Explaining the shift to Macs and the decline of Windows

Sat, Aug 1, 2009

Analysis, News

The passion the Mac faithful have for their OS of choice is well-known, and indeed, these minions often serve as unofficial advertising sounding boards for Apple.  I myself remember, way back when, being flabbergasted at people who preferred using Windows 3.1 over the Mac, and tried, often unsuccessfully, to convince them to take a look at just how more advanced and easier to use the Mac OS was.  In a way, the subpar user experience of Windows only served to illustrate just how refined the Mac OS truly was.

But just how important are unofficial and voluntary mouthpieces for a company?  Can they actually influence and affect consumer purchasing decisions in a noticeable way?

It’s no secret that PC sales are on the decline with an increasingly large number of people turning towards the Mac for the first time.  While there a number of possible explanations for this, Daring Fireball raises a particularly interesting theory – that those with a passion for technology have moved over to the Mac en masse, signaling a impactful shift for the hearts and minds of the technologically inclined, which ultimately has lead to a mass migration away from the PC.

People who love computers overwhelmingly prefer to use a Mac today. Microsoft’s core problem is that they have lost the hearts of computer enthusiasts. Regular people don’t think about their choice of computer platform in detail and with passion like nerds do because, duh, they are not nerds. But nerds are leading indicators.

This is true in many markets with broad appeal, not just computers. Microsoft is looking ever more so like the digital equivalent of General Motors. Car enthusiasts lost interest in GM’s cars long before regular people did; the same is happening with Windows.

Or consider cameras. Companies like Canon and Nikon make most of their money from consumer-level point-and-shoot cameras. But they are intensely competitive at the high end of the market, too. Enthusiasts are valuable customers not just because they themselves buy expensive products, but because they, as enthusiasts, tend to recommend products in their area of expertise to others. The photo nerd who’s delighted with their $2,500 Canon SLR is likely to recommend a lot of $250 Canon point-and-shoots to friends and family.

And with Microsoft today focusing on how cheap Windows machines are, rather than why you might actually enjoy using their OS, it doesn’t seem like the technologically inclined will be giving PC’s a second look anytime soon.


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