Happy Endings Archive
MARCH 26th, 1998
Happy Endings Todd Stauffer
([email protected])

Timelines: The "Real" Thing

I hate to rehash the Newton deal (especially since my education diatribe is still only about two weeks old), but I have a feeling I'm going to be getting a quick heart pang every time I see a picture of a Newton for the next few months. This month's Wired magazine touts software for the big lug, which, apparently, is no more. What's worse is, while the overall attitude and excitement over Apple is great, the plans coming out of Cupertino are nothing to hang your hat on -- especially if you're a computing professional or consultant in one of Apple's core markets, like education and Web publishing.

One cultural nuance that seems to go hand-in-hand with Steve Jobs holding the reigns is secrecy. While I can agree with keeping vaporware announcements to a minimum (although vaporware announcements have never hurt Microsoft's bottom line), I'm starting to miss the "roadmap" days of Amelio. Granted, the road may not have been mapped correctly, but at least we had a reference point.

Enlighten Us
Feeling the schedules for Rhapsody and Allegro start the slide? I am. Unfortunately, Apple seems to be playing three-card monty with their OS strategies, perhaps to keep their competitors -- Dell? Intel? -- from grasping the brilliance of their plan. In the meantime, though, it's tough to plan on buying anything from Apple except G3 machines.

Here's my wishlist for Apple updates I'd like to hear. I'm hoping those updates are coming soon -- perhaps the National School Board Association conference (rumored to be the introductory stage for Artemis, the all-in-one G3) and Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference (promised to be the proving grounds for the new Rhapsody approach) will clear some of this up. In the meantime, here are a few factoids I'd like to be privy to:

  • Rhapsody timeline. I want to know when to expect Rhapsody and what its target market is. I'd like to get a decent indication of cost, tools and Apple-made add-ons. Should I be planning to use Rhapsody for some clients' Web sites, for instance, or look into a BeOS, Linux, or even NT solution?

  • Handheld transition. I harped on this one a few weeks ago, but I focused on the eMate. I want MessagePad answers, too. Do I transition to PalmPilot? I'd like to know if there's a business-hybrid eMate in the works and whether I should continue to invest in the Newton platform while developers, the market and the platform transition to "Mac Lite." How will such a transition take place? Lemme know, Apple.

  • DVD-ROM. Quietly, Apple adds DVD to their build-to-order lineup. Now I hear there's no MPEG-2 translation for the drive, meaning you can't run DVD movies on your Mac. That's no great loss at this very moment, but I'd love to know why. If you can't do something for some reason, let us know, Apple. We'll forgive ya. Meanwhile, maybe Apple should ask for help and bundle a third-party option. Do something that allows me to buy the DVD drives I saw at MacWorld Boston last August.

  • eMate/thin portable plans. I continue to convince myself that the eMate is the Mac of the next decade. Something exciting has happened and Apple may or may not know it. They don't have to tip their entire hat, but I'd appreciate knowing something other than, "Wait, it's coming." Let us know how to transition -- how to stick it out.

More eMate Whining
Not convinced that the eMate is the next great thing?

Some folks may remember the old Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 (also the "Tandy 102") that had eight lines of 40-character text available on its LCD screen, weighed three pounds and was sort of an electric typewriter/notebook hybrid. Let's chat about it.

It was $800 dollars, had its applications in battery-backed RAM ("instant on") and included a 300-baud modem along with ROM applications for word processing, communications and a BASIC interpreter. Sound like somebody's older brother? I was surprised to find out a few years ago that the Model 100 was a favorite among journalists, kept artificially alive into the 1990s because of its ruggedness and practicality.

Enter the eMate. Like Xerox PARC before it, Apple's already grabbed the plans from none other than Tandy and built the better mousetrap. The eMate is the bomb. It's it. It's the thing. It is, in the inimitable words of our temporary fearless leader: "Real."

And it's dead, as far as we know. Instant-on computing. Portable communications. Word processing, industrial design, Web browsing, basic e-mail, faxing, scheduling, expense, full-size keyboard, fast modems, Ethernet. Pen-based. Handwriting recognition, backlighting. Electronic texts, electronic trading. (The only real limitation I see to the eMate hitting it big is the fact that porn -- and graphics design work, which is the flip side of the same coin -- doesn't look good on its screen. Of course, that's just an up-sell feature to a full-fledged PowerBook.)

Dead, dead, dead.

I sense Apple knows all these things (although their PR people would probably deny the porn part) and that they may be changing the world again. But we need to know about it before it's too late -- especially those of us who've stuck with Apple through the lean times. Eventually, Apple's great brand is going to mean "don't trust them to inform customers," which could be trouble for an computing information and communications company.

Lay out a strategy, Apple, and hurry. Let's turn the current success blip into something really "real."