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).

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Blogger Daniel said...

You are correct that Apple is making huge inroads in the home market. Unfortunatly the inroads in the corporate enviornment are slow going still. It is going to be much more difficult to convince the MCSEs that run IT departments to leave their bread & butter and allow Macs in the corporate eviornment. For me at work I would love to take myself and entire lab all Mac. Unfortanutly NI's support of the Mac platform will not yet allow that, just look at how outdated the website is.

Friday, January 19, 2007 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Marc said...

The corporate environment, IT departments and even NI are more likely to be in the Late Majority category. I think the Early Majority is about to sway to the Mac, hence why I think it will take about a decade for the change to happen.

The mentality of those in the Late Majority is "We don't want to take a risk on it, so we'll see how it does." By the time they evaluate it the risk will seem less because all of the Early Majority have proven the risk is minimal (or has created a market for the needed support).

Friday, January 19, 2007 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Lamaan said...

Having been an alpha geek (with both Mac and PC) for a couple of decades, I can assure you that the Mac hasn't the slightest hope of pushing the PC off its perch any time in the foreseeable future. There are two reasons for this. The first is that most software is only usable on the Mac. For some users, that doesn't matter; for most people, however, it is decisive. The other reason is that Mac just doesn't have a big enough distribution syste,; outside the major big cities, you can't buy it, not get it serviced.


Saturday, January 20, 2007 1:09:00 AM  
Blogger Marc said...


The first is that most software is only usable on the Mac.

I don't understand what you are saying here. Can you elaborate?

The other reason is that Mac just doesn't have a big enough distribution syste,;[sic] outside the major big cities, you can't buy it, not get it serviced.

True. That is how things are now. There are a lot of people in major big cities (that's what makes them major big cities). As more of these city dwellers use Mac, the more incentive to move to smaller areas.

I'm not saying it will happen this year or next, but over the next decade.

Monday, January 22, 2007 7:02:00 AM  
Blogger Marc said...

Here is a post from the latest fellow co-woker who switched to the Mac. By the way, he is a BIG alpha geek.

Lava Forums

Friday, January 26, 2007 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger ursl said...

Thank you Marc for this general outlook. Being one of the somewhat privileged species that has been able to work with Macs since 1986 right through until today I always trusted the Apple and I still do. I am still working with PowerPC G5 Macs and have just recently been able to replace our old fleet of PowerMac7100 NuBus machines with the last generation PowerMac G5 models. I personally regret the move to Intel but most of the people embrace it because there is this strong believe that mainstream is the best (Which is never the case). Of course the Mac brought me to LabVIEW 2 and I have gone through all the LV-versions up to LV 8.20, the anniversary edition of today. The biggest drawback is the reduced set of DAQ/Vision and GPIB driver support for recent LaBVIEW versions on the Mac. DAQmx Base is OK and I have so far been able to do anything I wanted with it but specially the absence of Vision does hurt since the Advanced IMAQ Vision 4.1 for MacOS support has ceased. So please bug NI to get at least DAQmx, GPIB and possibly some basic vision package for MacIntel besides DAQmx Base. Also push the issue of getting a cross platform upgrade for an existing LV version for some handling cost of the corresponding CD.

The iPhone will surely drive Apple's revenue to soaring heights. Those who can afford Apple stock should buy as much as possible now. I unfortunately can't because I am too poor.

Thank you for the fine work Marc and keep on constructing LabVIEW on our favorite and the most advanced computer platform.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 1:57:00 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

I just got this from a friend here at work:

I found the following instant message this morning when I got in from my friend who diced to switch from Windows to Mac after dealing with Vista:

Matt says:
Oh my God.... I'm tearing up
Matt says:
Setting up the kids' iMac tonight, and it just worked
Matt says:
wireless network
Matt says:
Matt says:
LAN access
Matt says:
it just.... works

Thursday, February 22, 2007 6:42:00 AM  
Blogger Happy said...

"The other reason is that Mac just doesn't have a big enough distribution syste,; outside the major big cities, you can't buy it, not get it serviced."
That's why I'm fond of the biggest cities!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008 11:05:00 AM  

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