Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sweet Apples

The funny thing about the Dictionary application that ships with every copy of Apple's desktop version of its operating system is that under the heading "Macintosh" it says nothing about computers or even about apples. It talks about raincoats.

This demarketing hasn't hurt Apple's Mac business, apparently: Gartner reports that last quarter's sales numbers show Apple's sales growth at about 32.5% in the U.S. market for PCs (compared to a 3% growth in the U.S. PC market as a whole), for a U.S. market share of 6.6%. Gartner listed Apple last quarter as the #4 vendor in the U.S. by unit sales (Acer reached #3 by buying Gateway, which Apple had just passed to become temporarily the #3 U.S. vendor by unit volume). Preliminary Gartner numbers seem to show Apple selling 7.8% of new PCs in the U.S. market in the second quarter of 2008, with a growth over the year-ago quarter still exceeding thirty percent. Acer seems to be on fire, though, with over 40% growth. Dell is back from the dead, with growth exceeding HP's. It looks like the fight for share is alive and well.

With Apple selling millions of units of iPhones and iPod Touch devices running its MacOS X operating system tweaked for handheld use and multitouch input, Apple's total sales of Unix machines probably eclipse nearly anyone else's Unix sales. With All Apple's sales being Unix sales, and Apple's growth on an apparent trajectory to the moon, I wonder who is likely to be in a position to outsell Apple in Unix. Does this matter? Sure -- there are folks who develop for Unix, and being the world's leader in Unix creates a pretty powerful draw for developers wanting to sell to the widest audience. If Apple makes Unix sales easy for developers, developers will make it easy to run their Unix apps on Macs.

The question is whether folks outside the back-office want ported Unix apps. Some of them look pretty clunky. On the other hand, for the back-office stuff it's a pretty good bet standards-conformance and code correctness (e.g., actually making hard disks synch when commanded, even though this has a performance cost, because it's what the programmer asked for and will get data written to disk) are more important than a benchmark score during a catastrophe, and folks with valuable data will react accordingly.

Years ago I thought enterprise would die for a user-friendly Unix that didn't have the maintenance overhead I experienced in Microsoft-dominated environments. Today ... well, today the position of Unix has fallen to the point that the back-office guys probably have no idea what they're missing.

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