Mac vs. Vista

OK – I have to admit, while I am not a Mac user, I love their ads. They are very well done, and hit the nail on the head when poking fun at Vista. I have not converted to a Mac yet, but I am seriously considering making my next laptop a Mac.

With that backdrop, I read today that Mac sales are up 35% in the first quarter over the same period last year. The same article also stated that the Vista uptake rate is less than had been expected (no surprise there).

This begs the question: Why? What is driving people to buy a Mac and not Vista?

It has long been a well-known fact that Mac users have a religious fervor to their support of that platform. Back in the 80’s and even the early 90’s, Mac users were well known for their zeal in support of the freewheeling, innovative Apple over the stifling corporate-focused Microsoft.

However, I cannot believe that the “corporate culture” difference is the cause of this zeal today. Rather, here are some ideas that I have heard that would make more sense:

  1. The OS X is simply a better designed product. I referred to this in an earlier post, but the concept that Steve Jobs simply has a vision of how his OS should work, and requires nothing less than perfection from his employees in the creation of this vision. He maintains strict control over the implementation, and ensures it meets his high expectations.
  2. People are getting tired of being disappointed by Windows. They start with high expectations for significant improvement, but end up with an operating system that is only slightly incrementally better than the prior incarnation. The Mac is the natural place for these people to migrate to, since Linux desktops are still only for the “techies”.
  3. Sales of the Mac are being driven by the iPod.

So, what can a software company learn from this? What do we take away here that can be emulated as small software companies fighting the Goliath in their vertical market? Here are some possibilities:

  1. You need a Dictator with vision to run your software company
  2. Be the only viable alternative to the Goliath
  3. Create a market via horizontal expansion that will drive sales of your product
  4. Have some cool ads and a good marketing strategy

Of course, none of these make for a viable, implementable strategy for a software startup. But, there has to be some lessons to be learned from the Mac success that small companies can follow. I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on what those are.

I really don’t know what single thing is driving Mac sales, nor why Apple has been able to create such a religious following – or if you can even boil it down to one or two key points. But, if other companies can figure out their magic recipe, we might find many more small companies building extremely innovative solutions and gaining extremely loyal customers.

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