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Apple’s iPhone: Will It Make or Break the Mac?

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Apple was forced to delay the release of Mac OS X 10.5 to make sure the iPhone shipped on time. Is that merely a blip, or an ominous sign of things to come? Neale Monks discusses the impact of Apple’s iPhone on its core business—the Macintosh.
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Everyone seems to want an iPhone, which could easily be considered the most coveted gadget in recent history, but is Apple’s focus on non-Mac products—the iPod, Apple TV, iTunes Store, and iPhone—a threat to the Macintosh in the long term? Is Apple stretched too thin?

For die-hard Mac fans, it’s starting to feel that way. Earlier this year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs pushed back the long-awaited release of Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” to ensure the iPhone would ship on time. This left developers attending the company’s recent worldwide developer’s conference empty-handed and disappointed, with no major hardware or software announcements and repeat performances of last year’s highlights.

Naturally, Apple is banking on the likelihood that the iPhone will be as successful as the iPod, which has been a phenomenal seller and has helped shift the company from its role as a mere computer maker to a full-fledged consumer electronics company. To see the transition, just follow the money. Back in 2004, iPod sales were around $1.3 billion, compared with Mac sales of $4.9 billion. By 2006, however, iPod and Mac sales were roughly equal, at around $7.5 billion apiece.

What’s perhaps even more significant is that the iPod, iTunes Music Store, Apple TV, and iPhone are all products sold independently of the Mac. In fact, you don’t need a Macintosh to enjoy any of them, and indeed, most people buying up these products are working on Windows.

But even if more PC users than Mac users are buying up iPods, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for the Mac. The iPod boosts sales of Apple’s other products via the so-called “Halo Effect” —if you like using the iPod, iTunes Music Store, and, soon, the iPhone, you’ll be more likely to want to buy a Mac the next time you go shopping for a new computer.

But, is the Halo Effect real?

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