As far as the tech world goes, I’m a virtual nobody. I don’t have any connections to anyone “in the know.” I’m not part of the “respected press.” I’m just a guy with a blog and a web connection. I haven’t been a Mac-aficionado forever. (Only since about 2000.) And although I consider myself more business-savvy than a lot of the folks that blog, talk on podcasts and offer their opinion on what’s happened and what is to happen, I’m certainly not ready to start talking on MarketWatch about what the most profitable move would be for Apple (or any other technology company, for that matter).
And with all of those disclaimers having been said, here is my wild, completely off-the-wall, batty prediction for MacWorld (this Tuesday January 9, 2007):
I predict that, at MacWorld 2007 on January 9, Apple will announce that they are releasing a version of OS X that will run on standard PCs.
OK – now before you close the browser and declare that I’m out of my mind and that I’m being sensationalistic, let’s think about this for a second. First of all, the reasons against.
Many who think that this is the most ridiculous move that Apple could make have pointed to the fact that with Apple selling their expensive Mercedes-like hardware at such high prices and with people willing to pay a premium for a Mac Pro, iMac, MacBook or MacBook Pro, why would they ever give PC users the opportunity to run OS X on mainstream PCs for a third of the cost. Allegedly, this would “kill” Mac sales. (Or so they say.)
The other issues point to the lack of compatibility with the current crop of PC-based peripherals. It would take a herculean effort to write code, even if it’s written in the following months, such that all video cards, printers, scanners and all other devices would work with OS X on the PC (or so I’ve been told.) And this is just the new equipment — not speaking about older PC printers, scanners, sound cards and other devices.
Thinking more optimistically, with Apple’s focus in recent years turning from a Mac-only focus to one where iTunes and the iPod are the revenue leaders, perhaps this time in history presents an opportunity to take some risk in other areas? It has always been Apple’s tragedy that amidst a bright future in the early 1980s, their failure to act quickly to move Macs into a more business-central environment would prove to be the point where Microsoft, through MS-DOS and subsequently through Windows, was able to become the market leader in operating systems. Undoubtedly, there isn’t a day that goes by where Windows doesn’t touch some portion of our lives. For many, it is the tie that binds.
Microsoft is set to release Windows Vista (after several years of delays.) At CES, they will present more information and hopefully soon we’ll hear more about the launch plan for Vista (including any launch parties, point-of-sale midnight launch events, a-la PS3/Nintendo Wii/Xbox 360). I’m pretty excited about a new Windows operating system, but I’m not sure that the rest of the public is. I haven’t heard much hype and the retail box is set to ship in less than four weeks.
From a historical perspective, this is probably a golden opportunity to strike while the iron is hot.
Many have predicted that this will be the last time that we’ll have an “out-of-box” Windows (or any other OS) solution and that future efforts will be download-based with online connectivity moving forward. Exactly how that’s going to happen, I don’t know. But I do agree that this could be the last time that operating systems are sold in this brick-and-mortar fashion. In my eyes, there couldn’t be a better time to release a boxed version of Operating System 10 for the PC. (OS X – PC Version.) Apple has been marketing this whole “I’m a PC. I’m a Mac.” campaign for a year now. Perhaps this is the much rumored time when John Hodgeman’s “I’m a PC” character decides to make a New Year’s Resolution change and shed Windows and run OS 10 on his PC??? (And figuratively suggest that the world of “I’m a PC”s of the world make the same move in concert.)
It’s not as if Apple hasn’t been taking shots at Windows Vista during their own presentations and keynotes. They’ve done split screen comparisons to Vista, saying that the features that it offers are, in their words, poor knock-offs of OS X features.
Boot Camp came as a complete and total surprise to many, including yours truly. At the time of the release, many asked “why such a move”. For me, the move was a simple and brilliant decision — allow the world to run the only computer that lets them have the best of both worlds — OS 10 and Windows. Boot Camp (along with Parallels and VM Ware) has allowed me to do something I wanted to do in the past, but couldn’t with a clear conscience — recommend a Mac to someone who traditionally uses a PC. As much as I like OS 10, my fear has always been that they wouldn’t make the adjustment and would thus be stuck with a high-priced machine where they made use of but a fraction of the functionality. Boot Camp changed all of this. You could buy a Mac now and, with the Intel chipset that runs both OSes, theoretically never run OS X (although I can’t quite understand why you wouldn’t want to.)
If my prediction is true, Boot Camp has acted in a way that many people never predicted: it was a beta for Apple as much as it was for us. While many of us thought we were getting this “gift” from Apple, they were leveraging the data that was being returned from Boot Camp users about their experience with Windows on a Mac. This data will lead to a smooth installation experience for all buyers of the OS 10 for the PC.
From a cost perspective, Apple will certainly be ahead. OS 10 typically sells for $129. The cheapest version of Vista (with almost visual bells and whistles) sells for $99 for those upgrading from Windows XP, while the Ultimate sells for $259 for those upgrading from XP and $399 for those buying a non-dependent license. Add this to the marketing campaign where I believe that Steve Jobs will be announcing that OS X will be in stores either the week before or the same week as Microsoft Vista. When you really look at the signs, it isn’t quite so “off the wall.”
From a marketing perspective, the Apple marketing machine which bombarded your with ads last year will be beating the drum about the fact that OS X is without the virus issues which have plagued Microsoft’s more popular (and thus more likely to be the target of hackers) OS. Couple this with a laundry list of other comparisons and we’ll be seeing a shootout if my prediction is true.
Lastly, from a business perspective, Wall St. would be going crazy trying to decipher the meaning of this news. For the naysayers, this move represents a dent in Apple’s ability to sell their hardware at a premium. They become more like Microsoft (primarily a software company) and they lose the ability to control their ecosystem with a closed environment (i.e. Apple hardware, Apple Software). However, the bulls will be viewing this move as an unprecedented attempt to make a run at the operating system market. Charts will be shown throughout the rest of the quarter comparing sales of Vista to OS X. Initially, because Vista will ship with new PCs, the numbers may need to be parsed out, but if Apple can get the ears of some of the hardware manufacturers and get them to bundle OS X in their systems, we could see the dawning of a new age…..
And speaking of “the dawning of a new age,” this seems to fit very closely with the poster that is currently on the website and being shown all over the vicinity of the Moscone Center (the sight of the Apple Keynote.) Have you read it? “The first 30 years were just the beginning”? This sounds like something rather monumental. An “iPhone” pales in comparison to something of this magnitude.
So, either I’m completely crazy and I should be committed or perhaps I’ll be sending this link to folks all around the net in the event that I’m on the mark. One thing is for certain: I’ll be listening to Tuesday’s announcements, along with the rest of the world, on the edge of my seat.
Hang on for the ride, folks. This could get interesting.