Thirty-one years later, the Mac is still a vital part of Apple's soul

In the space of less than a decade, the Macintosh has gone from being Apple's only money maker to a relative line item on Apple's balance sheets. In the last quarter alone, the iPhone generated more than seven times the revenue as the Mac.

If you don't understand anything about Apple (or if you're just someone hoping to garner some negative attention), it's easy to look at that and say that Apple should kill the Mac and focus on what makes it more money. But by doing so, you disregard Apple's history. You disregard what makes Apple Apple. And you disregard why people use Apple products.

Developed on, developed on, developed on

First of all, let me go back to a point that I've made time after time, whenever paranoid Mac users start coming up with theories about how Apple plans to replace OS X with iOS altogether:

You currently need a Mac to make iOS apps.

Even after the Swift programming goes open source and becomes available for Linux later this year, Apple's Xcode IDE still runs on one computer platform, and one platform only: The Mac.

That could change in the future, but for now the Mac is the machine that feeds the beast. Period.

Every halo needs its effect

Generations of computer users have used the Mac and continue to use the Mac. It remains prominent in businesses like design, publishing, video production, music production, science. It's also more popular than ever.

Go to any corner coffee shop or Starbucks and you'll see many, if not most, of the patrons using Macs. Mac owners are some of Apple's best customers. They're the type of customers who take a chance on new products early. They're also the ones who inspire their friends and families to take the same kinds of chances.

That's important because, year in and year out, people replace their Windows PCs with Macs. Sometimes it's because of a friend or family member. Sometimes it's because they have an iPhone and iPad and want a better, more integrated experience, and sometimes it's just because they want something that's less susceptible to the problems still faced by Windows PCs.

As much as Steve Jobs is credited with popularizing the concept of the "post-PC era," he was also the one who made the "trucks" and "cars" analogy, and pointed out some people will always need "trucks". As long as that's the case, as long as customers and the company itself needs "trucks", Apple needs to continue making them.

That's why it was never about replacing the PC (or the Mac) with mobile devices like iPhones and iPads. It was about complementing them.

The future of the Mac

Apple continues to roll out innovations on the Mac that help guide the rest of the personal computer industry. Tim Cook recently called the new MacBook "the future of laptops." Indeed, the concept behind the new MacBook is as an all-wireless device.

It's so good, an argument could be made for it replacing an iPad for a certain set of customers, especially as prices fall over time. Who could have seen that coming? Anyone who pays attention to how Apple works.

The Mac represents more than three continuous decades of Apple's commitment to refining the human-computer interface. OS X served as the basis for iOS, and OS X remains an important touchstone for innovation.

It may have fallen from dominance on Apple's balance sheets, but the Mac is still front and center in many customers' hearts—including those at Apple. As long as that's the case, we don't have to worry about the future of the Mac. It's inextricably intertwined with the future of Apple itself. And that future is very bright.

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