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Steve Jobs Could NOT Care Less. He Should.

Posted on Saturday, Feb 25th 2006

Apple’s Intel Era Seen Set To Launch. Apple could be adding versions of its Mac Mini and iBook laptop with Intel chips next week.

What is Steve Jobs after? We know that he is after the iPod loving teenagers. But to win the big battle in PC market share, he absolutely needs to turn his attention to the enterprise, and sink his teeth into a killer app that aligns with Apple’s core competency.

Question: What category of applications leverages the MAC Operating System’s over-riding winning value proposition?
Answer: Graphics.

Apple already has a strong presence in the Creative Professionals segment, where Adobe’s Suite, as well as Apple’s own, have been a great success.

There is, however, the MUCH bigger CAD market, which Apple should think about as its next beachhead into the enterprise.

CAD applications are heavy, especially 3D CAD, involving intensive graphics maneuvering. Today, the global Mechanical Design (MCAD) + Product LifeCycle Management (PLM) space is well above $10 Billion. Steve should strike alliances with Dassault, PTC and UGS, and position Apple in this segment. Autodesk is already aligned with Microsoft. It has always been. Apple’s opportunity is to align with the other CAD giants.

This would create pull for a lot of Intel-MACs. After all, the killer app that established Windows, was Microsoft Office. Where is Apple’s killer app for the enterprise?

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With all due respect, calling CAD tools a killer app for the enterprise is bit of a stretch. I don’t think there is a play for Apple in the PDM/PLM space so you are really talking about $5B MCAD tools market. This is a conservative niche market where only manufacturing companies buy a few CAD seats. Not a very attractive market to pin your market share strategy on.

Anonymous Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 6:44 PM PT

Good point, but I disagree.

Yes, the MCAD market is definitely attractive, but look at what’s happening around 3D Acrobat and other 3D viewers for non-CAD people. What do you think is driving that? It’s the PLM & CRM applications, users of which all want to be able to view designs in 3D.

And THAT’s why, Apple has a good opportunity.

The conservative people don’t need to change CAD platform. What Apple would want them to do is switch out of Windows to a better graphics environment.

But your point that these users are very conservative, is well taken. Change, as usual, will need to come from Enterprise down to SME.

Btw, you don’t need to be anonymous to disagree with me! The whole point of the site is to facilitate discussion and divergent points of view.

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 6:58 PM PT

Same anon here.

I had a startup in late 90s that was based on the premise that for every CAD author there are 10 consumers in the enterprise and even more in the extended enterprise. This market didn’t pan out for us and for our competitors. There are some small viewer companies still fighting on. So I am talking from my prior experience/biases here.

But the premise may come true at some point in the future. My guess is that it would be companies such as Adobe, MS and possibly apple that can make this happen. So this may be a potential option for Apple as it is for adobe to extend their foot print from creative professionals to enterprise graphics (MCAD tools). It will be interesting to see if this pans out. I would like to see it happen.

Anonymous Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 7:38 PM PT

Are you missing the opportunity to exploit collaboration technologies? 3D viewers are part of the solution, but Apple has also made significant progress in networking ease of use and in standardizing data abstraction frameworks for both multimedia and structured data. The advantage that Apple currently has in the QuartzExtreme graphics architecture will be short lived. Microsoft’s Vista is shifting to a graphics architecture very similar to Apple’s, with hardware compositing and possibly better resolution independence.

I think it can be argued that Apple has squandered the technology lead it has had in OSX by focusing on the consumer and creative professional space. Unfortunately, I think Apple hasn’t had much choice. The only underserved markets by PC technology have been the consumer and creative.

Frankly, I don’t think there is a way for Apple to grab enterprise market share in the current PC technology era. But we are in the midst of a shift dominated by cheap storage, networked mobile devices, and intelligent information organization/access. If Steve Jobs sees these shifts as clearly as I think he does, the work being done on the OSX core technologies will help Apple be a leader in the next era.

Sophos Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 11:39 PM PT

I agree with you on Apple squandering the Graphics lead over the past decade. Apple knows this, and I’ve heard comments like: “We missed the chance to acquire Autodesk … and now it is too expensive …”

However, I do disagree with you that Apple did not have a choice in PC markets. They squandered the Education lead also, remember? So go squander graphics, go squander education, hey, “Carpe diem!” … life doesn’t give you that many chances.

Now, does it have a choice now? I think it does. you forgot to mention other aspects of Apple that are attractive: Security & Usability being two prime ones. Usability in Graphics is very key, and that’s another one in favor of Apple.

Btw, for some of the segments we are discussing: Graphics & CAD “creation” in particular, the mobile shift is less key, even though, I do agree that Apple understands those very well. What would be interesting there is the “viewing” of graphics in the mobile environment, where indeed, Apple has a big edge.

Sramana Mitra Thursday, March 2, 2006 at 9:12 PM PT

Apple’s technology advantages aren’t only in the 2D/3D Graphics rendering architecture. Core Data, Core Audio, Core Image, Core Video, AppleScript, and Bonjour all can work together to make applications operate as components in a multi-modal, collaboration space. Though these are underlying “hidden” infrastructure technologies, they strongly affect the ease of implementing new kinds of applications. Microsoft is saddled with legacy in these areas that is architecturally inferior and a much larger developer base that takes time to redirect. These non-graphics advantages combined with Apple’s rapid development process place Apple firmly in the lead if they make the right strategy decisions moving forward.

You are clearly correct with regards to the Education market. Apple has so deemphasized Education that I forgot about it.

Yes, mobile use will generally not be creation, but availability of information is key. Few create, but many consume. Boeing has known this for a very long time. Making manufacturing and repair procedures available to the technician where they are working is crucial when it takes many minutes to move from someplace inside an airplane to a data terminal on the shop floor. I think we are at the beginning of a shift of knowledge work into what has traditionally been blue collar jobs. Rapid retraining of a work force to keep up with shifts in technology, business, or even switches between contracts (line switches in contract manufacturing), is driving a shift to “just in time” information. With storage capacities climbing so fast, it is now possible to carry copies of entire corporate technical document databases. Maintaining massively replicated data sets is an emerging problem that Apple is beginning to tackle with its synchronization framework. If Apple can successfully tie sync technology with the various Core data abstraction frameworks, it will provide a strong foundation for enterprise knowledgebase applications. Apple is also attacking the intelligent information search problem with Spotlight. Spotlight needs to be a lot more intelligent, but the beginning emphasis on data mining is there. DevonThink is an example of one way to improve unstructured information retrieval beyond the current Spotlight word search.

Even some of Apple’s iLife applications that maintain a “Library” of information accessed with queries instead of the traditional, manually maintained, folder hierarchy are pointing the way toward intelligent information management and sharing. My guess is that Apple is beginning this shift in UI concept model to ease a future transition in enterprise business and knowledge work.

In what forms knowledge is created and stored determines how that knowledge may be accessed by the much larger number of consumers. The largest implicit value in owning the creation chain technologies is in their influence on the consumption technologies.

Uh oh, this got pretty long. It is nice to have a context to talk about this stuff.

Sophos Friday, March 3, 2006 at 10:54 AM PT

Looking purely from user point of view, Apple’s biggest opportunity is making data authoring/creation (with CAD systems) fun. For GenX, combining slick/elegant/intuitive UI, with “music/video”, fantastic Garphics, and performance could give Apple an opening. This would be game changing. Partenership with CAD vendors is not going to cut it…beacuse most big vendors are averse to taking risk, it is not something their customer are asking for. Apple would have to acquire, as mentioned above, Autodesk.
Apple can also learn from Think3 experience which tried to set new thinking in their UI.
The biggest question is – is there big enough market for CAD authoring sits…or should Apple keep pursuing “home entertainment” market…and focus on the convergence of entertainment, computers, and on-demand delivery. With iPod and new “remote” mini-mac they have many options….they can almost set new agenda/create demand everytime they introduce new ipod/mac gadget…no one would have thought a year ago that video on Ipod could be such a big success…well…the next think could be “team” ipod…ability to view/listen to your friends/famly’s Ipod via Wireless….or including mobile phone with ipod…or making ipod an internet device…there are endless ideas…Apple just has to keep bringing them out…one at a time…as long they keep up Apple quality, style, etc….Apple’s biggest competitive adavnatge in today’s Gloabl business is they are in a single location, management, marketing, development, and their ability to make fast decisions..
Sorry for the long winding note

Nik Monday, March 6, 2006 at 7:25 PM PT

Interesting group of comments thus far. The notion that Autodesk has aligned itself with Microsoft as a type of “corporate marriage” has not, thus far, been fully documented and confirmed. Indeed, its acquisition of Alias complicates this notion of aligned interest precisely because Alias makes several key Mac 3D tools, of which generate a substantial amount of dollars for the company. If we, despite this, except this notion as a de facto fact, then options for Apple change.

Nix the idea of Apple buying Autodesk. Apple doesn’t need to buy Autodesk to have a chance at the enterprise PLM or MCAD market. It would be better for Apple to buy core technologies companies that are “enablers” for CAD industry players. Mental Images comes to mind as a core technology player (www.mentalimages.com) that Apple could provide superior R&D research funding for as well as leverage into developer opportunities (both old and new) on OS X. In this strategy they can innovate and provide options for developers that exist because of advances unique to OS X.

3D Visualization and collaboration are the surging forces in both PLM and every CAD field. Apple should bolster its positions with strategic acquisitions without alienating its loyal developers by acquiring stronger rivals. And then it should partner with everyone that competes with Autodesk if indeed Autodesk is truly married to Microsoft.

The other strategy is of course, for Apple to buy a stronger player, like SolidWorks, and then create integrated tightly tuned and superior SolidWorks workstations that offer visible ROI advantages. But that is where Sun and SGI have already failed. So I do not like that strategy.

Anthony Frausto Wednesday, March 8, 2006 at 10:51 PM PT

Anthony, Dassault has absolutely no reason to part with Solidworks, and hence Apple has no chance of getting their hands on it. The growth in the MCAD market is in the mid-range, and Solidworks is Dassault’s mid-range strategy, and a damn successful one at that. Apple, I am afraid, doesn’t have any opportunity left to buy a mid-range CAD player anymore. think3 is the only one that is independent, but with small market share, hence unlikely as a target, given what Apple wants to accomplish.

Sramana Mitra Thursday, March 9, 2006 at 12:13 PM PT

Apple have flirted with engineering for a long time. When I started my design business in 1990, I went the Mac route (at great expense) with Microstation Mac. At that time the Mac was a very viable 3D design platform. Then as the company lost its way in the 90s, and Microsoft grew, the software developers dropped the platform, leaving a few stalwarts like Ashlar, Auto-des-sys and Deihl Graphisoft (now part of Nemetchek). Interestingly though at the same time those same companies that used to have Mac only apps released Windows versions as well.
Here I use both Mac and Windows (Dell) running 3D CADCAM software, most of wich is only available on Windows.
What end users are interested in is the software.Period. Mac OSX vs XP? Once you are actually inside the apps there is little difference. In general dual platform apps run better on Windows because the Windows graphics card drivers are better.

If Apple are ever going to make inroads into the MCAD market they have to at least part own the core technologies and even develop their own version of say SolidWorks (perhaps by buying out a big player like PTC or Autodesk).

Virtually all the component technologies are available under Mac OSX – ACIS (Spatial), Parasolid (UGS), D-Cubed constraint manager (UGS), Lightworks rendering etc etc. What holds these back from being more Mac focussed is simply lack of market presence.

Personally I can’t see Apple being any more than a niche player in the MCAD market. As all the big players move to PLM solutions integration of design, analysis and manufacturing, Apple would need to get every main supplier in each sector to move to OSX. I don’t see it happening.

But then, the one thing I have learned is that Apple can spring surprises. Nobody I know working in the Mac developer world of MCAD actually knows what Apple will do next – the new Intel machines were launched 6 months early after all!!

KQ Friday, March 10, 2006 at 7:36 AM PT

The whole thing with going after the business side of computer industry is changing the look of apple. I do not think that their marketing should change at all. That is not what an apple is all about; they are about creativity, when it comes to graphics or any kind of editing. I do not think CAD, considering its current hold with PC’s will develop a MAC version. Even if it does, the people that use that software are not apple people. Now apple people can further be defined, but I won’t get into it. In any case, I think Apple should further concentrate on their consumers they currently have. Beef up the computers, and LOWER THE PRICE!

Eugene F Friday, June 23, 2006 at 12:06 PM PT

Great, and concede the PC market share battle to Microsoft on a platter? Good idea!

Sramana Mitra Friday, June 23, 2006 at 2:07 PM PT

greatings…

exellent…

blog Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 4:49 AM PT