With each iteration of Mac OS X, more and more Windows users are making the switch to a Mac. You rarely hear people making the switch in the other direction. Most consumers will be happy with the basic iLife, iWork, and Safari setup. Gaming enthusiasts will find that the Mac still lags behind the PC for the latest 3D titles, but many top-tier games such as Call of Duty 4 and StarCraft II are or will be available for the OS X.
In a way, you have to look at the Mac as a closed platform along the lines of the Wii, PlayStation 3, or Xbox 360. While it’s built using the standard hardware found in traditional PCs, Mac OS X represents a unique computing environment. By paying the Apple tax and giving up some freedom to play in Apple’s sandbox, Mac users enjoy a relative improvement in computing security and a user-experience that is unparalleled. If grandma’s PC is broken, would you trust Geek Squad to fix it for her? Depends on who happens to be working at the Geek Squad. If grandma’s Mac Mini is broken, would you trust the Genius Bar to fix it for her? Absolutely. It’s nothing special—Apple tech support simply has fewer variables to deal with.
Budget-conscious consumers will always find their best deal in a PC. Consumers with task-specific goals such as first-person shooter gaming, Adobe Photoshop CS4, or Home Theater PC will still find the PC a superior platform. However, for most home computing (office suite, digital photography, and Internet) and the task-specific goal of digital video, the Mac is the ideal platform for those who can afford it.
How Apple Can Screw Things Up
Apple has done a great job of developing a viable commercially supported desktop operating system. There are thousands of applications that the PC has that the Mac won’t have, but at the end of the day, Apple has a solid platform that meets the needs of most computer users. Better yet, Apple has been able to do this at a premium. It has been able to market its platform as something better than what’s out there as opposed to the “same thing for less money.” In today’s financial crisis, this may actually help Apple remain stable. With healthy profit margins and a track record of efficient budgeting (just look at the cash Apple holds in reserve), it’s possible for Apple to maintain strong sales in 2009.
In a recession, less money is spent on luxury items. With that said, computers are a necessity. Those who just bought a new PC recently won’t switch to a Mac. However, imagine a PC user whose machine was just infected by malware. This PC may be a few years old and “due for a replacement.” The options are to fix the PC by taking it to the local repair shop or getting a new one in order to eliminate the risk that any residual malware is on the PC keeping track of online banking passwords, etc. This is the type of user Apple wants to capture into the Mac world.
Therefore, security remains the critical feature that Apple must maintain. Security is one of the key selling points of Macs today. Exploits for Apple PCs have occurred in local environments, but to date, there hasn’t been a widespread malware attack on OS X users. The general public is savvy to malware, and as long as Apple can maintain the security of OS X against in-the-wild remote exploits, it’ll continue to enjoy strong sales even in an economic recession.