By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers
When I heard that Apple Computer's board of directors had fired Gil Amelio as chief executive officer earlier this month, I knew it was bad news for Macintosh fans. But I had not realized how bad the news was until I came across two more news items.
My Web-based news service reported that two of the companies that make clones of the Macintosh are now going to make PCs, too. Mac clones, made with Apple's approval under a licensing plan, are vital to Apple's hopes of regaining a larger share of the personal computer market. Depending on who's doing the math, Windows PCs now have 92 to 94 percent of the market.
Mac clones boost Apple in two ways. Apple gets direct income—a licensing fee for each Mac clone—and it picks up customers for Macintosh software.
The two clone makers, Power Computing and UMAX, said they will make PCs in addition to their line of Power Mac clones. Both companies insisted that they would continue to support Mac customers, but the effect of their decision is clearly a loss to Apple. If, as expected, PC sales continue to climb as Macs slip, Power Computing and UMAX would be likely to shift more and more sales to the PC side.
Only four major companies make Mac clones (the other two are Daystar Digital and Motorola), while an estimated 400 major companies make PCs. (These are what used to be called "PC clones," but that term is seldom used now because PCs are no longer clones of the old IBM design.) Daystar's plans aren't clear, but Motorola, as the maker of the main computer chip that powers Macs and Mac clones, won't join the PC race.
Mac partisans quickly sent out messages to some of the Internet's message areas pointing out that Power Computing and UMAX want to be able to keep the business of companies that use both Macs and PCs. Even at locations such as universities where Macs are common, PCs have begun to replace Macs. This has been spurred by sales of Windows NT, a heavy-duty operating system for PCs that easily links computers on a network.
Amelio took over as head of Apple in February of last year. His replacement hadn't been selected as of last week. While the board looks for a successor, former Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is in charge.
Apple's strength in the school market is eroding, also. In the late ‘80s Apple computers were used in 80 percent of U.S. elementary and secondary schools. The number is now estimated at about 50 percent. Industry sales figures show an even grimmer picture for Apple: New orders from schools have dropped to their lowest level in a decade, with orders for new PCs outpacing orders for new Macs for the first time ever.
Even the traditional bastion of Mac superiority in publishing and image processing is being challenged. Nearly all the companies that make the most important publishing and graphics software for high-end Macs now offer PC versions of the same programs. (As if to emphasize the shift in the market, many of these companies even introduce improved PC versions before the corresponding Mac programs.)
A list of PC programs in this category—all designed to run under the popular PC operating system, Windows 95—includes Adobe PageMaker, Quark Xpress, Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Aldus (now Macromedia) FreeHand and Kai's Power Tools and its Power GOO.
Even Claris FileMaker Pro, a mainstay of Mac database software, is now available in a version for PCs. Claris, which was once owned by Apple, sent out free copies of FileMaker Pro and its other programs to journalists this spring on a Windows CD-ROM. Claris apparently realized it did not need to ask the writers if they wanted the PC or Mac versions.
As always when I write about what I see as Mac reality, this article will prompt a spate of e-mail from Mac enthusiasts. They'll tell me I'm missing the big picture. In truth, of course, the big picture is that Apple is losing both market share and money. It can't continue to do both for much longer. Mac fans need to realize that.