With all the recent fuss over the iPhone, you could forgive people for thinking Apple has become a consumer electronics company rather than a personal computer manufacturer. After all, Steve Jobs even encouraged that perception by announcing – at the same event where he first showed off the iPhone – that the company name would change from Apple Computer Inc. to simply Apple Inc.
It makes sense. Apple’s best-known product, until the iPhone started getting more hype than a pop singer in rehab, was the iPod. Sure, everybody (well, almost everybody) knows the company makes computers too, but how many people actually have one?
Not all that many, admittedly. Apple’s Macintosh had 4.72 per cent of the Canadian market in 2006, according to numbers from International Data Corp., and only 2.48 per cent of the worldwide market.
That’s not much. Nonetheless, Apple has made some gains in the PC market. The picture looks different when we consider growth rates. That 4.72 per cent of the Canadian market is up 33.8 per cent over 4.04 per cent in 2005. And the worldwide number is up 20 per cent over 2006’s 2.28 per cent.
If we look at the first half of 2007 versus the year-earlier period, Apple looks even better. In Canada, its market share cracked the five-per-cent barrier. At 5.62 per cent, it was up 65.9 per cent from a share of 3.9 per cent in the first half of last year.
International growth wasn’t quite so strong, which is partly because the company isn’t well established in emerging markets yet, says Eddie Chan, an analyst at IDC Canada.
And in the markets where it chooses to focus, Apple is stronger. The company continues to emphasize the consumer, education and “creative” markets, the latter including media companies, designers, ad agencies and the like.
When Apple Canada held a briefing to show off its latest iLife and iWork suites to reporters just after Labour Day, you could see the consumer focus continues. Willi Powell, Apple Canada’s strategic development manager, spent most of his time on the consumer-oriented iLife suite, showing how it can produce sophisticated home videos and music, organize photographs and help you share them with friends and relatives.
The upgraded iWork, aimed at the office market, got a bit less attention. But Apple hasn’t neglected it. The most significant enhancement to iWork is Numbers, a spreadsheet program that means Mac users now have an alternative to Microsoft Excel. Powell described it as a simpler offering for people who don’t need all the power of Excel or want to spend the time it takes to figure out where all the features are.
I don’t use Macs regularly, but when I have I’ve found them reliable and well designed. Apple has always made good products.
Compatibility with the mainstream used to be the big problem with Macs. Arguably that’s not much of a problem any more. They’re built on Intel processors, they have pretty solid software to support Windows programs, and file exchange isn’t really an issue.
Apple claims to be doing well selling Macs through its own retail stores. Maybe the company could do even better if it expanded its presence in non-Apple stores. And maybe computer retailers – with an ever-diminishing list of major hardware vendors to choose from – should think about adding Apple to their mix.