The conventional market share myth in the Macintosh world is simple.
BMW only has a small fraction of the automobile marketplace, the Mac user may say, but no-one says that BMW is doomed, beleaguered, shrinking, dying, etc. etc. insert adjective of choice. Therefore Apple is safe as well, even if it is a niche product.
Well, I’m a long-term Mac user, devotee, and fan, but that’s not the Mac Market Share Myth. The real market share myth is that market share is not important.
Jobs and company have a few facts in their corner when they claim that market share is not important. One is the increasing importance of both standards and the internet. As long as the Mac supports certain standards, and works well on the net, the Mac user is an equal digital citizen.
Well, that’s partially true. But it’s not the whole story.
After all, BMWs don’t require the afficionado to drive on a separate road system to use their vehicle. They don’t have to use special gas that can only be bought from special service stations, usually hundreds of kilometres apart. They don’t have windsheilds with unique optics that make it difficult to see the road signs and posted speed limits.
In short, once you’ve bought the BMW, you head out on the road and it plays nice in the world. In fact, if you continue the analogy, any particular BMW vehicle is actually just an application for the huge distributed operating system known as The Road System.
The point is clear: operating systems, even operating systems as wonderful and excellent and beautiful as Mac OS X, are only part of the story. The rest of the story – and the bigger part of the story – is applications. And applications require developers.
A number of things will draw developers to an operating system, or platform. Technical excellence, philosophical foundations, emotional reasons, licensing and legal environment, development tools, and ease of development are just some of the reasons.
But the only reason that is absolutely guaranteed to draw developers to your platform is CUSTOMERS. And customers, it should be obvious, are a direct function of MARKET SHARE.
Market share for the Mac matters. It matters a lot. And the Mac will die, or drift off and become a pathetic hobbyist tool like the Amiga operating system, if Apple doesn’t really recognize the problem, see the solutions (there will be more than one) and act on it as quickly and decisively as possible.
There are several things Apple can do that would have immediate impact on market share. Tomorrow I’ll talk about one of them.