The excellent post over at Ars Technica about how Apple can gain significant OS marketshare speaks directly to an issue we have here at Palo Alto Software. As we've grown, our Mac culture has grown as well. More and more of our new hires come to the company as Mac users, despite the fact that the software that we market and sell is Windows only (for the time being). I have to admit, I even caved and got a Macbook Pro last fall and now I'm thinking of replacing the Vista machine I have at home with an iMac.
The problem is that Macs are simply expensive. I'm not trying to fan the flames on the decade-old war of Mac vs. PC in terms of cost/performance. The simple fact is that I can buy pretty good PCs for usually half of what a Mac costs. I know, these PCs probably don't benchmark what the Macs do, but for most of our employees, running a web browser and a few basic applications is all they do. And for half the money, it ends up being a pretty simple decision.
What I would like to see Apple do is provide me with the guts of a Mac Mini in a tower form factor that I can easily upgrade as I need to. Heck, Apple can even charge me around $1k for these machines, a nice $300+ premium over a mini. I'm not suggesting that they license their OS to Dell - they can keep the hardware market that they love so much. I just want them offer an upgradeable business machine that is flexible so that I can customize it for specific employees needs.
For example, most of our employees run dual monitors. The Mac Mini does not support this and adding a better video card is out of the question. External video cards are expensive. If the Mac was in an upgradable tower format, I could just upgrade using off-the-shelf components. Is that too much to ask?
So, my opinion is that Apple could begin to dominate the office market by simply creating an office-friendly computer: an upgradable tower for around $1k. This would fill the gap between the Mini and the Pro and give someone like me the flexibility to buy computers that fit our business at a reasonable price point. No need to bet the farm on a risky OS licensing deal - just build a simple computer that fills a basic need.