You have to believe that Apple thinks it has a mighty fine bunch of computers in its Macintosh line. It probably sinks enough money into print and TV advertising to restore the economy of any emerging third world country. It employs a large number of people who presumably do much more than sit around thinking up new system numbers. Why, then, do I walk out of Apple press announcements convinced that the people doing the presentations don’t have a clue about what the Mac can do?
When you go to Apple for a press briefing, every Apple person involved walks in with a file folder full of transparencies. You are handed photocopies of what appear to be MORE bullet charts. Then someone takes the original transparencies and projects them on a screen and reads them to the attendees. The level of excitement generated is somewhere between watching grass grow and a coma. Even if you want to get excited, you find yourself more involved in just staying awake.
Case in point: The most recent Apple hardware announcement (as of this writing) was for the Mac IPad 5. It took place in San Francisco in a very nice auditorium in the opera complex. Randy Battat proudly announced at the beginning that the charts and slides we would be seeing were done in Cricket Presents. You know Cricket Presents; it is notable for–among other things–color. About the only thing you’d learn about it from the Apple presentations is that Cricket Presents does an outstanding job at importing MORE black-and-white bullet charts — which MORE II can do, and it can add color as well, for that matter. Well, let me be perfectly fair. There were two or three tree charts of the Mac product line that were in at least two colors: washed-out red and (if memory serves me) undistinguished green.
Now I could go into a politically correct tirade about how this is what Apple has come to by ignoring (and then actively repudiating) all those T-shirted hacker types whose creativity kept the Mac alive while Apple and third-party companies fumbled around trying to get software for it. I do have to say that the software product that I didn’t see seem to be very rough in nature and probably would be subject to causing hard drive problems in the future. Fortunately, I do know a pretty good data recovery service that can help.But there’s a perfectly good “suit” argument in favor of Apple executives and public relations people making full use of their own platform. It’s good business. Everyone, both press and users (corporate or otherwise), is interested in a company that’s excited about its product. Apple representatives should be up there putting the Mac through its paces — breaking the sound barrier instead of doing a few boring loops. The one thing about the Mac that everyone knows of, even if they’re unregenerate PC users, is its graphics ability. Amazing graphics. Mind-boggling graphics. Animated graphics. And with the Mac II, color graphics. Let’s see some of that from Apple, who should be able to do it best. To a lot of people, MIS directors among them, a computer is just a computer. If your computer does something that distinguishes it from the rest, you ought to be making sure everyone knows it.
If the people who should know the Mac best don’t seem to be impressed, why should anyone else?
COMDEX IN BRIEF
Speaking of businesses and presentations, I saved myself a little time at the Las Vegas Comdex by avoiding booths manned by scantily dressed models–of either sex–busting out of the tops of their costumes. In this respect, Comdex looks more like the Consumer Electronics Show every near. Maybe in Las Vegas these companies think they have to compete with showgirls and clubs. (No company is crazy enough to think it can compete with the casinos.)
Comdex new included a rash of optical storage media, a welcome side effect of the NeXT announcement. But the thing I heard people discussing most often was the “ghettoizing” of Macintosh products at the next Comdex. At the spring Chicago Comdex, there will also be a MacDEX. This idea might have seemed like a good one about two years ago. Finding the Mac-only vendors was an arduous task when they were few and far between. Many Mac vendors stayed away from the show because of the Mac’s low visibility.
The problem now is that there are a number of vendors, including key players such as TOPS, Borland, Microsoft, and Ashton-Tate, that produce both Macintosh and PC products. Where do they exhibit? Two booths is not an elegant investment even for companies that can afford it.
And what about a company like Cornerstone, which produces one-and two-page display monitors? About 40 percent of its business is Macintosh: not enough to warrant the cost of two booths, but too much to ignore entirely.
This is an idea whose time has come–and gone. Macs are beginning to have a real corporate presence. More than that, the Macintosh can reach out and touch almost every other kind of computer, from PCs to mainframes. Mac-only and PC-only vendors still exist, but they are rapidly becomming the minority. MacUser editors went by few non-Macintosh booths in which someone didn’t start talking about plans for a Mac product or connecting to a Mac–including Hewlett-Packard. Mac-only companies and products are not by any means the whole market anymore. People have learned that different computers sometimes have different virtues, and the one-brand office is becoming obsolete.
The MAcDEX decision could make more money for Comdex organizers, but otherwise the idea has little to recommend it. It looks like a clear case of failure to reality-check.