Biting Back

I've been a loyal Apple user since the Apple II. During that time I've noticed one inescapable fact: Every time Apple walks away from the home market, it suffers. The Apple 2+ was a great home computer. Then Apple decided to go into enterprise with the Apple III. It was expensive, there was a distinct lack of third-party software, and it bombed. The IIe and IIGS returned to the home-computer philosophy and were successful. The business-oriented LISA was not. The original Macintosh was the quintessential home computer. Later business models were less successful.

Today what marks Apple's resurgence more than anything is its recommitment to the consumer space. The iMac is a great home computer. Period. It is not, as Mr. Catalano suggests, a dumbed-down information appliance. It offers more processing power, speed, and affordability than any Mac before it. What Mr. Catalano would call "niche marketing," I call flexibility. The iMac is a great Web surfer; it's also an excellent network computer, net-booted terminal, game player, and, yes, home computer. It's a Swiss army knife for the information age, where the same hardware is called upon to do many different tasks.

As for the vibrancy of Apple Computer, the sub-$500 PC market is killing margins and hurting profitability across the spectrum. Microsoft is giving away computers in a desperate attempt to bolster MSN. Who's really in trouble here? Apple keeps selling each $1,199 iMac it can build. Profit margin has expanded in the last quarter, demand is up, and inventory is down.

Corey Anderson

Want further proof that the PC world is truly in bankruptcy? Look at how quickly it's adopted the iMac model of colorful plastics, all-in-one design, and ease of Internet access. You don't copy a failure.

It's always sad to see a former Apple user giving themselves over to the dark side. There are certain inevitable signs of their seizure, certain things which mark their conversion experience. Unfortunately, Frank has all the symptoms. My advice, for what it's worth, is to drop-kick your Aptiva and buy yourself a nice little ibook when they arrive. I think you'll be forced to admit that the company you loved once is not only intact but thriving.

Best wishes for your recovery,

David R
Columbus, Ohio

 

SATAN VS. THE REAL COMPUTER

Hopefully I won't sound like the usual pro-Mac reader. I too was a user of most of the programs Frank Catalano mentioned had fallen by the wayside. But it's not like software hasn't died on the PC side. The bigger problem is that in several types of software, small players are dying in the shadow of major publishers' products.

I work at a university that signed a deal with Satan for a systemwide license of Microsoft products, and in this environment options for PC users are disappearing, too. Just because one platform has 27 word processors available, and the other only 5, doesn't make any difference if everyone thinks only Microsoft Word matters.

There is no software I need that doesn't exist for my Macs, and I have lots of applications on my machine. If the Mac is disappearing from the business side, it's because the care and feeding of Windows NT and NetWare is so burdensome that no one wants to make room for an easier system to set up, maintain, and use. And that's coming from someone who takes care of 50-plus PCs. The real appliance is the PC; the Mac is a computer. That's what is keeping it alive, and at a healthy profit to Apple at the same time.

Garrett Ewald
Bloomington, Indiana

 

FRANK CATALANO RESPONDS

We're all entitled to an opinion, and that's what my essay was--an opinion based on market data and my own experience. The essay was a "bad news, good news" piece. The bad news is that there has been an apparent downward trend in the total number of software applications readily available for the Mac--based on recent independent data, not just on what's in an Apple-maintained database.

This doesn't mean the Mac isn't cool, fast, doesn't have shareware or enough software for many Mac owners. But those issues weren't the focus of the piece; expecting every Mac commentary to be comprehensive is as realistic as expecting every article about camping to mention Lyme disease.

The good news is that iMacs are selling well, owing to their focus on the Internet. And that could be a huge market--the half of U.S. households that don't own a computer. Yet the bad news upset some people to the point that they ignored the good news in the same commentary. The world is not black-and-white. Even the iMac should be offered in shades of gray.

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