A better comparison is with the Nintendo Wii. While Sony and Microsoft competed in the cut-throat market of consoles for gamers, the Wii also created a new product category: consoles for everyone else. It worked pretty well for them – it turns out that there’s a lot more non-gamers than gamers, and making a device that appeals to 95% of the population sells better than making one that appeals to only 5%.
Daniel hit the nail on the head. The industry has been tending towards making high-spec machines while often neglecting human interface issues. People complain that all of this email/booting up/installing/URL stuff was too complicated, and we techies blamed them and told them to RTFM.
In the meantime, others directly address their concerns, and surprise -- people give them money.
Yes - the majority of people view computers as appliances. They don't want a computer, they want an email machine and a word processing machine and a "show me this website" machine and a music-playing machine. They don't need 2560x1600@120fps, and they don't care about having 16 processors. They want to sit down, bang out an email, and do something else, or sit down, type their paper, and be done.
Apple actually had something like this in the mid-90s called "At Ease", designed as a child-safe file manager. You had programs on one tab and files on the other. I remember it from elementary school, and always felt that a more modern version of that would help less computer literate people.
Yes - the majority of people view computers as appliances. They don't want a computer, they want an email machine and a word processing machine and a "show me this website" machine and a music-playing machine.
More precisely, they want a backplane into which they can effortlessly plug in various appliances. Press Buy, download it, plug it in, it just works.