Prompt: Between 1991 and 1994, Apple Computer engaged in a holding action in the desktop market...


Between 1991 and 1994, Apple Computer engaged in a holding action in the desktop market dominated by PCs using Intel chips and running Microsoft’s operating system.

In 1994, Apple’s flagship model, the Power Mac, sold roughly 10,000 units per month at an average price of $3,000 per unit. At the time, Apple claimed about a 9% market share of the desktop market (down from greater than 15% in the 1980s).

By the end of 1995, Apple had witnessed a dramatic shift in the competitive environment. In the preceding 18 months, Intel had cut the prices of its top-performing Pentium chip by some 40%. Consequently, Apple’s two largest competitors, Compaq and IBM, reduced average PC prices by 15%. Mail-order retailer Dell continued to gain market share via aggressive pricing. At the same time, Microsoft introduced Windows 95, finally offering the PC world the look and feel of the Mac interface. Many software developers began producing applications only for the Windows operating system or delaying development of Macintosh applications until months after Windows versions had been shipped. Overall, fewer users were switching from PCs to Macs.

Apple’s top managers grappled with the appropriate pricing response to these competitive events. Driven by the speedy new PowerPC chip, the Power Mac offered capabilities and a user-interface that compared favorably to those of PCs. Analysts expected that Apple could stay competitive by matching its rivals’ price cuts. However, John Sculley, Apple’s CEO, was adamant about retaining a 50% gross profit margin and maintaining premium prices. He was confident that Apple would remain strong in key market segments – the home PC market, the education market, and desktop publishing.

  1. What effect (if any) did the events of 1995 have on the demand curve for Power Macs? Should Apple preserve its profit margins or instead cut prices?
  2. In 1994, the marginal cost of producing the Power Mac was about $1,500 per unit, and a rough estimate of the monthly demand curve was: P = 4,500 - .15Q. At the time, what was Apple’s optimal output and pricing policy?
  3. By the end of 1995, some analysts estimated that the Power Mac’s user value (relative to rival PCs) had fallen by as much as $600 per unit. What does this mean for Apple’s new demand curve at end-of-year 1995? How much would sales fall if Apple held to its 1994 price? Assuming a marginal cost reduction to $1,350 per unit, what output and price policy should Apple now adopt?

Homework Answers

Answer #1

a. Clearly, the period 1994-1995 was marked by a significant adverse shift in demand against Apple due to major enhancements of competing computers: lower prices, better interfaces (Windows), sales to order (Dell), and more abundant software.

b. Setting MR = MC implies 4,500 - .3Q = 1,500, so Q* = 10,000 units and P = $3,000. Given 1994’s state of demand, Apple’s 1994 production strategy was indeed optimal.

c. In 1995, demand and MR have declined significantly. Now, setting MR = MC implies 3,900 - .3Q = 1,350, so Q* = 8,500 units and P = $2,625. Apple should cut its price and its planned output.

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