The Macalope Daily: High margin hobby

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Woe betide unto you, Mac user! For the portents speak ill of your favored platform! What portents are those? No, not market share or growth trends! Headier portents are these! Behold, the portents of...the Apple org chart!

At least that’s what the Macalope gets from this piece by Stephen Withers on iTWire.

To look at it another way, Mac-related revenue was a whisker over 20% of the total. That doesn’t tell us anything about profitability, but even though Apple executives have indicated that the iOS devices are lower margin than more traditional products, they are clearly very profitable for the company.

Macs have a higher margin, but let’s ignore that, because it doesn’t support my thesis.

Some commentators have suggested the explanation lies in a lack of personal attention by Steve Jobs, who has been on medical leave since January.

iTWire, your place for last month’s news and analysis!

Also, who are these “commentators”? The Macalope thinks maybe you mean “commenters,” which is a little different.

Withers goes on to argue that Apple’s org chart—with a senior vice president of iOS software development and no SVP for OS X development—is telling. But Apple’s organization of personnel is more indicative of talent than it is a conscious effort to apply a rigid structure.

That said, the Macalope’s not arguing that Mac OS X is less important to Apple than it used to be. The iOS-based products are where the real growth is, so this is kind of obvious. He’s also not arguing that Lion is the best update of OS X. In his experience with it, it’s not.

But Withers has a fundamental misunderstanding about why Steve Jobs said the Apple TV was a “hobby.” There were probably two reasons he called it that. First was to recognize that there were too many factors out of the company’s control to make the product the way it should be made. The entertainment industry puts just enough ridiculous rules on the distribution of their content to ruin any user experience (i.e., you can have two days to watch a 30-minute TV episode, but you have to watch a 2-hour movie in 24 hours). Second was that the company was about to make a major push into the smartphone business and couldn’t afford to be distracted by a modern replacement for the boob tube. The idiot box. The thing your parents used to avoid talking to each other.

OK, the Macalope knows what you’re saying. Who is Stephen Withers and what the heck is iTWire? Is the “iT” for “information technology”? Then why is the “i” lower case? IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE, MACALOPE. WHY ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT THIS?

It’s a fair point. None of it makes any sense. But you’ve heard this kind of thing before from other people, right? OK, maybe not so densely, but you’ve heard the Mac is dead before.


This is the same Mac that PC makers are falling over themselves trying to chase. Doesn’t seem dead to the Macalope. If it is, it’s dead like a fox. Like a fox pretending to be dead. But not really dead. Because it’s so clever. That kind of dead.

Phew. The Macalope thinks maybe he’s been reading too many stupid opinion pieces.

[Editors’ Note: In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

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