Why Is Steve Jobs Shorting His Macs?

Over the course of the 2010 one trend from Apple has become clear – Apple is short-changing its Mac line-up of desktops and laptops in favor of its iPad and ilk [aka iDevices]. The evidence is compelling – from the Adobe Flash attack to no touchscreen or multi-touch on the Mac lineup, Steve is asking the Mac fans to take not one for the Gipper but several short changes in favor of his new iDevices.

In January, Steve did his prestidigitation and out popped the iPad without Flash and with only the barest of connectors to hook up an iPad with other Macs. Mac users will have to wait for Lion version of MacOS to begin to interface with iPad, iPhone and other iOS4 devices in Summer 2011. In June 0f 2010, Steve announced the new iPhone4 with major iOS4 upgrade and redesign. In July the Mac lineup got an upgrade to the new Intel i5 and i7 processors, new ATI graphics processors,  but no improvement in the graphics drivers to cut the 15-40% performance gap with Windows on the same Mac  Intel hardware.

Today, Steve announced major new versions for 3 iPods and the Apple TV. That means iDevices are getting about 4 times more attention than the Mac line up and it shows. More telling – big features like AirPlay for the new AppleTV only work with iDevices, Macs are cut out of the circuit. Most of the changes to the iMac and MacBook line up were simple trade-ups on Intel and ATI chips plus a new SD card connection. In contrast, all the iDevices got major software and hardware upgrades.

But Apple continued with more bad-side blessings – the Magic Trackpad For three years and counting, Apple has been delivering multi-touch+gestures but only on iDevices. For all those rabidly loyal Mac users the only sightings have been the multi-touch enabled MacBook touchpads, the Touch Mouse and some multi-touch patent applications. However the graphics and design work that these Mac Loyalists do would really really really profit from direct on screen multi-touch + gestures. So then this summer the Magic Trackpad effectively made it official: Apple would not be delivering multi-touch+gestures to Mac screens anytime soon. In fact Engadget saw the Apple Magic Trackpad as the Beginning of the End for Mac OS X. But for Mac creatives, missing out on simple touch screen operations which Windows 7 delivers [but not multi+gestures] – this is  one of the most galling of Apple shortcomings.

But Steve is on a disappointment roll, so why not test the adoring Mac fans’ allegiance by rejecting Flash on all his iDevices. This decision forced a lot of Mac designers and other creatives to contemplate how they would design and develop in the future without one of their favorite tools, Flash being able to run on iDevices. This means looking at alternatives [and HTML5, contrary to Steve suggestions, is just not close to being ready for primetime as it is missing completely multi-touch standards, development tools, and uniform browser support]. So Mac developers are confronted with a lot of duplicated effort. Not Good!

But for No-Goodness Sake, Steve had one more nasty up his sleeve. As it turns out in tests of his Apple machines in May of this year, running identically the same Apple hardware but just switching the OS on those Apple puppies- guess what? Running the same graphics software programs[ OpenGL, games, and Flash ] on both Windows7 and Mac OS/X 10.6, Windows 7 runs anywhere from 10 to 70% faster than MacOS. Windows is never bested by MacOS. And in fact, Linux loaded onto the same Apple computer always outperforms MacOS in the same battery of graphic tests too. So its not Flash that is slow on doing graphics and movies on MacOS, but Macs fault. Apple MacOS run most graphics software slower than Windows and Linux on the same Apple machines.

As noted,Apple announced late in the Summer a new Mac refresh using the latest Intel i5 and i7 chips and new ATI graphics chips. This Man from Missouri is now waiting for new benchmarks using the latest Apple hardware which will demo whether or not the Apple Macs can deliver graphics performance at least equal to Windows and Linux.

Security, Ease of Use, Better Browsing

If you have to give up graphics performance, one of your favorite design tools is Flash and multi-touchscreen operations on Macs, so what do Apple Macs have left? Well security for one. Windows has continued to have those wonderful monthly patch Tuesdays often with an added zero day virus. Wait a second – Apple’s security record at Secunia, the respected PC security advisory service, is not much better. Secunia has shown that Mac OS has a comparable number of high alert advisories:

Secunia tallied 36 advisories on security issues with the [MacOS] software, many of them allowing attackers to remotely take over the system – comparable to figures on operating systems such as Windows XP Professional or Red Hat Enterprise Server.

Hmmmm – not good news for MacOS users.

So lets take ease of use – oops, MacOS does not have touch screens at all – only multi-touch Magic Trackpads and the Magic Mouse. But Windows 7 has had touch screens [but not multi-touch + gestures] for nearly two years. And more PC vendors, particularly for high end desktops, are featuring touch screen operations. And touch screen alone even without multi-touch does make users more productive.

Okay , so concede a slight advantage to Windows 7 with touch screen. One has to say MacOS with Safari provides a much better Web Experience than Windows 7 and IE8. That would be true if IE8 were the only browser that runs in Windows. But Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera are all superior browsing experiences and they run on Windows 7 and all of the downloads are fast and dirt simple to do. Even, Safari, the latest 5.0.1 edition runs in Windows. And Microsoft has been working triple overtime this Summer to bring you IE9 which test versions show is right up with the other browsers on speed of operations and meeting the existing HTML, CSS, and DOM standards. But there are serious questions on how well IE9 meets the new HTML5 standards and IE9 is not available for the legion of Windows XP users [50% of all Windows users still]. A beta release of IE9 on September 15th will reveal all.

Whoa – is Windows 7 the way to go? It is much cheaper on the hardware side, has better graphics performance, touchscreen operations and a bevy of great browsers available. But on the downside there is always the security horror stories, speed often slower than Windows XP, less support for older Windows programs and peripherals, the slow decay of reliability and performance during the day as memory leaks and handles proliferation slowly do their nasties. Why are Macs losing ground to Windows PCs?

Engadget is right – Apple is abandoning its Mac Line.

Apple has shifted its focus to the iDevices and has really short-changed the Apple Mac line. And why not ? iDevices bring in almost triple the revenues and profits of the old Mac line:

Make up of Apple’s Stock price

Tired old Macs? Definitely so. Macs are consistently getting the short end of the Apple innovation stick. Macs are graphically hobbled relative to Windows and Linux competition. As we shall see shortly Macs cost nearly double if not more. Macs still do not have touchscreen operations. And security has slipped a notch.

Apple engineers have to make tough decisions on where to put their software + hardware efforts. MacOS is a 20 plus year old code base that has gone through 3 major revisions from Motorola 68000 to IBM Power PC to the NeXTSTEP fusion to Intel chips. With about 65% of your revenues coming from iDevices, the MacOS is going to get the short end of the stick more often. So can Apple justify the Mac’s Prices?

The Mac Price Premium

When Apple switched from the PowerPC to Intel CPU chips, one of the reasons given was that Apple wanted to be able to be competitive with Windows PCs on price. Now many Mac users are involved in the highly competitive Marketing Design, Graphics and Web development fields. As small shops and freelancers they have to watch their costs carefully. But as we have seen, as Apple switches over to its iDevices the premium price for Macs is less tenable. And the prices are certainly premium:

Apple Deal at Best-Buy August 27, 2010


Windows 7 Deal at Best-Buy August 27, 2010

One has to wonder is the MacBook worth a $800 premium given the features that it is giving away to Windows PCs? One reader has noted the Flash blockade and no touchscreen were reason enough to switch to Windows.

Summary

iPad and the other iDevices are high level innovations and quite a legacy for Steve Jobs. But in order to promote his iPad and other iDevices, it appears Steve has badly short-changed his Mac Users. Creative artists and graphic designers devoted to the Mac are faced with some tough decisions on where to go. Business Schools call it “Creative Destruction” or borrowing from Mac to pay for iDevices. Unless Apple provides some bridging mechanism, Mac users have some trying times ahead. Redmond has already taken note – and is advertising accordingly.

1 thought on “Why Is Steve Jobs Shorting His Macs?”

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