On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger
Get Your Spray Paint iMac Analysis Here
February 26th, 2001
Allow me to observe a moment of silence for Apple Computer for the sad day we had last week.
Now, who let Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive play with the spray paint? Is this a movement of hippy nostalgia in Cupertino? Whoever is guilty and for whatever reason, we should make sure that this does not happen again, and punish without mercy.
Once upon a time, Apple had "Whoa, Go, Pro" marketing slogans for the original G3 line, the PowerBook and the iMac. I would suggest a change to this lineup since the iMac went through a serious change. Substitute "Whoa" by the appropriate "Whaaaat?" or the graphical "Ouch!".
I apologize; I just could not resist the temptation to make fun of all of this.
In all seriousness, I have yet to recover from the shock of MACWORLD Tokyo. I have a hard time believing that the Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian iMac units will boost Apple's sales and dig it out of its slump. Hey guys, I wonder what Wall Street thinks of the new "colors."
I can understand that there are people who will want to have an iMac with flowered plastics or to enjoy the Blue Dalmatian pattern. With all due respect, if you are one of those, I still love you.
I cannot get myself to like these patterns, no matter how hard I try, but hey, having different taste is not a crime. The big deal is that those new iMacs are very different. One could say, as my Editor Bryan Chaffin did, that many of us do not like the new colors because they represent change. In short, not agreeing with change is reactionary. I disagree. Change is good, but not everybody likes the particular ones made by Apple. I am sure that there are "radically different" patterns that a wide segment of the Mac market would have appreciated more. In addition, they would have caught the eye of non-computer folks and drawn them to Apple.
It would be a bad idea to even vaguely imagine that we have to accept change because it is change. In my not so humble opinion, accepting change means accepting change when it means IMPROVING things. As there are people who dig other designs than Flower Power, I would not blame them for reluctance to change when saying "blech!" about the new iMacs. In short, taste is a very personal thing!
I doubt that the new colors will really succeed in enlarging the iMac's scope beyond the computer crowd. What will happen if positive reception does not translate into sales? For instance, I have heard a few people say that they liked the colors, but they would never buy them.
To those who loathe the new colors: you may hope that they will fade away in almost 6 months, which means at MACWORLD Expo in New York this July. The last major iMac upgrade was in NY last year, and we just saw the latest revision. MACWORLD NY would sound like a good time to reinvent or to dump the iMac, due to monitor reasons.
If Apple wanted a death color scheme, I think that introducing Flower Power was the perfect way to remove the iMac from Apple's "product garden". Oops, another bad pun.
Seriously, I believe that we are close to the end of the iMac, at least as we know it. You cannot sell computers with 15-inch monitors forever, and something has to happen for the iMac to make it to the next level, or it will pass away! It understandably sounds very difficult to move onto a new model since the product was a manifestation of pure genius, but developments in monitor sizes makes the 15 inch monitors included with the iMac unbearable.
An iMac with a 17-inch screen would be bigger and heavier, and this would cause a tradeoff, unless Apple figures out a design or uses flat screens in a new concept. Whatever happens, Apple could soon make an important move regarding the iMac.
Those colors again...
I am sorry; I just have to discuss them more.
My first question is about why Snow, Ruby and Sage vanished in favor of the new patterns. I can understand why Apple dumped Snow since it was not the best casing, and maybe even Sage because such a green is not everybody's first pick, but why Ruby? It was a gorgeous kind of red, and it was gender neutral, unlike Strawberry.
My second reflection is that a suggestion I made in August 1999 seems to make even more sense now. If you want funky colors, Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power are arbitrary choices from Apple and they limit your selection.
My old suggestion was for Apple to come up with flavor packs for the iMac. They would be plastic parts to take off and snap on. With a variety of colors available separately, you could get anything you want: Sand, classy Black, Army patterns, just anything! Imagine the potential.
In August 1999, the iMac still had the matching keyboards and mice. Therefore, color matching (Tangerine, in example) input devices with flavor packs would have been a concern. With the clear plastics introduced for the Pro keyboard and mouse at MACWORLD New York in 2000, there is no issue with corresponding colors.
If you were to change things around, why would you use half measures with only two "different" schemes? The industrial design folks can pull miracles in Cupertino; why not the flavor packs?
During the last couple of keynotes, Steve Jobs announced price changes. The G4 price went up, the Cube's went down, and the entry-level iMac went from US$799 to $899. Steve, we were not sleeping. We noticed!
Last Friday, a close friend who trusts me with computers, and has a good preconception of the iMac, asked me how much it would cost to get a new computer for basic uses. I said that in Canadian dollars, one could get a decent PC for about $1000 or an iMac for $1200. I quickly had to correct the number with the new entry-level price of $1349 (US$899). Add the sales tax and you have to shell out CND$1550. I then realized that to someone who just wants Internet access for e-mail and the Web, this is a bit much.
As annoying as it is, reality tells us that too many people stay away from the platform because of the price; even folks who believe that it is superior! Mac advocates like us can take care of our friends' transition to the Mac, sometimes up to the point where we become unofficial technical support specialists, just as I could do with this friend. There is nothing, however, to do about prices that sound too high. What do I tell this guy if he thinks that the iMac is too expensive?
With very little to justify the price increase, people who do not buy Macintosh computers have yet another reason to justify their choice of the PC to themselves and to their wallets. The US$100 increase is one increase too many.
Is it I, or is the Cube increasingly attractive for someone who wants something less than a G4 tower? There are more options available and its entry-level unit costs US$1299, which is rather decent. I feel your pain if you bought it for $500 more, but the new price is more than right. Is Apple clearing inventory or preparing the field for the Cube to replace the "hard to reinvent" iMac? This is food for thought, folks.
Peace and power to the flowers, my fellow hippies. Oops, yet another iMac joke. I love you all anyway.
Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.
You can find more about him at his personal Web site.
You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.
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