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ATPM 3.10
October 1997



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Apples, Kids, & Attitude

by Robert Paul Leitao,

“I Don’t Want No Camel Yoke!”

"I don't want no Camel Yoke!" This was my son's headstrong statement at breakfast not long ago. Matthew's self-styled morning menu of eggs and orange juice had been changed unexpectedly. It was not to his liking!

Matthew is often inquisitive, yet at times he's shy. He likes certain activities to be structured but others to be free-flowing and spontaneous. He likes his sister (most of the time) and enjoys playing on his Mac. I often marvel at how young he seems, but remember being surprised at how old my daughter seemed at the same age. He'll be five years old in a couple of months and he's enjoying his last year of preschool.

Matthew's sister Jessica, twenty months his senior, can be a bit domineering when it comes to her younger brother. However, Matthew can hold his own on matters important to him. His breakfast menu is one important thing. He doesn't like changes in his diet, especially when the change introduces something he doesn't remember ever eating. All the way around, I guess he's like many of us, only a bit shorter and younger.

My decision to change our breakfast menu was influenced by the produce sale at my local supermarket.I loaded the refrigerator with lots of fruit, including a few choice cantaloupe. I like cantaloupe so I thought I'd share it with the kids. Matthew was not amused by this sudden change. His sister couldn't resist goading her brother, so his initial resistance to the cantaloupe soon turned to downright indignation! What I said didn't matter, nor did the fact that his sister was methodically eating cantaloupe slices and smirking while she incited her brother to protest the food. He wasn't about to eat anything whose color or name seemed strange. He wouldn't eat "Camel Yoke" and that was, I made him scrambled eggs.

Recently I've been asked to adapt to a few new things, too. Several months ago I began changing the way I make a living. As a single father of very small children, I wanted to maximize the time I spent with my kids; so I began a home-based business using my Mac. This allowed me to spend quality time with my kids during their youngest years. It was time together I felt we both needed. Jessica is now in first grade and next year Matthew will be in Kindergarten.

On days when they weren't in my care, I could easily spend 12 or 14 hours without leaving my oversized room except for short breaks to the kitchen. Just me and my Mac, interrupted only briefly by client calls and intermittent phone solicitations from companies trying to sell me everything from life insurance to shopping services to cheap rates on any credit card balances I might happily send their way. You might not believe it, but there are still solicitations that are not sent by e-mail (at least not yet)!

For the most part, it was me and my Mac. I dare say that I have come to understand my Mac, even though a few times times it seemed not to understand me. That's OK. I don't usually look for requited responses from stationary objects and work tools. Besides, with all its good points, it can be a cool companion despite its most obvious limitation—it's only a computer (but what a fun computer it is!).

My transition to outside employment came about for several reasons, including a personal belief that working away from my home office would be health change for me. My kids are beginning their formal academic life and its time for me to learn some new things, too. So I began to accept outside assignments. I thought spending hours everyday around adults again would be a healthy change...and a challenge.

Like Matthew, I often adapt to new things slowly, especially when one new thing arrived in the form of a Wintel box. It had been awhile since I had really used something other than a Mac. Adding insult to injury, or injury to insult (I'm not sure which), one of my clients solicited my help in purchasing a new Windows-based network. Actually, I negotiated the hardware and software purchases and I am overseeing the installation. It's my version of eating "Camel Yoke." Unfortunately... there's no one to make me scrambled eggs, figuratively speaking.

To my surprise (and despite my initial indignation), I've realized that, in some ways the Windows world has come a lot closer to the pre-OS 8 "look and feel" of the least on the surface. Beneath the surface is another matter. In my opinion, the two platforms are still light years apart. The Macintosh remains much more intuitive than Windows. I think this is because the Mac OS was written from top to bottom with the end user in mind. Windows has been written for a variety of purposes (few of which are important to most users), then cosmetically retrofitted with a more attractive graphic user interface. No matter what people might say, Windows machines ain't "plug and play" by Macintosh standards!

I could sit here and write a litany of reasons why the Mac is a better computer. That's not the issue. Nor am I writing this because I want to "bash Windows." My point is that the Mac OS and Windows were written and continue to be developed by separate companies with different primary markets and distinct approaches to product development.

Personally, I prefer Apple's approach to things and continue to purchase Macs. However, there are underlying strengths to Windows NT that will not be matched by Apple until the release of Rhapsody. I can see see why people who don't use Macs have trouble understanding the passion of those of us who do.For a vast majority of everyday tasks, the choice of personal computing platform is no longer "mission critical." For example, word processing, spreadsheets and rudimentary desktop publishing can be done on a Windows-based PC almost as easily as they can be done on a Mac. Therefore, there is little reason in the minds of many computer buyers to consider buying Macintosh. The perceived risks of buying computer hardware and software that use a less common OS outweighs the perceived benefits. People won't normally take time to educate themselves unless forced to do so.

The bad press Apple has received over the past few years hasn't helped matters. The constant drum beat of negative stories has created a problem for Apple and the Macintosh platform. In many ways Macs have become "Camel Yoke" to personal computer buyers. Although public perception isn't matched by reality, it will take awhile for people to change their views. This is why Apple's Think differentcampaign is important. One important goal of this campaign is to revive the company's badly tarnished image. In short, this Apple needs a new shine.

Matthew's indignant response to cantaloupe had as much to do with his sister's goading as it had to do with the fruit itself. Big or small, most people are influenced by statements and viewpoints of others.Apple's problems are the result of cynicism from computer buyers more than any other factor. Apple Computer's decision to focus its efforts in its primary markets is a smart one. By doing so, Apple will stabilize its core markets and begin the process of regaining lost market share. It may take time, but by concentrating in areas where the choice of platform is "mission critical," Apple can again establish itself as a manufacturer of "second-to-none" personal computer hardware and software. The new advertising campaign will help set the tone for the release of Apple's new products. Mac OS 8 is an overwhelming success, so the momentum is beginning to turn in Apple's favor.

Personally, I'm impressed with what Apple has to offer. The new Gossamer systems should help ignite Apple's near-term sales. Changes in public perception may take a little time, but the investment made in shining Apple's tarnished image will be returned several times over.

Enhancements included in the next major Mac OS upgrade (code-named Allegro) and the forthcoming release of Rhapsody are bright spots on Apple's near-term prospects. In my view, Apple will gain market share not by competing head-to-head with Microsoft/Intel, but by providing revolutionary products and services that eclipse products currently on the market. I predict the next 180 days of Apple's history will again set personal computer industry history. "Be Prepared" is a famous motto. "Think Different" is a new one. I suggest that we do both.

Apple's introduction of Network Computers (NCs) will strengthen its position in the education market and help it regain lost market share. The ability to set-up a network with client stations that sell for between $600.00 and $800.00 will reshape the way many organizations spend their computer budget dollars. It will also reverse Apple's recent sales decline. People will be taking another look at Apple products as we get closer to the Christmas shopping season. The new ad campaign and the company's new products and prices will spur sales and consumer confidence in the Apple brand.

Matthew may not eat "Camel Yoke," but he enjoys using his Mac, playing outside and has a new interest in taking pictures with disposable cameras. I might buy a digital camera this Christmas for the three of us. Matthew might never eat cantaloupe. That doesn't bother me. He's a delightful little boy who loves his sister and simply prefers scrambled eggs.

There are many different ways to make scrambled eggs. Apple just needs to find the right one!

Blue Apple"Apples, Kids and Attitude[TM]" is © 1997 Robert Paul Leitao, <>.

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