For the Mac, like the PC, it's all downhill from here

Just as businesses have begun to grudgingly accept OS X, sales are slipping in what may be the Mac's long, slow good-bye

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Where does this leave us? With Macs occupying their traditional creative, developer, and higher-income home niches. It's no accident that Apple last year redesigned the iMac to be thin and stylish, appealing to consumers with money and taste, and this year it radically redesigned the Mac Pro into a work of sculpture that is arguably the most powerful personal computer -- a video-editing workstation, really -- ever. The rest of the Mac lineup -- the MacBooks and Mac Minis -- got just the usual updates to faster chips and networks, as well as to more use of SSDs and the high-resolution Retina screens in the MacBook lineup.

It's clear Apple's Mac focus is on the high end, whereas the iPad is on track to be its broad-use computer. The fact that Apple removed features this month from the Mac version of its iWork office productivity suite to make it feature-compatible with its iOS version underscores that shift in focus.

Apple believes in cannibalizing its own products rather than let others do it. It's already happened to the iPods, which this year -- for the first time since the iPod was invented -- had no updated models. iPod sales have been dropping steadily as iPhones have taken their place. I think we're seeing that happen in the Mac platform too, as iPads begin to take their place. The possible monkey wrench in all of this is the flattened sales of the iPad this year, which the iPad Air may or may nor fix. The potential of 64-bit iPads is huge, but the apps aren't there, so the immediate benefit is just bragging rights.

Apple of course has its sights beyond all of these products. Its iBeacons technology is part of a larger push to make Apple devices the standard devices in retail environments, such as for cash registers and kiosks. That's a huge, fragmented market strongly influenced by the needs of Apple-oriented groups such as marketers. Apple is also poised to deliver on its promised iOS in the Car technology, which you can expect to see in the first half of 2014. And I'm convinced it has something in the works related to home entertainment, whether or not that is the long-fabled iTV.

The Mac is no immediate danger of disappearing. But I suspect that after a tumultuous 30-year run, it's on a long downslope along with Windows PCs.

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