A minute is a long time in television. A year is nearly a lifetime in the PC industry.
It took Compaq just three years to rise from near disaster in 1992 to market leader in 1995. Netscape soared from oblivion to stockmarket stardom in less than a year . . .
Apple has survived a couple of difficult quarters. If you look at the history of the industry, these negative occurrences do not necessarily mean much in the context of the "big picture". Remember that competitors and the media pundits tried hard to write off Apple and the Mac in 1984 . . . and every year since. Yet, on every occasion that Apple has seemed vulnerable it has overcome the adversities and come back stronger than ever. I don't think this time it will be any different. There is no evidence to show that it can't be number one again.
From a local perspective, Apple has been a PC leader for most of the lifetime of the PC market. Apple Australia has never hit as hard a bottom as the US parent and has always outperformed the US in terms of market share. The local Apple company has always had a strong relationship with its loyal customer base.
Will Apple succumb to its Windows competitor? The first fact that must be recognised when comparing the Macintosh market with Windows is that not all buyers live in the corporate market. Apple has always had very strong acceptance with the small/medium business and education marketplaces and today continues to remain strong in these segments.
Apple's great strength and (until lately) greatest vulnerability is unique, proprietary technology. The Wintel environment has borrowed exten- sively from the Mac. Yet even today, few users familiar with both environments would claim that Windows 95 is ahead of the Mac OS - it simply has more marketing clout behind it. This takes the form of the combined marketing communications efforts of Microsoft, Intel and literally thousands of Wintel box makers.
Licensing of the Mac OS and the appearance of clones in the marketplace seems to be the direction that will see Apple once again at the top. The potential combination of Apple's Mac OS licensing initiative and the added resources of some of these major players - for example, Motorola - will widen the distribution channel for Macintosh hardware and allow the Mac OS to better compete with the wide distribution of Wintel boxes. This is ideal from a Claris perspective, as the more Macintosh CPU's there are, the more extensive is our potential Macintosh software customer base.
The position of Mac-only resellers may also be reinforced by licensing. With more companies marketing the Macintosh experience there will be more visibility for it in the marketplace. Hopefully the growth in clone offerings will bring a wider variety of CPU offerings to the marketplace to both compliment and supplement the offerings from Apple. Numerous Mac offerings available through a wider selection of resellers will give more potential customers the opportunity to bring the Mac into the buying equation when they shop for a new CPU. This expands both the market share of the OS, the visibility of the product and the future of Apple.
From a Claris local perspective, 30 per cent of our retail revenue is now derived from Windows versions of software, and these Windows sales represent the fastest-growing segment of Claris' business. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that our Apple market is declining. Claris has always had very strong Mac foundations with historical and loyal relationships in the Apple marketplace, where our revenues have grown consistently from year to year.
Claris has only recently started to get greater penetration in the Windows market with products such as ClarisWorks, FileMaker Pro, Claris Impact and most recently Claris Home Page, and so it is natural that our current growth in this market is far more significant when compared to the historically Claris infiltrated Macintosh customer base.
What is the current Apple Market? Apple, and Claris for that matter, has always developed products geared towards the generalist and education user. This bodes well for Apple, as the greatest growth in new PC users today is in the generalist user category. The education market has consistently been Apple's greatest partner, and they have always considered its needs when creating and evolving hardware and the Mac OS. It is these historical relationships, unlikely to dissolve in the near future, that I believe will always sustain Apple as a key player in the PC industry.
The Macintosh has always been, and still is, the most cost-effective machine for the classroom and small/medium business, as it is simpler and cheaper to support. Macs hold their value longer and generally get a much higher resale price than similarly configured Wintel PCs. Two years ago we bought a top of the line IBM compatible colour portable to demo our Windows products for about $7,000. Not long ago we needed to upgrade to Windows 95 and due to the system's lack of memory expansion we decided to sell it in order to upgrade to a Win 95 capable box. We got $1,500 for it! We sold a black and white four year old PowerBook at the same time for $200 more!
Due to extreme price competitiveness with its resulting faster hardware depreciation, PC vendors in education and small/medium business tend to come and go. Apple on the other hand is the only historically consistent CPU supplier to these marketplaces.
From a software perspective, Claris has focused on building a range of "Simply Powerful" small footprint products that continue to run perfectly on both old and new Mac machines. This allows our users to have the latest software upgrades without having to update their hardware, and gives the Mac a lifespan of 5-6 years compared to the 2-3 of the Wintel machines. This is most evident currently, as our Windows customers are finding it a very costly investment to upgrade their hardware from Win 3.1 capable to Win 95 capable, and software developers such as Claris are having to cater to this market by releasing Win 3.1 versions of software upgrades, as well as Win 95.
In Australia, the future seems to be a mixture of mass retail vendors, value-added resellers (which may operate from shop fronts like most current resellers) and a vastly expanding network of small/medium consultants which are supplied through traditional distributor/warehousing operations such as Dataflow and Tech Pacific. No vendor can afford to discount any of these players.
I don't believe that mass retail vendors, such as Harvey Norman, and direct PC vendors, like Gateway 2000, are going to wipe out the trad-itional PC reseller channel process. Direct-selling has not proven as popular in Australia as in North America. And, although mass retailers may have staff that have general or specific computer knowledge, there will still be a need for expert advice, competent tech support, training and business consulting services.
For the traditional reseller, products like Claris' FileMaker Pro offer them the opportunity to provide custom relational database solution services to the small/medium customers without the developer overhead of a complex product like Access. The successful '90s reseller will need to provide most of the above services to survive and thrive through and into the year 2000.
The software market . . .
As a developer and marketer of cross platform productivity applications, but with a foundation in the Mac OS environment, Claris is delivering the best of Mac functionality and user experience to users on both platforms. Our sales in the DOS/Windows environment are soaring as users become aware of the superior "ease of use" and accessible functionality Claris can deliver.
The needs of the generalist users of today are perfectly matched by the feature set of the Claris product line. The generalist user, from day one of Claris, over nine years ago, has been our targeted customer.
Claris' focus is to continue to grow our Macintosh business while also expanding into the wider Windows marketplace. Our objective is to get customers to choose Claris products in recognition of our superior functionality and usability - no matter what computer system they use. Claris is the vendor of choice in classroom desktop productivity and administration in the K-12 sector. Claris' Macintosh software reputation in education has translated to phenomenal growth in our Windows business in this marketplace. We are the only vendor that delivers true cross-platform, file level compatible, Mac/Win software that will run on the majority of the installed base of CPUs in K-12.
Claris' aim for the immediate future is to make all of our products Internet enabled - some of which, like Claris Emailer, The ClarisWorks Office and Claris FileMaker Pro, already are. Recognised for our cross-platform products, Claris views the Internet as the "third platform" above both Macintosh and Windows.
With the Internet, software usability and its ability to extend the thinking and communication process to a wider audience, becomes an objective. If we concentrate on building usable features into our products with easy access to the Internet the opportunities for Claris are enormous.
Claris is already seeing the extensive uses of the Internet with our own local Web page which offers prospective end-users and our resellers a variety of information, including: price lists, product spec sheets, software updates, our consultants database and trial version of products on-line.
I believe the software vendors' greatest challenge for the future is to harness the Internet as the cornerstone of reseller and customer communication. I think the software distribution model will do more than mirror that of the hardware. So, for example, not only could you see CD-ROM versions of Claris software appearing any place at anytime - from software-only shops to bookstores - but the Internet will also become a key vehicle in the pre-sales and post-sales support process.
As a '90s software developer, Claris is in an enviable position with continued strong growth in our foundation Macintosh business and unlimited potential growth as we penetrate the Windows marketplace.
Watch this space . . .