Apple Nearly Matches Vista in Business, But Struggles With Image

In the consumer market, Apple’s publicity machine is firing on all cylinders.  Despite the occasional piece of bad publicity, the media tracks Apple’s every product move with a zealousness bordering on obsession (and readers follow it with an equal zest).  Apple’s modest gains in the PC market and minor gains consumer operating systems market are well publicized.  Furthermore, among consumers, Apple’s brand is extremely well-received and is considered synonymous with creativity and innovation.

Why does Apple do so well with the consumer?  Well much of it lies in its marketing genius (or investment).  From the iPod commercials featuring the trendiest music, to the comic “Mac Guy, PC Guy” commercials, Apple knows how to market to the majority.  Apple isn’t necessarily looking to win over the tech followers, like many readers on this site, it’s looking to win over your sister, your mom, your dad — and it’s doing a good job in most cases.

However, Apple has one big flaw that happens to be coupled to perhaps its largest success story of last year.  Apple simply has no respect from business analysts as a serious business solution.  Analyst opinions of Apple in the consumer market versus the business market are night and day.  However, is Apple doing badly in the business market?

Not at all; in fact, it turns out that Apple went from nearly no market share in the business industry, to 4.2 percent.  To put this in perspective Vista was only able to eke out a 6.3 percent market share despite its heavy business marketing and dominant position.  So do those numbers indicate a Mac OS close to tying a Microsoft OS?  Why hasn’t this been the front page news of every tech column (especially when OS X’s nearly insignificant consumer market gains were heavily reported)?

The reason is despite the success, analysts have dismissed it and these analysts frequently drive what is reported in the tech news, more than some would like to admit.  And the analysts just don’t like Apple’s business efforts.  Says Forrester analyst Thomas Mendel:

While 2007 was a big year for Apple, with its enterprise share growing threefold to 4.2 percent, uptake remains limited to enthusiasts and small workgroups. IT departments crave standardization, and Macs pose too many problems for IT departments. The verdict for enterprise-focused vendors is clear: Unless your market is a niche business group, Windows is the only desktop you need support.

However many of Forrester’s points are largely inaccurate in terms of the business market (though they might be a bit more applicable, actually, to the consumer market).  With solutions such as the Mac Mini, Apple actually has some relatively affordable offerings, in terms of basic business machines and can often beat competitor’s business solutions on price.  Another leveled criticism is that Macs are proprietary.  Actually in terms of many “openness” fields such as web support, Apple is strongest supporters of universal standards. 

Lastly, another frequent criticism is proprietary software.  While this can be very true for the consumer industry (lack of gaming support), in the business industry Apple often has as much or more software.  In fields such as content creation, it’s no secret that Apple has a number of outstanding software products.   Perhaps the most universally useful business software — Microsoft Office — is near-fully implemented on Macs, thanks to an unlikely partnership with Microsoft.

Part of the blame for the situation rests with Apple.  While making great marketing efforts in the consumer industry, Jobs and his team’s business marketing efforts are virtually non-existent.  The consume buzz appears to be driving the new business success, as Apple sure isn’t.  And likely thanks in part to Apple’s poor job marketing itself, business analysts remain unimpressed.

While devices like the iPhone have won Apple a small measure of begrudging respect among business analysts, it is unlikely that their approval will change overnight.  It will take a combination of actual effort from Apple’s market, and a less biased analysis from analysts to eventually give Apple more of a chance. 

In market analysis the one thing you can usually trust is hard numbers. When it comes to sales data it seems that analysts should be cheering Apple’s business efforts, and perhaps jeering its consumer OS efforts, where gains have been much more lackluster.  Unfortunately, they appear to be doing the opposite.

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