If Apple Shares the Joy is it a Good Thing?

by Chris Seibold Jul 20, 2005

The Mac has finally been making some long hoped for market share gains. Which is nice for Apple stockholders and employees but probably just nice enough to make Apple want some more of the good stuff. The business of Apple is, after all, selling products to as many people as possible to generate a maximal amount of scratch. And, truth be told, the market for the three percent of computer users that maintain their uber hip edge by using Macs is relatively saturated.

That doesn’t mean that Apple has abandoned the market for the tragically creative. Witness The New Yorker published a few weeks ago. If you encountered said magazine you would have noted a compelling multi page advertisement touting the benefits of Tiger. The New Yorker is a fine periodical, it features some of the best writing to be found in the wide world of shiny-paged weekly offerings, but it is not directed towards the shambling masses. To put it another way: people like myself rarely read The New Yorker. One is much more likely to find folks like myself curled up in a corner pondering the dichotomy that is Goofus and Gallant or puzzling over the latest shenanigans of Bat Boy while simultaneously hoping said mutant doesn’t visit our neck of the woods. In any event a carefully designed and placed ad in media that occupies the most rarified edges of the mainstream doesn’t do much to spread the word to the masses about the greatness that is the Mac. At some point if Apple wants to keep the upward trend growing they are going to need to reach out to the average among us.

Here one might argue that spreading the word to the masses is pointless. They will undoubtedly argue that even if you could convince Joe Zima Six Pack that the Mac was a viable option he’d take one look at the price and eschew the machine as being wildly expensive. Which one would have no trouble believing if the stores such as Target and Bed Bath and Beyond didn’t coexist along side Wal-Mart (Though, on a personal note, I will admit I find the existence of Bad Bath and Beyond mystifying). So it may be the case that most people will go for the cheapest option most of the time but that doesn’t preclude the marginally more expensive from coexisting in a very healthy manner.

Given that a slightly more expensive platform is viable if Apple wants to keep the market share numbers following a positive slope they will have to expand their advertising. First let it be noted that there is no reason to forget about your loyal users so there is no logical reason to abandon the advertising Apple currently employs. Once The New Yorker is assured that their revenue won’t be decreasing then it is time to spend some of the enormous pile of cash stuffed under Steve Job’s desk. Now every Apple fan alive has an Apple advertising fantasy, some are less improbable than others but the stated goal is always the same: a mass expansion of Apple’s user base. Two personal faves:

1) Sponsor Rush Limbaugh
Sure Rush is a bit abrasive, predictable and repetitive but he loves Macs and people slavishly hang on his every word.

2) Sponsor a NASCAR Team
People all over America love NASCAR. They find so called stock cars impossible not to stare at when the machines are running inches apart at hundreds of miles an hour. For some just watching isn’t enough, they go full on crazy and arm themselves with radios to listen to the conversation between pit crews and the drivers (every lap the radio bearers hear the crew chief tell the driver to “turn left” four times). After the race these same fans consciously support their driver buy using his sponsors products whenever they can. Sure it will set Apple back a few tens of millions to sponsor one of the more promising teams but it is a well-advised investment. Think of how the Apple sponsored machine will stand out from the other horse powered laden beasts painted every week in stark consumer white or Brushed Aluminum.

Feel free to come up with your own scenario. The point being is that such moves would serve to legitimize the Macs as a valid option to folks everywhere.  The scenario may seem far-fetched: The Mac steadily gaining popularity with the average computer buyer? Patently absurd! Yet there are reasons to think such a scenario is not so unlikely. One of the big benefits of Windows is the vast amount of free software. Free when used in this context is synonymous with stolen, still it is a prime motivator despite the ethical dilemma the practice foists on users. For example everyone knows “steals software from work guy” and we have all been hit up by “bags software from friends guy.” If you are either of those two people purchasing anything but a Windows based machine makes little or no sense. But software protection is getting better and piracy is becoming more difficult thus removing a major reason people stay with Windows.

Let us grant, at this point, a significant upturn in Mac market share if only for the sake of argument. The question then arises just what will it do for current Mac users? It won’t all be good, you will have to weigh the benefit of buying poorly written software off the shelf at Wal-Mart against, for example, the sense of uniqueness many enjoy because they use Macs. The smug feeling of finding the near secret superior computer will have to balanced against the loss of a true Mac community. Oh, that security you innately feel as a Mac user? Forget about it. Sure the Mac is inherently better than Windows when it comes to security but with tens of millions of new users you can be assured malware writers will cackle with glee at the opportunities afforded by the newly popular platform. Rest assured you won’t be getting virus after virus but when enough folks start buying Macs just because Rush tells them to or because their favorite NASCAR driver dons an Apple cap after winning the Daytona 500 them then there will be plenty of opportunities for social engineering. In short when the computer agnostic has his identity stolen off his Mac because he downloaded and installed P3N!5 6R0W.app you can bet that guy will complain loudly and persistently about the “myth” of the Mac’s security.

The question remains: is a wildly expanding Mac universe what the current Mac community really wants? In 1997 Mac fans went to bed wondering if Apple would still be in business when they awoke so expanding the market share seemed crucial. Now, even sans iPod, Apple is a stable business proposition so the dire need is gone. Yet the gripping hope for a renaissance remains. Perhaps it is the case that Mac fans earnestly desire everyone to share the satisfaction they glean from their choice of computing systems but, more likely and more worrisome, it might be the case that Mac users still seek the stamp of approval from the majority that views computers with the same level of love or disdain they reserve for cable boxes.


  • Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that OSX is demonstrably better, whatever that means to you.

    And let’s presume as well that Apple users would actually want the Mac to enjoy the kind of market share that Windows does, with one company controlling not only the software but the hardware as well.

    This is not a simple case of brand loyalty, getting people to switch from Sony to Panasonic.  With PC/Windows, you’re dealing with a ubiquitous legacy that also happens to be largely incompatible with the alternatives.  It’s more like trying to get people to switch from QWERTY to Dvorak.  Telling them that the alternative is better doesn’t matter.  Telling them it will make them more productive doesn’t matter.  The reality is that they use QWERTY because that’s the standard.  Every product at work uses it.  Every product at home uses.  Every product they buy in the future will use it.  The reasons for switching simply are compelling enough.

    The reason why every challenger and alternative to QWERTY has failed is because growth in the alternative has to occur completely apart from the standard, relying in large part on the dying off of a QWERTY user who isn’t replaced by another QWERTY user.  And that is a slow-process at best.

    So here’s the challenge.  How would YOU get me to switch from QWERTY to Dvorak (or XPeRT or whatever)?  And to add to the challenge, Dvorak keyboards are definitively more expensive than QWERTY keyboards.

    I think that is the challenge that Apple faces with the Mac.  And it’s not an easy one.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Reading your last few entries, you’re certainly odd. You never get Apple. But that can be forgiven.. your post show you more like a Windows magazine writer who writes about Macs instead of a true Mac user. In fact, in this regard, you’re already late.

    Apple has, for about a year, been silently (the only way they do things) rolling out this advertising, but you’ve been too busy trying to get Apple to adopt Windows keystrokes to see it.. let’s journey down the secret path, shall we?

    Apple buys ads in the New Yorker because most Apple users are 1) rich 2) smart 3) liberal 4) creative 5) young. Apple does not place ads mass market, that gives you very little return on investment. Why advertise in a magazine where the median income is 35k? They target with percision that makes Patriot Misssles blush. Also, considering TiVo and how people tune out traditional ads in general.. Apple has been covert.

    For instance:

    1) Not Rush Limbaugh you b00b, but Air America has been sponsered! Al Frankin specifically. To see this, watch his Air America show on Sundance today… and try to find one just a few months ago.. a few months ago Kathern had her old’ Dell laptop.. a big ol’ workhouse she probably brought with her. What do they ALL have now? Powerbooks…

    Don’t take that alone… listen to the Tuesday (this Tuesday) show during which he quizes his research staff on listerner questions in some light hearted way… he says “and our research staff is all lined up on their computers.. on their Apple Powerbooks…”

    No one in the media biz points out what people are using unless they’re paid to. This hits the targets directly.

    2. Turn on a freakin HBO show! This also hits all demographics.. especially if you have digital cable watch some of “The Entourage”.. especially watch the first episode of the second season.. the first shot of any character has an iPod mini in it.. and he even moves his shirt back to show it proudly on his hip.. add to this:

    1) All the computers in their agent’s HUGE office.. from the cubicles to the exec suites have iMac G5s.
    2) One of the main characters, who wants to get new head shots for free… goes to… wait for it.. an Apple Store… on photography Pro night.
    3) Meeting with his agent, the guy asks why his head has a big apple logo behind it. And they even show the headshot with the Apple logo!

    This show is HUGE currently, has a complete hold on the young, liberal and (since they have HBO) well off segment Apple targets and is un-apologetically pro-apple to the point sometimes you have to turn away.

    Unfortunately, most people in Apple’s demographic don’t read what you read (thank god) and I doubt you’ll ever see an ad there. New Yorker readers are Apple’s bread and butter… writers, business executives, urbanist, ect.

    Also, it is known Apple is shooting new commercials as we speak highlighting the Apple to go on traditional TV.

    Do some research before posting, please tongue laugh

    kidventus had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Reading your last few entries, you’re certainly odd.

    If you mean that Chris isn’t a slavish, mindless Mac drone living inside the Apple reality distortion field with you, then I agree, he’s certainly odd.  Refreshingly odd.

    This show is HUGE currently, has a complete hold on the young, liberal and (since they have HBO) well off segment Apple targets and is un-apologetically pro-apple to the point sometimes you have to turn away.

    This kind of thing, while nothing new, is always a peev to me: people who tell someone to “do some research” and then spout of on stuff they know NOTHING about.

    First of all, if we believe what sitcoms tell us, almost everyone uses a Mac at work and home.  They’re everywhere on TV.  In dorms, on office desks, in homes.  The reason for that is two-fold: a) Apple is very involved in product placement on TV and in movies; b) the creatives in Hollywood tend to favor Macs and put them in shots on purpose.

    The reality, however, is that an agency is just as unlikely to use Macs office-wide as any other business.  I know because I work in show business and have been to agencies, management offices, and prodcos.  Macs are definitely around, but you tend to find them in editing rooms, private homes, creative companies, and in coffee shops.

    Second, while I LOVE Entourage, it’s not exactly “huge”, not even for HBO.  It was moderately popular enough for renewal, but the ratings are soft.  Luckily, HBO looks at more than ratings when deciding on shows.  Entourage, like the Mac, enjoys critical praise as well as a devoted following, even if that following is relatively small.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Another feature for making the SWITCH easy, would be to change Apple’s Logo. Many Windows-users are very confused when seeing the apple-logo.

    Seriously, I’ve worked as a consultant and I have never seen anyone using their W-keys. Sometimes Quitting is control-Q, then it is control-EXIT.

    WAWA had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 89
  • Beeblebrox:

    I didn’t say Entourage was a representation of agent company’s Mac usage, I said it was representative of Apple’s marketing strategy. I am not saying that all radio shows are using Macs either, I’m saying Apple paid Air America to do so.

    Everyone is saying with TiVo, ect. product placement in shows (i.e. Friends star drinking a Pepsi instead of Cola-X) is the way to go. I’m saying Apple already knows that and is doing that.

    You do un-targeted ad campaigns when you want to get your name out (i.e. Vonage)... but Apple is already the 1st or 2nd most recognized brand IN THE WORLD. Therefore, they don’t have much to do there.

    Instead, they are focusing on segments that pay off for them. Apple will always think of themselves as a Lexus or BMW of the PC world… and Lexus does not sponser Rush Limbaugh or NASCAR. They do put ads in the New Yorker though…

    kidventus had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Beeblebrox,

    I read the first few lines of your post and before I even got to your name I realized who had written this.  Keep up your distinctive point of view because I would hate for things to get quiet around here.

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 122
  • Kidventus,
    Well you busted me, it is true that I mainly use Windows boxen. Oh, wait that is completely wrong. Got the PowerMac G5, got the ibook, got the Apple display, got Final Cut, wrote an ebook about iMovie, post at other websites about the Mac, owned Apple stock and perhaps, most tellingly, wrote this:

    So I think I get Macs. in fact I would go so far as to say I love Macs. I am a bit uncertain as to why everyone seems to think moving the Mac mainstream is the most important undertaking of all time. But if it is, and it certainly seems to be the desire, then Apple has to take the mac mainstream. Sure Apple has had a lot of product placement over the years, Seinfield, Drew Carey, Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day (showing once and for all that Macs ARE the cross platform solution) etc. None of this has moved many folks to the Mac or done anything to convince people that the Mac isn’t a computer reserved for Hollywood types.

    Al Franken uses a Mac, great. I like Al but his show just doesn’t reach the number of listeners as Rush, or Jim Rome (both use Macs) have those guys shill like crazy with Al and then you are reaching conservatives, liberals, and (like me) the sports talk crowd.

    If Apple wants to be a computer for the masses the need to consider reaching out to the masses. On the other hand if Apple doesn’t want to be the computer for everyone, I’m good with that but if it is the case that Apple just wants the select few to enjoy all the benefits of residing in Macland then perhaps Apple should stop talking about growing the base every chance they get.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 354
  • Is it just me or does anyone else here feel Kidventus is answering the question Chris is posing in his article but doesn’t realize it?

    In its simplest form Chris is asking whether or not Apple, and their installed user base, really want to increase and expand their market share. Or do they/we want to remain a niche player? It is an interesting question and I think there is some merit to both sides of the coin.

    Kidventus by stating, “Apple will always think of themselves as a Lexus or BMW of the PC world and Lexus does not sponser Rush Limbaugh or NASCAR. They do put ads in the New Yorker though ” has basically answered the question. And that answer seems to be a clear cut no.
    After all, as much as we would all like to, not everyone can drive a Lexus. If you position yourself as such then by your approach you are effectively eliminating any chance of truly expanding at an exponential rate (which is exactly how Apple would need to expand to even begin to dent the 90%+ share of the market MS posses).

    I thought Chris had a novel approach in suggesting Nascar (I never would have thought of that but in tapping into the “average American”, it’s popularity, and deep ties to sponsorship make a good deal of sense), albeit not one that the “Lexus of Computer Makers” would make. But if you actually read what he suggested you would discover he was contemplating the best way from Apple to embrace the entire market, not just the “rich to upper middle class, college educated, liberal to staunch conservative, segment of the population. Clearly Apple’s EXISTING method of advertisement encompasses product placement in film and televising, placing full page ads in magazines such as the New Yorker and Wall Street Journal, and paying radio evangelists to spout off on the Apple name whenever possible, is aimed at the more well off consumer.

    But the question is it that the ONLY segment they/we want to focus on?
    Or simply do you advertise for the Mac and Tiger like you have for the iPod and iTunes?
    And if not are you essentially sending the message that you are content as a niche player?
    I think in the long term the move to Intel demonstrates that Apple indeed wants to break free of segmenting it’s user base.
    But the question put to us by way of this article wasn’t if you approved of the suggested methods, it was if you approved of the suggested target.
    If you only want to see ads in the New Yorker than apparently not.

    AngryHamster had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 19
  • > Apple sponsored machine [...] painted every week in stark consumer white or Brushed Aluminum.

    I’m not a big NASCAR fan, but no doubt a large red glossy apple (a la the iMac campaign) on a field of white on the hood would look pretty sweet. Of course, nowadays, all of their branding is silver/aluminum which just wouldn’t have the same impact as a red/white contrast… but that’s neither here nor there because I would doubt Apple would consider a NASCAR team as a good investment.

    A friend of mine is the biggest Jeff Gordon fan and hates Tony Stewart with a passion. So what did she do when she and her husband painted the new house? They went to Home Depot and bought the Behr paint. She didn’t seek out Dupont (Gordon sponsor) or avoid Home Depot (Stewart sponsor). Her NASCAR dedication (she watches EVERY race) made no difference in her buying decisions. So what did?  Store proximity, selection, price, etc… the same stuff that brings a person to any retail outlet.

    As already mentioned, Apple has one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Getting the word out “to the masses” isn’t so much the issue. Demonstrating that your product has advantages (like spam/spyware/virus avoidance) is the kind of advertising now required (Notice how many AOL and Earthlink ads are focussing on that today?) A NASCAR sponsorship doesn’t demonstrate usability… It’s a brand awareness campaign which Apple doesn’t currently require.

    Apple marketing seems to know what it’s doing a lot more in recent years than years past.  Get the product in front of users with Apple retail stores… so they can touch and experience it. They tried the “store within a store” concept, but that failed more because of the retail partners rather than Apple. So, I suppose they figured “if you want it done right, do it yourself.”

    Why the New Yorker or similar “upscale” advertising?  They’re not just trying to advertise to the wealthy, they’re advertising to decision makers in the corporate world. You get a NASCAR fan to buy a computer, you’ve sold one computer.  You get a corporate manager to buy a computer, you might be able to sell one thousand more.

    Also, if you consider the iPod ads (which are everywhere), Apple already has a brand awareness campaign in the mass media. Even though they’re advertising the iPod, it’s also an Apple branding ad… and as we’ve seen in the news, the halo effect has translated into sales that are 3x the industry average over the last quarter.

    So what’s my point?  Apple does currently have a mass-market ad campaign… It’s just more guerilla in nature and so isn’t as easily recognized as such.

    By the way, Bed Bath & Beyond has *much* nicer towels and bedding than you’d find in Walmart. Mystery solved.

    Oh, and on the “myth” of Mac security—It’s not a myth.

    Unix has been around for 30 years and has been the primary server engine on the Internet for the majority of its existence. So why doesn’t Unix have a virus problem similar to Windows? 

    Propagation:  Windows has ActiveX and Macro scripting—two of primary ways Windows boxes are compromised and send the the virus/trojan on to the next machine.

    It’s a partial myth that virus writers target Windows because of its market share. While the marketshare ensures quick propagation, they really target Windows because it EASY TO WRITE VIRUSES for it. Not so for Unix or Mac OS. 

    I don’t know why so many people think that the *only* reason Macs don’t have virus problems is because of market share. If it were so easy to write a Mac virus, a script kiddie could easily write an email variant that had two enclosures—one that spreads in Windows and one the spreads on the Mac. Why not hit as many computers as possible?  No matter which one executes, it would use the address book exploit to spread, and include both the Mac/Win attachments in the outgoing emails. So why haven’t we seen this, then?

    BECAUSE IT’S EXTREMELY HARD TO WRITE A SELF-PROPOGATING MAC VIRUS… unlike in Windows which we see every day.

    If it were just about marketshare, we’d see some kind of statistical correlation. For every 95 or so Windows viruses, we should see 2 to 4 Mac viruses.  But we don’t.  If I remember correctly, there are about 100,000 known Windows viruses. How many seen for the Mac?  Zero.  The numbers show that there is something more than security through obscurity happening here.

    I’m not saying the Mac OS will *never* get one, but given that the vectors of propagation are missing (ie - there’s no easy way to exploit the Address Book from within Mail as there is on Windows), the likelihood of one spreading quickly is extremely low.

    Even the “proof of concept” mp3 virus that security company developed (I can’t remember their name) couldn’t spread on its own. It needed to be manually shared by the user to get to other machines. So it was not a true virus, by definition.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 243
  • Zero for OS X, by the way.  I’m aware there were a few pre-OS X viruses.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 243
  • vb,
    that was kind of the point, there are no Mac viruses but there are plenty of non savvy computer users. To a Tony Stewart fan the differences between a virus and something he does stupidly to his computer, like installing ihatejeffgordon.app despite the many warnings from the computer, are mere semantics.

    Or to put it another way: there are plenty of methods to separate users from their data that does not involve viruses, the weakest point in security (on the mac) is in front of the keyboard.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 354
  • Or to put it another way: there are plenty of methods to separate users from their data that does not involve viruses, the weakest point in security (on the mac) is in front of the keyboard.

    This article isn’t really a discussion about virii, but Mac fanatics argue knowing that the marketshare argument can’t be proved any time soon.  That makes it much more comforting to call it a “myth.”  (the same was true of the clockspeed myth until Apple announced the switch to Intel; it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out)

    The reality, however, is that Windows’ two main vulnerabilities are a) user naivety and b) Windows ubiquitousness.  A disease that can be transmitted to 95% of the population is going to propagate faster than one that can be transmitted to only 3% of the population.  Not only are there more people to infect, but the diseases changes of running into another 95%er or much greater than running into a 3%er.  And if that 95% population is completely careless, like touching everything without washing their hands or sneezing all over everyone, then the disease will spread even faster.

    Of course Macs ARE more secure generally, but if Macs ever got a significant marketshare, I believe that security would break down quickly.  That’s just a reality of modern computing, unfortunately.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Kidventus says “most Apple users are 1) rich 2) smart 3) liberal 4) creative 5) young.”  I would like to see the data upon which he bases that statement.  I suspect he just made it up based on the Mac users he knows.  For the Mac users I know, 1) sort of 2) yes 3) not bloody likely 4) less than they think, and not for a living 5) not so much.  But if he has the demographic data to back it up, okay then.

    As for the auto racing sponsorship, the author is on to something.  But, all the cool auto racing fans follow the IRL, so that’s where Apple should sponsor a team.  NASCAR is the Windows of auto racing, where crashing into the other guy is considered strategy.  I suspect it would cost less to sponsor an IRL team than an NASCAR team.

    Epson has sponsored a car in the IRL, and Panasonic currently does.

    (Okay, maybe some of the cool auto racing fans follow sports cars.  I could get behind an Apple car running in the 24 Hours of Daytona or the 12 Hours of Sebring.)

    dtnelson had this to say on Jul 21, 2005 Posts: 3
  • Chris:

    My biggest problem with your article is the lack of respect that you have for your fellow humans. There are a huge number of people out here in the real world that fit in the world between your caricature of New Yorker readers and your worse caricature of NASCAR fans.

    I work with intelligent, thinking people, some of whom listen to Rush on occasion. He is entertaining and provacative, but few of the people that I know would buy a product merely because he endorsed it.

    I have been purchasing Macintosh computers since I completed grad school in 1987. Each time I purchase one, I evaluate the options, including the best available PC’s. I look past raw speed numbers and actually test out the programs that I use, looking for responsiveness, ease of use, number of keystrokes to perform a task, etc. I use PCs in my professional life, so I am pretty darn familiar with Windows and PC software. So far, for my personal and family use the score is Mac - 12, PC - 0.

    Last night, my sister called. Her son, who spent some time with us this summer, has decided that he will be buying himself a new iBook with his summer job earnings. She was finding out the best way for him to complete the purchase.

    Buying Macs is a cost effective, rational decision. My own fantasy for Apple is to have them spend more effort showing corporate bean counters how much they would save in IT payroll, software licenses (did you know that Windows server licenses are required on a PER USER basis, while OS X server licenses purchased for about half the initial cost have unlimited users?), firewall maintenance, and virus removal efforts.

    Rod Adams had this to say on Jul 22, 2005 Posts: 6
  • Funny it is, tech nerds arguing about brands. I suggest taking a marketing course or two at a prestigous school (only about 5-8k a course) and you’ll understand some of the finer points of advertising, marketing, and brand management.

    Let’s keep the articles and comments on track with what we know: using the Mac!

    Nathan had this to say on Jul 28, 2005 Posts: 219
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