Mac Scope

Inside the Box

Stephen Van Esch - 2001.01.16

After shaking up the computer world with sleek hardware designs, Apple is finally getting serious about pushing the "other half" of their business: software.

What's inside the box is essential to the Apple business, but it is widely ignored in print and ad campaigns. After all, a curvy iMac looks much better on a billboard or bus than a screen on icons and menu bars.

Several articles, however, point out that hardware sales cannot be driven by software. In a nutshell, iMovie might be a fantastic piece of software, but it's not something that's likely to encourage someone to drop some money on an iMac. Pretty much any mainstream software available for the Mac can be had on the Windows side. Granted, not all of the Windows equivalents are as polished as Apple software, but the average user won't be able to tell the difference.

While Apple would like software to drive hardware sales (and I'm sure they're hoping it will happen), turning out killer apps for both platforms may be the best way for Apple to generate revenue in the long run.

iMovie is available only for Apple users. Would Apple benefit from releasing a low-cost Windows version of the same software? iMovie currently doesn't generate a lot of revenue for Apple. It's bundled free with most new Macs, and Apple offers it as a $49 download to other users, but I can hardly see this as one of their bigger sellers - most Macs capable of using iMovie already have a free copy.

Offering a comparably priced Windows version would add to Apple's bottom line and get users who wouldn't buy a Macintosh to contribute to buy Apple-branded products.

If Apple released great apps that outperform competitors on both platforms, the potential could be enormous. By most accounts, the movie software bundled with Windows ME is a pale shadow of iMovie.

Over time, if people in the Windows world use Apple software on a regular basis, they may begin to wonder what they're missing. If the software is so great, what's the rest of the system like? They may greatly enjoy iMovie (or other Apple software products) and may then take a look at OS X. They may reason that the great user experience they have with Apple software may be extended to the operating system. The only problem for them would be the fact that OS X only runs on Apple hardware.

And then Apple makes a hardware sale.

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