In this week’s Macworld column the Macalope follows up on Dan Gillmor and a very silly pundit switches to the Mac. Then, leave the Mac mini alooooooooone!
Our friends at Retrevo are ginning up hits to their little shopping site again, this time with a survey that says “iPad Hoopla Fails to Convince Buyers”.
Which is an odd title because that’s exactly what it did. Retrevo makes a big deal of pointing out that the number of people who said they weren’t interested in an iPad nearly doubled from before the announcement to after it. Wow! The iPad is doomed!
What Retrevo “oddly” (ironic quotes intentional) doesn’t call out is that the number of people who said they would like to buy an iPad tripled. Not only that, the number of people who said they were interested but needed more information also went up. Equally shocking is the fact that the number of people who said they hadn’t heard of the iPad and weren’t interested shrank from 35% to 18%! The number of people who said they “need” an iPad (as opposed to “want” – nice phrasing, Retrevo) went up as did the number of people who thought maybe they “needed” one.
All that happened here is that more people were aware of the iPad after the announcement and more had formed an opinion about it. The bulk of the people who hadn’t heard of one and already weren’t interested (who could those people be?!) moved to the “Yes, I’ve heard of it and I’m not interested” category.
Again, this survey was of “more than 1000 randomly selected Retrevo users” who we’ve already determined are not in Apple’s core customer group.
At least Macworld caveated its report on the survey this time by linking to the Macalope’s previous takedowns of Retrevo’s nonsense. The Macalope dreams of a day when we can all just ignore them.
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?
Think of the millions of hours of human effort spent on preventing and recovering from the problems caused by completely open computer systems. Think of the lengths that people have gone to in order to acquire skills that are orthogonal to their core interests and their job, just so they can get their job done.
In today’s Macworld piece (now up), the Macalope takes to task someone complaining the iPad doesn’t print. Speirs sums up the point he was trying to make nicely.
Everyone knows by now that Apple announced record results again this week (BOR-ING!) but one thing of note is that laptop sales increased an astounding 35% year-over-year for the back-to-school quarter.
Wait, back to school? That rings a bell. Why, wasn’t there recently some big to-do on the web about how Apple was going to lose back-to-school sales to netbooks?!
Yes, rhetorical question generator, there was! It was back in August when multiple Mac web sites went nuts and took the word of that firm that nobody had ever heard of before at face value, uncritically reporting their stupid-ass survey as if it were the harbinger of DOOOOM for Apple.
Yeah, not so much.
Unsatisfied with the results of the Retrevo survey on back-to-school laptop purchasing, the Macalope has decided to conduct his own competing survey.
Please take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to complete this highly important and completely scientific survey.
Remember, we’re particularly interested in back-to-school shoppers (hint-hint).
UPDATE: Oops! Survey is back online. (Apparently there was a free limit of 100, but what’s $20 in the name of science?)
The Macalope has seen this Retrevo survey linked to a number of places and has some real questions about it.
First of all, Retrevo is not a research firm like Gartner. They’re a conduit to online sales. Do they get a cut of the sales from affiliate fees? The Macalope can’t tell from their web site.
Second, it’s interesting to note that one of their partners is HP, maker of netbooks. Maybe Apple is a partner too and they’re just not listed. Doubtful, but possible. HP is also specifically mentioned in the press release as one of the low-cost netbook alternatives to a MacBook. As a matter of fact, they’re the only other laptop vender mentioned. Hmm.
Third, what “trend” does their latest press release show? The title of their press release is:
Retrevo Survey Says Apple Loses Back-to-School Laptop Shoppers to Netbook & PC
Yet the press release says nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, it says very little.
Retrevo, the consumer electronics marketplace, released today a new Gadgetology study indicating 34% of students buying laptops are planning on purchasing small, lightweight netbooks. Another 49% are buying full-sized PC laptops. The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.
Assuming the second number excludes Macs, 34 + 49 = 83. Does that mean 17% of those surveyed are buying Mac laptops? What was Apple’s market share last year? How many sales or how much market share has Apple supposedly “lost” compared to last year?
They don’t provide that data. They just go on to castigate Apple for not having a low-cost laptop. It’s certainly possibly that netbooks are stealing the low end of the market where Apple doesn’t compete and it’s possible they’re growing that end of the market, but there’s absolutely nothing in their press release that show that Apple is losing sales to netbooks.
The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.
Uh, yeah. Apple has a market share below 10 percent. Of course the majority of even student laptop shoppers aren’t considering them.
Fourth, is an online sample size of 300 really statistically valid? That seems awfully low to the pointy one, but he’s no statistician.
This just seems very dubious.
ADDED: As TC points out in comments, this is only going to tell you something about what visitors to their site think (the survey was only of site visitors). And isn’t that an important bit of selection bias right there? What Retrevo does is pull together the prices from various online outlets. Their visitors are already self-defined as low-cost shoppers. They’re trying to find the lowest price. Don’t most Macs get sold through Apple’s online store and retail outlets anyway? How many people are ever going to visit Retrevo with the thought of buying a Mac?
MORE: Look at their “value map” for Apple laptops. Only three – the three cheapest – rate a “fair value”. All the others are rated “low value”. Ask yourself if that’s a fair assessment of Apple laptops. Again, it certainly appears that people who visit Retrevo’s site have some pre-conceived ideas about Apple’s laptop offerings. To these people low price = good value. To the Macalope, that describes a group that would rarely buy an Apple laptop in the first place.