The Revenge of Steve Jobs

by Tim Bajarin   |   April 12th, 2013

steve-jobs2Steve Jobs’ original vision for Apple was to own the PC market. When he and Steve Wozniak created the original Apple PC, they fully expected to be the company that brought the PC to the masses. However, once IBM came into the PC market the game changed. By 1983 the IBM PC was the defacto standard in personal computers and Apple was pretty much left in its dust.

When Jobs introduced the Mac in 1984, he was convinced that his new Apple PC would be considered easier to use than the IBM PC and as a result leapfrog the IBM PC and become the PC for the masses. But at that time, the masses could not afford the price of the Mac or the IBM PC and the real growth in PCs was driven by the business market, a market which IBM compatibles helped define and continues to be the top selling PC even today. Even more galling to Jobs was the fact that Bill Gates, with the intro of the Windows UI, basically took Jobs’ implementation of a GUI and put it onto all PCs and in essence made GUIs the defacto standard in how a person navigates the PC experience. Up to now, Gates and team reaped most of the financial benefits from the growth of the PC market.

Although Jobs introduced the first commercial version of a PC as well as commercialized a radical new UI, the PC market under the leadership of IBM compatible vendors and with Gates’ software, fundamentally has been at the center of the PC revolution and even to date, IBM PC compatible products dominate the market overall for personal computing and Jobs never realized his goal of Apple owning the PC market.

The PCs Run is Over

Earlier this week, IDC updated their forecasts for Q1 of 2013 and gave some guidance about the future growth of PCs throughout this year. In late 2012, IDC forecasted that the PC market would see a negative growth of 7.7% in Q1 of 2013. But in their updated report on PC sales for the last quarter, PC sales were actually down 13.9%, the worst quarterly decline since they began tracking PC shipments.

All Things D published both the IDC and Gartner numbers for Q1, 2013 and wrote about both companies guidance for PC sales for the rest of the year. Even though the IDC numbers and Gartners numbers are a bit different, they both conclude that demand for PCs is in a real decline and that the likelihood of them recovering is slim.

In this article, Arik Hesseldahl of All Things D states “At this time, it has to be said that much of the blame for the damage being done to the PC businesses of all the companies around the world can be laid at Apple’s feet: Sales of the iPad, the world’s leading tablet brand, have a lot to do with the collapse in PC sales.”

When Jobs introduced the iPad, he clearly stated that this product would drive the post PC era. I think he knew that his tablet was finally the reinvention of the PC he had longed to bring to market and that it would actually cause the decline of PCs, even if it meant eating some of his own children (the Mac). More importantly, by the time he introduced the iPad, he had in place all of the hardware, software, and services needed to connect the iPad to his ecosystem and even with any decline in the Mac business, he was fully insulated from the impact any downturn in Mac sales would have on his business. On the other hand, HP, Dell, Acer and other PC OEMs who were totally PC driven are feeling the shock of the decline in their PC businesses and are not any where insulated like Apple to withstand the impact of these sharp declines in PC demand. Their only hope is that Microsoft can deliver key software and services that they can use on tablets and convertibles of their own. But it may be too late for them given the strong position in tablets Apple already has and from strong competitors like Samsung, Amazon, and others who are in many ways better insulated through their own ecosystem of products and services already up and running.

While Steve Jobs is no longer with us, I think he knew that this would happen. Perhaps his last major act was to give us the iPad and finally have revenge for the years of toil in the PC market where he always ended up #2, even though he was first with many of the innovations that actually drove PCs to the masses. If he were with us today I suspect he would not shed any tears to see the decline of the PC market and instead revel in the role the iPad played in bringing his PC competitors to their knees.

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.
  • Yvonne Lee

    I think the key phrase in that article is “even if it meant eating some of his own children (the Mac).” When industries are being disruptive companies need to be will and able to cut away from the declining product.

    • stevesup

      Whereas Microsoft’s whole history is eating other people’s children. Today Google has taken over the Microsoft “kill the first born” approach quite happily. All under the “there really is a free lunch” banner.

  • mhikl

    Great perspective brought to the table, Tim. Invention, innovation, implementation: good words.

    The complaints that Apple never invented anything, from certain corners, comes to mind.

    “. . . Bill Gates, with the intro of the Windows UI, basically took Jobs’ implementation of a GUI and put it onto all PCs and in essence made GUIs the defacto standard . . .” There certainly is a difference between invention and innovation, often confused in discussions. The first invention of the broom was probably a branch brought home by a weary husband to save time cleaning up the cave and impress the wife: “Here honey, this ought to save your back.” I think we’d all prefer to sweep our decks with the innovation. Implementation is another more exacting word; innovation is successful only with good implementation or, in the case of Mr Gates in those early days, good enough, cheap enough, loud enough.

    Then came the vacuum cleaner.

    Yvonne, agreed. Cutting the shaft from the wheat is one thing, finding new purpose for the shaft, another. The usual approach would be to support (prop up) the original but to use the original to support and enhance the new comer, knowing the tried and true would decline in time is a broad step most would fail to see, much less implement.

    • dr.no

      chaff 1 | ch af|nounthe husks of corn or other seed separated by winnowing or threshing.• chopped hay and straw used as fodder.• figurative worthless things; trash.• strips of metal foil or metal filings released in the atmosphere fromaircraft, or deployed as missiles, to obstruct radar detection or confuse radar-tracking missiles.PHRASESseparate the wheat from the chaff distinguish valuable people or things from worthless ones.

  • Andrew Sproston

    No. He just wanted to rinse people for an overpriced piece of tech that costs double its competitors. He did very well in that, but users are starting to wake up to the fact that Apple is vastly overpriced.

    • stevesup

      No.

    • http://twitter.com/leicaman leicaman

      Your argument is for the 90s. It hasn’t been true for over a decade. iPads and MacBook Airs are cheaper than their competition. (That is equal in quality and features.) Intel had to subsidize Ultrabooks so they wouldn’t cost more.

    • http://twitter.com/MHStrawn Michael Strawn

      Um…..true for iPhone, I”ll give you that. But the iPad has maintained its lead in marketshare because no one else has released a comparable device at the same price. To say it “costs double its competitors” smells of Apple-envy.

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

      What is it about the existence of a globe spanning communication system that contains almost all available knowledge that escapes you? Is it too hard to check the last ten years of Apple’s performance to realize that your claims are complete and utter garbage?

  • stevesup

    “The whole web revolution…” Cus’ people were tired? Really?

  • http://twitter.com/qka qka

    Indeed! Do the IDC and Gartner “PC” numbers include, or exclude Mac sales? In the past they have included Macs, so in reality the numbers for “PC” sales were actually worse than reported.

  • KimiF1

    Totally agree as I was a big PC fan until Q3 of 2011 when I bought an iMac. I still love this computer and run Win7 OEM under Parallels without any problem. Will never go back to the clunky PC’s.

  • dcj001

    “While Jobs’ is no longer with us”

    Steve’s last name was Jobs (without an apostrophe).

  • Bvinla

    I agree with much of this article. However I disagree that the iPad is the future. Only a couple years ago it was assumed the iPhone was the only worthy smart phone, and the undisputed phone of the future. Now Samsung hardware running android OS has surpassed iphone sales numbers and is considered technically on par with iPhone and is cost competitive. While the iPad is the best and most owned tablet today it’s likely that a more “open” platform will eventually reach critical mass and leave apple playing second fiddle in yet another market. An open platform is just hard to compete with, it’s the reason PC compatibles outsold macs and why androids outsell iPhones.

    That said I’ve always felt apple wants to be the premium BMW brand not the Toyota brand in the markets it enters. They go for less sales and bigger margins.

    I for one find it interesting that there still seems some perceived vendetta and that words like PC or Microsoft are even relavent today. Old legends die hard, then again can apple learn from its past and be less vunerable to open platforms, else google might be our new word for Microsoft.

    • elder Signin

      Bvinia, I have to disagree with your comments. While samsung makes more phones than Apple, we have no idea how many are selling and what type phone they are (samsung still makes really dumb “smart phones” and sells them cheap.
      Open platforms sound nice but really hardly exist. Android pure comes from Google then it gets tweaked like crazy by anyone who wants to use it to power their tablet. You cannot change the code as it is owned by the seller….. not very open is it. But it is open enough to add tons of malware. Android currently runs 97% of the malware out there. Enjoy your open malware.

      Last thought. Microsoft had tablets for TEN YEARS before the iPad. iPad sold more tablets in 6 months than Microsoft powered in TEN YEARS. iPad must have done it right cause many many companies are using them or considering using them. What the future (distant future) holds, no one knows. But there is a better than 50-50 chance it will be Apple powered.

      Just a thought.

      • steve_wildstrom

        Is there any empirical evidence for the often heard-contention that open always beats closed? The case that is usually cited is the PC beating the Mac, but that was a complicated case that involved a huge number of additional factors.

        Certainly, Linux hasn’t beaten Windows on the desktop.