Jim Friedlander on Market Share
Tuesday, November 29, 1994 by Dave Winer.
Jim Friedlander, a former developer guy at Apple and General Magic, has comments on my Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom piece which shipped over the weekend.
While it seems that your sentiments are in the right place, there is much to disagree with in your analysis. Being the holiday season, though, I'd like to point out one area of agreement: Apple does make too big a deal out of market share, much too big a deal.
Apple has managed to persuade developers that Macintosh may not be a viable long-term platform by setting public goals that involve gaining x% market share. The argument is that unless Mac has x% market share (x, by the way, varies depending on who you talk to), developers won't adopt the platform, the app base will shrink, customers will go elsewhere. A great argument. Please note that Apple says this about *itself*. Amazing. Apple PR sure is not what it once was!
If Apple's argument about market share were correct, would any of the smaller automotive companies be around and would people be building parts and accessories for them? How many automakers have a 20% market share? How about in Europe? Yet, they still continue to make cars, make profits and make great technological progress. What about in the food industry? How many companies totally dominate their market segments? Why are there so many small companies doing very healthy business. Think about all the other industries you know of and ask how many companies have 20% market share.
So, by now, people are asking "Will Apple survive?" While it's appropriate to ask this about Bill Clinton, the question should never been raised about Apple. I don't think anyone would be asking this had not Apple itself made an issue of market share.
Reality check: Apple is very nearly a $10 billion company. Ten billion. 1/6 the size of General Motors. General Motors, for God's sake!!!! (OK, OK, enough of the winerian histrionics).
It seems to be quite fashionable to give advice to Apple. Not being one who wants to be deemed out of fashion, here's my advice to Apple:
1. Apple should stop talking about market share and start talking about number of units shipping (at an all time high, I do believe). Talk about the *real* business case for developers (new units shipped == developer $$$): "Hey developers, you'll have about 1 million new potential customers this year!!!"
2. Apple should continue making the best real-world technology and should figure out how best to communicate the strengths of its products.
3. Apple should do everything it can to help the toolsmiths create great development tools even if those tools don't come from within Mother Apple.
4. Apple should do everything it can to help third-party developers, including continuing to work on enabling technologies. Some of these enabling technologies will be successful, some won't. If Apple stops "growing" the platform, developers may indeed leave.
5. Apple should abandon the Wagnerian communications strategy they seem to have adopted. Leave eschatology to those best suited to convey it. I want to see that good ol' self-confident Apple again.
Thanks for the comments, Jim!
Approximately 2,138,834 shopping seconds before Christmas