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September 16th, 1999

[11:50 AM] Direct From France: Apple Expo Day One Wrap-up
by Philippe Bogdan

As we were waiting under the rain for the doors of Paris' Palais des Sport to open for Steve Job Keynote, I spoke to the lady next to me who happened to be in charge of the computer Department of the University of Social Sciences in Paris. She attends the Apple Expo every year to keep in touch with the latest Apple hardware and software.

"Most of the people attending the Apple Expo are already Mac users," she told me, "actually the Apple Expo is almost like a 'cult.' We have lots of Macs in the University I'm working in. The researchers can't be bothered by using a PC. But we have everything from old Mac Pluses that are used as a typewriter to G3s for crunching numbers. I have a G4 in my office because I'm testing it before putting it to use in the research programs."

She also told me that one chain of book, CD and computer stores called the FNAC announced that 25% of their computer sales this year came from the iMac. "But this just could concern the FNAC in Paris" she adds, "because lots of people are complaining about the lack of Macs on display in FNAC in other cities." Even more important is the fact that most of sales people in this FNAC don't really have the expertise to do a proper demo on the iMac or the iBook. Paris is still the center of Art and Information in France, and it's no wonder that the Mac community is larger here than in the rest of the country.

We finally got in the auditorium, nearly 6000 of us waiting for Steve Jobs to appear while listening to Buddy Holly singing "It's so easy to fall in love." Hanging on either side of the stage were two "Think Different" posters, and the white Apple logo was displayed between 2 iBook Apple color logos on the projection screens. Nothing new I guess.

Steve Jobs received of standing ovation as he came on stage and started with a Corporate Overview stating that Apple had 5 days of inventory now, when Compact had a 28 days and Dell 8-9 days.

He than announced that Apple will launch the QuickTime 4 Stars War trailer in France for the upcoming Stars War French version. Leaving QuickTime, he presented OS 9's new Internet and multiple users preferences features. He then went on to cover Apple's simplified product strategy, mentioning that 90% of US iMac users are on the Internet, and that 33% are first time computer buyers.

Then came something slightly different from the other expos, something catered to the French. IBM gave a demo - in French - of their speech recognition software, Via Voice, on the Mac. This was a very impressive demonstration that struck a responsive chord in the French audience.

After each demo the crowd cheered except when Mr. Jobs praised the FNAC and Darty, another French reseller, for doing such a good job in selling iMacs. The crowd booed and whistled their disagrement because this is not true outside of Paris and a very few university towns in France. Mr, Jobs, the consumate showman that he is, launched into another impressive demo of the iBook and AirPort. This got the crowd cheering again, and here too the emphasis was placed on the Internet.

Apple has already logged 160,000 iBook pre orders (not including Japan) and, more importantly, started shipping the first iBook today (September 15th) in the US. To the delight of the French audience, Mr. Jobs said that the iBook should ship in Europe in just 2 more weeks. Apple will use a French version of the same iBook campaign announced in the States that asks the question: "Is it possible to fall in love with a computer? Oh yes, it is possible." The TV add will also feature an orange and a blue iBook.

The rest of the presentation was geared toward the new G4, with quite a few demos of Photoshop and QuickTime Movie encoder running simultaneously on a G4 and a Pentium III. Just as in the States, the G4 won each time due to its "super computer" structure.

The G4 will come in 3 flavors in Europe :

  • 400 Mhz, with 64 Mo of RAM, a 10 Gb HD, CD Rom and a 1700 Euro price tag.
  • 450 Mhz, with 128 Mo of RAM, a 20 Gb HD, DVD Rom and a 2700 Euro price tag.
  • 500 Mhz, with 256 Mo of RAM, a 27 Gb HD, DVD RAM and a 3700 Euro price tag.

The 400 Mhs model is available in Europe today, the 450 will ship in October and the 500 in November, all roughly 2 weeks behind the States.

The last annoucement was quite exciting; the new "Apple Cinema Display" was saved for last, and once again it found a receptive audience in the French crowd. At 22" of beautiful LCD screen, the Cinema Display is wonderfully designed and sports an incredibly good image. I saw some on display in the Expo and they are amazing!

According to Steve Jobs the Apple Cinema Display is Twice as bright and sharp as other LCD screens, has 0% flickering, boasts a 1600 by 1024 pixels resolution and is digitaly connected directly to the G4.

Price tag : 4300 Euro.

A limited supply of the displays will be avaialbe in October only through the Apple Stores bundled with a 450 G4.

The Mac Observer Spin: 2 remarks regarding Steve Jobs Paris Keynote :

1. One third of the presentation - at least - was geared toward the Internet. The problem with this is that Internet connections are really expensive in Europe. The majority of French people cannot afford to spend US$200 a month on Internet communication. According to official statistics, a French Internet user is someone who has connected to the Net once in the last 6 months!

2. Only Graphic and Video Artists were especially mentioned as potential G4 users. Graphic artists are among the people who have been Mac faithfull users from the start and will surely stay faithfull. But they are really few compared to the number of computer users in France.

Will Apple continue to remain strong in this market if it doesn't try to reach consumers outside of Internet users and artists? I honestly don't think so. Existing Mac users will continue to update their systems, but until the business world gets the message that Macs are easier to use than PCs, "Think Different" will not mean much to the majority of French computer users.

I'm afraid that Apple's current approach will do nothing to change the 70's image people still have about Apple. We call this a "Baba Cool" attitude in France. Not very compatible with the business world, unfortunately...

Maybe Apple is becomming a cult after all.

Philippe Bogdan lives and work in France. His exclusive coverage of The Apple Expo comes direct from Paris.

Apple France



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