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Anthony Frausto-Robledo, EIC (info@architosh.com)
18 June 2004
 

Opinion: Apple Needs a New 'Mac LC' for Market Growth

The last time my personal world was exploding with new Mac users was back in the early 90's when Apple introduced the low-cost, but eminently capable, Macintosh LC. Nearly all of my friends in college at the time had one and my family and extended family bought Apple Mac LCs as well. In those days it was great --- everyone had a Mac! The world was good.

The Mac LC Stood for Market Share, Not Just Low Cost

When Apple introduced the first Mac LC (which stood for low-cost) the company sold 500,000 units within the first twelve months. Apple seemed to deliberately cripple the LC Macs so as to not take market share away from their more powerful professional computers. In hindsight they did a good job of this. One would not consider an LC to do the types of jobs you would do on a Quadra 700 or Quadra 900.

LC Macs were incredibly successful because Apple figured out exactly what the low end of the computer market needed -- and what they didn't need -- and built a machine that had some standout features for such a remarkably low price. At the time, I decided to get an Apple Mac LC 2 over an IBM-PC because the color on the Mac was so much better and so affordable. The company made a cheap but decent small color monitor which worked very well with the machine. Future models of the LC line would also support multisync monitors so if you had a color monitor from a PC or an older Mac computer you could simply buy the Mac LC and save even more money. This is something you can't ever do with an iMac or eMac.

The Magic Formula

Thinking back to everyone I knew who had purchased a Mac LC, LC 2 or LC 3 computer, it seemed that most were novice computer users and younger in age to boot. And then there were the moms who discovered the joy of color spreadsheets for soccer camp schedules and programs like Quicken for home finances. The Mac LC was perfect for college students because it had just what they needed and no more. It was great to have color for such a low price point; and although there were PC compatibles which were faster, the Mac LC was fast enough because it focused on something other than speed.

I have friends that have fond memories of their old Mac LCs even though today they use Windows computers. Like me the Mac LC was striking in its simplicity, usability and charm. In many ways the original iMac captured some of the "wide adoption" magic of the Mac LC but it failed to boost Apple's market share overall as originally planned, and I think this is mostly because of price and flexibility.

The New Mac LC

What Apple realized in the original Mac LC was an ability to edit the product wisely. The company hasn't been able to do that since then with any great success. Sure, some will point out the eMac as a great low cost machine, but compared to PC rivals the eMac doesn't do anything special for you that you can't do in some fashion on a low-cost Dell. And the difference is the Mac LC line of computers did.

If I was Jobs I would ask myself: how do I make a low cost Mac that does something special that PC computers don't (and everyone wants) and yet doesn't need all the other stuff that Macs have?

In an article on MacNewsWorld today a market report by TechnoMetrica said that Apple could have shipped an additional 800,000 Macs over the last year, roughly, if they could have competed on price. The article said that of those PC buyers who considered an Apple, 22 percent opted for a Dell instead because of price. Back in the era of the Mac LC this wouldn't have ever happened.

Next week we'll spend some time defining this next Mac LC and what it can be so that Apple can truly build market share this time around.

For comments and feedback write to: info@architosh.com


 

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