My first computer was almost a Macintosh. Almost. The year was 1988 (or was it 1989?) and I was in the market for my first personal computer. I remember standing in the computer store and watching a Mac II run some flavor of Mathematica and trying to figure out how I was going to pay for it. Well, I bought a 286 instead and the rest, as they say, is history.
The reason I bring this up is because I've recently been thinking about Apple and Microsoft and what drives their image. For almost the past two decades and certainly for the past five years of OS X, we have heard that Macintosh computers are simply better. The UI is more intuitive, the networking is faster, the system is safer. Better.
And yet Windows still runs the world. Don't even try to compare this to VHS-Betamax. Apple has far better marketing than Microsoft. I mean, really, do you remember the Microsoft dinosaur ad? Sheesh. So, if Apple has better hardware, better software, and better marketing, what's the problem?
The problem is choice. I'm not even going to consider hardware here because I think most people don't really care what their computer looks like and the ones that do will buy Apple. The choice I am speaking of is software. Apple does an excellent job with their software but they have to convince you to use the apps that come bundled with the os. Yes there are third party apps but not many. It's almost funny to hear people who use OS X talk about the apps they use and they are almost always the built-in ones. iChat, iPhoto, iDVD, etc. Ask a set of Windows users what apps they use and every list will be different.
I recently read a blog post that talked about the superiority of the quad-binary approach Apple is taking to the 32-64 bit issue. Seems truly elegant until you realize that while you wait for a quad-binary version of Photoshop, every Windows user out there can still run a 5 year old version of Photoshop on Vista x64 (ok I have not tried that but I bet you it works). The fact that my kids can still take a game written a decade ago and insert it into their XP or Vista computer and it "just works" truly gives me choice. The fact that Microsoft so effectively cultivated the developer community so many years ago has given me choice. Want a RSS reader? You have about 50 to choose from. Email client? Hundreds available. Web browser? Tons. Sure, some of them aren't great but they each have their own quirks that endear them to their users.
I have more to say on the technology side of this discussion but I'll save that for a future post.
Henry Ford once said you can have any color you like as long as it's black. Well, the cars in my driveway are blue and gold. Apple makes sleek hardware and nice looking software and as long as they can continue to convince users that their apps are best, they will continue to dominate their 2% slice of the world.