Apple Computer in the Portable Computer Market (B)

By Garth Saloner, Hank Chesbrough,
1993 | Case No. SM1B

John Medica, Director of Engineering for Portable Systems, stood proudly watching the launch of the new line of Apple portable computers. The PowerBook 170 and PowerBook 140 were built by his group, while the PowerBook 100 was built by Sony. The three models carried suggested retail prices of $4599, $2899, and $2299, respectively. The reception of all three systems was very positive. Infoworld termed the PowerBooks “… a vast and much-needed improvement on the company’s original Mac Portable”. The New York Times called them “… superior to the Macintosh Portable in design and price”. And MacWEEK called them “…notebooks designed for those who want the very best in portable computing”. There was a significant backlog on all three systems, although more so for the high end models. Apple expected to ship as many as 150,000 units in the first 3 months, one of the fastest product ramps in the history of the computer industry. The PowerBook family and its highly favorable reception appeared to put to rest Apple’s long history of frustration with the portable/notebook segment of the computer market. THE DECISION TO USE SONY Apple’s decision to work with Sony was based on four key factors. First was the fact that there was no remaining “bandwidth” in the engineering team to take on an additional project. As Medica put it, “It was either go with Sony, or don’t go with the extra computer.” A second reason was that “Sony was quite good at getting out products, and we needed to learn that skill,” according to John Sculley, Apple’s Chairman and CEO, who foresaw the opportunity to work with Sony on a variety of future projects.

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