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Part 1 – A brief history of how rubbish the past was
The economics of buying a personal computer used to come down to a tower, a monitor, mouse , keyboard, printer and which copy of Windows you would run on that machine. We took it for granted that the box would take an age to boot up and hundreds of programs we didn’t install started to run in the background further slowing down our user experience. It could literally be a couple of minutes before you were connected to the Internet and surfing to your preferred betting site.
Let’s not forget the endless bits of software that you had to subscribe to for ‘your own protection’. These would be anti-spyware, anti-malware and anti-virus, with no one tool doing the job of protecting you well enough to be used in isolation and they all had the unhappy side effect of further slowing down your PC.
Finally, Microsoft Windows itself would be in a constant state of downloading security fixes and patches which over time ensured that your hard disk filled up and low and behold your PC would slow down and start coughing like a life long professional smoker that’s just been to a marathon smoking competition, won it and then had a cigarette to celebrate the victory. Microsoft and it’s partners knew all of this and it was used effectively to ensure a perpetual upgrade cycle of hardware and software. “Your machine is too slow Sir”, even though it was lightening quick when you bought it.. “no problem, here’s the latest model”. Two years later, the new super fast machine you had crawls to a halt and take 10 minutes to boot up. Wasn’t progress marvellous.
Sure there were other options, Apple Mac’s looked great, were frighteningly expensive but didn’t run all your favourite programs. The truth was that Apple machines didn’t really ever slow down because they didn’t allow third party application to be installed when the machine was shipped. You didn’t need to have the security software installed because the user base was so small that no one wrote viruses for the platform and the number of security updates were tiny because quite frankly, Apple didn’t give a toss about security.
Things started to change with the release of Netbooks, these low cost, super small laptops for $250 changed the game for people wanting to buy a new PC. Why buy a PC when you can have it all in one package for a tiny amount of money. Yes people had been buying fully fledged laptops for a while but the majority were business users. The release of Netbooks onto the market drove the economics of buying a new PC from something you saved for to an almost disposable consumer purchase. This as a consequence drove down the prices of laptops in general and the manufacturers were on a race to the bottom of a market were there was little or no profit to be made. Netbooks were underpowered but just good enough for writing documents and surfing the web – with reasonable battery life – however they suffered the same fate as their big brother, the PC . Security updates, viruses, malware and start-up software meant that to keep these things running like new you either had to not use them, didn’t connect to the Internet or knew a techie that could take all the **** off for you and clean it.
Whilst all this was going on, Steve jobs was in the midst of steering his company away from the niche graphic designer market into the consumer space. The iPod line of music players were released at the end of 2001 combined with a slick marketing campaign but sales didn’t start to rocket globally until 2005-2006, when they were selling 20 Million devices ( 2005 ) and 40 million in 2006 annually. iPod’s were everywhere, ‘cool’ people could be quickly identified by their white headphones. Sales peaked in 2008 and then dropped off a cliff due to the arrival in 2007 of the first iPhone.
The iPhone was an iPod touch with a phone built in, not a very good phone for that matter, but the cool people wanted it. You could get the internet on it, albeit slowly but reception issues plagued the devices. Sales didn’t take off until the Christmas period in 2008. Up until that point Apple had been selling around a million units per quarter, but in Q4 2008 they sold almost 7 million and all of a sudden everyone wanted one. To date Apple have sold 183 Million iPhones around the world ( Between Q1 2007 – Q2 2012 ) and have become the most profitable technology company on earth.
Apple was cool, iProducts were cool and people wanted more, so sales of Apple laptops took off and to complement their focus on design they released the MacBook Air in 2008. The portfolio was complete and within seven years Apple had completed the transition to a consumer focused company – and were making buckets of cash in the process.
Apple’s influence through this period cannot be understated. They brought design to hardware, simplicity to software and most importantly consumer aspiration. People were not buying PC’s any more they were buying iPhones and Macbook’s. If they couldn’t afford a MAC they bought a Windows based laptop as that’s what they used at School or at work ( there are plenty of other valid reasons for buying a Windows PC )
Mac’s looked great, were expensive but you could do more on a PC and they were cheaper. However, irrespective of your chosen platform, the point was that the new consumer focus of technology rang the death knell for the Desktop PC. It’s demise would be slow, painful and totally it’s own fault.