Will Apple Ever Give Us What We Know We Want?

by Chris Howard Oct 15, 2008

Up in Cupertino way, a little company you might have heard of has been quietly gnawing away at various consumer electronics markets. Once a niche player in a Windows dominated computer landscape, it was like one lonely Apple tree in a forest of oaks. Okay, maybe not oaks. But now though it's different. Apple trees are popping up everywhere in that forest; however, we aren't getting much say in what type of apples are growing.

Gartner is reporting Apple's market share is up to 9.5% in US, from under half that of a few years ago. Intriguingly, the Mac's continued upswing followed three of the biggest backflips in IT history from Apple: A multi-button mouse, Intel inside and Windows native on Macs. Without doubt the halo affect of the iPod and now the iPhone, the move of applications to the internet, and security and usability advantages of OS X have been major factors, but those three have also played their part.

It does make you wonder that maybe when you give consumers what they want, instead of giving them something and telling them it's what they want, that it will sell by the truckloads. It's worked for Microsoft.

However, I think I've reached a new stage of my Apple journey. Five years on from that first Mac, I'm finally resigned to the fact Apple will never even do 1/10th of the products userland, including me, is begging for.

Without thinking too hard, here's a list of some of the products I - and others - have yearned for over the recent years

- Headless iMac (not a mini, a proper desktop)
- iPhone nano (pretty much just a phone)
- Mac tablet
- MacBook mini/nano (ultra light MacBook)
- OS X licenced to third party computer manufacturers

I doubt we'll ever see most of these. And yet there's no reason any shouldn't be hugely successful.

What really inspired this piece was a rather excitings story I read on TUAW this morning about a concept proposed by OLO Computer whereby the iPhone could be docked in a laptop-like device where the trackpad normally is. You'd then use your iPhone with a large screen and keyboard. I thought it was a sensational idea, but then realised we'd probably never see it from Apple, nor would Apple provide the means in the iPhone to make it possible.

I seriously expect we will see such devices within a couple of years, but all will be driven by phones running either Android or Windows Mobile.

I tell you what though, if such a device comes to pass and Apple doesn't get on board, my loyalty will be severely tested.

I noted today too that there has been a surprisingly large disappointment in the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros. Despite all the rumors being true, and userland then knowing what to expect, on MacRumors folks are voting massively in the negative regards the new Apple laptops. This implies folks haven't had their needs met by Apple. Again. Reading some of the comments, high among the gripes is no matte screen option on the MacBook Pros, and I imagine the loss of Firewire on the MacBooks has probably put a few people off-side too.

This is not to say Apple doesn't listen. The shuffle is one example, video on the Pod is another. But those wins for consumers, those times where Apple has clearly provided what the public has been demanding, are few and far between.

You'd think, with five years being a Mac user, I would have learnt long ago that Apple has its own agenda, and one that often doesn't match with that of the consumer. But I've finally resigned to the fact that what I want (and many others want) is probably rarely going to come out of Cupertino.

Don't get me wrong, though, I have still greatly appreciated what Apple has provided, and some of it, like the multi-touch, usable-internet iPhone, have been wonderful surprises. But I do wish for so much more.

It's great that Apple provides products we didn't know we wanted, but wouldn't it be nice if it did provide a few more of the ones we know we want?


  • What is a “Headless Mac”?
    What is a PVR?

    Howard Brazee had this to say on Oct 15, 2008 Posts: 54
  • with all due respect, I think that the reason they are increasing their market share is because they are giving the everyday user what they want. You may not be the everyday user.  I don’t believe their increase in market share has anything to do with the intel chip, bootcamp, or the multi-button mouse.  I think it’s more the halo affect from iPods and iPhones.  People are in the apple stores and get to take a look at macs and how they can do what they need them to due in way that’s more in tune with how they would like their computer to work - call it a better interface, or a better operating system, or whatever.  The design of the mac from operating system to the location of the ports is so carefully thought about in terms of how the machine is to be used, and that’s what’s drawing people to purchase them.

    Well that’s my 2 cents, anyway.

    domarch had this to say on Oct 15, 2008 Posts: 12
  • oops.  excuse the spelling in my last post!

    One other item - why in the world would anyone want them to license the operating system?

    domarch had this to say on Oct 15, 2008 Posts: 12
  • A headless Mac to me means a monitor-less Mac to fill the void between the Mini and the Pro.  Something with a little better performance than the Mini and a little expansion capability, like the ability to plug in a better graphics card and a 2nd hard drive.  Basically an iMac chipset packaged in a smallish box.

    A PVR (Personal Video Recorder) would be an AppleTV with a digital tuner so that you could record broadcast TV for free instead of having to buy everything through the iTunes store.

    stevewmn had this to say on Oct 15, 2008 Posts: 1
  • 1. These are all old arguments. Licensing OSX? Really? You should read daringfireball and you could move beyond these retreaded arguments.

    2. Saying ‘we’ doesn’t make your point stronger. You can’t speak for ‘we’. You can only speak for yourself. Apple’s recent track record for success is pretty high. Keeping the number of products reasonable is a part of that. They’ll make a tablet pc and a headless mac when it makes sense. At this point it doesn’t. There is not enough ‘we’ to make it viable.

    3. According to theappleblog the new macbooks are selling out. Oh the disappointment.

    insertclevernamehere had this to say on Oct 15, 2008 Posts: 8
  • Chris, have you learned nothing from being around the brainwashed Mac-bots?  How dare you want more.  How dare you express any other opinion other than that Apple is giving you exactly what you need and want.

    Want proof?  They’re making lots of money.  That justifies everything.  Want more proof than that?  Then read Daring Fireball.  And while you’re at it, listen to Sean Hannity for all of your unbiased political commentary as well.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 15, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • No.

    And John Gruber told you why today.

    Don O’Shea

    doshea had this to say on Oct 15, 2008 Posts: 6
  • I want a Porsche pickup truck. Clearly, there’s huge demand for Porsche pickups. How can Porsche not make pickup trucks?

    Taco John had this to say on Oct 16, 2008 Posts: 5
  • Don O’Shea: Thanks for that link, it helps show that when I say “we” I’m not just trying to puff what is just “me” (as teamryan suggests) as Gruber is arguing against those calling for the sorts of things on the list I provided. And obviously he wrote that before he’d seen mine, so there must be quite a few people calling for those sorts of things if he’d take the time to write against them. Unless he writes just for me! smile

    Unfortunately though, Don, there me and Gruber part ways. For example, the first two items on Tim Cook’s list are subjective (better hardware and software) - I’m sure HP and Microsoft would make the same arguments.

    And sadly, the line “We don’t compromise on quality” is the tired and worn out sales pitch of companies justifying higher prices.

    What Apple could compromise on in the low-end is smart-arse engineering. An excellent case-in-point is the Mac mini. Beautiful industrial design but that’s made it more expensive, not its quality. There’s no reason Apple can’t make a damn good looking Mac mini that isn’t just a show off of engineering. The mini’s price was forced up because it had to use laptop parts and engineering. And now it languishes, the forgotten child, because it’s over-priced and under specced for its market.  Why not a headless consumer Mac with a proper video card, for instance? And it could still be very visually appealing.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 16, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • Taco John: But in your example, it really is just you who wants it, unlike the “we” which Gruber’s piece reinforces the existence of.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 16, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • domarch: Thanks,I forgot about the retail stores. They are also a significant factor in Apple’s growth (#6 actually according to Tim Cook)

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 16, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • Teamryan: That wasn’t my list. that’s a list collected over recent years from reading various Apple-related sites and forums. But yes, I do agree with some of them. Although there’s none on that list I’m overly passionate about at the moment.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 16, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • Beeb, What I’ve learned is there’s always an Apple fan to will disagree with whatever is said. Next week I’m going to write how great Apple products are and couldn’t be better blah blah blah, and they’ll all come out of the wood work telling me Apple needs to make things like PVRs and license OS etc.

    It’s not that they’re contradictory, rather I suspect there are two main groups of Apple fans. Those who agree with what Apple is doing and then those who want changes. So, I’m always going to people disagreeing with me, whether I say good or bad about Apple.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 16, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • I want only one little thing that Apple invented a while back to come back. Remember the iMac G3 that some called the lamp shade?  I miss this wonderful arm of his. I could adjust the screen up and down in addition to the angle of vision. Not having this arm is a great loss for me.

    Albert Reingewirtz had this to say on Oct 16, 2008 Posts: 1
  • More relevant to ‘what we want’ (‘we’ being the already invested Mac computer users) is that simple, tiny, cheap firewire interface on the new MacBooks, and an the option of matte screens (even if an extra-cost item). A visit to the photography and audio-tech websites reveals a common theme of ‘disappointment’ in Apple. Not for excluding the new product, but for omitting standards that have be relied upon.

    hotep had this to say on Oct 16, 2008 Posts: 13
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