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ATPM 5.08
August 1999



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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For…

Ahhh yes. Nothing quite like summer, is there?

This past weekend, I was in Fort Lauderdale for a University of Maryland (my alma mater) alumni gathering. The keynote speaker was the Men’s Basketball Coach, Gary Williams, who had flown in that morning from Baltimore.

He got the most laughs when he commented that he had to come to South Florida to escape the stifling heat Baltimore was suffering. It was actually a few degrees cooler over 1,000 miles further south.

When it comes to beating the heat in Florida, we have two very effective methods. We can either take a dip in the pool or the Gulf of Mexico, or we can huddle in the air conditioned comfort of our homes and offices until the heat breaks in October. It’s like the seasons are reversed here. When everyone up north goes out to enjoy the warm temperatures, we close ourselves in. And when our northern friends shiver through the cold, gray days, we break out of our air conditioned cocoons to enjoy the fine Chamber of Commerce weather.

Of course, our Floridian methods to beat the heat are not the case everywhere in the country. In fact, I can remember growing up in a house that had no air conditioning. That wasn’t a problem during those New Jersey winters but, when a heat wave would take hold, boy, did we sweat.

That was when we would get creative with our methods of cooling down. We would still go to the local swimming hole, but we would also go to the movies to bask in the air conditioning. It didn’t matter what was playing. Heck, we could have probably sat in a dark theater, just enjoying the fact that we weren’t sweating, and been happy. But the best way to cool off was to get a big, double scoop of ice cream. Rocky Road was always my favorite. In the days before I had to worry about my expanding waistline, ice cream two or three times a day was in order on those very hot days.

But during this long, hot summer, things seem to be a little different.

First, folks have been screaming for the newest and the greatest computer on the horizon—the iBook. The sleek, new portable computer was rolled out at the Macworld Expo. It’s colorful. It’s powerful. It’s loaded with features. It makes a great number of minor but well thought out improvements from traditional portable computer design, such as eliminating the door which covers the connection ports. That cover seems guaranteed to break off under regular use, so it’s goodbye and good riddance. It looks like the design folks at Apple have really put their heads together on this one and they just may have built a winner.

Oh sure, the iBook is still vaporware. For the time being, at least. Even with units expected to ship sometime in September, people are already lining up to order their iBook from the usual sources. Now all that Apple has to do is make enough of them to meet the expected demand. If not, things could again get a little goofy with the media.

One of the most interesting things about the iBook is the AirPort feature. By adding the AirPort card, up to 10 iBooks can connect to the Internet, or to other iBooks, at 11 Mbits per second, when within 150 feet of an AirPort base station. This is the sort of thing that really catches my attention. I mean, imagine walking into one of those schwanky Internet/cappuccino/live entertainment places, ordering your hot beverage of choice, and connecting to the Internet by just opening up your iBook. No cables to worry about, so you can relocate anywhere in the joint to get a better view while you people watch. And, when Gunther delivers your steaming mocha latte, you can log onto your IRC chat client and let the pretty woman/handsome hunk sitting across the bar from you know that, sorry, you are way too busy to go out on a date this Saturday night. You are going to be committed to your iBook for awhile.

Another thing that the PC crowd has been screaming for is the iMac. Well, at least, they are screaming to make money off copies of the iMac. You see, since Apple released the uniquely styled iMac, several PC manufacturers have sought to cash in on the smooth style and bright colors of the machine.

In fact, the success of the iMac’s style has caught the attention of none other than Bill Gates himself. According to, at Microsoft’s annual gathering of financial analysts in Seattle in July, Gates took a swipe at Apple’s multi-colored iMac packaging strategy in the course of a discussion of various Intel-based devices.

“The one thing Apple’s providing now is leadership in colors,” Gates said as he pointed out a red-colored Intel-based personal computer on display. “It won’t take long for us to catch up with that, I don’t think.”

I think the color most seen in Redmond these days is green—green with envy. For something dismissed as a gimmick (yes, even by yours truly), the iMac has caught the imagination of the computer-buying public and has broken a number of sales records. Even I have a brand new iMac on my desk at home, which, no doubt, helped to boost the stock’s value just a teensie bit.

I do like to take credit.

So, you can’t blame PC manufacturers for trying to get a piece of the action. I mean, hey, this is a proven design as far as computers go. If people buy the iMac, they will surely buy a jazzed-up Wintel box, right?

But, what makes me the happiest is that Jobs & Company are digging in their heels. It appears that they are not going to let other companies take what is working and co-opt it for their own benefit. One too-close-for-comfort design, Future Power’s “E-Power” system, was close enough to the iMac’s design (in Apple’s opinion), to warrant a lawsuit that is now being pursued “aggressively,” according to Interim CEO Steve Jobs.

Not bad for a company that seemed to be run by The Three Stooges just a few short years ago. This is the fighting spirit which Apple needed for years, and under Steve Jobs, has seen. Remember, if Apple is big enough to be on Bill Gates’ radar screen, it is doing its job—motivating Microsoft to build better products—using its creativity, and not copying or absorbing the know how—to make the computer world a more exciting and powerful place to be.

So, as you can see, the temperature isn’t the only thing that is blazing this summer. Apple has lit a fire under the status quo, and now it’s time for other companies to get off their backsides and take notice.

All I can say is, bring on another scoop of Rocky Road, and make sure I have my ringside seat to the computer developments.

apple “Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac user” is copyright © 1999 Tom Iovino,

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