Welcome to the January 2002 issue of About This Particular Macintosh! This issue marks the beginning our eighth calendar year of publication. When the first issue of ATPM was uploaded to the Apple eWorld server, Michael Spindler was CEO of Apple and Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
Our monthly Internet magazine has spanned two presidential administrations, three Apple CEOs, a few House Speakers and the first and only ATPM staff karaoke night. The karaoke night began and ended when ATPM staffer Mike Shields began his personal rendition of Ray Charles’ “Georgia.” It wasn’t that his song was so bad, but a local in a cowboy hat and tutu quickly upstaged him. We didn’t ponder whether or not the local was working through a personal identity crisis or just preferred costumes that clashed. We can say that his attire was far more interesting than his performance.
Part of the problem with Mike’s song was that we weren’t in Georgia. We were in Austin, Texas. This was back in the days before Apple Computer purchased the material assets of Power Computing and both Apple and Power Computing has significant operations in the Austin area. We thought it would be a cool place to stage our first annual and ultimately only ATPM staff karaoke night. We found out later that the local performer was a lead engineer for Dell.
What’s the Prob?
Well, right now there really isn’t one. A casual review of the ATPM staff e-mail exchanges over the past few months reveals an interesting contrast to the staff correspondence when ATPM began publication several years ago. Noticeably absent from our recent exchanges are conversations concerning Apple’s ability to remain in business and talk about the Mac’s moribund market share. Today’s e-mail exchanges often concern the latest advancements in Apple technology and the continuing transition to Mac OS X and Mac OS X software applications.
No. This is not about the folks at IBM. After all Big Blue smartly chose to exit the consumer PC business long ago. Big Blue is the co-designer of Apple’s processors and owns the PowerPC trademark. What bad things can we say now about Apple’s original nemesis and latter day partner?
What we can say is that 2001 was not a particularly good year for the PC business. But these days it’s not Mac users singing the blues. The HP-Compaq merger plan is on the rocks, and Gateway is struggling to survive in a very difficult market for Windows box makers.
That fateful night in Austin taught us an important lesson—PC patrons weren’t ready for the blues, at least not soon after the release of Windows 95. They’d prefer a cowboy in drag to a heartfelt rendition of an American classic. Apple was the archetype of the Silicon Valley IPO and its travails over the years have provided the makings for a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy turned triumph. Unfortunately, an appreciation for culture often takes a back seat in the minds of those looking for a fast buck, a quick laugh, or just a good time.
Culture in a Cup
The days of engineers in cowboy hats and tutus running roughshod over veteran Mac users like Mike are over. We really don’t mean to pick on the Dell engineers. But in our view locating a fashionable and innovative product in the Dell line would be akin to finding fine cheese in the Velveeta section of your supermarket. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for Velveeta or Dell, but both sets of products may be designed for people whose first thought of the world “culture” is that it comes at the bottom of a Dannon yogurt cup.
The King is Dead…
2002 may be the year that the computing world accepts the end of the desktop paradigm. In our view there are only two PC makers that have anticipated the changing needs of consumers—Apple and Sony. For all its might (and we do give credit where credit is due—Dell has probably the best customer service set-up among all major PC makers) the days of cheap PC boxes meeting the needs of an ever more mobile and more sophisticated computer user ended before the start of the new millennium.
The desktop PC box has been on borrowed time and the precipitous drop in PC sales evidences that consumers want more than a cheap PC with Windows XP. Windows XP might have been fine two or three years ago, but the market has changed and Microsoft’s products and business model are out-of-date. A victim of their own success, they now have to compete for new revenue in markets that companies like Sony and Nintendo control. Good luck maintaining sales and revenue growth in markets with more savvy competitors.
Long Live the King
The former problem with Apple is that it relied on its product name at a time when its products were no longer conspicuously better that its competitors. The company then tried to play “me too” too quickly. It was kind of like a venerable opera troupe overnight changing its specialty to modern dance.
Several years in the making, the release of Mac OS X heralded a new day for Apple and a reiteration of the strategy that originally brought the company success. The company’s products are well integrated and designed to meet the needs of its select clientele. Apple has learned the hard way that the best way to meet a suitable mate isn’t to date every available person in town, just those who share a common interest. Apple products are uniquely designed to meet the needs of their users.
Macworld Expo is just a few days away. Apple’s PR department has outdone itself this year. The buildup to this expo is dripping with so much honey-laced hype; the game wardens in Northern California will be working overtime to keep bears away from the convention center.
Honey, I Shrunk the PC
Expect new product announcements (of course) but be ready for details about the next phase of Apple’s integrated product strategy. Unlike the other major PC makers, Apple’s products no longer have the look of a wardrobe set from a Village People performance.
The desktop paradigm has come and gone. Sure Apple will continue to make iMacs for the education market and consumers who would prefer a family-style PC. But the minitower is geared toward pros and home enthusiasts who expect the best of themselves and the equipment they choose to use.
The iBook and TiBook will continue to outshine the products offered by Apple’s competitors in terms of both ease-of-use and total functionality. Mac users now have a luxury box seat from which to watch Apple’s Wintel competitors continue their long and drawn out song and dance. The music has slightly changed but the wardrobes haven’t gotten any better. Alas, there will not be a second ATPM Staff karaoke night. Apple and Mac users are no longer apologetically singing anyone else’s tunes (iPod users notwithstanding).
Same Time Next Month
In next month’s issue of ATPM we will review Apple’s results for the first fiscal quarter and provide an in-depth review of the major announcements from Macworld Expo. Until then, please enjoy the quality commentaries and columns inside this month’s issue. Eight calendar years and counting…
This issue of ATPM includes:
Beyond the Barline: My Resolution
For the first time in several years, David Ozab is making a New Year’s resolution, and putting it in print just to keep himself honest. Will he keep it? History says “no,” but anything’s possible.
Hollywood: Comic Con and DV Expo
Mike Shields reports on the Mac presence at the San Diego Comic Con and DV Expo, bringing up conspiracy theories, Final Cut Pro 3, and trade show goodies.
About This Particular Web Site
Paul Fatula reports on fun sites like Pork4Kids and The Flying Cow, as well as useful ones such as a great software site and one that tells how to get spammers to pay up. Last, but not least, you can see how clever your fellow Netizens are by checking out the Gallery of CSS Descramblers.
Interview with Frank Vercruesse
Daniel Chvatik interviews Frank Vercruesse, author of the popular Mac OS X utility ASM (Application Switcher Menu), which brings some beloved OS 9 behaviors to OS X.
Report: MacExpo in London
Chris Ward brings us news from London’s MacExpo trade show, covering big guns like Adobe and Macromedia as well as smaller developers such as Perforce and P&L.
Networking: Sharing an Apple Printer on a Mac Network
Matthew Glidden explains the networking options for Apple printers, from Ethernet and LocalTalk to non-networkable printers that can nonetheless be shared using appropriate software on a host Mac.
How To: Working with Downloaded Files without Special Utilities
Have you ever downloaded a file and discovered that you cannot open it? Gregory Tetrault writes a ‘how-to’ column for dealing with difficult files. He also challenges ATPM readers to a contest: find a downloadable file that stumps him!
Desktop Pictures from Hawai’i and Montréal
Chris Turner brings back some desktop pictures from his trip to Hawai’i, focussing on Pearl Harbor and the Place of Refuge (on the southern Kona coast of the big island). Daniel Chvatik’s pictures of snowy Montréal are less exotic but no less beautiful on your desktop.
Shareware Roundup: Financial Help
Brook Smith reviews three OS X shareware programs for managing your personal finances: Moneydance, Hold-Up, and Where Did All My Money Go?.
Review: LaunchBar 3.1.2
Michael Tsai reviews LaunchBar, an innovative Mac OS X system enhancement that makes applications, folders, and URLs quickly accessible from the keyboard without requiring a lengthy configuration process.
Review: Portraits & Prints Template Maker
Eric Blair reviews Portraits & Prints Template Maker, a companion application to the recently reviewed Portraits and Prints.