The plot to kill the Mac

TECHNOLOGY columnist Christopher Mims of the Wall Street Journal received an online drubbing this month when he suggested that Apple should kill off the Mac so that it could better focus on “products that represent the future” like the iPad.

In his column, Mims begins by arguing that Apple is spreading itself thin trying to make the best computer, smart phone, tablet, wearable device, set-top box, and maybe even a car. On top of this, the company must also overcome its traditional weakness in cloud services, he says.

“Something’s got to give,” Mims writes. “Showpieces like iMacs with screens that have more pixels than any PC ever (and four times the average selling price of a PC) are impressive, but what is Apple trying to prove? Is it really a good idea for Apple to continue to put resources against being king of a last-century technology?”

Building his case, Mims then points out that in the quarter ending in January this year, Apple posted its highest revenue ever for its Mac line, taking in $6.9 billion from the sale of 5.5 million Macs. Yet this accounted for only 9 percent of the company’s overall revenue.

“How much more competitive could Apple make its other efforts if the designers, engineers and executives behind Mac are redirected? And just as important, what if the developers who create for OS X had no choice but to move to things that actually represent the future?”

He then says Apple must choose between being a tech company or “an experience company”--whatever that means.

“Does Apple make computers, or does it make consumer goods? In a world in which the cloud is increasingly the hub of everything individuals and businesses do, and our mobile devices its primary avatar, what on Earth is Apple doing running victory laps around a dying PC industry? Personally, I’d rather see Apple push the envelope on what’s next.”

The reaction from Mac users was fast and furious. By this week, the column had drawn 563 comments, fueling suspicions that the article was just “click bait” – purposely provocative to stir up visits to the author’s page.

“Dumb idea....dumber article,” David Lenehan wrote.

“In 38 years of reading the WSJ I’ve never seen an article that even comes close to being as stupid as this one,” added David M. Coleman.

Others brought more light than heat to the debate.

“Practically all of the software and content that bring the Apple iOS devices to life are created, programmed, etc. on Macs. This includes the design of the iOS devices and the iOS operating system itself,” said Jim Macguinness. “Without all that creative talent working on Macs, Apple devices would simply become very expensive paperweights.”

Andrew Clearfield added: “There are very few business strategies more risky, and with a lower potential payback, than abandoning well-established brand equity. Despite all its new products, Apple is still known as a producer of high-end personal computers. The name and reputation of Apple help sell all these new products, and at premium prices.”

In response to the flack, Mims backpedaled two days later.

“Just to clarify for those who have been following so far, when I said Apple should kill off the Mac, I specifically said the Mac ‘brand,’” Mims wrote. “I definitely didn’t mean that Apple should stop giving people the ability to have a desktop-like or notebook-like experience, since these are valuable form factors. The question is whether Apple needs more than a mobile platform to power them.”

His subsequent statements, however, show that he was merely splitting hairs.

Mim’s vision is that Apple should support only one machine—the iPad.

“It’s been clear since the debut of the iPad that Apple believes it will be the future of the PC. And countless PC makers have realized that, especially if people are going to use a tablet as their primary device, it needs to be able to snap into or easily connect to a keyboard and other input peripherals.”

He goes on to say that he will eat his hat if the rumored iPad Pro, with its larger screen running iOS9 isn’t “a reasonable replacement, suitable for the needs of 90 percent of the notebook-buying public.”

If I were Mims, I’d wear a tiny hat.

The siren call of having just one device to serve all our digital needs has been with the industry for some time, but it is a pipe dream, and not even a powerhouse like Apple can pull it off what Mims suggests without losing millions of loyal customers.

Certainly, I would be one of them. I use a smart phone (not an iPhone) but don’t use a tablet because it just doesn’t suit my needs. If Apple killed the Mac and offered me a souped-up iPad in its place, I’d switch to a Linux laptop in a heartbeat.

On the road, I use a MacBook Air; at home, I run Linux on a desktop PC; and at the office, I use a 21.5-inch iMac. I could use the laptop at the office, too, but I choose not to because I like the large screen. I could opt to plug my MacBook into the iMac and use its larger display—but what for? The iMac is a joy to use.

I have a nifty Swiss Army knife—but I don’t use it for cutting vegetables. And nobody ever warned me that one day, my kitchen knife would become obsolete, either. Chin Wong


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