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Cool On Cool & Wanting More

Cool On Cool & Wanting More

by , 1:40 PM EST, January 9th, 2002

I came home from work on Monday to watch the MACWORLD San Francisco keynote. I saw the photo of the new iMac in the Canadian Times gaffe, but decided not to read anymore about it until I saw what Steve had to say. I figured, if the guy has gone through as much trouble as he has to whip up the interest of the media and the public at large, who am I to ignore him or cheat by getting all the info on the new goods early? It was bad enough seeing the sleek new consumer computer before it was formally introduced, but that was a bit of eagerness anyone could forgive considering how anxious I was to know what Mr. Jobs had up the sleeves of his black turtleneck.

The first impression, they say, is everything, and the new iMac makes one helluva first impression, at least, from afar. With the possible exception of the Cube, the new iMac is simply the best looking computer I have ever seen. It probably borrows a lot design cues from the Cube , though you couldn't tell from looking at it. Where the Cube is flat the new iMac is curvy. While the Cube sipped its media through a slot in the top, the iMac falls back on its ancestry and gulps your media from a tray. And where the Cube opted to keep its monitor separate from the CPU, the new iMac impales its CPU with a spike mounted monitor. Both computers have their innards crammed into spaces that don't look as if they can possibly hold a hard drive much less a whole computer, and both are head turners. The result is 2 versions of cool. It remains to be seen if the new 'iMound' (this new iMac reminds me of an artsy mountain top with an explorer's flag stuck in the peak.) can capture the attention of a fickle public as nimbly as the first iMac did. I'd say it has a good shot.

Let me say, right now, that I like the new iMac. It is cool. I want one. I just wanted to get that out of the way, because I'm not complaining about the new iMac.

As I sit back a day after the keynote, after digesting what Steve Jobs had to offer up, I feel like I'm living the old adage that says that one is always hungry an hour or so after eating Chinese food. What Jobs showed at the keynote was good, but I want more. It's not that I'm a greedy techno-junky who constantly needs a fix of bleeding edge gee-whizadry to function, it just that I feel I was promised more. I believed that I was going to finally feel like I'm living in the Second Millennium. You remember all those Science Fiction stories you read back when your imagination wasn't weighed down by the necessities of daily life? Remember thinking how cool Star Trek was with all those miniskirted yeomen walking around and a computer that told you it was "...working...?" How about that scene in Blade Runner when Deckard was examining the photo left behind by one of the Replicants (Leroy, I think); Deckard gave directions to the little desktop gadget, "Pan left...stop. Pull back and stop. Pan right...wait a minute! Go back..." He talked to that gadget like he would a person and it responded to his instructions without error. That was way beyond cool.

When Apple started foreshadowing MACWORLD San Francisco with daily slogans on its Web site I figured it was a good idea. In fact, I still think it was good to drum up some interest, get folks to sit up and take notice. I suppose if the slogans weren't so overly provocative then I wouldn't feel so wanting. But that's just it, the slogans were provocative and clearly designed to make you wonder if we were finally going to see something promised to us in those sci-fi stories we devoured all those years ago. Unfortunately, that promise remains largely unfulfilled.

The iMac looks cool, iPhoto is slick, but I still have to use a mouse to crop my pictures (and it's still a one button mouse, at that). I still have to sit down at a particular spot in my house to use a computer, even if I just want to find out what movie is playing where and at what time. Even the much ballyhooed 'Digital Lifestyle' is still tied down by FireWire and USB cables. Like Avery Brooks in that IBM commercial, instead of flying cars, I want to know where the talking computers are? I was promised talking computers!

I just don't believe Apple delivered on all of the hype it generated, and I think that's a bad thing.

There's a difference in offering up a cool new look to hardware and really making the computer industry stand on its ear. The original iMac pushed the envelope because it dared to market to consumers instead of computer nerds. The Bondi Blue Wonder ignored old interface cables and single-handedly dragged the rest of the industry into the age of USB. The new iMac is a logical extension of the original, and if you ignore the shape, you'll see that it breaks no new ground. It is a hot new core of the digital lifestyle, but it does nothing that the old iMac couldn't, except maybe bob its screen to a funky beat.

The slogans on Apple's site leading up to MWSF suggested that Apple was gonna rock our world. I smiled and applauded as I watched (yeah, I clapped at home in front of the tube along with the folks at MW), but I didn't feel a tremble under foot. The Combo Drive iBook is a good idea, but nothing rocked in this neck of the woods. And while I did not anticipate a G4 at the core of the new iMac, nothing shook when Jobs announced it. I liked what I saw, but I was not floored by it, and I expected to be floored.

The problem with a campaign like the one Apple had going on its Web site is that people will stop paying attention after a while, believing that whatever is to be announced is nothing more than some repackaged version of the same old thing, or a repackaged version of someone else's same old thing. It is not that Apple must come up with something new all of the time, but it must be careful not to act as if it *has done so* all the time.

I'll say it one more time, for those who may have missed it: I like the new iMac. It is cool. I want one.

I showed the new iMac to a friend at work. She looked at it and said that it looked really cool. Then she asked what the difference was, beyond the LCD screen and the shape, between the new and the old iMac.

"Speed," I said.

"Is that it," she asked?

I thought about it for a moment and had to reply, "Yeah, that's about it."

"Oh," she replied and left.

That's pretty much how I felt about the keynote.

Vern Seward is a frustrated 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.

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