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Will the iPad Doom the Mac?

by Glen Emerson Morris
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While the iPad has opened new possibilities for advertising and marketing, like most new technologies, it's a double edged sword. The monumental success of the iPad and iPhone means the desktop Macintosh is no longer a major revenue generator for Apple, and that could mean bad news for those who depend on the Mac for advanced audio/video/graphics generation, like the advertising industry. In both Steve Jobs eras at Apple there was a core commitment to the Mac as a tool for advanced multimedia production. With Apple under new management, and selling a new kind of product, that commitment is in doubt.

It's not surprising. Companies tend to follow the cash, understandably, and with Apple making billions with the iPad and iPhone product lines, and the entire Mac desktop product line trailing distantly in third place, it's clear what Apple's priorities will be. What's not clear is how rocky the road ahead will be for Macs users in general, and for pro audio/video users in particular. If the past is anything like the future, it could get pretty rocky.

The truth is, Apple was never that committed to the professional creative community. Then, as now, the focus was on the top end amateur and semi-pro market. Even after licensing PostScript from Adobe to make the Mac to be the first PC with professional quality digital type, Apple made no attempt to sell the Mac as a DTP system from 1984 to 1986. In late 1984 I arranged for an advertising trade out between the now defunct CW Electronics and Tom Mulvey's Colorado MAC News. Apple corporate shot down the deal on the grounds that the Mac wasn't a DTP system and Apple didn't advertise in business vertical magazines anyway. It was bit surprising since, in the early years, the Mac needed all the help it could get.

It may seem difficult to believe now, but the Mac was not a commercial hit with the public the first few years it was out. While the public loved the Mac, they simply couldn't afford one. The fact it cost $2500, had only 128K of memory, came with no hard drive, and only had a 400K single-sided drive may have had something to do with it. That, and the fact that initially there just wasn't much you could do with a Mac that could make money.

Then came PageMaker, and by 1987 service bureaus began offering high resolution print outs of PostScript files at 1200 lines per inch for just $6 a page. In 1987 typesetting costs per page could run between $20 and $50, meaning a Mac DTP system could cut typesetting costs in half for many publications and agencies.

Despite the success of the Mac as the ultimate DTP system, Apple used a different screen draw technology, QuickDraw, rather than using native PostScript as they do now. The result was that the Mac didn't draw PostScript pages in layout programs exactly the way it printed them, and that drove typographers up the wall.

This time around, Jobs made sure Apple's software stable included major league audio video production tools, including Logic Studio and Shake. However, Apple didn't develop either, it simply bought the companies that originally made them dominate their respective markets. Generally speaking, in Silicon Valley when a large company buys a smaller company, very few of the smaller company's engineering and marketing staff last long at the new owner. This means that the marketing staff that had specialized in a vertical market, and made their product dominate that market, are usually gone the first year, if not sooner. The new marketing people on the project are not likely to know as much about the product, and its market, than the people they replaced, and neither will the new engineers. The bottom line is that a product that once was an industry leader becomes an industry trailer. Even worse, it can become consumer oriented rather that professional oriented to increase it's market share. It's brutal, but under the current system Apple's marketing team is there to make the most money it can for Apple, not provide the advertising and media industries with the tools they need to survive. And there's no doubt things are changing in the Mac pro A/V world.

There have been complaints that Apple's new video production software has been dumbed down. Among other things, it's missing the edit tables used to automatically prioritize and drop scenes in programming to fit the time available for it. There are two ways to take this. It can really mean that Apple just doesn't care about the pro audio/video market anymore, or something else, not quite as bad but still problematic. It could simply be a sign that the pro A/V product line is a very low priority with Apple and it's not willing to commit the resources to the A/V product line it was before the iPad took off.

Apple has a history of releasing new low-priority applications with less than all the desired features, and less than perfect market research, in order to cut down on losses if the product doesn't sell. The first release is essentially a trial run. If the market showed any real interest in the product they'd release a more robust version with a better marketing budget.

With Apple's entire pro A/V product line a marginal revenue source for Apple now, it may simply be that Apple is putting its entire A/V product on a slow development track. They may simply no longer be willing to invest significant money in developing pro A/V products when the same money invested in iPad/iPhone market development will pay vastly greater returns. For that matter, any first rate marketing pro at Apple would be doing everything they could to get on the iPad or iPhone marketing team, and who could blame them.

The iPad and iPhone have turned into two of the hottest consumer products in history, and Apple is behaving accordingly. The Mac and the multimedia production tools it made possible may have have played a critical role in Apple's development once, but those days are long gone. Apple is a consumer products company now, it doesn't even call itself Apple Computer anymore. The advertising & marketing industry should take notice. The Mac may still be around for awhile, but the pro A/V market may have to go to non-Apple production software, and not too far down the road. We need to plan accordingly, and pay attention to Apple and developments in the A/V tool market. That won't be a problem. You'll be able to keep up to date on the issue with your iPad.

Glen Emerson Morris was a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law.
He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.

Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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