Apple is keeping up the pace as perhaps the greatest consumer electronics and computer company ever. It is so popular that it can sell it’s products at a 30% premium, poor all the extra cash into R&D, and produce ever greater functionality and capability. The power of computers has increased as Intel’s Gordon E. Moore predicted, i.e. they’ve doubled in power every two years since the 1960s. This prediction of Moore’s is now known as Moore’s Law, and proved so accurate between 1970 and the millennium, that it is now used as an industrial planning principle. And this is where Apple has gained on PC’s inexorably. The great strength of PC computers was that any single home computer couldn’t do everything, so you had to optimise with add-ons, and the flexibility of the IBM PC platform allowed the customisation for whatever you needed to do. But as Moore’s Law continue’s it’s path ever upwards, we have simply reached a point where the enormous power of the home computer leaves you with no need to customise. One computer does it all, and anyone buying anything other than an integrated computer, put together by a large corporation, is now a niche market.
And the most integrated company of all is now Apple, and it’s latest greatest computer is the Mac Pro. This machine boasts 6 cores running at 3.5GHz, it has two video processors, and can run three 4K displays simultaneously. This at a time when at least 60% of the US domestic market is still watching TV on standard definition sets. It’ll set you back a cool $4,000 but if you need to edit a movie, and I mean a hollywood movie, it will probably suit you fine.
But is there a chink in the armor? At this year’s CES in Las Vegas a number of much smaller companies are bringing out smart phones that are highly capable and significantly cheaper than the iPhone. And this is another example of computing trends, the quest for greater power has been sent on a detour by the question “What is enough power?” Put simply, for talking, email, and surfing, good enough is good enough and now we want it as small as possible. As small chips that are “good enough” have become disseminated through the phone industry it is questionable whether Apple can go on charging a significant premium for it’s phones, when they aren’t doing anything new. Everybodies phones are smart now.
And cost remains one of the chief separators of the Apple brand, Apple is always expensive. But when you buy a computer there is no other company that can sell you a computer they design, with the operating system they wrote (that is highly virus resistant), which can be used to enjoy content they supply (through iTunes), that is backed up by their iCloud, and synched with their iPhones and iPads. No one else is close. The recent disastrous performance by Canada’s RIM, means that the staple of corporate communication, the Blackberry, may be on the way out. Apple won $1.05 billion against Samsung, although they didn’t pay in nickels (despite internet rumors) and Windows 8 is getting pretty mixed reviews. Can anyone keep pace with Apple now?
By Andrew Willig