOS valuable. And other users simply follow their lead. In the earliest Mac days, Apple coined the term, software evangelist, knowing the important of it’s high-end users.

      We do have an added wrinkle, the video production sub-segment of the pro segment. These users need systems well beyond what Apple offers today.

      0
      November 27, 2016
  4. Jonathan Mackenzie said:
    Despite MacRumor’s advice not to buy the dated MacBook Air, it nabbed the 3rd spot in Black Friday sales. Apple doesn’t need to refresh these models every year to sell tons of them them and that messes with the whole calculus.

    0
    November 27, 2016
    • Richard Wanderman said:
      That’s a great point. Did all of this “Macintosh concern” come up because the entire line needs a refresh or because the MacBook Pro had a RAM cap and soldered on SSD (neither of which bother me in the least)?

      I think it’s a lot of things that those of us who are concerned see as a larger pattern, not any one thing. And, there is no “proof” that Apple is getting out of the Macintosh business or even that they won’t rev the Mac Pro next year (I doubt it, but that’s another story).

      I kind of doubt that the folks who are showing all of this concern for the Macintosh platform are the same ones who are buying MB Airs at a discount although maybe they are, who knows?

      I don’t think Apple needs to rev Macs every year and I have no problem waiting for Intel to get the next CPU out so Apple can update various Macs. Somehow I have this nagging feeling that something deeper is going on. I’ve never had this feeling before in my entire history with the Macintosh but I have it now. I just wish Apple had ended the MacBook Pro event with a hint that more Macintosh updates are coming next year. They didn’t, and then we hear AirPort routers are going away. Sort of a bad series of stories back to back and human imagination being what it is…

      1
      November 27, 2016
      • Jonathan Mackenzie said:
        I think I understand the concern about Macs. As a devoted desktop user, I bought the 5k iMac when it came out and would love to blow money on another upgrade I don’t need. I would like to know there is a new model out there even if I don’t upgrade just to know I could and that the line is moving forward. The intel connection does mess things up a bit, too.

        But it’s clear they didn’t just mail it in with this last upgrade. They may not have made everyone happy, but they clearly devoted some resources to the redesign of the MacBook Pro. That suggests to me that they if they are going to keep something around they want to make it new, and if they make it new, they are likely to keep it around.

        The router thing is another story. I just got my first AirPort a year or so ago. It doesn’t have enough connections for my taste and seems to want me to be a wireless house instead of trying to attach three desktops, an Apple TV and a printer. But it was easy to set up. Still, no great difference for me between Apple and the competition, unlike my experiences (and observations) with tablets, phones, and desktops.

        So maybe Apple said to the router folks, “Look you folks haven’t moved that ball on this. If you can’t or won’t, we’re going to devote the resources to places we can move the ball.”

        They also have stats we don’t on how many of these they sell and what the life cycle seems to be. Maybe the market is dying, or maybe they have an idea for something that is going to make this concept trivial (for example as I suggested in another post, turning the Apple TV in to the home’s network command station). I have no idea why they did it, but it concerns me less than thinking about whatever road map they have for Macs.

        I don’t see Apple abandoning Macs, but I can see the concern among some who think they might. I think it must be such a challenge for Apple to move the ball forward with these products while still keeping everything in perspective.

        I have not met anyone under 30 who shares my affection for desktops. I love to shop online, but I have never made a purchase on my iPhone. Yet the stats are telling us, with over $1b in mobile sales through Black Friday, that mobile is the future. Sure developers and pro content makers still need more powerful systems, but for how much longer? 3 years? 5 years? Ten? I think it must be clear to Apple that desktops are going the way of mainframes. They will always exist, but they will become less and less essential and as folks like me fade away, and less and less insisted upon.

        If I were running the biggest computer company in the world, I might not ignore the allegiant Mac users, but I’m not sure I’d expect them to be around in 10 or 15 years. It must be a bit of a conundrum for them.

        2
        November 27, 2016
        • Richard Wanderman said:
          As I said elsewhere (maybe another post, can’t remember), I think Apple has the resources to support both the mobile world and the desktop world. The desktop world is still the world making apps, creating Apple’s advertising, and more.

          I’ve been using AirPort routers since they came out. It’s less a matter of brand or capability, more a matter of easy to setup and use. When a friend needs help because the light on his AirPort is blinking yellow, I can walk him through fixing it very easily, as I could my mother on many an occasion.

          Over many years (since 1984) I’ve given Apple enormous leeway to surprise me, shock me, awe me. I’ve never felt as concerned for the Mac platform as I do now, and that includes the Amelio/Performa years.

          0
          November 27, 2016
        • David Emery said:
          If Apple is dropping its own networking gear, they owe it to “the rest of us” to make all the protocols/features available to at least some network gear vendors. I have a pretty strong dependence on supporting Airport Express speaker port and playing audio through that (to both dedicated stereos and to the FM transmitter for the rest of the house.)

          0
          November 27, 2016
      • Fred Stein said:
        I feel the same uneasiness, waiting for the chord progression. Ideally well before WWDC.

        0
        November 27, 2016
  5. David Drinkwater said:
    Weird observation: messing with “tech support” for mom’s slow internet service (actually max 3 Mbps due to “isolation” – and disservice by the local cable co: so the WiFi ain’t the problem), I followed the prompt to connect a computer directly to the modem via Ethernet:

    Oops: my next Mac won’t have an Ethernet port. What then?

    This is all to say that I am almost tempted to buy an “old” MacBook Pro just to have a sensibly functional toolbox.

    1
    November 27, 2016
    • Richard Wanderman said:
      I hear you. My AirPort router (newest model) died about 4 months ago. It took me a while to figure out that it had died and in the process, I needed to hook up the cable modem to my MacBook Pro via ethernet. Uh…. I don’t have an ethernet port. So, a trip to the Apple store and a $29 ethernet dongle got things sorted. AppleCare covered the router and I got a new one in a few days but without an ethernet port it’s tough to sort that stuff out. No, I’m not whining for an ethernet port, just that I experienced that you did. I have the dongle now, although I’m not sure it’s gonna work on the newest MacBook Pros. Actually, it won’t. Sigh.

      0
      November 27, 2016
    • Keith Hope said:
      It has been possible for some time to connect an iPhone or iPad to Ethernet, the USB-C evolution may make it even easier.

      Here is an article describing how to use the Apple USB 3 to Lightning adapter to connect to Ethernet.
      https://www.lifewire.com/connect-ipad-to-wired-ethernet-port-1994242

      http://lifehacker.com/hack-together-a-way-to-connect-an-ipad-or-iphone-over-e-1770270331

      Interestingly, Apple’s new USB-C to Ethernet adapter apparently works with some Android phones, since USB-C is a standard, so the various adapters, even from Apple, are not Apple specific.

      0
      November 27, 2016
        • Richard Wanderman said:
          Not sure that’s quite an upside. Did you read the comments?

          0
          November 28, 2016
        • Keith Hope said:
          Typo in my prior post – It will be interesting to see how Apple manages the Lightning vs. USB-C tension over the next few iPhone iterations. (not interactions)

          USB history is littered with design by committee dead-ends and short lived variations, further confounded by confusing designations and spec levels. And all this was prior to USB-C.

          The hope is that USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3 layered on top, will lead to a better future. There is still plenty of room for confusion and potential mis-use, especially regarding USB-C cabling and port variations, port and cable markings and power/charging configurations.

          0
          November 28, 2016
  6. Tom Wyrick said:
    Apple continually surveys users to identify their needs, examines and compares Macs to PC’s sold by other companies, and makes long-term plans that outsiders don’t know about. By comparison, the critics commenting here refer to their “worries” and expectations, and things that someone else told them.

    Anecdotes can be true without being meaningful. No unit sales numbers, revenues or profits from Mac have been discussed in this entire rumor-filled discussion.

    1
    November 28, 2016
  7. Tom Wyrick said:
    It is now clear that Apple has a Macintosh roadmap, though treating it as a trade secret. The false assumption that Cook, Ive & Co. have written off the Mac was borne out of impatience, instead of facts and logic….

    AppleInsider
    Apple has ‘great desktops’ on Mac roadmap, CEO Tim Cook says
    Dec. 19, 2016

    “Allaying fears that Apple is scaling back Mac desktop development efforts as it concentrates on portables, CEO Tim Cook told employees on Monday that there are exciting products in store for the recently neglected segment.”

    appleinsider.com/articles/16/12/19/apple-has-great-desktops-on-mac-roadmap-ceo-tim-cook-says

    0
    December 19, 2016

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