For readers who may recall last month's column, I mentioned that my soon-to-be five year old daughter, Jessica, had wanted her own computer. What I didn't mention, out of concern for too much "Wintel buyer bashing," is what also occurred while she was gazing longingly at the Performa on display at the office supply store.
While we were there I witnessed a couple walking from machine to machine as they were deciding which computer they wanted to purchase. Their concern wasn't the micro-processor, operating system, ease-of-use, the ability to run the next generation of internet-savvy software, the monitor bit depth and resolution or the quality of the components and the manufacturer's reputation, but, rather, which computer had an internal 28.8 modem initially installed.
I was both amused and annoyed. I was amused that anyone would base a $2,500 to $3,000 purchase decision solely on the presence of a relatively inexpensive, possibly off-brand, peripheral. I was annoyed that Apple had a big inventory problem for attempting to cater to a fickle market segment that makes purchasing decisions without respect to brand, product quality, ease-of-use, warranty or performance.
Apple never had to be the biggest, they just need to continue being the best. If it takes that much effort to differentiate a Mac in the minds of buyers in a particular market segment, you're selling to the wrong segment. Thankfully, Mr. Amelio has discovered this early. There may be less wrong with Apple than with the mind-set of people who don't buy their computers.
Guy Kawasaki's extraordinary wit and intellect aside, I don't think "Wintel bashing" accomplishes much for the rest of us. He's funny and punny. What the rest of us sound like may be a different story. Macs will sell themselves to people with an open mind, a little bit of foresight and, of course, to Daddys of five year-olds with extraordinary taste.
As Mac advocates we simply need to make our voices heard and our dollars count. Buy from businesses that sell Mac products and tell them why you shop there. And, given the opportunity, let their competitors politely know why you don't shop with them instead. Ask the store manager if he's aware of the Mac's popularity among web page authors and web masters. We don't need to be pushy, just accurate with our facts.
As for my daughter, what had made Jessica's desire for a new computer a seemingly constant request (and always expressed with that sense of urgency that young kids vocalize so well) is that for a few fleeting moments she and her younger brother, Matthew, did have their own computer. This was when I replaced my IIci with a 7500/100.
However, within just a couple of days Matthew succeeded in doing something many of us had long ago hoped would be a cool future feature-the ability to simultaneously load two floppy disks into one floppy drive. Unfortunately, he accomplished this feat well before the engineers designed them for that.
It's tough to give kids a taste of something and then have it go away. The llci was relegated to the closet until I could decide just what to do about either repairing it and buying an external CD-ROM drive or simply replacing it with a newer model. Her little brother's mishap was on Jessica's mind and lips every time we put something on the table where the IIci used to sit.
Then it happened. Apple's $200 rebate on already discounted 7200s when purchased with a new Apple monitor. I wanted a 1710AV monitor and they wanted a computer. I had the 7200 and my not-so-old 15" monitor set-up and running before they arrived home from pre-school.
Little did I know that this would be the ultimate move to raise Dad's coolness factor with the pre-kindergarten set. I was delighted for one more reason-no more switching back and forth between Mister Rogers on PBS and Thomas the Tank Engine videos. The house was hopping with interactive laughter and delight.
I had purchased a couple of children's CD-ROMs during the polite protocol of listening to "tonight's specials" on titles after placing my MacWarehouse order. From after-dinner until bedtime they were clicking this, drawing that and arguing that the other's turn had lasted more than a nano-second while they were each trying to exercise their own self-granted right to ten minutes of undisturbed mouse time.
I was used to hearing the "Mac chime" about 7:30 a.m., after my first cup of coffee, when I usually start-up to check my e-mail and the overnight news, not at 6:00 a.m. as it were the following morning when Matthew rolled out-of-bed and attempted to beat his sister to the newest of family attractions.
But what happened that afternoon made Apple (or at least family) history. While Matthew was napping and I was in the kitchen cleaning up from lunch, Jessica found the box for one of the software titles and wanted to know what the words were. Usually she would bring things like this to me and we would practice the ages-old ritual of sounding out the words.
This time she decided to try something new. She took the box, went over to the Mac, started it up, navigated to the new software installed on the hard drive, double- clicked on the icon and moved to the software component that converted text to audible words. She then translated the lower-case letters on the box to the corresponding upper-case keyboard symbol (I can thank her pre-school teacher for this skill), typed in the words and then clicked on the speech button to have the computer tell her what the words were that she was trying to learn.
My first inkling of all this is when I heard the abrupt, nasally voice of the software blurt out its first words of the afternoon. This made her Daddy very proud and her pre-school teacher quite happy. It also removed any small doubts about maybe having spent too much, too soon on the purchase of their Mac.
This is why there will now always be a second Mac in my home. It's the opportunity for my kids to explore, have fun, learn and play at their own pace without worry and the need for more than precautionary parental oversight (just concerns about possible sibling recrimination for too much mouse time). And, only two household rules-no juice by the keyboard and no touching the tape covering the floppy drive.
As for the IIci, it's been fixed and is now back east in my niece's room. Like other heirlooms, some things are just too nice to let leave the family. Thanks to Apple, the mouse pad arrived just in time for her birthday. This, of course, prompted her to ask "when is Matthew getting his own computer." This week she's helping me choose the background colors for my web pages.
As a Mac-owning parent I'm not concerned about market share. If I were Packard Bell and the like, I would be. A year from know we'll see which computers bought today are still writing and reading the web pages of tomorrow without costly new equipment, hiccups and sneezes. People need to be burned only once. We'll see then how many more minds are opened to buying Macs.
A year from now you should also call back my web pages. By then they may just say "co-authored by two Mac savvy kids, Matthew and Jessica Leitao."
"Apples, Kids and Attitude" is © 1996 by Robert Paul Leitao, firstname.lastname@example.org.