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ATPM 7.03
March 2001




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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings From a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

Growin’ Up

Let me come right out and tell you the year I was born—1968.

Some of you might be thinking “Holy crap! This guy is as old as the hills!” while others of you are thinking I should still be wearing diapers and spitting up on myself after I eat.

Why begin with this important—yet inconsequential—biographical fact? Well, when I was growing up, my parents would like to go out for the evening. Maybe they’d catch a movie and have dinner. Or they might even go miniature golfing together. Heck, they could have gone somewhere and watched paint dry, for all they cared. I know that raising one child is a challenge. Raising me and my two brothers must have qualified my parents for sainthood.

On these date nights my parents would enjoy, they had to arrange for the services of a baby-sitter. If they hadn’t, a) they could have probably been arrested for child neglect or b) the three of us would have tried scientific experiments on each other—say, to see just how many times you could flush the toilet while holding your brother’s head underwater.

Typically, my grandparents would have served duty as baby-sitters. But, on those occasions when my grandparents weren’t available, there were a few teenage girls on the street who would be available to do the honors.

Being typical teenagers in the mid-1970s, these kids were interested in the latest fashions and fads so they could fit in at school. What struck me was just how incredibly goofy they looked. Big elephant bell-bottom jeans. Tie-died t-shirts. Wacky looking shoes and glasses. Yeah, they looked the part of disco queens.

Fortunately, we have all moved out of those 70s fashions. A few years back, I even had the pleasure of meeting one of the folks who used to baby-sit for us, and she had progressed very nicely from those heady disco days into the 1990s.

But, can somebody please explain why Apple has released the latest color combinations on the iMac?

OK, everyone’s thinking that Tom’s breaking out the old iMac horse to whip again. You’re right. Ever since I questioned Apple’s judgement when they first released the iMac, to the time I was perplexed by their decision to offer the iMac in several configurations, I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of questions Apple’s decisions on their consumer desktop model.

Again, I have to wail in protest.

We come back to the question that has plagued the Macintosh since 1984—why does it look so much like a cute, little toy?

The new iMacs which were recently unveiled in Tokyo look like killer machines. Up to 600 MHz on a G3 chip, a read/write CD drive and a sweet suite of software make this round of upgrades very enticing. And the price point on these babies is awesome too, with an outstanding base model coming in at less that $1,000.

But, who chose these new colors?

Wasn’t part of the concept of the original iMac that you could look into the translucent shell and see the works? When the engineers over at Apple found a way to remove the shielding for the monitor and you could take a gander at the technology inside, that caught even more attention.

But Blue Dalmatian? Flower Power?

Like it or not, Apple’s coming to a crossroads. Since the heady days when Steve Jobs slashed the Macintosh and Apple product lines—eliminating such things as the Performa systems, Claris, and the Newton—lean and mean has been the rallying cry. Investors took note as a trimmed-down Apple focused on the four-pronged approach to meet the needs of its target market:

This laser-clear focus brought Apple back from the brink—when the Mac faithful were expected to pray—to being one of the top performers while other tech stocks lost their steam on the NASDAQ.

Since then, however, the leadership at Apple has been adding to the product line in less than desired ways. Now, I know that there are Cube fans out there, but I’m not sure exactly how the Cube is supposed to fit in with this marketing strategy. The sales on these new machines haven’t been encouraging, and it is leading to a product line that’s once again becoming unwieldy to market. In fact, Apple recently decided to bundle games with the Cube, a reversal from the original marketing strategy of selling this computer as a business machine. I hope the new tack works.

And, speaking about marketing strategy, how about those colors?

With the recent slow down in the economy, it’s only natural for consumers to slow their spending and make do without or with a whole lot less. And, should someone need a new computer, why risk turning them off to an excellent option, the iMac, by putting such a bold pattern on the case?

Fortunately, Apple has decided to hold onto the Indigo and Graphite covers as options, but what’s to come if sales of the Dalmatian and Flower cases don’t meet expectations? This has happened before, with the Tangerine and Lime iMacs in previous lines. Will Apple have the guts to limit the distribution of Indigo and Graphite iMacs to encourage shoppers to select the less-popular color schemes, as had happened with the Blueberry and Grape iMacs?

And, would you even want to be in that position in the beginning phases of a recession? Limiting sales of any product in economically difficult times could spell trouble for Apple. Remember, continued sales = profitability.

For me, well, I just hope that the folks in Cupertino take a serious look at their product line and make some careful decisions. Of course, maybe a bad marketing plan is only a fad like platform shoes they will grow out of.

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