Firefox Sets The Bar For Mac Adoption
When the smells of the holidays have faded, the sweet aroma of hope will linger in the air for true Mac fans. Owing to the switch to Intel processors and the increasingly likely release of ‘Books powered by said processors Mac users have been going to bed with visions of double digital market share dancing in their heads. Unfortunately, some dreams are far too fanciful to come true in the short term.
Still, Mac users devise increasingly intricate and far-fetched schemes that will surely vault the Mac back to a respectable market share. The plans include any number of factors: Macs might be able to run Windows programs as fast as a Windows based machine, Macs might be able to run Windows and OS X simultaneously, Macs might wax your car and fertilize the lawn etc. The speculation, and it is just speculation, is all predicated on one simple principle: You’ll get much more value out of a Mac and this added value will compel users to switch to the Mac in droves.
The sad truth is that most people aren’t concerned with value, they’re concerned with initial price. Those who are willing to spend a bit more to buy a better box still won’t consider the Mac. To convince ourselves of the near futility of growing the Mac market to, say, 15% let us consider the interesting case of Firefox. Firefox, for the painfully unaware, is a cross platform browser. Firefox also happens to be the most successful non-Microsoft produced browser in existence.
At this point, we must turn our attention to Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer, to put it mildly, sucks. The Microsoft browser sucks on the Mac (and is no longer supported) and it sucks on Windows. It might suck a lot less on Windows but saying the IE it isn’t the best browsing experience available is akin to calling the Universe cozy. The problem isn’t that Microsoft isn’t capable of producing a decent browser, it is more a case of delayed development. IE was supposed to be married to the next release of Windows (you’ll pay for that upgrade!) but as the ship date for Vista slipped so did the time frame for a new version of Internet Explorer.
As the dates for the new version of Windows were pushed continually in to the future other browsers surpassed the once best of breed in both features and security. It is to the point now that using Internet Explorer is akin to driving a Pinto with one spark plug wire missing, no windshield and a busted speedometer. Hence, there is little doubt that IE is lagging behind Firefox.
A lead that big is called an opportunity in the business world and, indeed, Firefox has seen dramatic gains. In October Firefox reached a market share of 12%. Internet Explorer, unsurprisingly, controlled most of the browser market with over 80% of people willingly using the antiquated program. Tech sites have been going nuts over the success of Firefox, partly out of hatred of all things Microsoft and partly because Firefox is just so far ahead. It’s a regular Firefox love fest out there. Before folks start cracking the champagne every night instead of only on New Years in celebration of Firefox a little perspective needs to be mixed in. Firefox, for all its success, commands less of the browser market than Cadbury/Shweppes controls of the soda market .
What that should tell a dispassionate observer is simple: the vast majority of people are either satisfied enough (ewww) or apathetic (whatever) enough about IE that they don’t feel the need to make the switch.
Now let us compare the steps needed to switch from IE to Firefox with the steps needed to switch from Windows to the Mac. To switch from IE to Firefox you have to be willing to download a program and install the thing. That sums up the entire process. If you want to switch from a Windows machine to a Mac, you have to jump through several more hoops. First, you’ll have to drop a significant amount of cash for a new Mac. Then you’ll have to (at least) cross grade your key Windows programs to Mac versions. Finally, you’ll face the arduous process of transferring all your files over to the Mac (on the bright side you can leave that .dll nonsense alone). Not that the transition isn’t worth it, rather that the process involves much more work and time than merely switching your default browser.
When all is said and done one conclusion becomes seemingly inescapable: the Mac has little chance of near term revolutionary market share growth. The superiority of OS X over Windows isn’t as well defined as the differences between Firefox and IE. Aside from the fact that OS X isn’t as far ahead of Windows as Firefox is of IE, we must also consider the cost and hassle of switching from Windows. It is difficult to envision a scenario where someone is too lazy or uninformed to switch to Firefox while being both informed and proactive enough to jump to the Mac. Don’t expect miracles anytime soon.