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How to Lose Friends

June 13, 2012

Apple once built an entire brand on capturing a semi-pro and pro markets for high-quality visual work, and letting that flow down to consumers who were willing to pay extra for the best.  I don’t know if they ever referenced it as “skimming the cream” (like I heard other high-end vendors in this market do), but the strategy was there.  Lately, Apple seems more focused on “cool” as opposed to customer, and that might be alienating their old base that made them successful.

…The default storage capacity of the basic new Retina Mac is 256GB. Apple removed the optical drive but also removed the option for spinning storage. All of which means that video professionals must pay dear.

“256GB does not even last a day of video work,” complains one commenter at MacWorld… Video at 1080 HD uncompressed clocks in at 9GB a minute of footage. You can see how 256GB isn’t enough.

Fine, Apple offers the 512GB model for £2,299, which is £200 more expensive than the 17-inch MacBook Pro – which was available until it was chopped on Monday. For £400 more, you can bump that up to 768GB, but that brings the total to almost £2,700. You can start to see the ‘problem’ here – the optimal video editing Mac just got a lot more expensive this week.

Apple’s prices here don’t reflect its advantages in the supply chain as the world’s largest purchaser of flash memory. On eBay today a 512GB SSD can be picked up at auction for around £280. Yet Apple’s pricing for a 512GB is almost exactly three times that: £720…

While I’ve seen companies successfully migrate away from one customer base to another, they usually do so over time, and because the old base is already on the move.  I find it hard to belive that the professional video folks are swinging wildly away from the Mac.  This isn’t the end of the world for Apple if they start to move, but I’m still wondering what identity Apple is looking to create over time.

Apple seems content these days to appeal to an incredibly loyal fan base that is composed of hipsters and hipster-wannabes with spare cash to shell out for the latest Apple gadgets.  If you look at the stock price, that’s a great strategy, and I’m not second-guessing the data they put behind it.  I do wonder, though, whether the drive for style might end up costing Apple a strong base of support that they’ll need if money starts to dry up due to economic conditions.

This one will be interesting to watch.  Apple is a smart company, let’s see how those smarts last in the long term.

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