If the Mac becomes a puny appendage, it could be at long-term risk or even become the target of investors who see little point in keeping it when its revenue is a figurative drop in the bucket.
Some experts have scoffed at any idea that the Mac's future is anything but bright, even as it cedes sales to tablets. "Looking at these devices as investments strengthens the case for a Mac," said Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies last October, referring to the need for personal computers in the future, albeit fewer than before.
Yet, for all Cook's pledge to keep the Mac relevant, it may be Apple itself that accelerates the downturn of its personal computers if, as many expect, Apple enhances the iPad's productivity skill set with larger displays that infringe on notebook territory.
Apple doesn't have to panic, as many PC OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) seem to be doing — casting about for ways to reinvigorate their wares with new form factors, some of them downright odd, and alternate operating systems, like the made-for-mobile Android — because the Mac is such a small part of its bottom line.
But Apple, like every other computer maker, faces the same decision: Accept the below-or-near-zero-growth that seems inevitable for the foreseeable future, or get out of the business.
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