Update: So far, the following prediction was wrong. [See the update at the end] I still think that it will be true, when Apple finally gets around to making their Leopard announcements. It was a big disappointment to not hear anything about Mac at MacWorld Expo. Maybe instead of renaming Apple Computer to Apple (which was one of their “big” announcements at MacWorld), they should rename MacWorld Expo to iWorld or iPod Expo. Did they forget about the Mac?
I have long been writing and speaking about the Mac as the product that has the worst word of mouth to sales ratio, probably in the history of marketing. In other words, it probably has the best word of mouth of any present product. Yet, as of this writing, it only has 7% of the computer market. I often use it as an example of the fact that we have to curb our enthusiasm when we start talking about word of mouth overriding all other marketing considerations. In this case, what is holding back Mac is the perceived anticipation of a great deal of pain in switching, together with the fact that Windows programs will not work directly on a Mac without a great deal of inconvenience, such as rebooting or using other programs such as Parallels or Crossover to switch back and forth.
Here are my predictions: Next week, on Tuesday, January 9th at MacWorld, Steve Jobs will announce that the new Mac operating system called Leopard, OS X 10.5, will directly run Windows applications without needing Windows. That’s right, you will be able to install and run any Windows program directly into the Mac without having a copy of Windows on the machine! [Update: they made NO Leopard announcements!]
This will be the biggest announcement in the computer industry in the last decade or two.
I further predict that, if and when it occurs, this will produce the biggest word-of-mouth blowout in history. Combine the pent up positive word of mouth of the Mac with the negative word of mouth toward Microsoft, Windows, XP, Vista, the Windows PC makers like Dell, viruses, adware, spyware, malware, etc. and you have an explosive combination. This will be the most interesting test in years of the unleashing of word of mouth. It will demonstrate to the entire marketing community what happens when you follow my marketing approach of Blockbusting: find the decision blocks, bust ’em up, and you will see exponential growth.
I have been following Technorati and Google searches for months now to see if anyone appreciates what is about to happen. While I’m not the first to predict Windows apps running natively on the Mac, there are very, very few of us making that extreme prediction. Most are predicting some kind of hybrid, virtualization solution.
To my knowledge, I’m the only one predicting the landslide success of Mac in the next year. It probably won’t be immediate, but as the snowball gains momentum, it will grow exponentially. First, people will need the word of mouth of infomediaries like David Pogue and Walter Mossberg, plus their own friends nad colleagues — particularly the non-technical — to see that it actually works, even with legacy programs. Assuming that it does work for the non-technical, it will throw the Mac into production problems, especially when the Vista virus and other problems start spreading.
By the way, I was among the first to predict that a way would be found to get Windows to work on the then-new Intel Mac. It caused a lot of WOM among the tech savvy and a lot of sales, but not among the corporate people who would have to use it seamlessly at work. Now they can. Now we’ll find out that a lot of corporate IT people have Macs at home.
Advanced congratulations to Steve Jobs and the entire Apple team. You’ve finally completed the chain. (You now need my consulting to figure out how to handle the tornado.) [Update: There was an immediate crescendo of boos after the non-announcements of anything Leopard, Mac, iLife, iWork, etc., or even anything computer, except to take out “Computer” from their name]
Well, I was wrong about the announcement, but I stand by the fact that this is the biggest WOM disparity in the history of marketing, just waiting for an explosion.
[The only other time I was wrong was in 1972, when I had thought I had made a mistake! 😉 Brings to mind the quote from George Bernard Shaw, “The longer I live, the more I see that I am never wrong about anything, and that all the pains I have so humbly taken to verify my notions have only wasted my time.”]
I also think it would be the smartest thing that Apple could ever do. In fact, the best other thing that they could do is make OS X work on PCs. Sure, they’d lose a few Mac sales, but make it up on software sales. If they announced one or the other this month, they could get a lot of the Vista sales, and a lot of the sales of new boxes with Vista on it.
Now, I’ll just have to buy an Intel Mac MacBook and try Crossover, which purports to do just what I predicted, but with an additional program, still without windows. Failing that, I’ll use Parallels, but will have to run Windows. [In case you’re wondering, I want to run Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 (which I maintain a separate Windows machine just to use) and Delorme’s Street Atlas. There are no comparable Mac programs. For everything else I’ve found, the Mac equivalents are far better.]
Update July, 2005: Got an Intel Mac (MacBook Pro) in May, tried Crossover and Parallels, which didn’t work properly with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. However, VMWare Fusion works like a charm with Windows XP and Dragon. Parallels had all sorts of quirks with the USB headset and froze up constantly. Crossover wouldn’t work at all. With VMWare Fusion, it can now see my Plantronics Audio 500 headset perfectly, and the accuracy is well over 99% and getting better all the time.
It even works perfectly with my Olympus D-30 recorder, even in noisy environments like a car. I’m about to try it in an airplane. I can dictate on my daily walk, into a tiny recorder and have a new section of my new book, a blog post, article or whatever a few minutes after I get back.
The only problem is that I still have to use Windows. Now that I’ve been away from it for almost 2 years, I’m shocked by how amateurish it is. Also using Word 2007 to dictate into and I’m amazed at how bad the interface is. While there are a few minor improvements, they have further buried many of the most-used functions and won’t let them go on the custom bar. 5 clicks to change a template when it’s 2 clicks on the Mac version of 2004? What is with Microsoft? Their word of mouth gets worse and worse. Vista is almost totally rejected by sophisticated users. Their sales are on new machines. If Apple could come up with a way to seamlessly allow people to upgrade to OS X in their present machines, they would take over the market.
But it has to be seamless because fear trumps word of mouth, unless the word of mouth is addressing itself to the fear. But people can’t say yet that the conversion is easy for an ordinary, non-computer-savvy person to do. I don’t care how easy VMWare Fusion is, people need a simple way to switch, with Fusion built in and automatic conversion.
As I predicted, it happened. I won’t rehash
the thousands of blog posts on the subject of running
Windows on the Intel Mac. For those who haven’t
heard, and for the record, Apple announced yesterday
an official version of a program that allows Windows
to run on the newer Macs with Intel chips and they
announced that it will be built into the next update
of their operating system.
Thousands of blog posts
were instantly posted yesterday. The announcement
made the front page of the New York Times and the
front page of the second section of the Wall Street
Journal today. All of this despite the fact that
Apple virtually hid the announcement: no usual big
splash, not on the home page of their web site, buried
in their web site. This, despite the fact that it’s
one of the biggest announcements in the computer
industry in the last decade.
The reason I’m talking about it here is because
it illustrates many word of mouth and other marketing
principles, and allows us to make many predictions.
As I’ve said before here and here, there is a huge disconnect
between the word of mouth for Macs and their actual
sales. Only about 2.6% of business users use Macs.
But more than half of them say that they would switch
to Macs if they could do so painlessly.
This illustrates the principle that word of mouth
is not enough. Word of mouth is only powerful because
it gets people past the decision blocks that conventional
marketing is not effective with. Issues having to
do with experience, credibility, simplification,
subtle interpretation, reassurance, encouragement
and real-world practical nuts and bolts. Advertising,
sales people and other conventional marketing methods
do not work very well on marketing blocks that involve
these issues. Friends, colleagues, experts and advisers
are much more helpful in these areas.
Now, there is a gradual way to switch to the Mac,
as I’ve described in previous posts.
My analysis of the Mac decision map has revealed
many blocks. The biggest one is the lack of a way
to try OS X and to switch to it gradually. This new
development is important because it wipes out these
Word of mouth ultimately wins. Blatantly inferior
products like Windows, GM and Ford cars, AT&T
and Verizon long distance telephone service ultimately
lose because information transmitted independently
through word of mouth will ultimately overwhelm (in
both credibility and quantity) slick ads. It doesn’t
matter how big the company is. Especially when those
ads are insulting to customers. (For instance, depicting
them as dinosaurs, as Microsoft does.) These were,
and are, the largest companies in the world. It doesn’t
matter. Google may be headed in the same direction.
People love telling other people about new and better
search engines, and the cost for switching is very
low. For instance, ask.com and accoona.com have been
mentioned to me many times in the last week and I’m
actively trying them out, even though I love Google.
The cost of switching to Apple has always been high,
The takeaway here is to keep your eye on the steps
that people need to go through in the decision process.
This will reveal all sorts of blocks and opportunities
that will allow you to have very high prediction
Oh, yes, the predictions. The necessity to reboot
when switching between OS X and Windows is a huge
block. My guess is that it will not take more than
a few weeks, given the enormous interest shown, to
develop a switching program that does not require
a reboot. In fact, it may already be here. Today’s
Wall Street Journal mentions a beta program called
Parallels that purports to do this.
I predict that GM and Ford will continue to take
themselves into deeper holes before desperation causes
them to take some very bold moves. First there will
be the corporate financial moves, which may bring
them breathing room but will do nothing for their
sales. Then there will be some dramatic product quality
moves. I have no way of predicting whether these
moves will be too little or too late. I am very pessimistic,
because the only thing that will save them is to
turn around word of mouth. But they don’t even
begin to understand what word of mouth is, as evidenced
by the Tahoe CGM campaign. They’re just using
word of mouth as another manipulation. They need
to bring in the customer by having the customer help
them design the car, not the ads. They need to openly
and transparently share their commitment and steps
to solving the product quality problems.
That’s what Apple did. They paid attention
to the enormous desire of their customers to be able
to run Windows on their Macs for the few programs
that cannot be translated to OS X. The announcement
released an almost overwhelming torrent of word of
mouth. Sales will go through the roof because the
solution is already “good enough” and
will only get better.
Another prediction: there will be an enormous fight
the other way around. People will get OS X working
on Windows boxes. This will probably unleash a gigantic
fight from Apple. While I believe that they should
have the right to attach any conditions to the sale
of their programs, this would be a mistake. They
could sell a huge number of operating systems without
the machines. This would result in huge incremental
profit. Since they always seem to be able to stay
ahead of the other machines in features, quality
and attitude, they would compete very well on the
boxes, too. But only if they stay the “good
guy” and don’t turn people against them
by coercive actions.
Give the people what they want, don’t fight
their desires and their WOM, empower them to go the
next steps and don’t set up obstacles to what
they are going to do anyway. So far, so good.