Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Apple will Fail, Microsoft to Come Back?

In a boring conversation over Christmas, a friend of mine said that Apple will take a dive this year as, in his theory, they have saturated demand for their tablets and smartphones and their PCs will never get taken seriously by corporates. Meanwhile Microsoft will resurge back to normal growth rates, was his other prediction.

Of course, he's right on all counts.

Or is he? Having been recently converted to Apple, first via tablet, then iPhone and now the Macbook Pro, I have suddenly realised that as workers we have been held back from many productivity aids and better software over the years. As a for instance, this year over the Christmas period, I recorded and published a talking book of bedtime stories for my young boy which he can now read and listen to at his leisure from an iPad or one of our iPhones or any device that reads ePubs.

Apple Pages, at £13.99 for the software on a Macbook Pro (full end user licence cost), allows you to write the document while the free GarageBand software on the Mac allows you to record an audio file. You just add the media file to your Pages file and then export to ePub format. The recordings took 15 minutes each and the rest was done in minutes. The look on my little's boys face to see his pictures in the book and hear my voice telling the story? Well, priceless.

But this has nothing to do with business, has it? Oh yes it has. This week, my firm will use my Macbook to write several briefing and training documents about Cloud Computing which we will add audio files to and then export them to ePub format. We can then make them available to all tablet users as a multimedia document which they can listen to on the fly. Imagine you are an IT salesperson awaiting a first appointment with a client to talk about Virtualisation or the benefits of Cloud, these documents will be 15 minutes long as audio files to give first, invaluable briefings to make salespeople sound authoritative. And they can leave them with their clients.

What my friend fails to realise is that the PC market is plummeting - even servers - but Notebooks in particular are nose diving at over 50% per quarter. Vendors like HP, Dell and Acer question the viability at the low end as they can't make products cheap enough for the corporate market. Meanwhile, the software is still buggy and expensive and it does much the same as it always has done with precious little innovation over the last 5 years, particularly from Microsoft.

In the face of this, smartphones and tablets are rising at an exponential rate as the phenomenon of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) takes off at work where our own devices are attaching to secure networks. And people using these devices buy their software in a different way - over the Cloud and for a few pounds a shot. And there's tons of it.

The revolution is here, have no doubt. And Apple PC's, in the face of the PC decline, are growing at 27% per annum in terms of shipments and revenue. Yet you can't get a bean of discount for love nor money on these expensive products.

Why are companies now paying top dollar for Apple when they are forcing PC vendors to crumble? Simple, the PC market never has really been about price. If you want capability to do a job, people are prepared to pay. The Sony Vaio is touted as the pinnacle of PC's in terms of graphics and portability but have you seen the Apple Mac Air? There's no real comparison.

But Apple is an island in the world of computing dominated by Microsoft so corporates will never buy, will they? Oh, but they will. Microsoft Office for Mac is vastly superior to the PC version and it's half the price. You can now get it as a client for MS Office 365. If you want full PC compatibility then for £67 you run Parallels virtual machine and then port all your MS licences across, automatically by wifi - Apple does it for you.

Of course, I don't think Apple will dominate the corporate market but I think the PC has had its day in the current form. The way in which companies invest in software will change as the Cloud drives prices down and multiple devices will be used to run the same piece of software with files sourced from one spot for all.

This is not a world described by PCs or Microsoft and so either these companies will have to adapt or get left behind. Apple may not win the end battle but they have shown that end or client devices can be anything going forward and users are defining what is paid for them against the corporate mandates. 

Steve Jobs said it before he died, we are in the post-PC era and you don't have to look far to see executives and consumers using the same devices running lots of software that has been suppressed for years by the narrow minded view of the world by mammoth software companies.

2012 will be a year of innovation and the year that the PC market accelerated its decline at the cost of new devices. Apple will get a share but look out for more innovative products and lots of great software at affordable prices. 

If Apple has done this one thing, then it has put value back into the valueless object that was once a PC.

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