PC sales may be in decline, but even at over thirty years old, the Apple Mac continues to buck the trend. During the third quarter of 2015, Apple sold 4.8 million Macs and in the second quarter, sales rose by ten per cent year on year. These are impressive figures, but in a world increasingly dominated by mobile devices, are Macs going to continue to be successful?
We look into what the future holds for Macs.
You only need to look at the new MacBook to see the direction in which Macs are quickly moving. It’s the device that’s being dubbed by everyone everywhere as ‘the future of laptops’, and perhaps they’re right. Apple’s new MacBook is much lighter than the MacBook Air, and not much thicker than a full-size iPad. On the surface, it may seem like a gimmick to produce the slimmest and lightest MacBook ever, but Apple made this decision for a good reason – MacBook needs to keep up with mobile devices.
Whilst Apple sold almost five million Macs in Q3 2015, iPad sales reached 10.9 million and iPhone sales climbed by 47.5 million over the same quarter. Consumers want devices that are mobile; that they can take anywhere with ease. The new MacBook is an attempt to create a device that is just as portable as an iPad, but with increased functionality and a physical keyboard.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said way back in 2013 that the inevitable cannibalisation of Macs of other PCs doesn’t faze the company, particularly as Microsoft owns a much bigger share of the market anyway.
“I have said for two or three, actually three years now [that] I believe the tablet market will be larger than the PC market at some point,” he noted. “And I still believe that.”
This does not necessarily mean that Macs will disappear altogether; Apple is just facing more competition – from its other products.
Macs for business, iPhones for pleasure?
There’s no doubt that smartphones have taken over our lives. A recent report from Ofcom showed that smartphones are the most popular device to browse the internet on. Once upon a time, laptops and desktops were the only way to access the web, but as we became more and more dependent on the internet, our needs changed. Now, most people only turn on their Macs because it can do something their mobile or tablet can’t.
Daniel Kottke, one of Apple’s first employees, thinks that iOS will take over from OS X eventually.
“Desktop computing is always going to be required because there’s times when you need to type a lot of stuff, you need more power,” he stated in an interview with The Next Web. “But, in general, it’s all going toward mobile: iPhones, iPads, things that we carry with us.”
Perhaps this is why Apple is pushing its new MacBook as a professional device. All evidence seems to suggest that casual users aren’t likely going to be interested in buying a new MacBook anytime soon; they’re much more likely to purchase an iPad or iPhone instead. Since 1998 and the introduction of the iMac, Apple has stated that it makes two types of products (desktop and portable) for two different audiences (consumer and professional). Its strategy has changed thus far, but perhaps the iPhone and iPad will soon replace the Mac as the portable option.
Despite this, Carl Howe, vice president at the Yankee Group research firm, said: “I think the Mac will live on for years as a professional device.” He’s not the only one who believes this, either. Tim Bajarin, president at Creative Strategies, a tech research firm, claimed that the PC market has peaked.
“We’re not going to see growth years in the five per cent range ever again, but having said that they’re still an important creation tool in business and education, especially higher education,” he stated.
“Our conclusion through our research is there are a lot of people who have smartphones where that will be their only computing device, but there will be a huge bump of people who have smartphones and want more.”
Creative Strategies predicts that the consumers that want more won’t turn to a desktop or laptop; they’ll seek out “some form of touchscreen system with larger screens”. Is this the way Macs have to go if they want to survive?
Is touch the future?
It is possible that the only reason laptops and desktops have not completely died out yet is because the majority of adults are used to having a physical keyboard and mouse. The next generation, however, will be much more used to using touchscreens. These days, from the moment a child is born, they’re using iPhones and iPads with ease. They’re not used to clunky keyboards and mice, so the touchscreen functionality becomes natural to them. If you gave them a device without a touchscreen, they would probably assume it is broken.
Yet so far Apple has refused to add touchscreen functionality to its Macs. If this trend continues, there is every chance the Mac could die out in 10-20 years, as they will not suit the needs of the next generation.
Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, told Macworld: “It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience? We believe, no.”
That doesn’t completely rule out the idea of Macs becoming touchscreen someday, then. Apple just wants to be careful it isn’t adding a feature for the sake of it. User experience, after all, is at the heart of everything it does.
Whatever the Mac will look like ten years from now, it looks like it’s going to remain a key part of Apple’s product line. Philip Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, remarked that the Mac will always have a “super-important role”.
“We don’t see an end to that role,” he said. “There’s a role for the Mac as far as our eye can see. A role in conjunction with smartphones and tablets, that allows you to make the choice of what you want to use. Our view is, the Mac keeps going forever, because the differences it brings are really valuable.”
It’s that value that will determine the Macs’ survival.