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Analysis: There's No More Running

Apple gets strategic with the creative market By Dave Nagel
I've questioned the value of some of Apple's moves in the past. At times they've seemed irrational, even flaky. I've even posited occasionally the notion that the mind of the head of Apple might still be a bit fogged over from the '70s, if you know what I mean. But of late I've begun to see glimpses into the larger, more coherent plan, one that seems more like a well plotted course than an acid trip. This new deal with Nothing Real brought it all into focus for me for the first time. And I must admit I like what I'm seeing.

Apple has always had at least two business models--the consumer machine and the professional machine. Neither model has been terribly successful in the past, as evidenced by Apple's decline in market share until The Great Re-Jobsification. Prior to the introduction of the iMac, the consumer business model was, at best, crap--iffy hardware that, at the time, couldn't run a whole lot of software designed for consumers. With the advent of the iMac, Apple, of course, started to make significant inroads into the consumer market. There was still really no business model there, rather just an attempt to sell Apple machines against PC clones--power and style versus lack of power and lack of style.

It worked great.

For a while.

But, as we all know, the power of the G3 chip, while decent, wasn't competing well with developments on the Intel side, at least not in terms of consumer perceptions. The iMac's style wasn't new anymore, and selling megaHertz against gigaHertz became a difficult problem. Still is.

But somewhere along the line Apple stopped selling consumer machines and started selling dongles. This really wasn't apparent at first. With the release of iMovie, it looked like Apple was offering a bonus for buying an iMac. But then came iTunes. Then iDVD. And then, most recently, iPhoto. Plus, of course, we now have the updated iMac--the shiny new something that consumers are always eager to buy.

But the redesigned iMac isn't a computer. It is, as some have pointed out, a dongle that's required to run iMovie, iTunes, iDVD and iPhoto. The software isn't the bonus; the hardware is!

Now, this stuff isn't all that impressive to most professionals out there. iDVD certainly has its merits, and even iMovie, on some level, is worth a second glance. What's important for Macintosh creative professionals in all of this is that what benefits the consumer market--in other words, what brings even more cash into Apple's vast cash stores--benefits the professional market as well.

But what of Apple's strategy for the professional market? I was one of many who, just weeks ago, said Apple had no strategy for the pro market, that they were falling behind and that they were letting Motorola drag them down into unplanned obsolescence.

I take it back.

Aside from the fact that Apple has released a 2 GHz monstrosity (which I have bought and am quite happy with, thank you very much), they've been coming at the pro market the right way all along. Frankly, I didn't realize just how right their approach has been until the revelation of the Nothing Real purchase.

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