The MacView

Virtual Instrumentation from a Mac perspective

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Revolution WILL be televised

Apple Computer announced $1 billion profit on over $7 billion in revenue. IDC announced Apple's computer market share went up almost 30% year-on-year (now 4.7%). With all the buzz of the iPhone and iPod line, and Apple dropping the "Computer" from its name, some of us Mac fans are left to wonder what this all means.

The iPod went from zero to hero in no time, and they continue to grow. The holiday quarter 2006 saw 50% more iPods being sold than the same quarter 2005. With AppleTV, iPhone and iPod Apple gets a lot of buzz, but its the Macintosh that is most interesting here. I think there is a quiet revolution happening.

A popular book here at National Instruments is Crossing the Chasm. In this book, the author discusses a Technology Adoption Model (image at link shown here) that is very helpful in understanding future directions in technology.

The theory goes like this:

  • Innovators are always on the bleeding edge in accepting new technology
  • Early Adopters quickly follow the Innovators
  • If the Early Majority accepts the new technology, then Late Majority will shortly follow
  • There are always Laggards that are the last to accept the new technology

The Macintosh never really got past the Early Adopters phase. That is the "chasm" referred to in the book. The iPod showed that Apple could cross that chasm. With one win under their belt, I think the iPhone and AppleTV are the next tests of their new model. But what about the Macintosh.

Another technology adoption model is the Alpha Geek model. This model states that when a majority of Alpha Geeks adopt a technology, the rest public at large will eventually follow. I think the IBM PC is a good example of this.

In the mid 80's home computers became popular. You had the Atari, Commodore, TRS, IBM, Amiga and Apple camps. The Alpha Geeks we split among them all. So when people asked their Alpha Geek friend which computer to buy, the advice depended on who your Alpha Geek was. Then as the PC became more popular among Alpha Geeks, their advice started converging on the PC, thus a shift in the Alpha Geek preference multiplied the effect on the general population.

Ten years ago, if you were to poll Alpha Geeks you would have found that 90% to 95% of them used Microsoft Windows. Anecdotal evidence over the last 10 years leads me to believe that another shift in Alpha Geek preference is happening, towards the Macintosh.

I started to notice a change on Slashdot about the time Mac OS X was released. Slashdot ten years ago seemed to be more Linux oriented. Since then more and more posts were Apple related. Not only that, the posts became increasingly pro Apple.

When I started working for National Instruments in 1997, there were just a handful of people who I worked with who had a Mac at home, and they were very, what we called at the time, Apple Evangelistas. Within the last few years, I have noticed that the developers I work with are starting to buy Macs for home use. Even more surprising is that the developers who are buying Macs are not Mac zealots. They are people who have been working on Windows versions of LabVIEW or DAQ, and really don't have much exposure to the Mac other than casual exposure. In fact, just this morning, another developer who I never thought would buy a Mac came up to me and said, "I have a MacBook Pro in my cart at the Apple store, and before I submitted the order, I just wanted to ask you about one of the features."

The third anecdote comes from my personal history. I was an IBM PC guy in high school (DOS days). I had even (ignorantly) talked a friend into being anti-Mac (his family was trying to decide between Mac and PC at the time). Then I started working for the Navy. They had me working on a Macintosh, and I grew to love it. However, this made me a geek black sheep of sorts in my family. My father tried to convince me that a Sparc station (from Sun) would be a better alternative to Microsoft.

When I went off to college, my parents bought me a Compaq PC (sometimes I think it was for fear that I might buy a Mac at college). I used the computer for about a year and a half. It was a useful tool, and it was free (for me). Then I got married. I was frustrated that my new wife had such a difficult time using our home computer. We decided it was time to sell the PC and get a Mac. Since then, I've purchased 6 Macs, and got my mother-in-law 2 Macs.

I was still a geek black sheep in my family. My two brothers were Windows/Linux fans. None of the male members of my immediate family had anything good to say about the Macintosh. Well, at least until the Mac switched to Intel. I was floored when my father and two brothers, and different times, expressed that they would consider buying a Mac.

I think that in the next ten years, we are going to see a personal computer revolution, and it WILL be televised (at least web-cast).

Labels: , , , , ,

The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.