How not to drive Mac market share.

And conclusions in search of evidence.

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The Macalope
4 min read

The New York Times' Randall Stross thinks Apple missed a market share opportunity with Microsoft's missteps.

And he's hell-bent on proving it!

The biggest problem here is that Stross largely relies on one source for Mac market share, a source that conveniently places it at its lowest possible threshold, 3 percent. There are plenty of other sources you could use that will give you other results, and this piece comes across as a conclusion in search of the evidence.

That forlorn number looks even worse compared with Apple's peak worldwide share of 14 percent in 1984, the year the Macintosh was introduced and sales of Apple II computers were the company's mainstay.

Ah, that's some sleight of hand there, Randall! Note that that's Apple's market share at the time, not the Mac's. Sure, you could argue that the Mac was the Apple II's replacement, but that's not completely accurate. Again, Stross is simply using the largest possible number to make the difference look bigger.

You probably don't want to include the iPod in Apple's current market share, do you, Randall? The horny one thought not.

And it's not like his source for Apple's market share doesn't have an axe to grind in this. Here's Roger Kay back in 2005 arguing that the iPod halo effect was more a result of the cyclical buying pattern of Mac heads than a discernible conversion of customers from other platforms.

From the overall market's point of view, it's a tempest in a teapot. I believe the company continues to make suboptimal strategic decisions, even as its marketing and short-term tactical execution are astounding. What will trip it up again are the standards and pricing issues.

Ah, the old pricing saw. The Macalope's not going to get into that again, but suffice it to say when you compare name brand computers, Apple's products are similarly priced.

Kay's one example of Apple not using "standards" is choosing to use Bonjour (n&eacuts; Rendezvous) instead of UPnP. Here Kay defines "standard" as anything Microsoft uses [ADDED: A commenter points out that UPnP has been approved as an ISO standard leading the horny one to wonder if Cuba is on the ISO board. Snarking aside, however, Bonjour is the one that's available on both platforms and has more APIs but, whatever.].

Here's Kay's take on Apple's dispute with Cisco over the iPhone trademark.

"This was just brass balls on the part of Steve (Jobs), to go in there and just grab that trademark and not pay a license for it or negotiate. It's the height of arrogance," Kay said. "He basically thinks he can get away with it."

However, it's likely that the two companies will settle their differences, as prolonged litigation doesn't really serve either company, Kay said. "Apple is playing chicken with Cisco, and there's other companies I'd rather play chicken with," he said, referring to Cisco's deep pockets.

And then here he is eating his own words a few weeks later.

Roger Kay, of Endpoint Technologies Associates, agreed. "It certainly looks like Cisco gave away the store."

Surprise! There were a number of so-called analysts calling Apple all kinds of awful names at the times and lamenting the horrible effect on intellectual property this would have all while turning a blind eye to the evidence that Cisco would fold like a cheap card table.

But back to Stross' piece, he continues to go to great lengths to try to make his point.

The Mac's share of personal computers has actually edged a bit lower since Vista's release in January, and the various flavors of Windows a bit higher, according to Net Applications, a firm in Aliso Viejo, Calif., that monitors the operating systems among visitors to 40,000 customer Web sites.

"A bit lower". A bit lower than what, pray tell, Randall?

Oh, a bit lower than 6.38 percent.

First of all, Stross is using numbers that aren't measuring the same thing. One is sales, the other is web traffic. The two are not necessarily comparable. [ADDED: Also, see Tom Krazit's look at Net Application's number back in July here.]

Second of all, if you're going to compare them, you're going to have to somehow deal with the fact that one says Mac market share is 3 percent and the other says it's 6 percent.

If Apple had begun wooing Best Buy two years ago, and perhaps appointed an ambassador to look after the relationships with the chain and other resellers, the Mac would have been much better off.

Right. Because Apple's best chance at increasing market share is through resellers that stick its products in the back of the store with the peripherals that time forgot and that have sales people that know little about the Mac and tend to push customers to Windows machines. That's a sure-fire recipe for success!

And it's always worked so well in the past. CompUSA, Best Buy, Sears. Those relationships all really drove up Mac market share.

Stross is clearly hung up on Apple's relationship with stores not exactly noted for their sterling sales experiences. Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson, fortunately, are not. The key to increasing the Mac's market share is not trying to shove units through a sub-standard channel (although that can be part of the mix). The key is in making a premium end-to-end user experience that people will drive miles to get.

[This post initially identified Stross as writing for CNet. That's been corrected as this was a reprint of a New York Times piece. Sorry for the error.]