Tracking Snow Leopard's upgrade rate

How quickly are Mac users adopting Snow Leopard? It’s hard to tell, but everyone’s got a guess. In general, Mac users are much faster to upgrade than their Windows counterparts. But Snow Leopard’s got one aspect that should drive upgrades (its $29 price tag) and another that might cause upgrades to lag (its relatively scant list of major new features).

Spurred on by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, I sorted through Macworld.com’s web statistics to gauge what the upgrade path of Macworld readers might be. As you might expect, Macworld users have been quite quick to upgrade—Snow Leopard users already make up the majority of Mac visits to Macworld.com.

The shape of Macworld’s chart is almost identical to that of Gruber’s, though users of Gruber’s site are a little bit more likely to run Snow Leopard than Macworld readers. Not surprising, really, given that Macworld draws a bit more of a mainstream audience than Gruber’s blog.

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Apple's music event, in holiday colors

Media and user reaction to Wednesday’s Apple “Rock and roll” event has been pretty much what it is for most Apple events: full of shock that unlikely rumors didn’t actually come true and disappointment that what Apple announced was nice, but hardly earth shattering.

But think of the event from Apple’s perspective. Think in terms of red and green. As in Christmas colors. Or as in red stockings stuffed with iPods and big green wads of cash. Because Apple’s fall iPod event, which pretty much happens this time every year, is about one thing: priming the pump for holiday iPod sales.

I’m not sure if most people understand just what the holiday quarter means for Apple, financially. In 2008, Apple brought in $10.2 billion in sales that quarter, 25 percent more than the average of the previous three quarters. In 2007, it was $9.6 billion, a 41 percent jump. In 2006, $5.7 billion, up 38 percent. Or view it in terms of iPod sales: In 2008 Apple sold 22.7 million iPods in the holiday quarter, and 32.7 million during the other nine months of the year. In 2007, it was 22.1 million iPods compared to 30 million the rest of the year.

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AT&T's many missed iPhone opportunities

Who would have expected that Public Enemy Number One coming out of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference would be AT&T? I mean, nobody loves the phone company, or the cable company, or the electric company. (As a kid I did love “The Electric Company,” but these days as a homeowner my local utility features many more bills and much less Rita Moreno, thereby diminishing my enthusiasm.) But the outright booing of AT&T, egged on by Apple executives? I was shocked.

This is not to say that AT&T doesn’t deserve the criticism. Presumably Apple chose to single out its U.S. carrier partner out of frustration with AT&T’s intransigence, as a negotiating ploy, or a little bit of both. But the fact remains, Apple provided the set-up. First, by mentioning AT&T as an afterthought among carrier partners who would be offering MMS support on the day iPhone 3.0 shipped. As Apple’s senior vice president of iPhone software Scott Forstall said:

Now, MMS requires carrier support as well. Twenty-nine of our carrier partners in 76 countries around the world will support MMS at the launch of iPhone OS 3.0. In the United States, AT&T will be ready to support MMS later this summer. Next.

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Don't look inside Apple's black box

Ask Apple what’s in the iPhone and they’ll treat it like a black box, albeit one powered by Apple’s special brand of technological magic. Or maybe elves. Or magic beans.

I exaggerate, a little. But the fact remains: when it comes to the iPhone (and its non-phone counterpart, the iPod touch), Apple doesn’t want the product to be described using the geeky tech language that we all use to discuss computers.

When I sat down with senior director of worldwide iPhone product marketing manager Bob Borchers on Monday, he was clear that “the usual speeds and feeds” aren’t the way Apple likes to talk about the iPhone. “Overall, it’s just a snappier experience. There are so many different facets to it — it’s just faster, better, quicker, snappier, and a great experience.”

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Apple: The low-price leader?

This morning all the ads on my radio were about sales, deals, and other ways to save money (by spending it). That’s what I always notice during an economic downturn: the advertising. It’s no longer so much about the products as about their low price tags or the efficiency that you’ll gain if you buy them. Buy this magazine for $6.99 and you’ll save a hundred bucks in added productivity!

But in a time of thinning wallets, rising unemployment, and plunging home prices, what happens to a company that refuses to compromise on features in order to slash prices? What happens to a company that emphasizes profitability over expanding market share? What does the terrible economy mean for Apple?

If reports on the rumor blogs are to be believed, it means price cuts are imminent. Specifically, the rumors seem to focus on price cuts for the iMac and MacBook to make those consumer-friendly models more attractive to shoppers who might otherwise be swayed by Microsoft’s stepped-up advertising efforts.

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Apple to netbooks: Drop dead

As someone who’s fascinated by the idea of Apple doing some sort of small device—not necessarily a netbook, but something bigger than an iPod touch and smaller than a MacBook—I pay close attention to what Apple says about the whole netbook market.

(If you haven’t been paying attention, a netbook is a cheap, small laptop. PC-makers are selling a lot of them. Apple doesn’t make one.)

During the company’s quarterly conference call with financial analysts Wednesday, the analysts once again wanted to know what Apple was doing in the netbook market.

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Google gives Safari a kick in the pants

Tuesday’s release of a Safari 4 public beta is a radical departure from previous Apple interfaces, not just in Safari but in Mac OS X as a whole. Out goes the standard Mac OS X window bar, replaced by a window bar that serves double duty as browser tabs by sectioning itself up into smaller segments.

It’s a big change that helps Apple tout Safari 4 as “the world’s fastest and most innovative browser.” Which it would be were it not for the fact that almost six months ago Google announced Chrome, its own innovative browser that features — among other features — tabs on top, above the browser’s URL window and control buttons. (See the addendum at bottom for a clarification on who "invented" tabs on top.)

So when I first saw Safari 4 Tuesday morning, I couldn’t help but think that the arrival of Chrome must have had a big impact on the Safari team. I’m not saying that Apple’s engineers saw Chrome’s tab interface and decided to rip it off—for all I know, the Safari team was working on the very same concept in parallel. But I do think that Chrome, when viewed as an attempt to change the way people think of and use web browsers, must have been a spur to a company that’s accustomed to being at the forefront of software innovation.

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