Mac Laptop Market Share Poised to Spike?

by Chris Seibold Oct 20, 2005

There’s something big businesses love about working their customers into a frenzy of anticipation. For the business that is college football the recipe is simple: introduce a leather prolate spheroid amid 22 students. The trick works about 12 or 13 times a year. For Apple to generate similar enthusiasm among their fans usually all it takes is a press release noting that a mysterious announcement is coming. As opposed to college football, apparently Apple can only go the mysterious product intro route twice every six weeks. At least that seems to be the case because the anticipation of (and reaction to) yesterdays press event was decidedly muted when compared to the two previous events. The reaction, or lack thereof, is not too surprising. Apple was releasing pro level stuff and, compared the nano and TV shows via iTunes, the speed bumps and screen tweaks were a bit pedestrian. Yet for those people considering a foray into the world of Apple laptops a question probably occurred: Should I jump now or wait for the update with Intel inside?

Here a look at a specific individual is in order. Our subject is of decidedly lower than average intelligence but is prepared to jump on the new laptop train as soon as a Mac model that is appealing enough (to him) is released. Our subject’s current machine is a battered iBook with a splayed screen bezel thanks to a small child walking on the computer while it was open and upside down on the floor. Aesthetics aside the computer still works so there is no immediate and pressing need for our subject to make the purchase but he does have cash on hand should the urge overwhelm him. What was our subject’s reaction to the new PowerBooks? “I hope I can make it until the ones with the Intel chips comes out.”

The reasoning is clear: Apple laptops are certainly showing their age and, most people agree, making the argument that the PowerBooks are in the same class with regard to raw performance as the latest Windows laptop is an exercise best left to true Apple zealots. That isn’t to say the PowerBooks aren’t nice machines. Apple’s laptops have plenty of power for the needs of all but the most demanding users and, most importantly, they run the latest version of OS X. Still there is a feeling that when the Intel processors finally roll out in a portable Mac of some kind there will be a substantial boost in performance. Our subject clearly feels that by committing to a PowerBook at this stage he may not have the cash on hand to jump on the Intel Mac if it turns out to be closer to G5 performance rather than the G4 that currently powers the machine. Still, that is just one person and a dullard at that. Hence a little informal research was in order. Talking to various friends…well…acquaintances, and checking around on the message boards there seems to be a substantial amount of pent up demand for the Intel PowerBooks among long time Mac laptop users.

Granting for a moment that there is a significant amount of demand for a, as yet, mythical Intel based PowerBook one is then surprised to learn that every quarter Macs take a little bit bigger nibble of the computer market pie. Last quarter saw the sales of laptops jump by 186,000 units over the previous quarter and Macs climbed yet another fraction of a point in overall market share. This data would seemingly contradict the previously conducted informal research. The explanation for the seeming dichotomy might be as simple as follows: While people that already have passable Macs are holding out for the Intel based laptops a lot of people, more than enough to compensate for the foot dragging long time Mac users, are actually switching to the Mac. If the supposition is correct then Apple’s laptop line could see a huge surge as soon as the Intel beasties are available to order.

It is necessary to note at this point that everything above is based on anecdotal evidence and is thus of a very suspect nature. It was once felt that as soon as Apple released the first G5 the demand for the new machines would be huge. This turned out not to be the case, G5 towers sold relatively weakly even after Apple was able to actually deliver them in sufficient quantities. It should also be noted that it is fairly horrible advice to encourage users to limp along with hardware that they don’t find satisfactory. Waiting for some “promised” upgrade that may or may not occur anytime soon is clearly a fool’s path, you’ll end up always waiting for something better (somewhere out there is a guy is using a Mac Classic waiting for the next rev that will really rock). If you need a new laptop the best advice is to buy one when you need it. The only people who will really benefit by waiting are the easily distracted who feel they simply must have the newest chip from Apple regardless of whether or not they will be able to take full advantage of the power. All that said, I hope I can make it with my walked over iBook until the Intel powered lappys get here.


  • Yesterday’s announcement was the equivalent of a “New Tide” release.

    Apple has to stop the big “media event” BS. I think Jobs has become addicted to his power of media manipulation. Yesterday proved that for me. I’m a devoted Apple user and have many Apple computers. Never a PC user either.

    Yesterday was a business product refresh. That’s it. I bet the next “big media event” or “oh one more thing” has less press. Keep crying wolf Jobs and no one will care anymore.

    Apple created there own let down for the public yesterday. Be careful Steve. Arrogance makes a lot of people try the competitor.

    mozart11 had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 35
  • I don’t really think that yesterday’s media event was supposed to be as large or publically known as the “One more thing” and ipod Nano events.  I think that the Apple community just goes so crazy when a media event is announced that they assume it’s a huge groundbreaking event when it might be intended to be less than huge.

    Here is my reasoning, apparently Steve Jobs didn’t even host the event.  The presentation was instead given by David Moody, Apple VP of Worldwide Product Marketing (source:  Also, that same web site has pictures up and the event appears to have been held in a pretty small room.  Finally, they didn’t even post a quicktime video of the event on the apple web site like they have for the past two events.

    So I think it was intended to be a smaller event, maybe get a little press, but it doesn’t appear that they put nearly the time and effort into it that made the “one more thing” and ipod nano events huge.  In fact, I think the big push of the event was to get photographers at the photoplus (think that’s the name of it) convention interested in Aperture.

    Ben Markwardt had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 6
  • It was a product refresh pure and simple. If you’re saying the media decided to make it more than it was, than as the Apple leader, Jobs should have put a stop to it. He didn’t.

    Apple has intrigued new users with their innovation. But now product refesh is put ion the same category as innovation.

    I just found this article too.

    mozart11 had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 35
  • I do not feel it was a product refresh event. 

    It was the launch of a new image software (Apperture), that I think will rock, wich was introduced at a convention for photographers (who are the primary customers for the new software), and Apple used that event to launch some upgrades to some of their hardware.

    I did not felt at all that I was let down by a “cry wolf event” or a “product refresh vs innovation” kind of thing. 

    Don’t forget that Apple is a public traded company, and they have to stay in the news, to interest people, so their stock stays healthy.

    my 2 cents,


    J-F had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 9
  • When the 1.5 15” PB was released I took a hard look at it and decided to buy.  I had been using a 667 15” that airport security had dropped on the floor and the cracks were spreading.  My feeling at the time was that it would last to the release of rev b of a G5 PB (those were the days when there was still hope).  Turns out that I made a wise choice - it’s going to last me until rev b of the Mactel PB comes out.

    Yesterday’s release didn’t generate a lot of excitement simply because Freescale failed to deliver a dual core G4 (surprise, surprise) and Apple went with what they could.  The real key to the new PB is value.  Sure the G4 is about 11% faster than mine, but the improved display is significant.  You also get a lot of things I paid for:  128 VRAM, 80 gig HD, Airport and BT - PLUS a price cut.  It’s not the screamer everyone hoped for, but it is an excellent value and will work well until the PB goes to Intel.

    MacKen had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 88
  • “The trick works about 12 or 13 times a year… As opposed to college football, apparently Apple can only go the mysterious product intro route twice every six weeks.”

    12/13 times a year = once every 4/5 weeks, or twice every 8/10 weeks.
    twice every six weeks = 17 times a year.

    If you’re saying the media decided to make it more than it was, than as the Apple leader, Jobs should have put a stop to it.

    I don’t think shareholders would like the CEO of the company to tell the media not to care about a new/refreshed product introduction.

    I do not follow Apple happenings obsesively, but I do read Thinksecret/Macworld with regularity and didn’t hear as much about this last event as with the previous ones, but maybe I forgot to check. Also, the introduction of dual-core PMs seems relevant, considering they had had nothing but .2/.3 GHz bumps for a while, and double the RAM and video also seems important. On the other hand, the new PBs was too little, way too late and seriously overhyped (even if the previous reports only said minor speed bump, it wasn’t even that!).
    Finally, the introduction of Aperture on the eve of a pro photo convention does seem oportune.

    martunibo had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 37
  • Actually martunibo they play college football between September and December with a bowl game in January. So you’re really looking at people going nuts 12 times in four months. just to clarify for our international or non football loving readers.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 354
  • Thanks, I am international (Argentina) AND don’t love football (neither american non soccer).

    martunibo had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 37
  • I should probably be more mindful of the fact that the internet knows no borders (well, maybe in China) and some things are Americanisms, like college football.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 354
  • I agree with Lessard. It was the launch of an innovative new professional app. It was held at a photo convention for God’s sake. This won’t be written up in Time or anything. It didn’t make the front page of or because it shouldn’t. But it does need to make the cover of American Photographer and Shutterbug (or whatever pros read!). That’s why they held a press event. The only way it gets overhyped is if you are geek like me who reads all the tech sites.

    And the hardware was introduced here for two reasons: 1) Did you see the requirement specs for Aperture? The software is tied into these updates. And 2) Why not introduce pro machines at a pro event. You want them reviewed in the photo mags, too.

    As for Apple/PowerBook market share climbing, it will continue to climb. Again, the general public doesn’t even know that Apple is planning to switch chip suppliers. They wouldn’t care much if it happened today, they certainly don’t give a crap that it is happening next year. So my opinion is that switchers continue to buy PowerBooks now and increase market share, and geeks and power users wait to refresh until the changeover and sales boom… somewhat. Mac geeks and power users are still a small base.

    That’s my 3¢.

    adboy2000 had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 2
  • I don’t feel disapointed. On the contrary, I feel we have been spoiled by new stuff lately.
    I will wait for an intelbased mac for my next computer for two reasons:
    i)I have a one-year-old 15” 1.5GHz powerbook that works wonderfully.
    ii)I want to play games on my computer, something I really miss since moving from Windows (yes, the ONLY thing I miss wink )

    my two “öre” (we don’t have euro yet)

    Emil had this to say on Oct 20, 2005 Posts: 10
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