|by Wes George
MACWORLD Mac'd My Day
July 26th, 1999
|The growth came largely because of a flurry of $400 rebates offered by America Online Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Prodigy Communications Corp. that made some PC models free and knocked others down to less than $500, attracting lots of buyers. The growth is even more impressive given that Microsoft's Windows 98 was unveiled in June 1998 and spurred strong sales that month. ''The free-PC thing really sparked a ton of sales at the end of the month -- that's where the growth came from,'' said PC Data analyst Stephen Baker.
From a July 20th Bloomberg article grasping desperately at straws
The New York City MACWORLD experience has left me feeling a bit shell-shocked. What can I say that has not already been said? The evolution of the Macintosh platform is continuing to move forward at a healthy clip, perhaps accelerating a bit as we move into the next century.
There were plenty of surprises at MACWORLD such as the announcement that IBM's ViaVoice speech recognition software is coming to the MacOS. Other announcements, like QuickTime TV, were clever but natural extensions of existing core Apple technologies. Sherlock's new manifestation as a shopper's tool to hunt down items and compare their prices from multiple sources makes Ask Jeeves obsolete only weeks after their much-ballyhooed IPO.
It really felt good to hear Steve (with Bill Schiller's assistance) in the Keynote address use the word e-commerce repeatedly in relation to Sherlock and QuickTimeTV's future. Apple really does have a web strategy that is just now beginning to unfold, and it's based on preexisting, key Apple technologies.
So much happened at MACWORLD, I could write a book. But first I really need to catch up on my sleep.
A few notes about the iBook
The iBook was not what I envisioned it to be. I imagined a sub-PowerBook, something more like the eMate, instead the iBook turned out to be a true consumer portable. It's about the size and weight of a PowerBook. The iBook is much larger than expected.
Don't misunderstand me, this is a good thing. The full-size keyboard feels very comfortable and the battery, which is larger than a PowerBook's, can run the iBook for six hours. What really amazed me was the touchpad that was so much more responsive and smoother than my PowerBook G3's pad.
The iBook is gorgeous. I played with one extensively at the Apple Pavilion to the chagrin of those who had to wait behind me in line for at least an hour to get their chance to touch an iBook.
How can I describe the nuances of the iBook without using Apple's own advertising language? If you thought the iMac was huggable, you won't be able to refrain from fondling the iBook. The thing has the contour lines of a seashell. In fact, the lid snaps shut like a friendly mollusk attempting a lovebite. It has no latch. The seal between the screen-lid and the body is almost seamless. The soft, warm, rubberized polycarbonate shell adds to the animated feel of this "machine". The I/O ports are exposed without a door on the left side of the iBook, but are so deeply recessed due to the sine-wave curves of the device's edge that the lack of an I/O cover is not an issue. The only right angles the iBook has are the four corners of its 12-inch screen.
Perhaps the most innovative structural feature of the iBook is the incredibly well designed handle. Again, Apple's design team has proven themselves to be the information age equivalent of the Bauhaus. 'Form follows function' is a logical and utilitarian definition of beauty in our mass production economy, but it's a definition easier to elocute than to execute. Like the iMac, the iBook claims a naturally functional form factor that others following will find difficult to improve upon.
Perhaps this is why the major PC manufacturers seem to find it impossible to create serious competition for the iMac. Like the form of a shark, the optimal shape for moving rapidly through water, the iMac's form is an archetypal, universally constant desktop shape which, at this point in the evolution of information appliances, cannot be improved. The same quandary of convergence with a universal form already trademarked by Apple Inc. will confront the PC makers when they attempt to emulate the iBook.
As I held and fondled the iBook I thought of three things. First, as a kid in the 1960's, this device would have conformed to my image of what the 21st century should be like, while almost everything else about the reality of 1999 has fallen short of expectations I cherished 30 years ago. My second thought was that this bright, clean, sleek, stylish appliance was easily going to be the best selling Mac of all time by next July.
My third thought was more of an epiphany. The noisy throng of MACWORLD attendees went silent for a moment and I saw a vision of Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" wavering deliciously before my eyes as I held an iBook. Then some guy elbowed me to inquire how long I planned to monopolize that particular iBook demo model and I awoke to the cacophony and crowd.
The iBook that fell to Earth
Whenever an idea is ripped from the purity of platonic space, where it existed only as a concept to be hammered into a hard copy actualization, disappointments abound. An actual object can only be one thing while the pre-actualized concept is fuzzy enough to please everyone's imagination. And so it goes with the now very real iBook.
You will hear the naysayers complain about the relatively low resolution of the screen when compared with the PowerBook. I didn't notice it while using the 800 x 600 screen of the iBook, probably because it does millions of colors and is exceptionally bright.
At 6.7 lbs., you will hear complaints about its heavier than expected weight. But weight is partially a product of perception and the iBook, with its sleek profile and Venusian lines, will fool users into thinking it's lighter than it actually is.
There will be those who whine about the $1600 price tag. It's not a price level that allows schools to outfit every student with an iBook next year. However, it is a price point where Apple imagines a pleasant balance between supply and demand exists for the fall through Christmas season. Prices will come down soon enough as production ramps up, and further revisions are issued.
Don't let any of these details distract you from the primary fact that the iBook is a fabulously designed, paradigm busting, consumer item.
MACWORLD was great. The iBook shall be a best seller. I'll be sleeping well with my AAPL investment waltzing through my dreams tonight.
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Wes George writes about the financial side of being a Mac nut. Wes has followed Apple's finances for the last 7 years and comes to The Mac Observer every Monday to tell all about his opinions. He is, in his own words, "inordinately fond of money." If you would like to write Wes, make it nice. Someday you might own a company that has something to do with Apple, and Wes will probably still be writing for The Mac Observer...... On the other hand, Mr. George is known to love a rousing, hair-raising debate, so send him your worst!
Disclaimer: This column is for informational and entertainment purposes. While Mr. George may be sage indeed, his writings can not be construed as a solicitation to buy, nor an offering to sell any particular stock. As with any trading in the financial markets, you must use your own judgment to make the best trades that you can. Neither The Mac Observer nor Wes George may be held accountable for trading advice.