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Steve Jobs And The Oh-So-Cool iMac 1170

Posted by JonKatz
from the what's-cool--what-works-what-doesn't dept.
From the first, this has been a cornerstone idea at Apple Computers: make stuff that is cool and hip enough and it will eventually succeed. Until recently, this foolish idea permeated the hacker culture as well -- if it's neat, it's good. Initially, Apple was a welcome antidote to the elitism and cluelessness of the tech elites who designed early computers. Although that seems a long time ago, the early idea behind Apple was revolutionary -- make computing accessible to everyone, not just coders and programmers. But the recent history of software development, networked computing and the Net suggests that now just the opposite is true: being cool is nice, but it's not nearly enough. Steve Case and Bill Gates have known this for awhile. Nobody would ever label them cool, just stunningly successful.

The truly successful technologies and technology companies are utilitarian and dull -- decidedly non-hip. You will never seen a Microsoft or AOL exec talking about how cool the their companies or products are, only how useful and easy to use. They don't really care how much heavy breathing they generate in the media or among excitable teenagers and college students. Those two companies have, in fact, dominated their environments by pointedly focusing on the non-technologically adventurous middle-class and busy business executives and workers and by presenting themselves not as cool but as reliable and accessible. And for this sin they get jeered at -- all the way to the bank. Their motives may be money, greed and power, but they understand what really drives technology in America and much of the world. Steve Jobs does not.

The tech media have served as enablers and co-dependents in Steve Jobs' sometimes-brilliant marketing impulses. Last week, the volatile Jobs projected himself onto the cover of Time magazine by unveiling the oh-so-cool new iMac, a computer as entertainment/culture center, a "hub for music, pictures and movies." It's elegant and affordable, says Time, and takes up little desk space, "but will millions of PC users get it?"

Probably not.

Gates understands something Jobs and media don't. When it comes to technology, it's middle-class consumers and their tastes, needs and expectations that determine success or failure. This is a hard lesson for many hackers and programmers too, who remain bewildered that superior systems like Linux aren't on every desktop. But the middle class, for years abused and exploited by the arrogant tech industry (just think of what poor Comcast subscribers have been going through for weeks now), wants easy of use, safety, utility. Just consider at the telephone, the automobile, or for that matter, Wal-Mart. Apple has demonstrated for years, and so, to some degree, has Linux. Harry and Martha in Dubuque decide which products will enter the mainstream and last, not college kids editing movies or downloading music and DVDs, or using firewire ports to fiddle with video clips.

Apple, perenially aspiring to coolness, has always been the favorite computer of the non-hacker hip and the creative. And of many people (like me) whose entry onto the Net and Web has been made easier for the first programming language that really made sense to non-techies. Jobs' colorful, well-designed, fun and entertainment-centered iMacs and Powerbooks have been getting fabulous press for years. His idea to fuse the desktop with pop culture is, in fact, a powerful one. But it's too soon. The middle-class isn't ready for that. Most Americans don't need the 1,000 songs the iPod can store, and would rather go to the megaplex than edit movies on their computers.

So Apple accounts for only 4.5 per cent of new personal computer sales, according to Gartner Dataquest.

That's probably because Jobs hasn't addressed the central problem facing computer makers: the public doesn't trust them. Burned by years of outrageously poor tech support, increasingly expensive software, and hardware that's almost instantly outdated, middle-class consumers aren't the least bit interested in the coolest new new thing. They want computing that works like TV does -- that's easy to use, takes little space, costs relatively little money and works every time you turn it on, year after year. The public is increasingly wise to tech scams like hardware that's obsolete every 18 months and software that doesn't even last that long. Computers -- even the jazzy new iMac -- are a long way from reliability, and are profoundly mistrusted. In fact, it was only a couple of years ago that the candy-colored iMacs were the next cool thing. Now they're about as hip as Windows 98.

If you're a teenager, Web designer, film editor or visual arts major, or even a loving Grandma, it's great that the iMac allows you to create your own DVDs, organize and edit digital pictures, play CDs or convert MP3's, turn home videotapes into high-quality edited films. What's less clear is whether or not the public -- especially that critical middle-class chunk of it -- wants to do those things on a computer, or is confident about its ability to use machinery that's still more complicated and problematic than its makers seem able to admit.

For nearly a generation now, from Jobs to the makers of instant replay TV machines, some of the best minds in the tech world -- usually the younger ones -- have been crippled and misled by the confusion between what's cool and what's going to be successful, between what's neat and what's necessary. The survivors of the Net's first generation -- brilliant plodders like Gates and Steve Case -- understand quite well that they aren't the same thing, and have, as a result, increasingly come to dominate the Net.

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Steve Jobs And The Oh-So-Cool iMac

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  • Total gibberish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:05PM (#2842687)
    So I'm to understand from this article that if Apple didn't focus on design, they'd have more than 4.5% market share?

    I don't think its a stretch to for Jobs to concede that MS won the operating system war - thats why he is trying to fight the total user experience war - something MS can't do unless it wants to start making boxes.

    I think Jobs is an egomaniac, but he's also driven by some very appealing ideas about consumer computing, and I'd take his strategy over Katz's punditry any day of the week.

    • Re:Total gibberish (Score:2, Informative)

      by mick88 (198800)
      I think the point was that Apple is not targeting any one audience in particular - or if there is an audience it is a narrow one.

      Think about it: why don't you use a Mac? You like the design, right? Then what is it that stops you from using it? It's the same thing that is only giving Apple a 4.5% market share.

      • Re:Total gibberish (Score:3, Insightful)

        by felicity (870)
        Think about it: why don't you use a Mac? You like the design, right? Then what is it that stops you from using it? It's the same thing that is only giving Apple a 4.5% market share.

        My wife is stopping people from buying Apple computers?!?

        Seriously, that's all that's stopping me from buying one of these things right now (I'm looking to get an iBook at the moment...) It runs the apps I tend to run (SSH, Quicken, Turbotax, Diablo 2, Age of Empires 2), is a nice notebook, gets me away from the hated Windows, and with OSX I can feel at home in a UNIX-y environment. The pretty hip look/feel of the box and OS are a plus too.

        It's semi-related to price, but more of a question of "Will it really be useful to get one?" As computers go these days, the price is fairly competitive.

        Part of the reason more people don't buy Apple right now is that, unfortunately, it's a Windows-domainated world. They're used to Windows, they know Windows will do what they want (even though pretty much *everyone* I know who uses it complains about how the OS isn't stable, they have various problems, etc,) and non-Windows may not be an option. For instance, at a company I once was at (I'm an IT monkey BTW,) we supported all the UNIX boxes and the Windows desktops, but the Macs were left up to the people who wanted to use them. The majority of people didn't want to deal with the hassle of self-support and went with Windows. Others formed their own psuedo-IT group for just the Mac folks.

    • Re:Total gibberish (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mark Hood (1630) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:19PM (#2842827) Homepage
      By Katz's argument McDonald's is better than the 5* Michelin-Approved restaurant down the road...

      When was the last time someone said 'wow, I had a great burger yesterday?' - Mickey D's might make more money, be in more cities, may even be the staple food of millions, but no-one can ever say that THAT is the sole benchmark of success.

      Jobs has a very different view of success, as was pointed out in a very insightful article by Bob Cringely. [pbs.org] Mac & Linux users (deluded though we may be) choose not to use PCs or Windows because we prefer something which is different.

      And let's not forget, you use a computer to do a job, you eat food to do a job (keep you alive). Linux or Apple may be a niche market, and might stay that way - but don't accuse Steve Jobs of FAILING, or of NOT UNDERSTANDING what he does, anymore than you criticise your favourite restaurant for not being a huge multi-national burger bar.

      • Re:Total gibberish (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FatRatBastard (7583) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:36PM (#2843007) Homepage
        Yes and no.

        What Katz is saying is that McDonalds is more successful (with success defined, I assume, as profits) than a 5* Michelin-approved restaurant. From a purely profit standpoint McDonalds is the champion. BUT, as you so rightly point out, there's more to something than necc. who makes the *most* money.

        I assume that most 5* eateries do well enough to keep their staff employed, their investers happy and those that appreciate fine dining happy.

        The same goes for Ford vs. Lamborguini (a spelling hatched job), or any other mass market vs. high end product.

        I personally have some tastes that are more center of the road (therefore own stuff that lots of other folks own) and some that are more unique. I think that everyone does. So Apple markets a machine that appeals to me. I ask Mr. Katz, what's wrong with that?
        • Re:Total gibberish (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Paradoxish (545066)
          Unfortunetly, it's not quite appropriate to use the McDonalds vs. 5* restaurant analogy here. From a purely objective standpoint (and yes, I know, I've posted some pretty mean things about Macs in the past... but I'm being nice now) the average Apple computer fills one niche and does a good job at it while the PC market is more open-ended and generally does most things pretty well.

          Macs appeal to certain people. A lot of creative professionals use them (I do a lot of design work, I hate 'em.. go figure - although I will say this: damn you Mac users and your Monaco!), although I wouldn't say that Macs are really superior to PCs in this respect (Photoshop is a Mac and PC program, as are most other graphical design suites... and don't forget about the gimp!). Macs are superior in terms of interface, and that appeals to some people and alone makes a Mac a worthwhile purchase.

          It really just comes down to different tastes. I don't agree with Katz completely, though. Apple is a financially viable company. They're not as successful in terms of profits as most major PC makers, I'd imagine, but that doesn't really mean much. Very few companies achieve those levels of success. And, of course, Microsoft has them beat - but Microsoft doesn't sell computers.

          As for the "kewlness" (seems more appropriate when talking about Mac..) factor. Eh.. I guess it's there. I've always found iMacs to be on the overdone, loud, and gaudy side, though - the new one being no different. But that's beside the point: there is a market for these things, so Jobs is being an intelligent business man by selling them. He's filling a niche. Apple will never be as successful as Microsoft, Macs will never be as prominent as PCs, but who cares? It's about time that people realize that comparing Macs to PCs is like comparing apples to oranges and will be until I can install Linux and WinXP on my iMac and OS X on my new Athlon 1800.
      • Re:Total gibberish (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sentry21 (8183)
        This is very close to what I was thinking even before the rest of the article actually loaded.

        Steve Case and Bill Gates are laughing all the way to the bank because they've managed to sell millions of people inferior products. The knowledgable hate them, sure, but the mainstream? It's so easy to use, no wonder it's number one.

        Steve Jobs is different. He doesn't want to damn the world and get rich quick. He wants to change the world, and for the better. That's been his goal ever since he started stealing executives away from sugar-water companies, since before that, marketing a product that no one knew anything about to the masses.

        Steve Jobs is not doing what Bill Gates et. al. are doing because they only care about the money, and they're too blinded by greed and arrogance to see that their product is inferior and unreliable (I honestly do believe that Gates thinks he is doing the world a great favour with Windows; I don't think he sees things from our point of view).

        So yes, Jobs and Gates may both be lunatics who refuse to see reality, but the reality Gates refuses to see is substandard, overpticed software. The reality that Jobs fails to see is that you can't get rich by making quality products and competing fairly on style and reliability.

        Remember what happened the last time a Steve (in this case Woz) refused to see reality? He built a personal computer in a garage and enabled Jobs to start the entire personal computer revolution that we can't live without today.

        I don't know about you, but my money's on Apple.

        --Dan
    • Re:Total gibberish (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Em Emalb (452530)
      "I don't think its a stretch to for Jobs to concede that MS won the operating system war - thats why he is trying to fight the total user experience war - something MS can't do unless it wants to start making boxes."

      WARNING--I am not trolling :)

      The problem I see is that the majority of the people he seems to be going for are really a niche market. Honestly, unless you are an artist or technophile, most of the products MS has out there will do what you need, and they are super easy to get. Ease of use for new computer users--sure, except that 90% of the people out there recommend Win9x or 2000 for them, since it is truly easy to use (think of it this way, is that grandma in Des Moines likely to slap a dvd in and make a movie, or is she more likely to have a crap machine SHE CAN AFFORD win 95 on it and dial up access for the ONLY thing she uses it for--email)? It is sad to see that most are ignorant of the choices they have. When your avergage user thinks of a computer, they think MS...
      but, what do I know, I am just a stupid user :)
      • Re:Total gibberish (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:31PM (#2842957)
        The problem I see is that the majority of the people he seems to be going for are really a niche market.

        The real problem is that you won't concede that computing is developing niche markets. Something I would have though linux users would have been able to appreciate implicitly.

        The logic is quite simple - Jobs understood that Apple was going to get creamed competing head-to-head with MS. There is no doubt of that. So he moved Apple into a new market - stylish, highly integrated hardware and software that aim to extend the computing experience outside of the OS.

        As a result, Apple is making out just fine. Financially they are sound. They have great products and are creating an appealing product vision with their retail outlets (which admittedly are a loss leader).

        They've found a way to survive against MS. Whats the problem??

    • Re:Total gibberish (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rhekman (231312) <hekman&acm,org> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:43PM (#2843072) Homepage
      I don't think its a stretch to for Jobs to concede that MS won the operating system war...

      Really? It terms of market share yes, but technologically no. OS X is a big step forward, and a whole other component of the iMac's utility and cool. Plus Apple is still shipping millions of PC's a year -- with similar revenues as Gateway, but a far better balance sheet.

      I think Katz's gibberish about the "middle-class" is wrong is not because the tech industry has overlooked them, or is trying to be 31337 kewl. Katz is wrong to think that misguided tech notions of cool are what cause Harry and Martha Homeowner to be overlooked. The reason the middle class is a hard sell is because personal computers are still a nascent technology. The technology hasn't evolved to the point where it is totally acceptable or suited to everyone. Our culture hasn't evolved to place the proper niche for computers in the home. After twenty-five years of the PC, we still have a way to go. When the automobile was twenty-five, black utilitarian Model T's ruled the rutted dirt roadways. A quarter century since PC's first appeared, beige utilitarian Windows boxes clog our mostly narrow-band information superhighway.

      Mister Katz, I think you over estimate the tech sector's ability to provide palatable innovation for new technologies. That's an easy way out to explain so much failure when Microsoft is dominant in fulfilling network effected utilitarian need. I also think you under estimate Harry and Martha from Dubuque. They will make changes in their daily lives as they find ways that computing is personally useful to them. They will find new ways of exploiting the computer for themselves. It just takes time, and we've only just gotten started. Superior form factors, better devices, better interfaces, and better platforms will eventually restore diversity to the tech sector, just as it has for automobiles. Along the way, our culture and economy will change along with it.

      Regards,
      Reid

    • Re:Total gibberish (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Glock27 (446276)
      I got to this party a bit late, but I was glad to see that the first post pretty much summarized what I had to say! ;-)

      I don't think its a stretch to for Jobs to concede that MS won the operating system war - thats why he is trying to fight the total user experience war - something MS can't do unless it wants to start making boxes.

      Yes, and to amplify on this a little more, one should ask why the various major features were added to MacOS X versus Windows XP. In the case of MacOS, virtually every feature was added to enhance the user experience. Apple is pretty good at paying attention to detail and making life easier for the users. Microsoft, on the other hand, added most of the big new features to XP in order to lock it's users into Windows, to increase revenues, and to kill competitors. The Windows UI is still a hodgepodge, and Windows applications follow loose guidelines if any with regard to user interface.

      The Mac has some major advantages (Unix!), and my guess is that Apple will gain significant marketshare this year. The thing that Katz most seemed to miss is that Apple is good at making complex tasks simpler. That is the exact thing required in order for the Mac to begin displacing Windows in the home of the proverbial Joe Sixpack.

      299,792,458 m/s...not just a good idea, its the law!

    • > he is trying to fight the total user experience war - something MS can't
      > do unless it wants to start making boxes.

      This is the problem for Apple--once MS starts making "the whole widget" and doing it right, there's no longer any reason to buy an Apple unless you're a crusty graphics designer who uses one out of loyalty to his experiences with Apple. Everyone else, including computer-stupid Grandma, will just buy the MS widget. After all, it'll be just as easy and integrated as an iMac, have guaranteed interoperability, and come with a seemingly great deal on integrated MSN internet access and network support. The iMac will only win, on paper, in the looks department, and only narrowly.

      See, Microsoft has been planning this for years, albeit with some retarded stops and starts. Why else would they buy WebTV? They thought they could turn it into the Digital Hub which Apple is just recently beginning to talk about. Gates may not be a nice guy, but he's a brilliant businessman. He was hip to this digital hb business when he bought WebTV, it's just that he soon realized that was entirely the wrong platform. This is pretty obvious from the fact that WebTV support was coded into Windows 98, but nothing was ever rally done with it.

      So, instead of building up WebTV into a PC, Gates has started with the PC and is stripping it down to its essentials. Xbox is a trial run for this. Microsoft has essentially just mass-produced its own PC, only the software is stripped down to just play games. Yet it's clear from .Net and Hailstorm and MSN that MS is thinking in the larger sense of thinner clients and fatter servers--in essence, the perfect paradigm if you want to manufacture a PC with a very, very long shelf-life, since the server will do most of the actual computing and storage for the client.

      Xbox is a trial run and proof of concept that MS can be a hardware company. Their next hardware release will be a beefed-up Xbox with a keyboard and mouse and an optional LCD, unless they get inspired by the new iMac and integrate the LCD into the package. It'll play Xbox games on insertion, but the default desktop will have pretty and simple with an MSN Internet icon, a My Documents folder, and icons for word processing and whatever functions neatly provided by the MSN/.Net subscription. All popular Windows-compatible pieces of hardware, like MP3 players and camcorders and such, will have integrated support through simplified software inspired by Apple's designs.

      This is clearly the next step for Microsoft, which has been afraid of its software losing marketshare and has wanted to enter the real hardware business for years, at least ever since the abortive WebTV purchase. Microsoft is in a unique position to integrate its software and its .Net and Hailstorm into a simple box that will ensure Microsoft's dominance for a few more decades. It's a lot harder to replace an infrastructure of all-in-one, whole widgets, than it is to replace an OS. Microsoft is afraid that other OSes, like Linux, might advance to the point where x86 vendors start using them instead of Win32. That is no longer an isue if Microsoft becomes a dominant hardware vendor.

      The hints have been there for a long time. Xbox is a trial run. The real hardware, Microsoft's x86 PC with proprietary bits, will be here as soon as Microsoft is happy with its .Net infrastructure.
  • "ONLY 4.5%" (Score:5, Informative)

    by mattsouthworth (24953) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:06PM (#2842702) Journal
    I mean, really ... 'only 4.5%' is a lot of fucking computers. 'Only 4.5%' of the automobile (or whatever) industry can make a very successful company. Most developers would be successful beyond their wildest dreams if their software were on 4.5 of computers.
    • Re:"ONLY 4.5%" (Score:5, Interesting)

      by poiu (106484) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:22PM (#2842857)
      Yup ... that's higher than BMW's and Mercedes-Benz's market share Combined! And, I could be wrong, but I don't think than anyone is calling either of those cars endangered or that their existence is threatened.

      Here is Apple's retail manifesto:

      Apple currently has around 5 percent market share in personal computers. This means that out of one hundred computer users, five of them use Macs. While that may not sound like a lot, it is actually higher than both BMW's and Mercedes-Benz's share of the automotive market. And it equals 25 million customers around the world using Macs.

      But that's not enough for us. We want to convince those other 95 people that Macintosh offers a much simpler, richer, and more human-central computing experience. And we believe that the best way to do this is to open Apple stores right in their neighborhoods. Stores that let people experience firsthand what it's like to make a movie right on a Mac. Or burn a CD with their favorite music. Or take pictures with a digital camera and publish them on their personal website. Or select from over 300 software titles, including some of the best educational titles for kids. Or talk to a Macintosh 'genius' at our Genius Bar. Or watch a demonstration of Mac OS X, our revolutionary operating system, on our theater's giant 10-foot diagonal screen.

      Because if only 5 of those remaining 95 people switch to Macs, we'll double our market share and, more importantly, earn the chance to delight another 25 million customers. Here we go ...

      Shop different.
    • Re:"ONLY 4.5%" (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mark Hood (1630)
      and a LOT of that 4.5 % were people buying a first computer! People who would not have bought a huge grey/beige box & hundreds of cables... The iMac made a niche in the marketplace - tell me that's not hard to do, and I'll ask you for some VC to make my own!
    • Computers != Cars (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wintahmoot (17043)
      I see you've been listening to Steve Jobs a lot lately. Don't get me wrong, I am an OSX user, but the computer industry - automobile industry comparison is somewhat besides the point.

      Contrary to cars, computers become more and more useful if they are compatible. Most people i know like the Mac, but would never buy one because everybody else has Windows and they wouldn't be able to share documents and software with these people (they think).

      Cars are independent, they get you from A to B, and that's it.

      At least that's the way I see it.
    • Re:"ONLY 4.5%" (Score:3, Insightful)

      by remande (31154)
      I think this is one of the reasons that the e-commerce boom went bust.


      As has been pointed out before, there is market share and there is profit. And in the software and online biz, the mantra of "Market share is king" has been repeated so often that many in the biz (including myself) were believing it.


      Of course, in the world of business, "Profit is king". Some companies thought that they had escaped the laws of business. They were wrong.


      E-commerce went bust because everybody was scrambling after market share, trying to monopolize their own small market. Amazon showed us this strategy, and everybody follows it. The problem is that there can only be one market share winner, and that winner has no guarantee of making a profit (does Amazon show profits yet?


      Apple reminds us that one can survive, and thrive, in a niche market so long as one makes sure to see profits. Most markets have a combination of big "whale" companies (McDonald's, Honda, Daimler-Chrysler, Boeing) and little niche companies (many local one-off restaurants, Rolls-Royce, Cessna). And in a big enough market, both big and little companies can turn profits.

      nd what do we have?

      • Waah, Xbox is more powerful, Anandtech said so. PS2 ahs the best games, this website said so. Nintendo is the best, Nintendo Power said so. Indigo is a kiddie/gay color, waah.

        The whole thing is retarded.

        Follow the money, all makes sense.

        Sony dominated the video game market by selling the playstation cheaply, and offering rediculously good deals to third parties to let them create games. The third parties CRANKED out the games. Some were good, some sucked. Some people made a lot of money, Sony did alright.

        Nintendo watched their marketshare plummet (from 90% in the NES days, to 60% in the SNES days, to around 30% in the N64 days)... Nintendo made more money from the N64 than Sony did from the Playstation.

        Apple sits at 4.5% of the hardware market. They made much better margins than the PC makers that sell the other 95.5% of the market.

        Look, the consumer market? Very little money in it. The companies pushing computers to the middle class see next to nothing. Compaq/Dell/HP make all their money on business sales. Dell did well by not having such a huge split in the consumer/business department.

        Interestingly, last time I saw the figures, 12-18 months ago, the big manufactures of PCs, Compaq/Dell/HP/Gateway combined for something like 50%-60% of the market. The "grey box" market (local stores, etc.) was most of the rest (Apple had the 4%-5%).

        Apple's share isn't THAT small of a manufacturer, and they make more than the rest.

        Yes, Microsoft blows away Apple in marketshare. Compaq does not.

        Apple is in a good location.
  • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:08PM (#2842715) Homepage
    You can't deny that there is a place for form in the market as well. I'll grant you that function is tops, but you can't just throw out form as many would have you believe. Form (aesthetics) is equally as valuable as function and the state of mind of the person using the product has actual effect on the end result.

    Make the user happy and make the machine functional and you'll never go wrong.
    • Form AND Function (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SteveM (11242) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @02:14PM (#2843363)

      Apple understands that form and function are not independent variables. For Apple form is a basis for function.

      Consider the new iMac. Here is a quote from yesterday's Ive interview reported on /., "The new shape emerged shortly afterwards: a dome is the only shape that lets the screen swivel without having "preferred" positions, maximises stability and offers lots of horizontal space. After that, it was the fine detail - of which there is a huge amount. "

      Thus we learn that the dome isn't there simply for asthetics, it is there for functional reasons.

      And that is how Apple views design. Not as a veneer to be layered on a finished device but as an integral part of said device.

      Steve M

  • Ease of Use (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goldid (310307) <matthew@goldmani ... m ['net' in gap]> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:08PM (#2842716) Homepage
    Given that the Macintosh and is OS have been the most easy to use and reliable system in the PC world I think that JonKatz is a little off in claiming that Apple doesn't understand this. Jobs is trying to make some devices that technophiles who read sites like this one and people who can't understand the difference between the WWW and the Internet can both enjoy.

    Cool PC's and laptop draw additional users. But, it's not all about that at Apple. They're trying to put together the easiest to use and most powerful system that they can (at the same time). That's the hard part. The growth of Mac seems inevitable as it becomes as BSD box with the coolest hardware and the most capabilities.

    It is not understanding PC users that brings Gates to the top. It is the fact that he uses monopolistic powers and bully tactics to force people and competitors to use his sytems. Maybe Steve Jobs just isn't that mean.

    P.S. I'm not a Mac user... but, I may be one soon.
    • This is just one example, but my aunt and uncle, in their late 50's, early 60's, bought one of the original iMac's. They couldn't be any more middle class, run-of-the-mill-type-users if they tried. With this original iMac, they got on the Internet all by theirselves, can scan images easily, do word processing, etc. I don't think Katz's claims hold water in their case.

      BTW -- I'm a power user. I just sold my P4-1400MHz/512MB RAM/40GB Wintel system to a friend at work. My new flat-screen 800MHz/256MB RAM/Superdrive equipped iMac is on order and arriving next week. I can't wait to try serving my website with Apache on Mac OS X. I've been using Linux & BSD for > 4 years. Windows for as long as I can remember. I think there are a lot of users out there like me, wondering whether to take the plunge into the Mac world... I for one am excited about computing again. Can't to get my new iMac! :)
  • by sajiimori (535333) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:08PM (#2842720)
    The original iMac sold many millions of units. It was the direct hit that Apple had been waiting for, and Jobs delivered. It's style has influenced countless PC designs. And, perhaps most significantly, it's success was all despite the overwhelming popularity of incompatible PC hardware and software.

    It would be unrealistic for Apple to aim for domination in the desktop market. But they've found a hell of a niche that nobody else seems able to fill with such grace.
    • Hell Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nanojath (265940)
      Of course we're all used to drooling gibberish from Mr. Katz, but this really takes the cake. Who woulda thunk this would be the day I sign on to Slashdot to be told that AOL and Microsoft are succeeding because they're "useful and easy to use?" The shit I saw my brother go through with AOL on his brand new Dell last night I've NEVER gotten close to, stupidity and frustration-wise, even though I'm improbably running Netscape 3 on a Mac LCIII!


      There is plenty of astute commentary, which Katz has apparently not bothered to read nor absorb, on how MS won the desktop battle. It was over and above all a business victory, not a technical one. The only thing easy about AOL and Windows is that they're easy to buy. The so-called "ease of use" falls into two categories: familiarity due to dominance of the market share, and being forced into limited options of what you can actually do by poorly designed software.


      I'm not a Mac fanatic. I've used both systems extensively and all computers basically suck to work with, because they're like Model T's: very early phases of a burgeoning technology. I was convinced enough to put in an early order for a new iMac because it was a truly different entity from the usual desktop monolith, because it was a powerful computer for an acceptable price, and because it meant I could stay away from Windows XP. Having seen plenty of OSX and XP there is no question whatsoever what is the OS I'd rather own.
      It is the first new computer I've purchased, although I've owned or borrowed several and been working with computers near-daily for the last 16 years. Not a bad accomplishment for Mr. Jobs.


      All this being said, I'm sick to the teeth of hearing about Steve Jobs' "attitude," about hipness, squareness, personality, and market shares. I don't care if Steve Jobs is an egomaniac or obsessed with being the hippest. I don't care if he's a maverick just to satisfy some mental hang-up. Would someone just review the damn computer?!

  • by anonymous_wombat (532191) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:09PM (#2842724)
    So, the reason that Windows won out is because it is reliable and easy to use. Thanks for the enlightenment.
  • Ease of use (Score:3, Insightful)

    by at_18 (224304) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:11PM (#2842739) Journal
    Katz mentions several times "ease of use and reliability" as a selling point for Bill Gates, as opposet to the "just cool" model for Macs.

    I wonder, how can anyone think that windows is "easy to use" compared to MacOS? Or "more reliable"???? At least for the 3.11/95/98 series, which is what we are talking about.
    The only thing I can see is the power of a good marketing deparment...
    • Re:Ease of use (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sean23007 (143364)
      I wonder, how can anyone think that windows is "easy to use" compared to MacOS? Or "more reliable"???? At least for the 3.11/95/98 series, which is what we are talking about.

      Um, why must we only be talking about Windows up to Windows 98? Everybody thinks that's a piece of crap. If you want to exclude Windows 2000 (in fear), then you say "We are only considering the home computer, because surely those are the only idiots who would use Winbloze!" Well, if you want home systems, what about XP Home? That's a home OS that is at least as stable as Win2k (and anything else on the market), and as easy to use as OS X (maybe).

      If you want to complain about marketing departments, bear in mind that Apple also has an excellent marketing department that, despite lacking the vast piles of sheer cash that Microsoft has, instead uses shiny things to attract the attention of the consumer.

      Open Source will not be successful among the average user until the coders behind it realize that the average user is incredibly stupid, and that they don't want to spend a lot of time learning your "superior" system, and they are willing to pay an extra few hundred bucks for a system that comes to them easy (they don't have to build it and they don't have to install an OS), and most of all, they hate to be called stupid!! Microsoft and Apple never call their customers lame or dumb or incompetent, and they seem not to care how much better at using their own system than the person to whom they are trying to sell it. Linux has this problem. Suck it up, or go buy an iMac.
  • hmmm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by i7dude (473077)
    "...it was only a couple of years ago that the candy-colored iMacs were the next cool thing. Now they're about as hip as Windows 98."

    wasn't win98 the next big thing a few years ago as well???
  • by ksr (207427) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:12PM (#2842753)
    When it comes to technology, it's middle-class consumers and their tastes, needs and expectations that determine success or failure.


    Surely there is a feedback loop between users' tastes and the paradigms presented by technology companies. I find it hard to believe that the "beige minitower" form factor somehow taps into the a priori sense of what's best. It's simply what's been successful from a market penetration standpoint. I'd hate to imagine a computer industry without Jobs and Apple pushing out the edge of the envelope.
  • Profitability (Score:4, Redundant)

    by the_rev_matt (239420) <slashbot@nOspam.revmatt.com> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:13PM (#2842757) Homepage
    Katz is right, Apple is a complete failure! If they had the right idea, they'd be profitable! Oh, wait, you mean they are profitable? And in fact just posted profits for a year in which the tech sector was in a serious slump? And the value of their stock has increased tremendously over the last five years. Yup, Apple is a complete failure, Katz is right on the money. I'm definitely turning to him for investment advice!
  • by akookieone (530708) <andrew@NoSPam.beginsinwonder.com> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:13PM (#2842763) Homepage
    Seems like the argument here starts as utility trumps "coolness", and then that "coolness" is no good when it is not what people want to do (a cool new way to poke yourself in the eye.)
    But I do think PCs are reaching a commodity level for the thinks most people do, and if trust of computer makers is an issue, it cuts everyone, there is no uniqueness to Apple focusing on design.
    So I think, as PCs are more of a commodity, the design is going to be a key differentiator, just as the Cola wars are not about nutrition (potable utility) but about taste and preference - so maybe Apple is a bit ahead of the commodifying of PCs, but better design is definitely going to be an increasing part of how consumers make decisions. (They all surf the web, and they all crash, so I'll take the pretty one.) This is a good way to try and fight off the fact that M$ is the conventional wisdom (They all surf the web, they all crash, so I'll get what everyone else did...)
  • Doesn't matter how 'cool' it looks or what it will do - bottom line is someone walks into a store and sees the iMac sitting there for $1400 next to a PC for $699.

    Both run Office. Both access the 'net. Both play music. Both can probably edit video to a limited extent.

    Which one are you going to buy?
  • Moronic... (Score:4, Redundant)

    by Refrag (145266) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:14PM (#2842770) Homepage
    Katz, you need to realize that total-world-domination isn't the only measure of success. Apple is a successful company -- it has, what, $5 billion in cash. The old iMac is a successful computer -- it has sold more than $6 million units in its time. Steve Jobs is a successful man -- he runs two very cool companies (Apple and Pixar), and probably has a better quality-of-life/lifestyle than Billg (Jobs' jet is better).
  • Apple's Position (Score:4, Insightful)

    by under_score (65824) <mishkin-slashdot@nospaM.berteig.com> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:14PM (#2842771) Homepage
    Jobs seems to be aware of this issue at some level. His comments about the market share of BMW's as compared to Apple computers is actually quite revealing. Jobs is not just content with that market share, but actually actively working towards innovation and therefore expects to have a smaller market share. That's the positioning that Apple has taken. And unfortunately right now, I am just not in the market segment that buys BMW's or for that matter Apple's computers. I would love to be, but so be it. Katz seems to spin this all as a criticism of Jobs and Apple, but in fact Apple is financially just as successful as Microsoft or AOL, just on a smaller scale. Their huge cash reserves are proof of that. Watch out when they find the project on which to spend those reserves!!!
  • Defining the Big Win (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wiredog (43288) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:14PM (#2842772) Journal
    See Cringely's [pbs.org] piece on how Jobs defines 'winning'. It's not how Katz defines it.
  • I like it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Judas666 (551115)
    I migrated from Linux & Windows to MacOS X. I am very satisfied. I dont understand all the talk about the User Interface of OSX, in my opinion its neat and easy to use. Its a modern System for these very good quality apple computers. Apple is really a bright sight in these times of fucking cheap and unreliable PC hardware with all its thermal problems and unaproved drivers and electrical designs. My Apple Computer is just doing what it should do: running. I can really say: most of the folks talking bullshit about apple never really used one. I used all Windows versions, Linux for more than 3 years, and I can say: Apple and MacOS(X) is the best. Wintel PC is only for people who has nothing else to do then keeping their machine running. Judas666
  • by Jieves (21184) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:14PM (#2842774)
    I'm sure a lot of people will go into detail, but I think Katz is wrong because:

    * He focuses on marketshare, not profitability. Apple has been profitable for the past several years (with the exception of this one) and even when they were bleeding red ink they never has less than $2 billion in the bank. As long as Apple remains profitable, they remain successful. And they're on track to be profitable in 2002.

    * Yes, mediocrity (good-enough) generally wins out in the marketplace, but there is always room for a deluxe, well-made product. Apple's analogy about BMW is relevant here. Furthermore, there are a lot of companies (Compaq, Gateway) that have followed roughly the same path as Microsoft and AOL and are fighting for survival. Business likes boring, but business is not the be-all and end-all of the market, and boring will not guarantee you life.

    * Most importanly, Apple's emphasis is not on what is coolest, but on what is easiest for the consumer. That's the point of the Digital hub strategy. That's the point of the original iMac with no floppy drive and only USB connectors. That's the point of iPhoto, iTunes, i* etc.

    * And, a little off-topic (but a general misconception) ... I think a lot of the reason that people don't buy Macs is not because they're harder to use (they aren't) or more expensive (a little) or alien (any more than the computer they use at work is). It's because they can't pirate Apple software from their friends. They can't just drop by Bob from accounting and get the latest version of MS-Office to take home and install (Of course, that's becoming harder too with Microsoft's current registration schemes).

    I don't dislike Katz, but I do think he often has some very basic perception problems. Either that or he's just taking a positon to spark discussion.

    --Jieves
    • It's not just pirating software though. I have bought plenty of software--all of the apps I use seriously on a regular basis that require purchase (as opposed to making it optional like Eudora) I have purchased. But now I have a large investment in software, and only Adobe of all those companies is likely to let me transfer my license to a completely different platform. If they even offer the product for the MacOS X platform!

      No, if I were to go with a new Mac (as much as I may want to; the i* suite is REALLY compelling to me right now), I'd have to REBUY hundreds of dollars worth of software.

      And on top of the cost of the new Mac, that just isn't something I can stomach right now.

  • by Synn (6288) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:15PM (#2842788)
    Function isn't everything. Swatches didn't dominate the wrist watch market in the 80's because they were so functional, it was the style.

    My dodge Neon gets me to work just fine, but that doesn't mean I don't want a Porsche.
    Jobs knows what he's doing, he's creating a brand not just a computer. Function is important, but don't think for a second that image doesn't count.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:15PM (#2842790) Homepage Journal
    ... is what I remember some columnist (John Dvorak, maybe?) calling the original iMac. He used basically the same arguments we've seen here: cool premium computers aren't what sells, cheap beige boxes with aggressive marketing is what sells, and Apple Just Doesn't Get It.

    But the fact is that the original iMac was the single most successful personal computer model in history, and it pretty much saved Apple. I'd say that this is proof that Apple Does Get It, in a way that most columnists apparently don't. Look, Apple will never take over the world, and we Macheads know that. That's okay. What matters is that Apple keeps making the world's best computers, and enough people (4.5% is a small slice of a really enormous pie, and that's okay too) keep buying them so they stay in business.

    Oh yeah ... take a look at Apple's financials vs. those of Dell, Compaq, HP, or IBM's PC division. Not only do they Get It regarding design and marketing, apparently they Get It regarding the bottom line too, because they're making money hand over fist at a time when almost all other personal computer makers are struggling.
    • AMEN!!!!!!!! I'm so tired of hearing people ask "Why isn't Apple successful in the way that MS is?" And my answer: "They don't really want to be or need to be!" Thats what I love about them. Obviously, they have to take care of their profits, but they arn't out to manipulate the credit card out of Joe Sixpack's wallet. They know their market segment, and stick to it, while doing as good a job as ANYONE with respect to hardware and software. The encouraging thing to read about here at /. is that it seems like people are seriously considering moving back to Macs (as many of us once were before we had to start paying tuition fees .. ;) Apple totally Gets It, for all the reasons you described, and I don't buy that techies arn't starting to wonder whats so bad about taking on a sugary desktop, the antithesis of hacker-cool, if it comes sitting on top of an OS who's closest relative is FreeBSD (with promises to keep Darwin up to date with FreeBSD no less!). The real clincher is that, if their market share does increase, it can only mean that Apple will be able to rely less on their hardware margins, thus making their notoriously expensive (note I didn't say overpriced) hardware a little more easy on the wallet. I think Apple will have its day. Once the functionality of computers becomes taken for granted, people /will/ start thinking about ease of use, stability and reliability more than they do these days, where the focus is still on the fastest and cheapest.
    • saved Apple

      Saved Apple from what? I'm tired of revisionist computer historians telling me that Apple was all but doomed at some point or another in recent history, when it simply isn't true.

      Sure, at the end of Amelio's reign, Apple had problems. Severe quality assurance problems... for Apple, but still no worse than your average wintel boxmaker. (At the time, our IT dept. was returning more than 15% of new IBM workstations for warranty service, and so decided to switch us all to Gateway.)

      Apple had glut of models, yes, probably compounding QA difficulties and eroding profit margins. But so do modern US automakers. Are they doomed?

      Apple had a marginal market share, yes. But what's new? Gee, you have 3% of domestic sales instead of 5%. You're doomed!

      Clonemakers were taking the most profitable part of Apple's market, yes. (Hell, I bought a high-end clone, too... best Mac price/performace ratio in history. Well, until iMac maybe.) This was perhaps the most threatening problem. But it was because the clonemakers got greedy and didn't honor their licensing agreement. So Apple just didn't renew it. Problem solved.

      They had many serious issues to face, and they knew it. Hell, that's why they brought back Jobs. But if he had refused, who knows what would have happened. They had a lot going for them, though: Lots and lots of cash in the bank, enough to fend off any sort of hostile takover attempt. A huge installed base supporting a horde of loyal, even fanatic, users. Mac zealotry was even more intense back then than it is today. They weren't automatically doomed.

      Unless you count living in the margins ekeing out a profit on a couple percent share of the market as doomed.

      What Jobs did was bring Apple back to the vanguard of personal technology, revitalized their marketing and R&D, gave them a leader to stand behind, and a caricature to present to the public and press. But he didn't "save them from the brink" of anything but mediocrity.

  • I think this argument is like saying design doesn't matter for automobiles because we have problems with pollution, safety, and gridlock. When cars can fly, then it's time to worry about design.

    Clearly this is nonsense. Computers are commodities now, despite their many imperfections. So a manufacturer must compete on price, service, and/or design.

    Apple, which doesn't have the advantage of the WinTel community's oversupply of component options can't really compete on price. Service is a reasonable area, but there's a real lag between when the market acknowledges service as a value so it's not very cost-effective, at least early on. Therefore, their best differentiator is design and they clearly understand that.

    Now I agree that it would be nice if a computer were as uncomplicated and reliable as a toaster, but it's simply not going to happen in the near future and its unfair to take Apple to task for not solving the problem with Microsoft has far more resources.
  • by natpoor (142801) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:17PM (#2842810) Homepage
    Jobs understand what Katz doesn't, unless Katz is just trying to rile up some responses. Apple cannot compete with Dell, IBM, Gateway, Compaq, etc., in making beige boxes. It's a brutal market, and one that Apple isn't in - Apple does a mainstream OS and boxes. IBM couldn't do it with OS/2, but Apple is still chugging along.

    What peeves me is that whenever one of the PC makers releases a new piece of hardware, it's all about the specs. When Apple releases something, it's held to a much higher standard. Apple brought the GUI, the floppy, easy networking, design, USB, etc., to the mass market, and now has brought Unix to the masses as well (and it's partially open sourced).

    Katz, if you want to feed the monopoly that keeps you down, fine.
  • by abde (136025) <apoonawa-blog&yahoo,com> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:17PM (#2842812) Homepage

    who cares about market share. The real question is, how do Apple's profit earnings compare to Microsoft and to Dell (need to compare both since Apple does OS and the box).

    Also a good question to ask is, how does Apple's growth (in terms of profit percentage) compare to Dell and Microsoft?

    If Apple has better growth/profit than Dell/Microsoft (D/M$), then 4.5% means good news - there's still 95.5% of the market that can potentially be consumed.

    If Apple makes the same profit (in terms of bottom-line $$$) as Dell, but does it in only 4.5% market share as opposed to Dell's insanely huge 35% or whatever, then which is the stronger company?

    Note, I havent looked up the numbers. I'm just suggesting that these are more interesting demographic/statistic metrics than merely repeating market share market share like a mantra. Market share isnt everything.
  • I bought my first mac (128K) in April of 1984 for $2500. I also bought the fat mac upgrade soon as it came out for $1000, a brand new Mac Plus, a Mac SE, etc...

    I found a clear pattern of "soak the loyal" early on, then quickly drop the price to reasonable levels.

    Now I know new tech costs more and then slowly drops, but most of these new products were just natural progressions of the line. I bailed from the scene before following the later paths to being soaked. Remember the Newton? The first iMac, while cool, had marginal hardware at the time and within a few months, they were upgrading it at the same cost.

    There's a high cost to being a Mac loyalist.

    However, with all that said and after being anti-Mac for the past 10 years (I gave up when system 7 had as many stupid bombs as earlier revs), I'm buying a new iMac for the living room for casual use. (It only does 1024x768 so I can't do anything too serious with it...)

    I played with OS X a bit in the store and was blown away. Slick, nice user interface, on top of Unix of all things. Being able to open up a terminal window and run emacs was just too much for me.

    So, I'm going to get the high end iMac next week and I bet you, within 3 months, they'll come out with a new model with a flock()ing 18.1" LCD display and I'll be really ticked off again.

  • mac's aren't really faster than PC's. Most of the parts are identical. So why would I pay more for a mac than a PC?
  • You beat around the bush saying that Mac's aren't easy to use, people don't want sexy, they want easy to use, then you say that must be why Apple has 5% market share.

    Umm. WTF? Did someone completely forget about this whole monopoly thing?

    Yes, Mac's a cool. YES! Mac's are easy to use. The article should mention (I fell asleep towards the end), that having this cool, sexy easy to use "Shell" doesn't mean a damn thing when you can't put anything in the shell.

    "Yeah, I have this 10000 square foot mansion, but I have to buy specialty furniture, and Appliances, because everyone else has 3ft wide doors, and AC.. While I only have rotating doors (What are those circular things?), and DC power. It's not easy having what I think is 'cool'."

    I knew I never should have started reading that article. What a waste of time.

  • by Outlyer (1767) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:20PM (#2842836) Homepage
    Sorry Jon, I typically don't jump on the Katz-bashing, but today, I'm dumbfounded by this article.

    1. How much market share does BMW have? Do you think that they have 4.5% of the world's market? I doubt it. Does it matter? Would I buy a BMW instead of a Ford? Definitely.

    2. Steve Jobs knows exactly what he's doing. Do you think trying to trump Microsoft on making a commodity OS is the way to go? No, that job is already taken.

    3. Take this example. I decide to open a store in a mall. There is a Walmart there already. Do I:
    a) Build a gigantic department store and try to compete with Walmart?
    b) Do I build a speciality store wherein I can attract a strong, loyal niche market, and make my money rather than getting crushed

    I think Steve gets it fine. So do I, so do a good chunk of the posters thus far. But apparently, you don't get it.
    • I think Steve gets it fine. So do I, so do a good chunk of the posters thus far. But apparently, you don't get it.

      That's exactly what has really interested me about /. of late - the way the majority of comments has changed from being anti-mac to the majority of comments being pro-mac. How many times have you read comments like "try and Mac and you'll understand" in the past few months? Either /. is being infested by large numbers of Mac-heads (who seem to have a lot of moderator points) or Apple is making big inroads into the Linux/BSD/Geek market.

      The fact is, most people who dislike Macs are remembering them from years back (look at the guy who based his argument on OS 8 and a Beige G3 in an earlier comment). If you really want to get an idea of what Macs are like *now* you have to go use one. That's where the stunning designs and the new Apple Stores come in. The new iMac is something that you feel you just have to play with (even if you would never buy one) and the Apple Store puts it right there in your face and gives you the opportunity to play with it and if comments on /. are anything to go buy (God help us all), it's working.

  • If any of you wouldn't want the net wealth of Steve Jobs, please raise your hand.

    (sound of crickets)

    Thank you.

    The fact is, even with huge players in market (or a monopoloy), smaller niche competitors can thrive. It's ok to tout your coolness factor. Who cares if stuffy business suits don't trust your coolness! To hell with 'em, I say.

    Granted, Jobs may in fact be the anti-christ everyone says he is, but he's doing quite fine for himself, don't you think?

    And one thing Katz forgets: those conservative baby boomers have... kids who want "cool" technology. This is not a market to brush off so easily!

  • Product lifespans (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrAndrews (456547) <mcm@NoSpAm.1889.ca> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:21PM (#2842849) Homepage
    Ever since the new iMac came out, a good comparison to cars has been surfacing more and more: mainly that iMacs are like BMWs (slick, cool and over-priced); while PCs are like Honda Civics (cheap, affordable, but if you sit in them the wrong way it can break your tailbone). And I wonder, given the premise that people feel their computers are obsolete in 18 months, if perhaps the new iMac is planning ahead in a smart way.

    The big uses for computers for the average folk these days would be email, web browsing, word processing. For that, you can live on less than a gigahertz of speed. Things aren't going to improve that much with a top-of-the-line Athlon as compared to a discontinued PII. So if you don't need the extra speed, what differentiates the computers? RAM, HD, video card... style maybe.

    What differentiates cars? Why don't car manufacturers spend gobs of cash throwing the newest "maximum speed notched up by 10 mph!" engines for their vehicles? Why do they, instead, focus on styling, CD players, automatic this-and-thats? Probably because you could make a car that can go 500 mph in the shape of a Civic, but honestly no one would need the extra speed (mainly because of traffic laws, but you know...)

    So maybe the iMac's push for style (and very good specs, given its intended audience) is just Apple moving into the next arena of computers as stuff-of-life: the basic concept stays the same, but it's what you add in details that matters.

    In that way, Apple is definitely ahead of the game.

  • I've been debating doing this for a long time, but this article has finally set me over the edge. I am now officially filtering all Jon Katz posts. I never want to see anything this moron writes ever again. And no, I'm not posting this anonymously because I'm proud of the fact I will no longer have to read drivel like this.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:22PM (#2842860) Homepage Journal
    but that doesn't mean he wants to sell commodity products. Because BMW doesn't target 7-Eleven employees doesn't mean that their executives aren't aware of American automobile buying habits. It means that they've chosen to target a different audience.

    Apple, like any large corporation, has a culture of its own. The culture at Apple favors certain things. It places a value on aesthetics and on how people interact with their computers. It places a value on taking risks in order to push new technologies (some of which Apple invented, like Firewire [apple.com] and others, like USB [usb.org] that it didn't). It places a higher value on originality and elegance than on following established norms.

    A company with such a culture will never rule the world. It will never defeat Microsoft in the marketplace. It will never unseat Dell. But it doesn't have to. In order to grow and prosper, Apple just has to keep its customer base happy. Its customer base is not Ma and Pa Gateway.

    For better or for worse, the people who like Apple products tend to actually enjoy using their computers. They don't usually care about whether they can play any one of 10,000 available PC games. They simply want a computer that allows them to accomplish things and to have fun while doing those things.

    As long as Apple can keep providing products that innovate in favor of the user, they'll do just fine, and the rest of the industry will continue to use them as an R & D lab.

  • by Murdock037 (469526)
    The article is pushing the limits of journalistic credibility to points I'd not ever expected to encounter on a website I respect.

    I'm growing increasingly weary of Jon Katz. It used to be that I just had difficulty following his trains of thought, and I attributed it to a lack of focus on my part. But when I actually sit down and try to concentrate on what he's written, I realize that it's both lazy and contradictory.

    This article is like so many of his others: it makes broad, sweeping statements phrased in such a way as to imply that there is no room for argument; that the ideas Katz presents are not to be questioned, that they are merely given. It feels like the article is merely an outline of what could be a decent paper. But it would have to be filled in with real research and facts, rather than, you know, kind of a feeling, sorta.

    It bugs me that he states that the iMac has not reached the mainstream, without acknowledging that Time Magazine is about as mainstream as it gets. He even points out that Grandma likes playing with the iMac-- how can a computer reach a broader audience than that segment of the population who have the least experience with and the most apprehension about computers?*

    (*Look. I just made a statement based on nothing more than an idea that maybe sounds about right-ish, because it fits the point I want to make. It's JUST THAT EASY.)

    It sounds like Katz is coming up with his conclusion, then trying to bend the facts to support it, rather than more appropriate opposite.

    I'm not trolling, damnit. I'm just grouchy.
  • Well, if you believe Josh "I love Steve Jobs and everything he stands for, especially his uber-hip black turtlenecks" Quittner, the new iMac truly is The Next Big Thing. And since his employers at AOL were perfectly happy to give Apple a cover in exchange for an exclusive, we know that they at least expect a lot of AOL and Road Runner subscriptions to come out of the deal.

    Time's journalistic quality issues (Buy at ThinkGeek Now! oops, sorry) notwithstanding, the thing actually does seem like a nice machine. The "lamp" design is a very nice touch. If my iPod is any indication, it will be fairly solid if easily scratched, and if I weren't a hard-core laptop user, I might just buy one.

    Will this save the PC industry and civilization as we know it? Probably not, but who cares? Nice designs are a Good Thing on their own. One hopes that they will be emulated by others, in the way that what is invented in a BMW might make its way into a Volkswagen - but even if they don't, their users are happy, which is what counts.

  • by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan@gmail. c o m> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:26PM (#2842902) Homepage Journal
    You will never seen a Microsoft or AOL exec talking about how cool the their companies or products are, only how useful and easy to use. They don't really care how much heavy breathing they generate in the media or among excitable teenagers and college students.

    When's the last time Mr. Katz watched TV and saw an AOL commercial? The blinking lights, teenagers shouting, "Wow, Cool, Instant Messenging!" and other things like that.

    Sorry, Katz, the shift is definately towards the younger, hip audience, especially for AOL. Microsoft? Maybe not, but there's still focus on the gaming industry there as well. Not sure what the point of this rant was.
  • by mystery_bowler (472698) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:26PM (#2842907) Homepage
    I'm trying really hard not to fall into that group of /. readers that either ignore or dislike Katz's every single post. But this article...oh my.

    First of all, what is the point? What are we, the readers, supposed to take away from this article? For most of my life, I've felt like I have above average reading comprehension skills, but I'm having trouble figuring out the point here. Let's see...I've read it twice now...nope, no point. Lots of words with no meaning. Not a single enlightening bit of information discerned. Why? Because the article contradicts itself.

    Apple (and Jobs, by proxy I suppose) brought the consumers the gift of accessible computers, but Jobs doesn't understand what keeps the technology industry moving.

    Katz, what are you saying? Jobs in an idiot or he's a genius? Are you saying anything at all? Is there an opinion here, or just someone's retelling of things that could possibly be construed as something resembling facts? "His idea to fuse the desktop with pop culture is, in fact, a powerful one. But it's too soon." "If you're a teenager, Web designer, film editor or visual arts major, or even a loving Grandma, it's great that the iMac allows you to create your own DVDs, organize and edit digital pictures, play CDs or convert MP3's, turn home videotapes into high-quality edited films."

    But for all the wasted verbage, the article finally wraps it up at the end: What's cool isn't necessarily what sells. God damn, Katz. You're a genius.
  • by sulli (195030)
    Hmmm:

    Most Americans don't need the 1,000 songs the iPod can store

    Huh? Virtually everyone I know has over 100 CDs, which would fill the iPod nicely. Everyone I show the iPod to, without exception, thinks it's brilliant. When I tell them the price, of course it's a different story - but this is 1.0, and there will be more, from Apple, Archos, Creative, and others.

  • by baby_head_rush (131448) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:28PM (#2842920) Homepage Journal
    Why else would they try and get R.E.M. to let them use "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" (and get turned down), Rolling Stones "Start Me Up", and Madonna (whatever song that is)?

    "Dude you're getting a Dell."

    The PC is advertised as cool, but Mac at least makes an attempt to make them that way.
  • by Jezz (267249)
    Err, cool design is useful. Sure nobody needs "gee-whizz" features but that's not good design.

    The new iMac is basically a story about useful design. Easy to upgrade, highly adjustable display, easy to do "stuff" with. Now why do people buy all those digital cams and camcorders? This makes them useful for 'non-geeks': brilliant.

    What are we objecting to here? It's not a funky colour (it's white). Do you REALLY think that a computer has to look like a bit of test equipment?

    Most "older" folks hate the cable tangle behind a PC, they hate the complex connecters (most of which you don't need anymore). They hate the system box. This is a computer as easy to live with as a lamp! Lets be honest, good design is more than "neeto" stuff, it makes the product BETTER. Who honestly enjoys the sharp edges when they upgrade their PC's RAM? Or the mess inside? Or all those cables?

    Sure iMac isn't for everyone - that's why Apple make other Macs, but for many people it is a much better beast than a PC.

    Why even hackers have been seen using Mac OS X! Gates's idea of design is XP - think about that for a moment.

    Sorry but iMac is cool for Moms and Pops everywhere not just kid sisters! Who doesn't want to be able to find their photos, make the film they've shot watchable? Even iTunes, who's too old to enjoy music?
  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:31PM (#2842960) Homepage Journal
    'Coolness' is not and was not the perennial Apple motto. Not even under Steve Jobs. Witness the Apple I through the III. All were utilitarian machines. The first were geek hardware without the geek price. And having a wooden case was not 'cool'; it was being cheap.

    1984, enter the Mac. What was the motto? Anyone? Yes, it was "The Computer for the Rest of Us". The machine for everyman. Its aim was usability and simplicity. And it was. For a long time, the 128k Mac typified computing for the average slob. Not until 11 years later did M$ come close to this.

    Steve Jobs did not find the mantra of coolness until returned from the wasteland of NeXT. The idea that a Mac was cool did not develop until the iMac. And it is what has succeeded.

    I think that Jobs has matured, rather than devolved. He realizes that people won't buy insanely great things. Not en masse. But as long as 4-8% of people do, the company will be okay.

    In 1993, people didn't buy usability. They don't in 2002. What people buy is familiarity and cheapness. And at that, M$ wins.
  • by dstone (191334) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:35PM (#2843000) Homepage
    Nobody would ever label them cool, just stunningly successful.
    ...
    The truly successful technologies and technology companies are utilitarian and dull -- decidedly non-hip.


    Consider the following classes of people:
    - artist
    - craftsman
    - engineer
    - businessman

    I believe they all have different "success" criteria when it comes to their "products/services/career". Don't assume the financial or market-share bottom line is the universal criteria. It probably is for the last category, but even then, that's a stereotype that not all businessmen care to follow.

    And don't laugh now... even corporate entities don't need profitability or market share as their success criteria. Consider non-profits.

    Thank god the world has people who consider hip and well-designed products to be successful even when they don't take over the world.
  • Innovation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kriegsman (55737) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:36PM (#2843005) Homepage
    In many ways, users today do want computers that work the way TVs work today, but TVs have come a long way, too!

    Today's TV users get all kinds of great features, including color images, CRTs that warm up in seconds instead of minutes, "big" screens, cable-delivered signals with great "reception" on hundreds of channels, stereo sound (or better), the ability to rent and watch movies (*ahem*), the ability to instantly watch whatever's on pay-per-view. Even just from a UI point of view, we now get (and expect!) wireless remote controls for everything, on-screen displays, and finally no more need to twist the channel selector knob violently to get past that annoying block of UHF stations that your antenna can't pull in!

    I'm not going to make a list of all the "innovations" that have come from Apple, but I'll mention my favorite. Before the PowerBooks came out, portable PCs all had their keyboard at the front edge of the 'bottom' part of the case. The PowerBooks moved the keyboard to the back, creating a wrist rest area, much better in-flight ergonomics, and a better place to locate the pointing device (trackball in this case).

    Was it revolutionary? No. Did Steve Jobs stand up and call it the coolest thing ever? No. But innovation comes in all kinds of sizes and shapes. Someone will always be innovating, and it's a good thing. Besides, if no one innovates, we'll be stuck forever with what we have now - eewww.

    -Mark
  • The Main Problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iGawyn (164113) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:48PM (#2843115) Homepage Journal
    The main problem is that people on both sides of the line, PC (x86) and Mac (68k/PPC) users have biases towards the other. PC users go "The Macs had crappy tech support for years, people are afraid because of that" and the Mac users go "You have to mess around with a ton of cables, cracking open the case, playing with cards, just to make it run."

    Now, I own 3 computers. An iMac (333), an AMD 1.2GHz Athlon, and an AMD 700 Duron, respectively running OS 9.1, Win2000, and OpenBSD. I try not to be too biased, however, every operating system has it's bugs, that's a part of life.

    To get my computers working, no, I didn't have to crack the cases, play around with PCI/AGP cards, until I decided that I wanted to completely overhaul my system, replacing motherboard/processor/video card. I've upgraded every one of my systems, and even from the hardware standpoint, they each have their drawbacks.

    The iMac's case is a pain in the ass to work in. I've upgraded it to 192MB of RAM and a 30GB HD. It's nearly impossible to do so, and I've probably voided the warranty in the process, although it's too old to still have a valid one. It works great. As my router.

    The 1.2GHz machine's case is a nice, new Enlight case. It's a breeze to work in, and about the only drawback is that it's so big and open, I often wonder where I want to put things, and how many more fans I can put in there. It's great, as my gaming PC.

    The 700MHz machine is part of an old barebones system I got from a seedy vender at a computer show. It's got a crappy case, although you have some room, there isn't too much. I use it for running all sorts of random n*x experiments on it.

    Now, as far as your average home user, what would I recommend? Well, it depends. If you want a cheap, relatively easy to use, vaguely stable system, sure, buy a cheap PC. You can get a PC, and everything you need to go online, check your e-mail, surf the web a bit, write the occasional document and print it. If you want some more stability, but don't mind jacking the price up, then sure, get a mac.

    However, most of us here on slashdot are also part of a "niche market." We're the overclockers, power-users, computer geeks who love tweaking the systems in any way possible. What I would buy for myself, I'll most likely never recommend for my mother to use.

    As far as ease-of-use, well, it's a learned habit. If you start out on Windows, sure, it'll take some work to get to use Macs. The reverse is also true. Personally, I don't like the look of the new iMac. Just by seeing it on the computer, I can tell that if I had one, and I wanted to pop the case, upgrade the harddrive or ram, it'd be a pain in the ass. You're always fighting a trade off. Ease/ability to upgrade vs. size. I don't care about size. I like being able to tweak things.

    What's right for you? Whichever one you're happiest with. Platform wars are just a waste of time, regardless of public opinion, market share, or anything else under the sun.

    Gawyn
  • by sammy baby (14909) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @01:52PM (#2843141) Journal
    ...between Gates and Jobs, I refer you to Robert Cringely's terrific article released upon the creation of the new iMac: "The Best Revenge: Why the New iMacs Will Be Successful No Matter What They Look Like." [pbs.org] While largely non-technical, it's much more interesting a read than Katz's post, which seems to go pretty wide of the mark, in my view.

    Sorry I don't remember where I caught the original link. Could have even been here on /. .
  • In summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stickerboy (61554) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @02:38PM (#2843573) Homepage
    You can divide the computing world into segments, which are analogous to other market segments.
    • Dell/Microsoft computers = Honda Accords, Toyota Camrys = Chili's restaurant

      Standardized up the wazoo, gives pretty good service, aimed squarely at middle-class consumers that want value and reliability at not too high of a price.

    • Emachine/Microsoft computers = Geo Metros = McDonald's

      Extremely standardized (to the lowest level), very cheap... aimed at consumers who want/need the product (be it food, cars, computers) at the least cost. Products aren't as reliable and may produce breakdowns as a side effect (gastric or mechanical). Product as a commodity.

    • Compaq/Microsoft computers = rental cars = products from Sysco (a food supplier for most restaurants)

      Not bad products, aimed at their target segments (companies that need lots of them) mostly for price and cost of ownership (although in Compaq's case, that's debatable).

    • Apple computers = new VW beetle, Ford Thunderbird = Bellini's Italian restaurant

      Aimed at upscale, upper-middle and upper class image-conscious consumers who usually don't know too much about the product they're buying. Product hallmarks are that it looks cool, nobody will look down on you for buying their products (except the next segment), they're usually overpriced, it looks cool, and they have good reliability, service, and ease of use. Did I mention it looks cool? Underneath the appearance, they have pretty standard, very good quality components.

    • Do-it-yourself/*nix computer = custom-job Corvettes and Mustangs = people who cook their own food, and are excellent at it too (Mom!)

      Products that are usually upgraded from stock products by people with a high knowledge of what they're doing with it. In Mom's case, she goes to the grocery store and cooks some damn fine pasta from ingredients she gets there. Sometimes she orders ingredients from specialized stores. In the computer geek's case, they take a stock computer (or build one themselves) and replace and upgrade the parts they choose. And we all have a car geek friend who can tell the 20 different modifications to a '69 Mustang just by listening when someone revs it up. (Sometimes we are that person.)

    And how can you summarize another long-winded Katz article and lots and lots of posts?

    To each company their own market segment. Business 101.

  • by SteveM (11242) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @02:44PM (#2843628)

    In a brief piece on the BBC web site [bbc.co.uk], Donald Norman offers this opinion of Apple and the new iMac:

    Apple is the best company in the world to make this because Apple understands consumers, understands design and understands computers.

    Steve M

  • Katz is a moron (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yunfat (200898) <.moc.cam. .ta. .narat.> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @02:50PM (#2843676)
    "Burned by years of outrageously poor tech support, increasingly expensive software, and hardware that's almost instantly outdated..."

    1) Apple has the best tech support of any company out there. I recently had a problem with my 3 year old 21" Apple Studio Display (still under Apple extended warranty)... it was sent to Apple overnight ($500 on their dime) and was back with me in less than a week (this is a 100lb monitor mind you).

    2) iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD... all free, all best in class. Nuff said.

    3) And if their hardware is almost instantly outdated, how come my 3 year old g4 500 runs Return to Castle Wolfenstein 1024*768 at more than acceptable framerates using normal settings? No small feat by my estimation.

  • by Uttles (324447) <uttles@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @02:51PM (#2843687) Homepage Journal
    First of all:
    The truly successful technologies and technology companies are utilitarian and dull -- decidedly non-hip. You will never seen a Microsoft or AOL exec talking about how cool the their companies or products are, only how useful and easy to use.

    "You will never seen?" - what the hell are you talking about? That's bad grammar, not to mention the rest of the sentence is false. You're saying MS products are easy to use? Well, I admit, they've gotten better, but they're still playing catch up in that department.

    The following is just complete nonsense, and if I can organize all of the rants floating in my head I'll show you why:
    Gates understands something Jobs and media don't. When it comes to technology, it's middle-class consumers and their tastes, needs and expectations that determine success or failure.

    First and foremost, Apple and Microsoft are two completely different companies. Apple sells computers, Microsoft doesn't. Microsoft sells services, for the most part Apple doesn't. Comparing these two companies is really absurd. In the same way, it's not fair to compare Apple to a company like Gateway, as Apple makes an OS, MP3 player, etc. The point is: MacOS is dominated by Windows, but no Mac users give a rat's ass.
    Next, you show your true ignorance with your statement that "middle class consumers" drive the market. Are you really that stupid? Everyone knows that it's businesses that drive the PC world for a myriad of reasons. Yes, every day there are more and more personal goodies for computers, and individuals are buying more of them, but that still does not compare to the amount of money generated by businesses. Every company that uses microsoft software is forced to have a license for every single workstation, unlike the home user who just borrows a friend's. When these businesses upgrade to XP, Microsoft is going to rake in a huge amount of profit. That is what drives their "innovation," not the whims of individual PC users. This is one major reason Mac users are so loyal. Macs give you the feeling that every single part of the computer was designed so that it would be extremely convenient for you to use, that's something that customers really appreciate. Sure, maybe everyone uses Windows, but there's still about 5% of people who use Macintosh, and that's a very happy and pleased 5%.
    • Next, you show your true ignorance with your statement that "middle class consumers" drive the market. Are you really that stupid? Everyone knows that it's businesses that drive the PC world for a myriad of reasons. Yes, every day there are more and more personal goodies for computers, and individuals are buying more of them, but that still does not compare to the amount of money generated by businesses. Every company that uses microsoft software is forced to have a license for every single workstation, unlike the home user who just borrows a friend's. When these businesses upgrade to XP, Microsoft is going to rake in a huge amount of profit. That is what drives their "innovation," not the whims of individual PC users.

      Right on! Windows and MS Office are very well suited for doing your basic run of the mill office work. Windows boxes provide a cheap and standardized way to fill your office full of machines that you can easily find minimum wages workers to run and do routine office chores.

      But an iMac with OS X is suited better for other "niche" markets. Sure theres the Artist/Musician market that everyone says is Mac land. But now with iPhoto and iMovie they are also well suited for the doting parent market which is full of people like me with pictures and home movies I want to get out to far flung relatives without spending hundreds of dollars for extra software that I'll have to fiddle with to get working the way I want anyway. For me the extra cost of the iMac is offset by the software that it comes with that will let me quickly cobble together photo albums, dvds, and CD-roms with movies on them to send out to the extended family thousands of miles away.

      I also happen to be in another niche market. I'm one of those people that uses computers for hard core number crunching (ya know the sort of work that got computers called "computers" in the first place). The iMac has a G4 with its AltVec vectorization routines and that means I can now have a machine at home that will outperform the $10,000 HP workstation sitting on my desk at work. The iMac really is like a mini supercomputer and I start drooling when I start thinking how much time this little thing could save me. Granted Linux boxen and Linux clusters can reach comparable performance levels to G4 macs... but with a mac I don't have to do any work to set up the system or to keep it up. (I've run Linux and I like it, but the laziness in me prefers OS X) With OS X I have a full-on UNIX development environment right out of the box. Besides, I'm betting that the G5 will pull ahead of the Pentium-4 in terms of number crunching ability (measured in flops not megahertz), so I'm porting my software from the HP to the Mac hoping I'll get a G5 at work with the next replenishmnet cycle.

      Finally, I have to give OS X credit for finally making me like GUIs. I always hated hunting through mazes of menus to change a setting where in UNIX I could just edit a config file or type a command line argument. So far my experience with OS X has been that I get the power of the command line very well integrated with the GUI. Heck, I can even drag and drop icons into the terminal window and get the full path to a file and that is sooo sweet.
  • by CaptainSuperBoy (17170) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @03:35PM (#2843994) Homepage Journal
    You will never seen a Microsoft or AOL exec talking about how cool the their companies or products are

    I guess JonKatz hasn't seen this [ntk.net] yet. That just goes to prove that you can be a billionaire Microsoft exec, and still be absolutely insane. Only Ballmer could yell "DEVELOPERS!" over and over again, and still be taken seriously (kind of).
  • by Logic Bomb (122875) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @04:38PM (#2844459)

    I heartily agree with all the highly-moderated posts that take Katz to task for being an idiot. Those are VERY good points. But people are perhaps missing the boat a little about market share with computers versus automobiles. ALL CARS ARE COMPATIBLE. They can all use basically the same gas, drive on the same roads, obey the same traffic signals. If you know how to drive one of them, you can pretty much drive them all. The switch between Windows and Macintosh is much more wrenching than between a manual and automatic transmission.

    My point is that market share does mean a lot more in the computer world, when it comes to operating systems, than BMW's market share does in the car world. Apple vs Dell is irrelevant, but Apple vs Windows is a meaningful statistic. This certainly doesn't mean Apple can't survive, or even thrive, as a "niche player" (I hate that term, since Apple's influence is huge). But don't just blow off such comparisons, because they do say something about the near future of the computing world.

  • by Embedded Geek (532893) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:55PM (#2846494) Homepage
    Perhaps off topic, but what the heck...

    Check out this piece from the Onion [theonion.com] poking some fun at the new iMac. I especially like "special drool tray catches saliva of enthralled technogeeks."

  • My Brainstorm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoneyT (548795) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @11:27PM (#2846582) Journal
    Think about Apple for a second, they have always marketed products and ideas that were different, ahead of their time and most certainly not popular. Even when the first mac came out, it was different and tech people didn't like it (at first).

    Now years later, Apple has been through 47 million dollar losses and come back to still be a profit turning company. This time though, Apple isn't marketing to the masses. Why? They're dull, boring, orthadox, pattern forming, and conformists. They don't allow for new ideas. As the man said, they don't trust the computer industry (paraphrased).

    These are not the people that Apple sells to anymore. Apple sells to photo buffs, movie buffs, music buffs, *NIX geeks, people into style, non tech savy people, people who want to have a part of the future today. While these are all niche markets, they are loyal niche markets.

    Photo buffs, movie buffs and music buffs all have a favorite company they use. They like to get as much stuff as they can from that company. Never mind they can get a better price from someone else, or maybe even a step better, the fact of the matter is, they can get what they need for their product reliably from one place. This naturaly lends them to be loyal people and thus ideal customers for Apple.

    *NIX geeks love to be different, and love to be creative. They don't like things to be done the orthadox way, it's not interesting. New a different ways of doing things are what makes a *NIX geek tick. They love tweaking the code, and trying a different approach. Again, an ideal mac customer.

    Non-tech savy people are looking for something easy, fast (to get going not processor speed) and all in one packaging. And since Apple provides all of this, they look good to new users. Since most new people like to stick with the original company for a while, they are at least temporarily loyal, and once again make an idea Apple customer.

    Finaly the people who want a bit of the future today. Almost every product Apple has designed has been ahead of its time. Maybe not in sheer power, but in design and style, which has later been copied or imitated in the mass computers. Yes, no matter how you look at it, colorful PCs are the result of the iMac. And these people are also very willing to try something new. SCSI, USB, Firewire, PDAs, GUIs, OS X, all of these ideas and concepts, while they may have been developed elsewhere, where succesfuly pushed and marketed by Apple. They would not be where they are today without that push. And to try to market those ideas to the masses would result in failure. For example, USB, developed by intel, and used occasionaly, but not accepted because no one wanted to change. Along comes the iMac, a USB only machine, and suddenly USB springs up like wild fire.

    Apple is succesful, not because they turn the best profit, but because they have loyal cutomers. They have lived through debt and profit, minimal sales and best sales, each time, comming out sucessful in their endevor. That isn't to say they haven't made mistakes, the 20th aniversary mac and the Cube didn't do good at all. But Apple can afford to make mistakes because they have customers willing to wait it out. Their success may not be based on profits, but then again, niether is the Chevy corvette's.
  • Think Marketshare (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Angerson (121904) on Wednesday January 16, 2002 @12:04AM (#2846672) Homepage
    Sorry Katz, but in the world of technology the concept of better product = success is bunk. It's all about market penetration and monopoly power. It makes very little difference if Mac OS X is better than Windows XP because 95% of the market already uses XP and I'm willing to bet that most of those folks have never even used a non-Microsoft OS. It's hard to compete when you can't even step on the field.

    I have a perfect, highly unscientific example of this. I teach an introduction to Macintosh course in the art department of a local college. This course is a prerequisite to all the other design courses in the curriculum since all the classes are Mac-based. On average, less than 5% of my students have ever used a non-Microsoft OS and, in fact, most of these students thought "Windows" and "Computer" were synonymous -they were unaware you could even have one without the other.

    Despite this demographic skew, at the conclusion of the course around 90% of my students stated that they were planning to switch from Windows to Macintosh. Now the question is, were the students switching because they liked the Mac better or because everyone in the art department used Macs? Part two of the question? Does it matter?

    Marketshare = success. Plain and simple.
  • by fishboy (81833) <pieter AT blokker DOT ca> on Wednesday January 16, 2002 @01:23AM (#2846921) Homepage
    i think i was writing more cogent arguments when i was in highschool. at the very least i wasn't painting myself into a corner with my own stupidity.

    jon katz writes:

    "Burned by years of outrageously poor tech support, increasingly expensive software, and hardware that's almost instantly outdated, middle-class consumers aren't the least bit interested in the coolest new new thing. They want computing that works like TV does -- that's easy to use, takes little space, costs relatively little money and works every time you turn it on, year after year. The public is increasingly wise to tech scams like hardware that's obsolete every 18 months and software that doesn't even last that long."

    how does this make sense in his greater argument? apple seems to be the only manufacturer and large os retailer that is doing anything about these issues. so is apple addressing these concerns and is thus losing the battle? or are they not but others are? or nobody is?

    point by point commentary (slashdot take-down style)

    "Burned by years of outrageously poor tech support...

    apple has excellent tech support and wins accolades both over the phone and at the apple store. what makes it even better is that their products are easier to provide tech support for.

    increasingly expensive software and hardware,

    final cut pro has certainly lowered the cost of professional-level video editing by about $50 000. and the iapps are the best consumer applications of their type on the market, all free. apple hardware has not risen in price, it has fallen. the imac configuration last year offered a slower processor for $4500. this year it sells for $1800. impressive.

    that's almost instantly outdated,

    apple hardware retains its value in resale better than anyone else and remains in service longer. in fact, one of apple's problems has been that their hardware (and software) last too long. users don;t want to upgrade because their machine is doing for them.

    middle-class consumers aren't the least bit interested in the coolest new new thing.

    six million imac owners and 150 000 ipod owners say otherwise.

    They want computing that works like TV does -- that's easy to use, takes little space, costs relatively little money and works every time you turn it on, year after year.

    the mac works more like a tv than anyone else's box, more reliably. (i will remind jon that the whole reason we are using computers instead of watching tv is because computers are more complex and challenge us in ways that tv cannot (the info flows two ways here), and that there will be trade-offs in ease of use.) if the tv could do it, why isn't it? if someone is doing this better than apple, why aren't they?

    anyway, my point, jon, is that you can't have it both ways. either apple is going in the right direction and you've defeated your own argument or they aren't and you just aren't paying attention. or everybody is going in the wrong direction which doesn't make for much of an argument.

    either way you lose. what makes you lose even harder is that you walked into it.

    maybe apple's market position has to do with other factors you haven't cared to comment upon?

    maybe.

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