David Pogue has recently attempted to explain the Macintosh Surge, and solicited opinions about it:
The comments, hundreds of them!, are a primer on WOM and should be read by anyone interested in WOM.
(Those of you who go to the WOMMA conventions: remember when I got up and challenged the Vista product manager to give me a single reason to switch to Vista, instead of a contest to win a trip to the moon!)
In part, here’s what he says:
At the risk of enraging the Apple bashers, I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer: Something is going on with the Macintosh.
At this week’s Macworld Expo, there were 475 exhibitors. That’s 100 more booths than last year.
There were 50,000 attendees. That’s 10,000 more people than last year.
A book publisher told me that 2007 Macintosh book sales were up by double-digit leaps over the previous year.
Gartner’s fourth-quarter 2007 research shows that Mac shipments grew 28 percent over the year before, giving it an 6.1 percent market share. (It was 3-point-something only a couple of years ago.)
According to Net Applications, use of the Mac’s Web browser, Safari, climbed 32 percent in 2007.
Apple sold 2.16 million Macs in the last quarter–a new company record.
And anecdotally—well, you probably know somebody who’s switched to the Mac recently.
What is going on?
He rejects the IPod (and by implication iPhone) halo effects.
He rejects the “fed up with viruses and spyware” argument.
He says that the best theory is “Windows Vista.” “When people found out they’d have to buy a new computer and learn a new interface, a certain slice of them just said, ‘Well, if I have to buy a new machine and learn a new interface, I may as well get the cool-looking, virus-free one.’
He goes on to ask, ”But could that effect explain this gigantic 35 percent leap in just 12 months? It’s still an expensive proposition to switch platforms once you’ve got an investment in software and peripherals.
Anyone else got a better theory?“
What he didn’t mention:
He and other gurus now openly support the Mac.
A HUGE increase in the Mac notebook share of market.
The ability for Macs to co-exist on Windows networks.
The seamless integration between the iPhone and/or iPods, email programs, iPhoto, ITunes, IMovie, iCal (the Mac calendar).
Some programs that are Mac-only that are so good that it’s worth switching for them. For me, they are DevonThink Pro (a free-form database that you can dump all your info into and retrieve with artificial intelligence — and a whole lot more) and Scrivener, an authoring program for articles, scripts and books that goes light years beyond word processing by separating info gathering, writing and formatting into totally separate processes. Quicksilver — the most useful program I’ve ever used that is so all-purpose that I can’t even describe it adequately. (But, here’s a try: with a couple of keystrokes, it lets me instantaneously find any file, move it, open it, launch programs, add text to files without even opening them, send emails, look up phone numbers, plus dozens of other things without even thinking.) Plus, Keynote is way better than PowerPoint. Plus some technically advanced photography programs that I can’t even go into.
in addition, the upcoming arrival (which he did mention in another post) of MacSpeech Dictate, the super-accurate speech recognition program, and the even better implementation of Microsoft Word 2008 on the Mac than Word 2007 on Windows itself! also make the Mac much more attractive, and well worth the learning curve.
Here’s my take:
His premise is wrong. He is looking for something that has recently changed to explain it all.
PC vs. Mac is the largest word-of-mouth disparity that I have found in decades of studying word of mouth. I’ve been predicting this surge for years because nothing can withstand the degree of negative word of mouth that Windows and Microsoft have, especially against such a positive WOM alternative.
As I’ve reported before, when I give a speech and talk about this, I ask the audience how many people use Windows. Then I ask, knowing what they know now, how many of them think they would switch to a Mac for their next machine if it were feasible to run their Windows programs, or make an easy switch, if it didn’t cost them much in money or time. At least 80% of them say they would, if their companies would only let them. This much pent-up demand is screaming to be satisfied.
But for the first time, it’s becoming ever more easily satisfied.
What has held it back is that Apple has ”knowledge blindness“ and doesn’t understand how onerous people imagine the switch to be. Apple doesn’t understand that most people don’t even know what an operating system is, and don’t want to. Apple doesn’t understand all the things they could be doing to ease the switch and think they are doing all they can.
The ”Tipping Point“ is arriving.
Gradually, these decision barriers have been coming down. Required, legacy Windows programs can be run on the Mac, so businesses can use it. Famous Windows mavins, and regular IT people are encouraging their non-geek spouses, children, friends and grandmothers to buy Macs, so they don’t have to be bothered by phone calls. The technology mavins like Pogue himself and Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal have finally come out of the closet and no longer afraid to say that the Mac is much better. The Mac kids are growing up. The last few areas missing Mac programs, such as voice recognition and GPS mapping, now have Mac alternatives, often better ones. And now, they keep hearing how easy it all is to switch. Apple is porting over files from PCs at Apple stores. More complete switching support would be even better, but it’s coming along. Apple stores themselves have revolutionized retailing. More of people’s friends are able to offer support, as are stores and consultants. Apple offers a $99 one-year series of private, weekly lessons in how to do YOUR things on the Mac. It’s turned many people I know from people who hate the computer, to people who have fun on it and produce cool things that spread the word of mouth.
Example: My wife — who barely tolerated and rarely used her Windows computer — has been having a ball doing the things she is learning in those lessons. She has produced our Holiday cards on it, stunning picture and all. Of course, on the back of each card, it says ”Made on a Mac“ (which could have been optionally removed, but we are Mac fans).
Gradually, the word of mouth is reaching critical mass, so that a large number of people keep hearing from people they know and trust that the switch will be painless and supported. In addition, they keep seeing all the cool things that their friends can do: the movies, greeting cards, coffee-table picture books, web sites, picture galleries, etc.
So, the answer, David, in summary, is that you are seeing a surge now because of the exponential effects of word of mouth. At some point, it reaches critical mass, then everyone asks, ”what’s new,“ looks around for an event, and points to the most obvious or most proximal. There is no single event. The so-called ”tipping point“ is made possible by all of these events, plus the removal of most of the under-appreciated barriers to switching.
Apple creates WOMworthy products (spectacularly simple, elegant yet powerful) that makes people feel very good about themselves, creating word of mouth. AND — the reason that the geeks don’t understand — we are reaching the point where real people are viewing the switch as less onerous. What technical people see as an adventure and ”not a problem“ is becoming actually just about tolerable and only minimally painful for the rest of the world..
At some point WOM grows exponentially, so look for the surge to turn into an explosion in Mac sales at some point in the very near future, if Apple doesn’t get too arrogant and shoot itself in the foot, which it could easily do, since it is product oriented (in the best sense) rather than people oriented. When they make mistakes, that’s where they tend to make them.
One last point. Imagine what would happen if the Mac OS could run Windows programs natively, without virtualization software and without Windows. Apple would take over the market overnight.