A Mac-Less Apple

Robert X. Cringely is at it again, banging the Mac-OS-X-on-Intel drum. The new twist on this is Apple’s announcement on May 19th that it was forming a separate division for the iPod.

Cringely interprets this reorganization as a vote of no confidence in the Macintosh divison. In his view, Steve Jobs is starving the Macintosh of the great margins and profit of the iPod—preparing it for complete shutdown. The computer maker plans to focus solely on the high margins of software, rather than the lower ones of hardware. He sees Apple as relying on the computers of others like Intel or IBM for its platform.

This suggestion is not a new one, though it is missing any speculation that Disney or Sony is going to buy the trimmed-down Apple. The death of the Macintosh is, to paraphrase Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated.

It’s tempting to believe these rumors because the move to commodity Intel hardware would lead to substantial price reductions and more widespread adoption while the move to IBM’s Cell workstation would lead to greater power. But Apple’s always been a bastion of the “not-invented-here” syndrome and it’s especially hard to imagine that the company, a computer manufacturer since its inception in 1976, would cease such activities in some grand ambition for marketshare.

Apple, and Steve Jobs in particular, have made all the right sounds to suggest that they’re okay with the 5% (or less) market share they hold. They also seem awed by the success of the iPod, but is it enough to make them abandon their flagship product? It doesn’t strike me as possible. I can, however, see Apple spread its reach into more consumer products, buoyed by the iPod’s success. That might detract from the Macintosh’s primacy within Apple, but I don’t think they’d shutter the whole thing.

Time will tell.

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