Once Again, Steve Jobs Outsmarts the Big Guns

As we enter uncertain economic times, technology watchers believe the personal computer market is going to take a hit, especially in the coming holiday season when almost half of all annual sales occur. With questions about available cash, consumers aren’t likely to drop over $1,000 on a new laptop, no matter how pretty Steve Jobs makes them look at today’s Apple Macbook Event Showcase in Cupertino, California. With his company trailing Dell and Hewlett-Packard in market share, Jobs’ could be in for a very ugly Xmas.

Or maybe not.

In a column on CNNMoney, Jon Fortt argues that Apple will be okay, despite having only half the market value it did at this time last year. People will still buy computers — in 2000, consumer PC sales only dropped three percent — but they will be forced to choose between Apple and the other brands. Thanks to Jobs’ genius, once again he might have foreseen the future, and it could help his company’s laptop sales triumph over the bigger brands.

If thin and beautiful is in, that’s good news for Apple. Rumor has it that, thanks to new manufacturing methods, the latest crop of MacBook laptops will sport a smoother look practically unmarred by screws and seams. And analysts expect Apple will lower prices in a nod to tough economic times — entry-level MacBooks will cost as little as $800 or $900, nearly 20 percent less than the current prices.

Fortt argues, however, that Apple shouldn’t make its products too cheap, noting that the Mac mini — a $600 desktop designed to compete with rival company’s cheaper products — hasn’t sold well. Three things set apple apart: ease of use, aesthetic sense and performance. Sacrificing one of these legs on the altar of price could kill California’s Great White Hope.