Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Osborne effect

Back in the 80's a company called Osbourne Computers pre-announced the next generation of their machines long before they'd actually started laying down the silicon to produce them. As a result their current generation of machines stopped selling, and the company went bankrupt in very short order. In the industry it became known as the Osborne effect, and people are starting to wonder whether Apple might be facing a similar situation as a result of the recent announcement that they're moving to Intel processors by the end of 2007.

Anyone thinking about buying a new Mac must be having serious second thoughts right about now, and it has been one of the main topics of conversation at lunch out here at the JAC since the announcement by Steve Jobs at WWDC 2005 last Monday.

Happy with our shiny Powerbooks, and Mac OS X, a lot of people I know have been thinking about moving to Apple desktop systems as well. At OSCON last year almost everyone that was anyone had a Powerbook, and especially with the introduction of the Mac mini earlier in the year, I'd be unsurprised to learn that they were thinking about buying Apple desktops as well. I know I was thinking seriously about buying a dual G5, with a couple of 23" displays, when my current system was up for replacement early in 2006. The very snowball effect Apple must have always wanted was happening. The early adopters, the people that influence IT purchasing, were moving to Macs...

But early adopters aren't the sort of people who are willing to settle, they won't like the thought of buying technology they know is "end of life". What will happen now? It's difficult to say, but it's hard to see Apple making it through the next couple of years without loosing significant market share, just at a time when their share of the market was growing they seem to have done something entirely crazy and shot themselves in the foot.

However Steve Jobs is a smart man, and it's unlikely he'd make the same mistakes with Apple that he did at NeXT. So the question has to be, what does he know that all of us spinning our wheels out here in the blogosphere don't?

Update: According to the Register, the Osborne effect is a myth. Quoting sources who were around the industry at the time, the Register have just published an article debunking the effect. I wonder how long till the Wikipedia entry gets updated to reflect this?