Apple Drops the Other Shoe and Does Windows

A few short months ago, the thought that Apple would use Intel technology and move to Windows was viewed as insane speculation. Since then, Apple has moved to Intel, and today, with the announcement of Boot Camp, Apple appears to be starting to support Microsoft Windows. Accompanying this announcement was the statement, ?we have no desire to sell or support Windows.? Of course, they have also said in the past that they wouldn?t move to Intel (because they had killed the effort to move to that platform years earlier) and that they wouldn?t build a flash-based Media Player (because it was ?stupid?). 

You could almost say that when Apple says they aren?t going to do something?much like when a board of directors says they fully support a troubled CEO?then the opposite is probably true.

Impact of Moving to Windows

Inside and outside of Apple, there has been a group of folks who maintain that it makes financial sense for Apple to move to Windows (very similar to the way the Intel option was kept alive). Apple currently holds a market share much smaller than its brand and market presence would imply, largely because it doesn?t use Windows. For a while, there was a belief that Apple simply couldn?t compete with Windows and certainly couldn?t trust Microsoft.

However, the iPod demonstrated quite well what could happen if Apple supported Windows; Apple now dominates the MP3 market, most of which is on Windows. The iPod?s success also showcased that Apple could go head to head with Microsoft and beat them soundly, since Microsoft?s platform had little impact on Apple iPod sales. Based on this, it would seem?assuming Apple wants to become much larger and more powerful?that moving to support Windows could have a massive, positive impact on Apple sales.

Short Term Impact

Right now, the happiest folks are probably those who have had to maintain both Apple and Windows machines.  Getting rid of the extra weight, cost, and responsibility should be a big relief for this audience. In addition, people that need to run Windows but also want to carry an Apple can now do it.  This will further support the creation of a Lexus-like premium market (much like what Dell started with the XPS lines) and continue to establish Apple as a superior player. 

With Windows Vista delayed (and with the Windows hardware OEMs finding it difficult to build a campaign for the 4th quarter), Apple now has the ability to go after this opportunity with what could be the most perfect Windows Vista-ready hardware on the market; in fact, Apple?s hardware will probably be the most advanced hardware in the 4th quarter. If Apple plays their cards right, they could peg their manufacturing capacity and take more market share in a single quarter than any vendor has ever taken. It might be a bit of a long shot, but with Leopard supposedly delayed until 2007 it is the best shot they have at taking advantage of the Vista delay.   

This is a Test, This is Only a Test ? Impact of Disney

Before anyone gets too excited about the chance (which is clearly now a possibility) that Apple would abandon the current MacOS, they must realize that this will serve the function of a market test. 

Based on the information Apple will collect from Apple users who load Windows on these new Intel boxes?along with any increase in sales (potentially a big increase, based on initial feedback)?people will soon be able to make an informed decision about their future support of the MacOS and Windows.

This decision could (though I doubt it) be that Apple doesn?t do anything different and leaves things as they are, or it could be they spin out the OS group and allow them to try selling to Dell and other companies (kind of like what happened with Palm, which didn?t help the PalmOS but did help create Palm Hardware). Apple could decide to adopt the Windows kernel and create a more seamless dual boot (or better single boot environment) or they could simply shift the MacOS group?s focus to enhancing Windows on Apple by porting and eventually building better Windows applications. 

Whatever decision is made, Apple will have a substantial amount of information (probably by the end of the year) concerning which path would be the most lucrative and successful for the company. Now that Steve Jobs can focus more exclusively on the company?and is clearly hearing from Disney what he needs to do to make his product more attractive to companies like Disney?we can easily guess he is very motivated to make some changes so he can successfully go after what is likely a massive sales opportunity.  

A Better, Stronger, More Agile and Probably more Windows Future Apple

It is somewhat hard to make moves like this and I?m sure Steve has learned that there is a rather large dissatisfaction with current PC vendors in the market. Apple has renewed its focus on meeting the needs of an increasingly Windows-centric audience, and it is this audience that Apple will, increasingly, be listening to.

Over time, if a firm listens to its audience?and Apple is clearly listening?it will discover what to change about its company; the end result in this case could be a firm that can go toe-to-toe with the biggest in the PC industry, and, often as not, come out on top.  

Balancing between Intel and Microsoft won?t be easy, but working with Disney clearly wasn?t a walk in the park either, and so far the Intel thing seems to be working out okay.  

In the end, we are watching the rebirth of Apple. What happens over the next few months could have a massive impact on current Apple customers, Apple competitors, Microsoft, and the PC market. You can?t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and while Apple?s decision will probably upset a lot of Mac loyalists, it also has the potential to make one heck of a market-changing omelet by turning Apple into the power it always had: the unmet potential of becoming.   

Editors' Recommendations