I just read an article describing how Microsoft still doesn’t offer Office 365 for the Mac. In spite of their recent moves to deliver a touch version of Office for the iPad-sooner, and maybe better, than what they produce for their own Surface or other Windows-based tablets-Mac users continue to be relegated to using Office for Mac 2011. I believe this inattention is intentional. I think Microsoft is worried about the Mac eating away at the Windows PC market share, on top of the erosion due to growth in mobile and tablet computing.
I know many of you will not immediately see the connection. You can argue Apple has barely put a dent in the PC business market share. And you’d be right-they haven’t. Apple’s technically defensible position that the Mac has always been a “better” computer has been offset partly due to price points and partly due to Windows’ deeply established installed base in the corporate world. But I’ll ask you to take a few minutes and consider something new that’s about to spring from 1 Infinite Loop.
The release of iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite expected this fall will bring the two computing systems closer than ever. While not going so far to make for a single operating system-certainly not in the way Microsoft has attempted with Windows 8-a quasi-convergence is clearly taking shape. Maybe the most notable example is seen by a concept Apple calls “Continuity,” and from the associated feature they call “Handoff.” This is where you can have your iPhone in hand, be in the middle of doing something, and as you approach your Mac, the machine senses the iPhone’s proximity and automatically allows you to transfer doing your work on the Mac. There are a number other use cases this concept will support.
There may not be a more classic (and arguably tired) debate in the personal computer business than that surrounding “PC vs. Mac.” As recently as 2006, Apple began running a series of “I’m a PC-I’m a Mac” TV ads that offered another round of fodder. While the ads were just as clever as ever, they were no more effective at increasing the Mac’s market share that prior attempts. They may have contributed to a relative increase in Mac sales growth and a boastful contrast to a flat-to-declining PC market. But from a stealing market share view, continuing to claim how much “better” Mac OS X is vs. Windows has not worked. If being “cool” matters, Apple wins. But regarding that which matters to business, I think the informal definition of insanity applies here.
And now, maybe Apple sees it that way, too. Instead of going head-to-head at the PC OS level, this Continuity concept shows how they are tying their desktop and laptop machines into the technology in which Apple already has significant foundation and market share: mobile computing. By making the Mac seamlessly integrate with iDevices, millions of people will have a new and different reason to think twice about what type of traditional computer they want to use.
I think this strategy will increase market share for the Mac. Maybe significantly. It’s really a brilliant move. Whether it’s intentional, or an unintended consequence of innovation, I don’t really know. What I do know is that, if I had the money, I’d switch my whole family to Macs.
As for Microsoft dragging their feet on producing Office 365 for the Mac, I think it indicates they are worried about this strategy. They issued Office for the iPad due to Apple’s dominance in that market category. But Microsoft doesn’t really have anything to lose in the tablets market. They have everything to lose on the traditional PC front. And I think they have good reason to fear that Apple’s approach to integrating their operating platforms just might work.