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On $6,000 Computers


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Whenever a company releases something that’s crazy expensive (like Apple’s new starting-at $6,000 MacPro, $5,000 monitor, and $1,000 monitor stand), I think of this almost 30 year old marketing strategy video from Steve Jobs recoded during his NeXT computer days.

This was one of those of those random videos that changed how I thought about the business of software and computers. Before this video I assumed that companies were trying to build the best general purpose thing they could to sell to the most people possible. After I saw this video (and ten years of running my own modestly successfully software business), I realized that’s rarely the case. As crazy expensive as the NeXT computers were, they were targeting a very specific market, and trying to split the difference between then-modern PCs and traditional crazily-expensive workstations offered by companies like Sun Computers, The Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), etc.

Thinking of “computers” as being consumer facing, relatively inexpensive, general purpose, and always for the same thing is a coincidence of timing and when I was born. As all these locked phones/tablets become the consumer facing personal computer of the future we’re going to continue to see a hollowing out of the traditional computer market. i.e. there’s going to be a lot of cheap/commodity stuff at the bottom (Chromebooks, etc.), and then relatively expensive stuff for professionals at the top. In extreme cases (like the new Mac Pro), these computers will start resembling the workstations of the 80s and 90s. Technically a personal computer, but priced out of most consumer’s budgets and likely bought in bulk (with bulk discounts) by larger organizations with very specific needs.

Copyright © Alan Storm 1975 – 2022 All Rights Reserved

Originally Posted: 7th June 2019