Apple’s market share is down, but what exactly does that mean? In this issue, we explore the seemingly random statistics about sales of operating systems. Also this week, Geoff Duncan examines pros, cons, and changes in Apple’s brand-new Mac OS 7.6, we look back to Macworld with some reader responses, and we note new versions of NetPresenz and UserLand Frontier, plus a significant beta release of Eudora.
Eudora Light/Pro Updated — Qualcomm has released version 3.0.2b7 of Eudora Light and Pro. We seldom write about beta releases of software, thanks to the hyperactive release habits of Internet software, but this beta fixes some potentially annoying problems, such as an extra line when typing and most notably, nickname file corruption, caused in at least one case by dragging nicknames into a closed nickname file. The downloads are 1.5 MB (for Eudora Pro) and 2 MB (for Eudora Light), and you can only install the Eudora Pro beta if you already have Eudora Pro 3.0 or 3.0.1 installed. [ACE]
NetPresenz 4.1 Released and Discussed — Peter Lewis of Stairways Software has released version 4.1 of NetPresenz , a popular Web, FTP, and Gopher server. The main area of improvement centers on increased stability under heavy load conditions, but the Web server now includes enhanced CGI support, CGI authentication, and server-side includes for creating dynamic Web pages. You still can’t beat NetPresenz’s price at $10, and 4.1 is a free upgrade for users who registered after 01-Jan-96. Users who registered prior to that date can upgrade for $5.
Stairways also announced two new mailing lists for discussing NetPresenz and Anarchie. To subscribe, send email to either <[email protected]> or <[email protected]>. Since the lists use same kind of on/off addresses we established for managing subscriptions to TidBITS, no commands are necessary. You can also sign up via a Web form for these and other lists that Stairways runs. [ACE]
Not the Final Frontier — Frontier, from UserLand Software, has been updated to version 4.2. A powerful, fast Mac scripting environment, Frontier 4.2 features significantly refined Web site management tools (including NewsPage for constantly-updating pages), improved macro processing, live HTML editing in Frontier’s built-in outliner, support for making MCF site maps (see TidBITS-355), a useful suite of Finder scripts for webmasters and authors (delivered via Leonard Rosenthol’s OSA Menu), and tight integration with WebSTAR 2.0. Frontier is still free; the curious can get a good sense of it by studying the online documentation. [MN]
A variety of market research firms recently released current statistics and future predictions for the computer industry, and the warhorse Mac OS gets mixed-to-negative marks for the future – depending on who you ask and what you ask.
While most U.S. computer makers are expected to post fairly healthy profits for the fourth calendar quarter of 1996, all analysts agree that PC sales, especially in the U.S. and Europe, are lower than expected. IBM and Hewlett Packard are expected to do fine, being large, global, diversified companies, and Compaq is recovering nicely from last year’s bad inventory management and weak first half. Apple, on the other hand, posted a $120 million loss for the same quarter, but says the shortfall is almost entirely due to lack of PowerBooks to sell and lack of U.S. buyers for Performas.
Regarding this news, an Oppenheimer & Co. analyst told The Wall Street Journal that Apple’s operating system is "out of gas" and that people are picking Windows over the Macintosh because there are more Windows titles available – and further, Apple will begin to lose ground in the education market (with no data or reasons to back that assertion).
International Data Corporation (IDC) released early estimates for 1996 operating system shipments. The company pointed out that Windows 95 fell short of projected units, and that "many corporate users delayed migrating to the newer operating systems," meaning Windows 95 and Windows NT. Not that the gains weren’t spectacular – Windows 95 was responsible for 63 percent of all worldwide OS units in 1996, but that was still 9.3 percent less than projected. Windows NT grew 303 percent, which was still 32 percent short of expectations. IDC’s "market observations" said "Apple clones have yet to translate into increased market share," and "Apple must introduce a fully multitasking operating system which is highly compatible with its current Mac OS and recapture its technology leadership in order to improve its position. Apple’s recent announcement of the acquisition of NeXT Software and its plans to incorporate NeXT technology in future operating systems does not fully address this need."
Given all this negativity in IDC’s report, how bad were Mac OS sales actually? Down from 6.8 percent to 6.6 percent of all units shipped. Compare this to OS/2, which lost nearly half its market share in the same period.
Mac OS Market Share — Part of the problem is conflicting definitions. Most of the doom-and-gloom reports in the media about falling market share refer specifically to Apple Computer. Since 1995, that doesn’t tell the story of the Mac OS market, because companies other than Apple now sell Mac OS computers. But since that’s a recent development, there’s a real tendency to think that Macintosh market share and Mac OS market share are the same thing. They aren’t.
Market share, for the uninitiated, is the percentage of all new sales in a given category that belong to one particular company. To be technically correct, market share must be measured in a given time period, but it’s usually referred to in the present tense as an estimate of what a company’s sales are compared to its competitors right now. IDC’s report said that 6.6 percent of all personal computer operating system sales in 1996 were Mac OS purchases, down from 6.8 percent in 1995. It’s interesting to note that this figure does not include upgrades, only new licenses to new computer owners – so it’s a way of measuring the market share of the hardware capable of running Mac OS.
Two-tenths of a percent decline isn’t very much – by IDC’s numbers, we’re talking about a drop of about 150,000 units on yearly volume of five million. In 1995, IDC says there were 4.5 million Mac OS licenses sold, so how can five million be a decline? The operating system market is growing, that’s how! Mac OS sales grew too, but not as fast as the other market segments did. To stay at 6.6 percent of sales, Mac OS shipments should have reached 5.15 million. They didn’t, hence the drop in market share concurrent with a growth in overall sales.
As long as IDC’s statistical certainty is greater than 0.2 percent (and it probably is, although it’s not a given), Mac OS sales were statistically flat in 1996. Yet press reports, and Apple Computer itself, continually refer to declining sales, not flat or slower-growth sales.
Send In the Clones — Mac OS clone makers account for some of the gains, and most likely for some of the lost sales Apple experienced. A NEWS.COM story looked at the big four clone makers – Daystar Digital, Motorola, Power Computing, and UMAX – to find out what makes each of them tick. As part of the report, NEWS.COM says that IDC’s competitor, Dataquest, estimates that Mac OS clones comprised 8.5 percent of U.S. Macintosh market share during the third quarter of 1996.
Dataquest’s number isn’t valid for the entire year, obviously, but it makes things more interesting. If Apple’s U.S. market share in the fourth quarter was about 7.3 percent, as has been estimated by one source, then adding other Mac OS sales to the mix raises overall Mac OS market share to 7.9 percent. That’s still far short of the 13.2 percent Apple had a year earlier, but few people can be blamed, in the current press climate, for being skittish about buying a Mac. The total market share is probably higher than 7.9 percent – I cheated and applied third-quarter clone numbers to fourth-quarter Apple numbers. Clone numbers were likely to be higher in the last quarter due to the arrival of machines from Motorola (and APS), which do not seem to have cannibalized other Mac OS purchases.
Motorola is known to have shipped at least 40,000 StarMax clones in its first eight weeks of production, and a Motorola marketing executive told NEWS.COM that the company "suspects" a quarter of the buyers are first-time Mac OS purchasers. Motorola is staying out of the retail market so far because they initially got a late start, but now they don’t have the facilities to handle the volume of sales they expect a retail unit would generate.
UMAX, on the other hand, shipped 100,000 units in the last six months of 1996 – numbers for Power Computing aren’t available but could, according to a previous Tim Bajarin estimate, top 500,000 units in 1996. DayStar Digital’s numbers are smaller, in the 3,000-unit area, because they make high-end systems with fat profit margins – the four-processor 200 MHz 604e box is for a specialized market, especially at $10,000 apiece.
[Note: Apple just released some additional information on clone sales, giving Power Computing credit for more than 100,000 sales during its first year. -Adam]
Both UMAX and Motorola believe they can achieve 10 percent of the Mac OS market by the year 2000. This is good news for Apple if and only if they achieve this by expanding the Mac OS market. UMAX in particular is committed to this – with a parent company located in Taiwan, UMAX believes that Asian markets are right for Mac OS technology, and they’re in on the ground floor. The company told NEWS.COM they expect to increase Mac OS sales in Taiwan by 300 percent, and by even more in areas like Southeast Asia and parts of China. That’s exactly what Apple needs to hear, and if all clone makers pull off similar market expansions, it will have been worth weathering the early years of cloning when clone sales are eating away at Apple’s own market share.
What Does It Mean? What no market research firm has yet released are continuing studies where Mac OS market share is tracked, on a hardware level, separately from Macintosh (Apple Computer’s) market share. When OS sales are used as a benchmark, IDC’s numbers show nearly no change in market share from 1995 to 1996, despite the absolute beating Apple took in the press and in consumer confidence, month after month. That’s a reasonably worthy achievement. IDC phrases it as "Mac OS clones have yet to increase market share," but given that everyone believed Mac OS market share was falling, it’s not bad at all.
It’s also a good idea to remember that the non-Mac OS market is not unified. According to the eighth Computer Industry Almanac, there are about 25 million Macintosh machines out there as of Q3 1996 (Apple says 26 million), about 180 million DOS users, 130 million Windows 3.x users and 53 million users of Windows 95/NT. Each of these operating systems has a slightly different programmer interface – code written for Windows 3.x will run in a kind of emulation under Windows NT, but the reverse isn’t true. If Apple’s plans (depending on who you ask) to release Rhapsody for non-PowerPC hardware pan out, developers could find themselves with an easy way to write a Mac OS program and have it available on all these newer Windows machines as well. That would undoubtedly bring more developers to the Mac OS platform, and more software for Mac OS means more sales, according to IDC’s theories.
Clearly Apple has to get their act in gear – without a good Mac OS to license, clone sales will eventually fall by the wayside no matter how aggressive the offerings are. Individual Mac OS clone makers are too small to show on the market research radar scope, so stories tend to focus on Apple – whose losses for the fourth quarter resulted from a combination of tepid marketing, less shelf space, overall lower-than-expected PC sales, and a crisis in consumer confidence. Yet the clone makers are here, and are doing well (Power Computing turned a profit in its first full quarter), and it shows in the sales numbers, although you sometimes must dig a little to find the not-bad news.
[This article is reprinted and updated with permission from MDJ, a daily Macintosh publication covering news, products, and events in the Macintosh world. If you can’t get enough insightful Mac news, sign up for a trial subscription to MDJ. For TidBITS readers who want to subscribe, there’s a special limited-time rate of $11.95 per month (20 percent off). For more information, visit the MDJ Web site.]
Tuesday was a good email day. After running "Impressions of a Macworld Newbie" article in TidBITS-362 (my first TidBITS article), I received a steady stream of comments and words of welcome from readers around the world.
In particular, several people commented on my advice that new attendees refrain from picking up every freebie in sight, and others reacted to my mention of Steve Jobs’s "Reality Distortion Field."
Suzanne Courteau <[email protected]> writes:
First, I left my press bag at my office. In my jacket pocket I carried pens and business cards. When I ran across a truly fab product, it was easy enough to write a note on a business card asking the product manager or PR manager to send it to me at my office. I got all my information delivered to me and suffered absolutely no back or feet problems.
Adam L. Pollock <[email protected]> takes a decidedly cumbersome approach:
As far as picking up every pen, CD, disk, etc., this was certainly my goal. I was also hunting for t-shirts – at the end of the show I ran around asking for freebies and trades and amassed about twelve!
Jack C. Kobzeff <[email protected]> observes:
I felt that Jobs’s Reality Distortion Field was only running at half strength this time. I saw him in the early Mac days and as NeXT was getting started, and back then he could sell snow to Eskimos. He was incredible during the NeXT presentations, getting suit-and-tie executives excited about a box with no applications and no floppy disk. This time, I’m not sure if he’s just older, too rich, or doesn’t quite have his heart into the Apple deal, but he didn’t have quite the same level of RDF. It was there; just weaker.
Today, Apple shipped Mac OS 7.6, an all-encompassing system software release that includes a few new features, a significant set of changes under the hood, and a collection of Apple technologies that were previously available for free. Mac OS 7.6 is not free and is not available for downloading. At over 120 MB for the CD-ROM version, that’s probably good.
Mac OS 7.6 provides a much-needed baseline for system software. Prior to 7.6, installing the latest version of the Mac OS could be an arduous task, involving two or three system software installations, plus installations for technologies like OpenDoc and Open Transport. Mac OS 7.6 eliminates many of these steps and helps minimize confusion over various flavors of System 7.5. Furthermore, Apple actually did what it promised: shipped an update to the Mac OS in January of 1997.
On the down side, enthusiasm for Mac OS 7.6 has been underwhelming, largely due to the lack of new gee-whiz features Apple has been promising for years. Mac OS 7.6 does not include a multi-threaded, PowerPC-native Finder, a fast, full-text search engine, active assistance, the fabled Appearance Manager (which provides highly-customizable desktop themes), or integrated Java support. All these features are now candidates for Tempo, the next update, which Apple has scheduled for July of 1997.
Installing Mac OS 7.6 — One of Mac OS 7.6’s new features is Install Mac OS, an umbrella installer for both the core operating system and add-ons like OpenDoc, Cyberdog, and QuickDraw GX. Install Mac OS has been heralded as a new installer, but it’s really a shell program that controls installers for individual components. Thankfully, Install Mac OS notifies users to update their hard disk drivers when installing software (a common problem Apple previously covered in ReadMe files, which people usually only examine after they’ve had trouble), and runs Disk First Aid before attempting to install any system software. Install Mac OS also enables users to create a brand new System Folder or to update an existing system, a previously hidden function.
However, Install Mac OS can also be confusing. When you’ve told it what you want to install, it proceeds to launch old-style installers for components, which again ask what you want to do. So, if you choose to install Mac OS 7.6, OpenDoc, and QuickDraw 3D, you’re first presented with the Mac OS 7.6 installer, then the OpenDoc installer, and finally the QuickDraw 3D installer. By the time you reach the second installer, you may have forgotten how you got there or what’s coming next.
Apple has changed individual installer applications too, most notably the Mac OS 7.6 custom install, which now groups components in functional categories (such as Mobility, Multimedia, and Assistance) in addition to categories like Control Panels and Extensions. Unfortunately, this means that individual items (such as PC Exchange) appear in more than one section, and selecting an item in one category doesn’t select it the others, creating confusion as to whether something will be installed.
What’s Included — In addition to the core system software, Mac OS 7.6 ships with QuickTime 2.5, OpenDoc 1.1.2, Cyberdog 1.2.1, QuickDraw 3D 1.0.6, QuickDraw GX 1.1.5, MacLink Plus 8.1 (from DataViz), Open Transport 1.1.1, Open Transport/PPP 1.0, Remote Access Client 2.1, and version 1.2 of the Apple Internet Connection Kit.
You may note Mac OS 7.6 isn’t shipping with QuickDraw 3D 1.5 and Open Transport 1.1.2. Why not? The simple answer is scheduling: coordinating over 100 MB of material from (literally) dozens of different product groups within Apple is no simple thing. Apple probably set absolute deadlines for product units in order to make Mac OS 7.6 ship on time. This is in keeping with Apple’s incremental update policy, where individual technologies – like Cyberdog, Open Transport, and QuickTime – will be upgraded separately between major releases of the Mac OS for users who need the latest versions as soon as possible.
However, this situation can create hassles for users who try to keep up with Apple technologies. If you’ve already installed Open Transport 1.1.2, the Mac OS 7.6 installer will complain (repeatedly) that you’re replacing a newer version of Open Transport. If you want to use Open Transport 1.1.2, you must reinstall it after installing Mac OS 7.6. Classic networking isn’t supported under Mac OS 7.6, so you must use Open Transport. Though these problems primarily affect users knowledgeable enough to understand the situation – power users, programmers, and Mac loyalists – it isn’t making Apple many friends.
What’s New — Aside from the new installer, Mac OS 7.6 includes Extensions Manager 4.0, a significant improvement over earlier versions. In addition to enabling users to manage system extensions and extension sets, Extensions Manager 4.0 also features an updated interface (with sorting capabilities) plus the ability to view extensions as a flat set, by folder, or by package. The latter is particularly useful, since it enables users to identify and turn on or off all related parts of a complex set, like Now Utilities or OpenDoc. Software vendors may need to update their system extensions to identify what package they belong to, but a surprising number of system components already have this information. Extensions Manager 4.0 doesn’t track down extension conflicts like Casady & Greene’s Conflict Catcher, but it can export a detailed text file listing your extension configuration.
Mac OS 7.6 also includes a few new convenience items, such as Desktop Printing 2.0.2, which lets you move desktop printers off the desktop into folders. You can also switch between desktop printers using a new control strip module and within the Print dialog box (although I’m not sure if the latter requires LaserWriter 8.4). Also, tucked away in the Speech Control Panel is a feature called Talking Alerts, which enables text-to-speech software to read the text of onscreen alerts after a user-defined period of time – a potentially handy feature for the visually impaired or for people who need to have their Macs shout to them from across the room. Unfortunately, Talking Alerts only functions on modal alert messages.
Also, the classic FKEY (PictWhap) that enabled you to take snapshots of your Macintosh screen has been updated. Command-Shift-4 no longer sends a screen capture to a printer: now, the key combination lets you select a portion of your screen to be saved as a file; further, if Caps Lock is down, the cursor changes to a bull’s-eye and you can take a screen shot of just about any window you can click. Pressing Command-Shift-3 still causes your Mac to take a picture of your entire screen, but (with either key combination) pressing Control puts the picture into the clipboard instead of in a file on the top level of your startup drive. These features don’t compete with screen shot utilities like Nobu Toge’s venerable shareware Flash-It, but they’ll be a boon to tech writers everywhere.
There are also a number of low-level changes in Mac OS 7.6. PowerPC and 68040 Macs can now support volume sizes up to two terabytes, many earlier updates and system extensions have been rolled into the system file, Apple events can now carry more than 64K of data, and improvements throughout the system significantly enhance stability. Two memory management changes are noteworthy: first, 24-bit machines (the Mac II, IIx, SE/30, and IIcx) that previously used Connectix’s MODE32 aren’t supported under Mac OS 7.6. Similarly, machines with a 68000 or 68020 processor are no longer supported, including the Plus, SE, Classic, Portable, LC, and PowerBook 100. Also, PowerPC-based Macs can only run the Modern Memory Manager under Mac OS 7.6: support for the old 68K Memory Manager is no longer available.
Users will also notice that references to Macintosh are being changed to Mac OS, and the familiar About this Macintosh item in the Finder now reads About this Computer. Similarly, the much-loved Welcome to Macintosh display that appears when a machine first starts up has been suppressed in favor of a more modern (and more generic) Mac OS logo.
What’s Missing — Mac OS 7.6 does not include Mac OS Runtime for Java (MRJ), something Apple promised when it announced its biannual update plan. Apple just completed MRJ 1.0 for PowerPC; a version for 68K-based machines is promised shortly.
Mac OS 7.6 no longer supports PowerTalk, Apple’s pioneering but now-defunct email and workgroup software. If you need PowerTalk’s capabilities, you have little choice but to stick to your current system software. Programmers and power users should also note that Mac OS 7.6 requires MacsBug 6.5.4, which is not yet publicly available.
The most significant missing element of Mac OS 7.6 is support for CFM-68K. The CFM-68K extension is required on 68K Macs in order to run a smattering of current applications including: OpenDoc, Cyberdog, LaserWriter 8.4, Apple Media Tool, AOL 3.0, and Internet Explorer 3.0. Apple recently discovered a serious bug in CFM-68K, and recommends that owners of 68K Macs disable it (see TidBITS-356.). Mac OS 7.6 removes even the option of running CFM-68K for risk takers who want to run CFM-68K-dependent software. Fortunately, there are workarounds for developers to test CFM-68K under Mac OS 7.6, and a patch may be available soon (two potential fixes are currently being tested by Apple).
Availability — You can purchase Mac OS 7.6 directly from Claris, and it should be available in traditional channels (including mail-order and online vendors) shortly. From Claris, Mac OS 7.6 costs $99 on CD-ROM, and $129 on floppy disks. If you can prove you purchased a version of System 7.5 (either on its own or with a computer), you can upgrade for $69, or $99 on floppy. If you recently bought a Mac that didn’t ship with 7.6, you may qualify for a $24 upgrade through Apple’s Mac OS Up-To-Date program (details at the URL below). None of these prices includes shipping, handling, and tax: a typical $69 CD-ROM upgrade from Claris will total more than $80.
At this time, we have no information about the availability of localized versions of Mac OS 7.6.
Should You Buy Mac OS 7.6? Mac OS 7.6 would be more appealing at a lower price – Apple would do well to re-examine discounted upgrade pricing (or possibly subscription-based pricing aimed at non-corporate users). If you own a Power Macintosh and like to keep up with cutting-edge applications, Mac OS 7.6 could be beneficial. If you’re happy with your current setup or own a 68K Mac, Mac OS 7.6 is much less compelling, and you may wish to wait for Tempo to ship in July. If you manage a lab or set of Macs, however, System 7.6’s all-encompassing installer should prove to be a real time-saver.