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Just a Thought - Decisions, Decisions...


- June 7th, 2005

"This sucks!"

Steve paces an oblong path in his sizable office that takes him a full 30 seconds to complete. He looks as if he could take a bite out of the hull of a battleship, chew the steel, then spit perfectly formed nails.

Anyone else would have cringed at the heat emanating from Steve as he paced, fearing for their jobs, their physical and mental well-being. But the man seated in one of the four milk chocolate colored leather chairs shows no sign of distress or fear; he calmly watches Steve pace and rant with a look of detached bemusement.

"Did I not announce to the entire world more than a year ago that we would be shipping 3 gig G5s by now? Did I not?"

The seated man nodded. "You did say that, Steve."

"Here it is, June, a full six months after we are suppose to be pushing out 3 gig G5 Power Macs, and the best we can muster is 2.7 gigs. That's absolute crap!"

"Well, they are dual processor boxes, it's not like they are slow," the seated man offered.

Steve stopped his pacing and glared at the man. "No, they're not slow. It's not about them being fast or slow, is it?"

The seated man was about to answer when Steve answered for him. "No! It's about perception! It's about how we look as compared to others. Our fastest box is on the low side of being on par with their fastest box; we're in the running, but we can't seem to win the race, and THAT SUCKS!"

Nodding in agreement, the seated man said, "Very true. But yours is still the coolest looking computers around."

Steve's eyes narrowed to slits. "There's only so much mileage we can get on cool, Buddy Boy, and cool don't mean diddily to corporate buyers."


Steve starts pacing again. "I thought we'd be beyond this problem when we dumped Moto for Big Blue. And that was no small matter, I'm here to tell ya."

"But it looks like Big Blue is not coming through, for you, too" the seated man says, smiling at his rhyme.

A hint of a smile crosses Steve's lips, then disappears. "This isn't funny. We are ankle deep in kim-chi, here, and there's another dump truck load on the way."

The seated man fakes an effort to look more serious. "Sorry," he says insincerely.

Steve ignores him. "What really bakes my biscuits is that I have very few options, and they also suck."

The seated man raises an eyebrow a la Spock, "Options? What kind of options?"

"Well, we can either stick with Big Blue, and pray that they figure out how to fix their chip building problems soon, maybe wait until they come out with the Cell processor; we could go back to Freescale and see what they have to offer besides that souped up G4; we could talk to AMD, or we could talk to Intel."

At the mention of Intel, the seated man winced, "None of those options sounds very encouraging, especially the Intel one."

"Now you know my pain. IBM is working on the problem they are having with going to the smaller size runs, but they have no real fix date. Waiting around for the Cell processor is not an option, I can't wait. Freescale has proven themselves to be unreliable in the past, and I really don't want to have to depend on them. AMD has interesting products, but the only one of the group that has had any real success in delivering on promises is Intel."

The seated man winced again. "Yeah, but it's Intel."

Steve stopped pacing again and faced the seated man squarely. "You know, you really have to get passed this anti-Intel thing you have going, they are just chip makers, like IBM, and Freescale. The thing is, that IS their business, that's what they do, make chips, and they are good at it."

"But," the seated man countered, "as you said, it's a matter of perception. Intel is synonymous with Big Redmond. Just as Apple is closely aligned to the PowerPC processors. If you sign on with Intel you are basically saying the PowerPC architecture is crap, that everything you've done up till now has been just wasted time, and that Michael and the Gates Gang were right all along."

The seated man leaned forward in his seat to emphasize his point, "Put Intel inside a Mac and the Mac faithful will become disillusioned; they will wander the technical world, lost, without a cause, feeling abandoned."

Steve stared at the seated man for a full five seconds before he spoke again. "That is the biggest pile of cow-processed hay that I have ever heard in my entire life!"

Steve's hand waved about him as he made his argument, "What we've done till now was great. The design of the PowerPC was, and still is great stuff, and Big Blue will continue to get lots of mileage out of it. But the simple fact it that Big Blue can't deliver, and I have to sell Macs; that's my business, selling Macs. If Big Blue or Freescale can't deliver the product, I have to find someone who can. And it's looking more and more like Intel is the only one who can."

With a look of real concern, the seated man says, "But what about your customer base? When folks hear that you are considering Intel, many balk at the idea. Even now some say that a Mac with Intel inside ain't a Mac, and they won't buy one."

"A Mac is whatever that heck I say is a Mac! If I put a gerbil with and abacus and a flashlight inside a pretty box, as long as it boots OS X and has an Apple logo on it, it's a Mac. People who really use their computers are more concerned about getting things done, quickly, easily, efficiently, and with a little bit of style. Those are the folks I need to concentrate on, not the zealots."

The seated man sighed heavily. "Again, it's a matter of perception. You think that just because you build it people will come. I don't think you realize how strongly people feel about what makes a Mac a Mac."

"Well, they will surely stop coming if I don't build something that screams."

"But aren't Mac sales going well right now? And you've just released a faster Power Mac..."

"Yeah, sales are OK, but they aren't what I need to gain market share; and I need to gain market share. And yes, we did just released a Mac with a small speed bump, but that's all it is, a speed bump. I need speed. "

Both men were silent for almost two minutes before the man sitting in the leather chair spoke again. "So, what are you going to do?"

"I don't know," Steve said with exasperation. He sat heavily in his chair behind his oak desk, leaned back, and ran both hands through his thinning hair. "I really don't know.

"If I go with Intel the Mac faithful will label me a sellout, but there's a chance that I could pick up some corporate users. If I stick with Big Blue, then I have to keep using smoke and mirrors to sell Macs, and there's no guaranty that Big Blue will ever get to 3 gigs."

"IBM makes other types of PowerPC based processors, couldn't you use one of them to run a PowerMac?"

"Yeah, that's possible. In fact, anything is possible, but opening the door to Intel does one thing for Apple that sticking exclusively to IBM can't: it give us options. There's nothing that says Apple can't have Intel AND PowerPC based Macs. If I diversify my processor line-up, then I'm not stuck depending on one vendor. And, truth be told, OS X runs great on Intel processors."

Steve looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "Yes, Intel and PPC Macs, for a while at least; see how it works out. If IBM comes through I can stay with the PPCs, if people like the Intel processors then I can make those too."

The seated man nods in agreement. "Options are a good thing, Steve. A very good thing."

The seated man rose from the leather chair, stretched, and dug into his pocket for his car keys. "Well, I need to get moving."

Steve rose from his chair and walked around the desk, hand extended. "I'm glad you stopped by. And I'm sorry if I'm not good company."

"No, it's all good, Steve," the man took Steve's hand firmly and shook it. "You've got a lot on your mind."

Steve spied the car keys in the man's other hand. "You still driving that Mini?"

"Absolutely! You want to take another spin? I've got Black Eyed Pea and Cold Play on the iPod..."

"Tempting, but I'd better not, I've got a lot to think about and a decision to make. Then I need to makes some calls."

The man with the Mini keys says his goodbyes and is gone. Steve turns and walks to one of the large windows in his office. Beyond lie the campus of Apple headquarters. It is early evening, but the sky is prematurely dark; thunderheads have blocked the last rays of the sun. The trees on the campus begin to sway as breezes from the coming storm builds.

Steve likes storms; they're full of energy and majestic power, and after they have moved on, you are left with air that is sweet and clear, and everything looks new.

Lightning strobes through the approaching storm clouds, and Steve smiles. "Maybe it's time we had a little storm of our on," he says to himself. "Just a little one."

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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