Apple is Abandoning the Mac…and Why I’m Wrong

Leading up to this year’s WWDC in San Francisco, the amount of articles and speculation about Apple’s (s aapl) commitment to Mac OS grew when Apple announced practically zero tracks dedicated to Mac OS and threw out the IT track completely. Apple also didn’t give any Apple Design Awards this year to Mac OS Apps. The winners (listed here) were only iPad and iPhone apps.

That decision actually inspired Ars.Technica to hold its own ADAs (Ars Design Awards) celebrating Mac OS developers and their work in the past 12 months. Developers gave their opinions on and this quote from Justin Williams of Second Gear Software gave his opinion:

“Whether it’s intentional or not, Apple is saying that the Mac is not an important platform compared to the iPhone and iPad. With great Mac-only software still being released by many top notch companies, I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t find it in the budget to generate a few more of those glowing ADA awards.”

Of course, this is all old news. iPhone 4 is out, iPad is still getting great new apps and Snow Leopard will only be a year old this August. Most of the developers who gave their thoughts on WWDC’s lack of Mac specific tracks stated that Leopard shipped in 2007, Snow Leopard shipped in 2009 and that’s three years of tracks dedicated to a largely unchanged operating system and it’ll just be more of the same from Apple if you do attend those sessions. Besides, iPad is new, iOS 4 is hot and Apple should do everyone a favor by devoting more resources to it. I agree.

But, there’s the argument that I still want to make. The iPhone was released in 2007 running iOS 1.0 and now, in 2010 we receive our fourth huge update to iOS where Apple’s Leopard and Snow Leopard are largely unchanged from a feature perspective and only maintain system improvements, speed enhancements and other changes. Snow Leopard was a welcome update and priced appropriately at $29 but I’m still using the same features in Dashboard, Spaces and Finder that I was in 2007, and that irks me a bit.

[inline-ad]When I sounded off on Twitter about this, the replies were all over the place. Most notably, people were saying that Apple has to compete in mobile and the competition (Google, Nokia, Palm) hasn’t stopped innovating just so Apple can update its Mac OS with new features. Apple had to be happy with its desktop OS as is, maintain it and focus on mobile in order to maintain its competitive advantage and continue innovating beyond competition and it shows. Apple is the most profitable mobile company in the world, but why did it have to do one or the other?

Steve said at the D8 conference a few weeks ago that Apple is the largest startup in the world, and we all know that Apple keeps teams small so innovation moves quickly and Apple maintains huge profitability with very low R&D costs compared to competitors. For that, shareholders must be proud and the big picture shows that Apple is doing a great job. Mac sales are still booming and Mac OS is still ahead of the competition, but that doesn’t mean Mac users don’t feel a little left out by Apple’s choice to dedicate more resources to mobile.

My second point is Apple doesn’t have to act like a startup. Keeping teams small and focusing all of the best talent (which, according to Jobs is everyone at Apple) on a single product at a time is working for them but there are thousands of qualified people in the world who could do great things for Apple and help them simultaneously change the world both in desktop and in mobile without either product suffering. Even in 2007, Apple delayed Leopard’s release because it was busy getting iPhone out the door.

My fear is that Apple will continue to spend all of its time and money on what’s hot right now. Those of us who were Mac users before the Intel (s intc) switch and before the iPod know that Apple runs like a startup and thus what’s not hot will suffer while it promotes and innovates in one area. iPod was the highlight of the majority of Apple events starting in 2004 and now the iPhone and other iOS devices get Apple’s love but we have to ask, “where would Mac OS be if the iPod and iOS were never made?” Well, part of us knows that Apple wouldn’t be at the size it is today without those products but we also know that the Mac OS could be light years ahead of where it is now if Apple only focused its resources on it.

All we can do as the Mac faithful is trust that Apple will make the right choices and not let us down. We might be the most vocal bunch of Apple customers but we’re also the most loyal. We stuck with Apple through the dark years, through the OS X switch and the Intel switch and we’ll stick with Apple while it spends 90 percent of its time head first on the iPhone. I just hope this “phase” doesn’t last forever. I want a new Mac OS and more breathtaking Mac OS computers.