A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Apple (AAPL) store. I picked up the latest copy of Information Week magazine and read an article about the HP (HPQ) Voodoo Envy 133. Long story short, I’m no longer going to the Apple store. I’m waiting for the Envy.
After a painful year running Vista (MSFT) I want need a dependable lightweight laptop with amazing battery life. So I did the once unthinkable: considered getting a Mac. In the past two weeks I’ve visited the Apple store twice to checkout and ask some questions about the Mac Air. I would have bought it the second time, but it was the South Beach store and it seemed the price was a couple hundred dollars higher than in Dallas (no surprise there).
While many rave about the OS X, and I have no doubt it is better than Vista, corporate types like me simply need some applications that do not run on the Mac; and I want to avoid dual boot (granted VMware (VMW) does have a better solution). However, since I could do 90% of my work on OS X I was willing to get a Mac as a second mobile laptop primarily due to the amazing battery life.
Apple’s Killer Products
Apple has re-built their business this decade on the back of its product designers. Their sleek integrated products simply blew away the competition. Their best two products the MacBook and iPod have driven astounding growth.
The iPhone looks like it may be a third category killer. Granted, Apple has some pretty powerful competitors to overcome like Nokia (NOK), Samsung, Sony (SNE), Motorola (MOT) and HTC. I don’t include Research in Motion (RIMM) because in a couple years battery life will reach a point where the last feature (RIM’s battery efficient devices) Blackberry dominates will be a non-issue. Since practically every other phone supports ActiveSync, IT departments will finally be able to jettison the extra cost of maintaining a Blackberry server. Soon, when Apple releases its 3G / ActiveSync iPhone for $199 its sales should sky rocket. Although, how long can Apple maintain its lead in the cell phone market? Probably the most cut throat product market.
The iPod is still head and shoulders above the other MP3 players. In fact, I just bought my second iPod Nano a couple months ago. However, this market is leveling off as it is becoming more common to find people with even multiple MP3 players. The HDTV / LCD market is commoditizing like the original TV market did. You can see this at any Best Buy store or even at Dell’s (DELL) Northpark mall store. This is making Apple’s nice sleek desktop models look comparatively less impressive. Especially when doing a side by side comparison at the Best Buy stores that conveniently now offer Apple computers.
So back to the Mac, the heart of Apple. The MacBook is a solid product, but I just saw a Gateway laptop at Best Buy for less than $900 that included 4GB of memory and an Intel Core 2 Duo – undoubtedly very competitive with the Mac book. It is amazing how more power can make up for many of Vista’s issues. The Mac Air has been the wow product. While this year the Air has faced stiff competition from the Toshiba Portege R500 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X300 the HP Voodoo Envy 133 ups the bar compared to everything in the market right now.
It has features the Mac Air is clearly missing like a removable battery and more than one USB port, but the amazing part of the Envy 133 is its design. Its appearance is cool. It has a removable battery. It has a removable battery (repeated for emphasis). It is .7 inches thick. It’s sturdy due to its carbon fiber chassis. It has introduced a few new design elements that upon seeing them just appear to be common sense, such as putting the Ethernet port on the power connector. It has an HDMI port. It has instant access to Skype and an Internet browsing through the Voodoo IOS.
Rahul Sood may have bested a fragile Steve Jobs and made Voodoo HP’s Lamborghini. I don’t expect Apple to stumble any time soon. They still have a stranglehold on the MP3 player market; with no end in sight. They still are releasing a game changing iPhone while competitors aren’t innovating but instead copying Apple. Which Nokia appears to admit.
“I don’t know what is copy and what is original but if there is something good in the world we copy with pride.”
Windows Vista is finally getting to the stabilizing service pack time frame and despite prevailing wisdom the MacBook and OS X have not been completely without defects either. Windows Vista is still a very disappointing product that will be skipped by most enterprises. However, Apple doesn’t offer anything close to true enterprise client management software. If enterprises migrate from Windows they are more likely to embrace a Linux based thin client than OS X. Now if Apple decides they want to move to the enterprise by purchasing Sun Microsystems (JAVA), things could get interesting. That doesn’t seem to be the direction Apple is pursuing.
Apple depends on being the best of breed consumer product. Something that HP Voodoo’s division might have something to say about, exposing some kinks in Apple’s business model…
Disclosure: I own a very small position in out of the money MSFT Jan 2009 calls and I own EBAY. I do not have a position in: HP, APPL, VMW (although I do own EMC), NOK, SNE, MOT, RIMM, BBY, TOSBF, LNVGY, JAVA, or DELL.