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Macs: On Campus, In Office?

At Princeton they're up 400%. How about on Madison Avenue?

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Apple are sweeping higher education again for the first time since 1995. And come this holiday season they stand alone. Yet they have no higher level manager in charge, no sales force to move their products to business and government, and at best fewer than 500 Apple and Best Buy retailers to compete with Hewlett-Packard's twenty three thousand.

On Campus

Four years ago they were at a mere 10%; the year after 23%; the year after that 31%; and this year they're at 40%. And 6 out of 10 new students at Princeton choose a Mac with OS X.

This trend is matched at MIT, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn, Stanford, Cornell, and Brown. Over half of new students not only opt away from Windows - they opt for Apple and OS X.

Windows - 'the operating system from hell' according to Daily Princetonian staffer Doug Eshleman - is neither practical nor palatable. Students are given a choice of Dell, IBM, and Apple computers - and 60% choose Apple.

'The education field has always been their strongest market', says customer support manager Leila Shahbender of Apple. 'You don't see many Macs in the business world.'

Indeed. And now as Microsoft leave the field with a stillborn OS update no one wants and few can bother to use Apple stand alone. Paradoxically Apple used to have the educational field in the 1990s - until Windows 95 came along. And yet despite this dominance nothing much moved in the world of business. Students went back to Microsoft again upon matriculation.

Apple indeed have a golden opportunity - especially if they can translate the campus trend into an office trend - but pundits doubt it will happen.

Window of Opportunity

'If you're the owner of a Windows PC who is looking for a replacement computer, the choices are grim', writes Randall Stross of the New York Times. 'You can step into the world of hurt that is Vista, the latest version of Microsoft Windows that was released in January. Or you can seek out a new machine that still comes loaded with the comparatively ancient Windows XP. Maybe you might say the moment has arrived to take a look at the Mac.'

Indeed. What happens then? Stross speculates.

'You can easily order one online of course. But if you'd like to take a test drive before you commit, odds are that you'll have to look far and wide for a store that sells it. The Mac's presence in the retail world remains limited, a shame given the rare opportunity for Apple to gain market share that opened up when Vista arrived.'

The year the Macintosh was introduced Apple had a 14% demographic; today - and after ten years with Steve Jobs at the helm - that demographic stays at 3%. Stross goes on to state the obvious.

'Steve Jobs can hardly be satisfied with 3% after more than 20 years of selling the Mac. Consider whether Jobs would be able to deem the iPod a success if it gained only 3% of the market. He gave Microsoft's poor Zune exactly one month to succeed before he mocked its 2%.'

Another truism follows.

Bill Stumbled

'The best time for gaining market share is when your main competitor stumbles while introducing an entirely new version of its core product. Thanks to Microsoft's lumbering pace, Jobs had six years to look forward to the moment when XP would be replaced by V*sta. The spectacle of Microsoft customers scrambling to avoid buying machines with V*sta was a sight to be savoured for those watching from Apple's offices in Cupertino.'

Six years. Almost as much as he gave Bill between 1997 and 2002. Payback time?

Positioned Yet Unprepared

Stross believes Apple are well positioned in terms of their products to fill the gap left by Microsoft but they're certainly not capable of scrambling their infrastructure to do anything major about it.

'Hewlett-Packard sell computers in 23000 retail stores in the US alone. An Apple spokesman said the company did not release the number of resellers in the US but operated 185 Apple stores.'

Apple have 185 outlets; HP have - 23000? Close call.

No One VP in Charge

It's all about the way Apple are organised, says Stross. The members of the executive team include a senior VP for the iPod and another VP in charge of the stores but no one in charge of computers. And relations with retailers haven't always been the best.

'Given Apple's long tempestuous history with many retail chains, restoring trust has been tough. Best Buy dropped the Mac in 1999 when Apple continued to ship models and colors that pleased [Steve Jobs] - and not those ordered by Best Buy.'

Things are picking up but it's slow going this late in the game. Apple are now in 200 Best Buy outlets and plan to be in 300 by the end of the year. How things go with the remaining 572 stores is something Best Buy have not yet committed to.

'If Apple had begun wooing Best Buy two years ago and perhaps appointed an ambassador to look after the relationships with the chain and other resellers, the Mac would have been much better off', says Stross, a business professor at San Jose State.

Big $$$

And that's only the consumer market - it says nothing of the prosumer and business markets where the real gains are. The corporate sales teams that were disbanded have not yet reformed.

'Given such strategic decisions the Mac has limited room to expand', concludes Stross.

But there are other more tangible reasons.

Business Won't Buy

Apple users are zealots, muses Tom Smith of InformationWeek. 'Yet more than half of businesses have no plans to buy Apple's computers and more than 70% have no plans to buy iPhones.'

Smith bases his claims on a survey of 310 business technology professionals.

Although 37% of the companies had some Apple computers most won't consider them in any further deployment. Why?

  • The developer/software ecosystem is too small.
  • Difficulties integrating OS X into a Windows centric culture.
  • Too small an installed base and a limited track record in business.

Whilst worries about integration with Windows can be ridiculed the natural fears of the unknown and the lack of professional developers and software titles cannot.

  • 44% believe Apple products are more innovative;
  • 43% believe they offer greater ease of use and management;
  • And yet 54% have no plans to buy any in the next 6-12 months.

Amongst nearly 75% of those using Apple the OS X platform makes up less than 1/3 of the computing infrastructure.

See Also
Information Week: Why Business Won't Buy Apple
Daily Princetonian: On-campus Mac users quadruple
NY Times: A Window of Opportunity for Macs Soon to Close

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