. . . Sunday January 9, 2005

The Softer Side of Apple

By the time Macworld gets underway, just about every conceivable product rumor will be buzzing through San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Will we see the iHome media center that puts Apple in the middle of your living room? Will we see the lower cost flash memory iPod? Will the expected headless iMac steal the show?

As a Mac user (translation: sick cult member), I look forward to anything and everything that is introduced this week. I’m in for one of each, so lay it on me.

As an Apple shareholder, I want software. Don’t get me wrong. The iPod was the fuse that re-lit the Cupertino fireworks and the marketplace was once again reminded that design really, really matters. And a low cost iMac could expand the pool of potential buyers. In the nearterm, hardware (smooth, colorful, cool, arousing) will pay the bills and keep afloat a share price that has soared from the low teens to the sixties.

But, when it comes to the big prize of stealing marketshare from the suffering masses, I think the most important move Apple has made in the last several years has been on the software side. Yes, the iPod is selling like crazy. But the hardware forced Mac to release a popular consumer app (iTunes) for Windows. Suddenly, thousands of Windows users got a taste of the sweet world of Apple usability and software design.

Why, they might be asking themselves, isn’t all of our software this intuitive and easy to use?

As I reported earlier, more than 13% of those who bought an iPod have either already purchased a Mac or they plan to in the next 12 months. That is huge.

Perhaps by accident, Apple came up with a switch campaign that really works. They stopped asking everyone to make a blind switch to a Mac. Instead, Windows users are getting a little taste of just how good life can be. And while the differences between the user experiences had narrowed some in the 90s, Mac’s lead over Windows has never been greater than it is right now, expecially when it comes to the things most people do most often on their computers.

So, sure, bring on the hardware this week. But if I could ask for one move and one move only, I would ask for an announcement that iPhoto was being released for Windows.

And that request ain’t about altruism.

Between iTunes and iPhoto and a couple of other apps, I may finally be able to take a break from trying to explain to my Windows friends why I seem so much happier than they do.

Concentration is important!