Missing the forest for the trees
Chris Seibold at AppleMatters gets the ball rolling in one of the most dunderheaded arguments the Macalope’s ever seen.
Is Apple is going to switch to Apple chips for the Mac? The question arises because Apple uses an in house design to power the iPad.
The arguments for the switch are abundant:more control, more profits, a chip expressly designed for Macs. Seems good on the surface but what if the Mac’s surge in popularity is predicated on the chips from Intel?
He goes on to provide a series of charts that show the line for Mac sales rising precipitously after the Intel switch. But a coincidence of timing does not necessarily imply causality.
Over at ZDNet, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes thinks he knows the real reason behind Mac sales.
I have a different idea, one that’s linked to the Intel CPU, but not directly.
Boot Camp. Yep. My take on the Mac sales explosion is that it was the ability to set up Windows on a Mac as a dual boot OS was what really made Macs both viable and relevant.
Intel CPUs made Boot Camp possible, so in a way it was Intel that helped boost Mac sales, but only indirectly. What really boosted Mac sales was Windows.
The Macalope really can’t believe this argument. It’s like watching two medieval barbers arguing whether leeches or bloodletting saved the patient.
Certainly the switch to Intel chips and the consequential ability to run Windows were contributing factors. The PowerPC was increasingly unviable for running a desktop operating system and there’s a good argument to be made that Mac sales would not have taken off if Apple had stuck with it and fell behind in speed. But that’s different than the chip driving sales. It was more like a pre-condition. Kingsley-Hughes is right that most people don’t care what processor is in their computer. Why should they? They just care about what the computer can do. But how many Mac users really run Boot Camp? Maybe the thought that it was always there if they needed it provided some comfort, a foot in the door, but if anything they were trying to get away from Windows, not run it on different hardware.
The Macalope would contend that three larger contributing factors than simply the brand of processor or the ability to run Windows were:
- Microsoft’s inability to ship a viable alternative to XP for nine years. This is probably the biggest one. Seibold portrays this only in terms of Vista, asking if Vista drove PC users to the Mac, and there’s no real causality there, obviously, because he’s asking the wrong question. If you look at the graph he presents, the uptick in Mac sales starts about when the normal life cycle of the first machines with XP pre-installed ran out, around late 2003 to early 2004. When people started looking for new machines, they started questioning their choice of operating system and many decided to get something that had actually been updated in the last four years.
- The iPod. The iPod made Apple a household name and restored confidence in Apple. People loved their iPods and were willing to consider getting a computer made by the same company the next time the opportunity came up.
- The Apple Store. The first stores opened in 2001, but the company didn’t really achieve saturation in the major urban centers until a couple of years later. Oh, right about the time Mac sales took off.
Is it harder to believe that neither one of these guys even discussed these factors or that the Macalope continues to be surprised by this kind of blinkered thinking?
To Seibold’s question about whether or not Apple switches Macs to its own chips, the Macalope suspects that certainly wouldn’t happen any time in the near future. Boot Camp is a nice feature and some users rely on it. But more importantly ramping up to that volume would not happen overnight. And does the company really want to tell Mac developers they have to recompile again?
From the perspective of a Mac user, however, other than having to go back to relying solely on emulation to run Windows on a Mac, why would they care?