AppleWorks—Or Something!—Should Be Bundled With PowerBooks, Power Macs

The millions of promises printed on those slips of bumwad will all be kept or broken in the next ten minutes; actual pieces of silver and gold will move, or they wonit. It is some kind of fiduciary Judgment Day.

Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

If youive ever tried selling Macs, youive had the following conversation:

You: "And this is the Power Mac G4, a stunning combination of form, function and fun. Look at that glass-like plastic that now adorns the casing. Look at how…"

Customer: "What comes with it?"

You: "Excuse me?"

Customer: "Did I stutter? You heard me, Mac Boy. What software does it come with? If Iim gonna pay... < he fingers the price tag > ...$2499, thereid better be a whole lotta software included. Useful software"

You (mumbling under your breath): "Well, you get OS 9, OS X, < your voice gets louder, more confident >, and you also get iTunes and iMovie, the revolutionary new soft…"

Customer: "What about word processing? What about spread sheeting?"

You: "Well, Microsoft does have a special bundle of Entourage and Word 2001 for $189."

Customer (grabbing you by the throat): "Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?"

You: "Hey, you saw iRush Hour,i too? I really like that Chris Tuck…"

Customer: "Once more -- and I will speak slowly for you: What... software... comes... with... it... tuhh!? I donit care about that iStuff. And if you talk about that iMovie mess again, I will, in the words of Eric Cartman, hit you isquawi in the mouth."

You: "But iMovie is the bees knees at… Owwww!"

Iim really amazed at how long Apple has gotten away with it. Every PC shipping comes with some type of productivity software: Microsoft Works, Word, Excel or some variation thereof. For a short while, some PCs came with the freeware StarOffice.

My point is that itis embarrassing to have to dance around that topic. Sure, I can argue that AppleWorks, at $80 or so, is a steal, compared to $500 for Office: Mac. But, I donit want to argue about steals. Hereis the real thievery: Apple is too cheap to give the user some real productivity apps. The current argument in defense of the PowerBook and the PowerMac is that both are geared towards professional users, who often are using their machines for high-end wares like Photoshop and the like, software costing hundreds of dollars. "They donit even care about stuff like Word, Excel and AppleWorks," the argument goes.

Bull!

There is no way that anyone can tell me that those professionals never have to write a letter or make a spreadsheet. I think that Apple can afford to give the high-end user something of substance, iMovie and iTunes notwithstanding.

Yes, there are ramifications of such a move: for example, Apple makes money off of AppleWorks. And Iim sure that AppleWorks is a top-selling app for the platform; therefore, a decision to preinstall AppleWorks would cost Apple money in the long run, but itis worth it. But itis laughable for people to buy a computer, and for all practical intents and purposes, it has no software. When I bring a Mac home, I will do more burn Music CDs and edit video. Those are much lower priorities.

Stop being cheap, Apple (donit get me started on other issues like the latest iMacs; I havenit seen it being reported anywhere, but I noticed right away that the iMacs used to have a 512k of backside cache; now you are shipping models with 256k caches and/or combinations of level-2 and level-3 cache; thatid just downright cheap. UPDATE: a reader just pointed out that the cache running on todayis Macs is faster than the backside cache used in the past, even though itis 256k versus 512k. Mea culpa.).

Maybe Iim all wrong on this one, but Iim thoroughly convinced that this is just another element that feeds the "Macs are expensive" myth. Over time, Apple gets to the point where it provides high-end features as standard: DVD, AirPort, CD-RW, SuperDrive. One day, I hope that list includes software -- real, productive, nuts-and-bolts, everyday, workaday software.

Cimon, guys! Give away AppleWorks. Heck, if you want, put an "i" in front of it, so that it can fit right in with the rest of your free apps.

Hmmmm... iWorks. iTextWriter. iProductivitySuite. iOfficeTools. Maybe Iim on to something here...

Rodney O. Lain likes exercises in futility, like trying to get Apple to change business practices. At times like these, he dreams that Apple will one day be broken up, into three companies: OS, applications, and Appleis ego. One day, he might write about that scenario in his "iBrotha" column. Meanwhile, he will just count the days to the upcoming Minnesota winter. Mmmm... knee-deep snow...

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