What Constitutes Failure? (7/25/03)

There's nothing worse than a bored analyst. (Actually, we've heard that exfoliating with a Brillo pad and then dunking one's head in a bucket of Tabasco sauce is pretty bad, too, but it's a close race.) See, whenever a Macworld Expo rolls around, analysts are used to being pestered by the press for their learned and lofty opinions on all the new stuff that Apple introduces; unfortunately, since last week's show was pretty lacking in that regard, the analysts were denied delivering their accustomed allotment of media quotes and sound bites. And then Apple's quarterly financial results revealed that the company had pulled in its highest revenue in three years, which means that the analysts also couldn't opine endlessly about Apple's falling revenue the way they so often do. Which means they had to fall back on attacking Apple's stagnant market share and announcing that the Switch campaign was a dismal failure.

The thing is, not everyone agrees. Take, for example, Jeremiah Cohick, one of "the" switchers-- meaning, one you've seen on TV talking for thirty seconds against a glaring white background. As pointed out by faithful viewer Scubus, Jeremiah essentially argues that "Switch" didn't fail because it did exactly what it was supposed to do, which, you may be surprised to hear, was not to get Windows users to set their PCs ablaze and hurl them out of the nearest window before running out and buying a Mac. Seriously, Apple's a realistic company, and it surely realized that very few people, no matter how cute and telegenic, could persuade anybody to do such a thing in just thirty seconds of airtime. (Well, okay, maybe Janie Porche.)

In Jeremiah's mind, the Switch ads existed primarily to drive non-Mac-user foot traffic to the Apple retail stores-- in part by revealing to Wintel users that Macs are compatible in Windows environments and can save them a lot of hassle, but largely by becoming a pop culture archetype. Everyone knew about the Switch ads; everyone talked about them, lots of people parodied them, and the cultlike adoration of Ellen Feiss alone probably gave Apple more visibility and discussion among non-Mac users than the entire "Think different" campaign and all the arguments it spawned about grammar. Given the breathtaking numbers Apple frequently trots out about how many people stop in at its retail stores and the fact that fully half of the Macs sold at said stores are being bought by defecting Windows users or first-time buyers, "Switch" should be considered a success as "part of an overall growth plan," despite the fact that Apple's market share hasn't grown in the year since the campaign debuted. You could also think of it this way: isn't it possible that without "Switch," Apple's market share last quarter could have been, say, 1.8% instead of 2.3%? Especially in an economy in which paying a little more for a better computer is a luxury fewer people can afford.

"Okay, fine," you retort, "if 'Switch' was such a raging success, then why the heck did Apple just pull all the ads?" Okay, true, MacMinute did report that Apple has, in fact, yanked all of the "Switch" TV ads from its web site, but there's a perfectly logical explanation for that: they're just out being cleaned. Besides, the rest of the "Switch" pages are intact, including all the stories, the Top 10 Reasons To Switch, the Guide To Switching, etc. In fact, we wouldn't be terribly surprised if a new round of "Switch" marketing were to kick off once the G5 is readily available (so that Apple can play up the performance angle) and Panther is shipping (given that Mac OS Rumors reports that it'll have "no less than a dozen" new Windows compatibility features: Mail and iCal reading Outlook meeting requests, TextEdit opening Microsoft Word documents, etc.). But don't hold us to it, of course. It's probably just wishful thinking because we so desperately want to see Feiss 2: The Bummering sometime before we depart this earth.

SceneLink (4100)
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The above scene was taken from the 7/25/03 episode:

July 25, 2003: BuyMusic.com just keeps digging its hole deeper and deeper; now it's trying to keep out anyone who doesn't use Windows and Internet Explorer. Meanwhile, a switcher defends the "Switch" campaign's effectiveness even as Apple removes the ads from its web site, and Microsoft admits that the systems of about 27 million of its customers crash at least three times a day...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4099: BuyMusic Stupidthon, Day 4 (7/25/03)   Aaaaand the BuyMusic.com fun train just keeps on chug-chug-chugging along-- although the company sure doesn't want Mac users to know about it. Faithful viewer Eric Beyer was the first of many to inform us that, all of a sudden, Mac users can't even access BuyMusic's web site, let alone buy anything from it...

  • 4101: But You Knew It All Along (7/25/03)   Okay, it's not like we didn't suspect it pretty much all our adult lives, but it's a whole 'nother can of creamed corn when you hear your suspicions confirmed by the authorities themselves. The Mac Observer tweezes out an interesting nugget of info buried in a New York Times article about Microsoft's annual meeting for financial analysts: "Mr. Gates acknowledged today that the company's error reporting service indicated that 5 percent of all Windows-based computers now crash more than twice each day."...

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