Happy Endings Todd Stauffer
May You Live in Dull Times
I know it's not over, I know we're not out of the woods and, however irrational the motivation, I hop onto Webintosh and MacSurfer every morning to make sure Apple didn't slip into oblivion while I was sleeping. But I must say, I've been breathing easier over the past few weeks.
For all of 1997, I was on the defensive. Writing a weekly column in a Colorado computing magazine, hosting a computer talk show in Denver, writing a weekly for Webintosh (for the second half of '97, anyway) and other monthly columns on the matter, I tried to relate the issues surrounding Apple is as complete and fair of a light as possible. That was a minority position. One thing I railed against more than anything else was the mainstream and Business section press' take on Apple stories. When Apple is Doomed was at the height of vogue, the headlines about Apple were impossibly annoying to read and the stories generally weren't much better.
Now, when I read the odd headline or story lead that slams Apple in the old way, I can't help but chuckle. It's soooo '97. Today's stories are generally upbeat, interested and -- frankly -- a little more fair than they had been. Business hacks are still relying on their old sources, calling nobody but Wall Street analysts in many cases, but some of the lazy buzzwords -- beleaguered, troubled, wounded -- look out of place if, like some sort of analysts' MSG, they're as liberally sprinkled onto stories as they once were.
There's certainly no question that Steve Jobs, whatever his other expertise, is an accomplished media manipulator. Although stories are allowed to leak about his legendary temper and ego, he certainly has the trade press fascinated by his tenure, and quietly rooting for him -- as they peck away on their PowerBooks, no doubt -- to take the big job at Apple.
Meanwhile, a surprise every ninety days continues to roll out of Cupertino in at almost soothing intervals. Notice how placating it is to see the G3 Servers and rumors of even cooler PowerBooks coming through the Apple Store as prices march steadily lower. The dispersal of Newton technology barely blips on most of our radar screens, since our beloved Macs are doing better. (And, hopefully, Newton and Mac OS technology will quickly merge into something pleasing.)
Reports show increased market share in January over not terribly awful market share in December. The snail ad is finally swiping at Intel and there are reports of people buying Macs (or halting migration plans) as a result. Even Claris is gone and many feel a bit nonchalant about the whole thing.
I, for one, am looking forward to New York's MacWorld Expo -- the Creative World. Not only will it be in a helluva town, but it's name, which initially turned me off, now holds more intrigue than cause for concern. If the Mac is rebounding and the pressure is off to simply survive, maybe this next MacWorld Expo will be about fast computers, interesting software, new mediums for communication and interesting new products. Hopefully we'll be talking about the next step for educational computers, a new paradigm in low cost computing and a host of tools for generating QuickTime content. Maybe we'll be talking about another step toward Copland-esque features and the emergence in the public eye of Rhapsody.
Dull times. That's what I'm ready for in the Macintosh community. Programming and development. Serving Web sites, serving corporate data, building brochures and spreadsheets. Making music and movies. Playing with color, coding and whatever the Jack trivia people think of next.
Remember ten percent market share days? That's all I'm asking for now. The CompUSA stores' Mac sales reportedly jumped to 14 percent when the Apple store-within-a-store was fully operational. And that's a great place to be. Enough strength to convince developers, users, managers, buyers, programmers and board members that the Macintosh is a nice, profitable, boring place to be.
I like the Macintosh and believe that my computing experience is enhanced by the Mac OS. It certainly doesn't bore me. I'd just like to stop talking about the company quite as much as we have been. As Apple gets stronger, I'm looking forward over the next few months to concentrating on what's really important -- getting cool stuff done on my Macs.