A Strategy for Another Time

Yesterday, I stopped in at my favorite vacation coffee shop in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Looking around, I was suddenly struck that seven out of the eight laptops on the tables were Macs.

This sea change in computer preferences is not just limited to hipsters you might expect to find at a coffee shop in a university town.

A colleague who works for a large Silicon Valley software company related a similar tale. Last week, in a meeting with one of the world’s largest retailers, all fifteen attendees were using Apple laptops.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time, not so long ago, that it seemed like Microsoft was invincible. What changed?

A strategy for early years

Microsoft’s strategy worked very well when personal computing was new to the world. Companies and individuals were struggling to define what devices were and more generally, what worked. Microsoft provided a powerful platform for experimentation. Hardware came in all shapes and sizes. User Interfaces showed up in splendid variety.

We were living in an 100/0 world and computing devices needed to serve all needs. We were just learning how computers might make our lives better – from sending instant mail to sharing photos to a myriad of other uses we’d never associated with computers. Because these capabilities were so new, and seemed at the time so powerful, we were willing to put up with a lot that didn’t work – or at least didn’t work without a lot of expert assistance. If you are a technology history buff, you might think of this period as similar to when companies needed to hire engineers to manage their private dynamos to benefit from electricity.

A strategy for today

We’ve now passed beyond this early phase. We know what a laptop should look like (a Macbook or Macbook Air) and what a tablet should look like (an iPad). We are no longer willing to put up with things that don’t seem to work. Indeed, Apple picked up on this undercurrent with the “it just works” campaign, which was squarely aimed at the frustration users all too too often felt when things failed to work. Instead of experimentation built around a single OS, Apple provided a complete integrated solution where hardware, software and increasingly cloud all work together. Sometime in the early ’00’s, we’d left the era of the individual dynamo and entered the period of the always on utility. A strategy that may have worked brilliantly in the early years wasn’t fit for today.

Is your company pursuing a strategy for another time?


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Categories: Cloud / SaaS / PaaS, Strategy

Author:Tom Molyneux

A business process strategist with a focus on real-time event management.

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2 Comments on “A Strategy for Another Time”

  1. Florian
    July 30, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    I purchased a MacBook Pro 13” only because in early 2011 it was the only hardware that was capable of having 16 GB RAM, the battery lasted longer than comparable products and resume with MacOS works well enough. The display is not really great because of the reflections and the small size.

    However I’m still doing most of my work under Windows 7 running in VMware Fusion.

    I’m certainly not a fan of Mac OS X because Mac OS X and the available software is still not heads up with Windows 7 and available Windows 7 software especially in the enterprise software market (just compare Microsoft Outlook for Windows and Mac and you know what I mean).

    The on-going lock-in and restrictions that Apple imposes via iOS and Mac OS X (AppStore, sand boxes, iCloud etc.) is something I definitely don’t like (but Microsoft is catching up with Windows 8 in terms of lock-in). In my opinion it won’t take long and Apple will replace Microsoft as the bad guy. They already went a good way with their patent suits against Samsung and other vendors.

    If other hardware vendors have a similar offering (and Asus is getting really close with the new Zenbooks) I’ll not hesitate to go back to non-Apple hardware.

  2. Jay Lillie
    July 30, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    From my perspective, the key to Apple is the “Form + Function.” Bottom-line, they are stunningly beautiful (unibody aluminum construction just LOOKS amazing!) and have had chipsets that were uniquely suited to high-end needs (graphic design, video editing, etc.). The turning point for Apple was the conversion from PowerPC to Intel chipsets… all of a sudden the Form + Function met “Practical” (i.e., I can justify it and I’m not limiting myself). This was a big deal for things like virtualization (Boot Camp, Parallels, VMWare) that allowed us to use Windows for what we *needed* and Mac overall for what I *wanted*.

    It just works was always the Apple mantra (I still love the “I’m a Mac! And I’m a PC!” campaign) but it was the shift to a standard technology architecture that added the traction that millions of everyday users needed to just make the switch.

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