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by Rodney O. Lain

Here's Why You Should NOT Buy A G4 Cube
July 6th 2000

I'It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.

Gore Vidal

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean no one's out to get you.


"I know who you are! You're Mordecai Jones. You're the Flim-Flam Man!"

Michael Sarrazin, The Flim-Flam Man

Part, the first: Art, life, imitations

Steve Jobs is the personification of Apple Computer in everyone's mind, and it seems as if Mr. Jobs -- and by extension, Apple -- is often accused of being a modern-day flim-flam man."

For the uninitiated, "The Flim-Flam Man" is a 1967 comedy starring George C. Scott as an infamous, likable "confidence man" who traipses across the Southern countryside, running his scams on unsuspecting marks. On various forums across the Internet, there are those who accuse Apple of running its own scams, the latest being the G4 Cube, R.I.P.

Others have reconstructed and deconstructed the Cube's demise far more than I care to read, but I want to look at another angle. What interested me out of this whole G4 thing was the amount of coverage it was given in the mainstream press. I'm told over and over how insignificant Apple is, yet the company's slightest move is cause for mild media frenzy, in the least. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), most reports were favorable, going so far to say that the Cube was one of the most innovative PCs in a good while.

Equally interesting to me was the fact that many PC bigots came out of the woodwork to shout "Aha!" and lay on the I-told-you-sos to people like me for buying and publicly encouraging others to buy the Cube.

I must admit that they were correct for chastising me for saying Apple "hung the moon" with the G4 Cube. I'm man enough to admit I'm wrong for saying that, and I will eat my crow right here for all to see: PC bigots, you were correct. You should not buy a G4 Cube. Mac users, you shouldn't buy a Cube either. Those of you considering buying a G4 Cube, hear me out. You don't want a Cube. It's not expandable. It's not upgradeable (sure the RAM and hard drive are, and sure, it has FireWire, USB, AirPort, Ethernet, VGA, but that will never be enough for the average user). You need slots, slots, and more slots. You don't need something that isn't so artsy-fartsy looking. You need a computer that looks like, well, a computer.

Notice, that I have yet to say that I should not have bought a Cube. You see, this is the way I operate: If I find a good thing, I don't want everyone else to have it. I am self-professed Mac snob. Snobs don't want you commoners having easy access to their objects of snobbery. Which is why we play the reverse psychology on you. We buy a BMW and tell you that we hate it, secretly knowing that if we said the opposite, many of you would run out and buy your own, ersatz or not. When we buy a Cube, we tell you that we hate the "cracks" and the "lack of expandability," knowing that's what you want to hear. It soothes your souls and salves your inferiority complexes.

You see, this is what PC users have to deal with. They have to deal with having nothing to brag about except their cheap PC prices.

What price innovation?

We, however, shouldn't even have to brag. I shouldn't have to brag about my Cube. It speaks for itself. Sure, it may be discontinued, but what computer isn't, sooner or later? Sure, Apple screwed the pooch when they introduced the Cube at comparatively exorbitant prices. But look at the benefits.

The influence of the Cube benefits Apple's bottom line in current products that pay homage to the Cube: the latest incarnations of the iBook and PowerBook both reek influence of Apple's Cubic approach to its latest industrial designs. It's arguable whether or not the Cube is the antecedent to what we're seeing in Mac laptops nowadays, but one'd be hard pressed to argue otherwise.

I don't think Apple will give up on the design roads less traveled, the roads with destinations like the G4 Cube. Products like the Cube are for those who value form over function (as long as that function is on par with the average computers; ditto for price). I think that the visceral reactions to the Cube attest to this fact. The problem was that those reactions didn't lead to the projected sales. This dichotomy reminds us of Apple's unique place in the computer industry. The company embodies personal computing's cutting edge, but that creative edge can be at times checked by the realities of the business model: profits and return on R & D investment must materialize.

The Cube may be dead, but the spirit of the Cube will rise once again, phoenix-like, in some future Apple offering.

But, that product may not be for you, either. I will warn you now that you may want to avoid it. If you see something at MACWORLD New York that bespeaks style and elegance, you may not want to touch it. After all, it could be discontinued in a year, at the behest of market forces and of the pedantic PC bigots.

After all, not everyone is worthy of such things. And those things aren't always for everyone. There is a segment of consumers that value the form as well as the function. It's a shame that manufacturers always value the reverse. Thank God that there are some out there who value both.

Thank you, Apple. I'd rather you attempt something like the Cube and fail, instead of playing it safe like the Dell's and Gateway's of the world. I like walking the cutting edge. If you didn't cut the edge with your designs, other than the Mac OS, there'd be no reason I'd want to buy your products.

Your comments are welcomed.

Rodney O. Lain is a junior manager at a major corporation. He enjoys public speaking, mentoring minority college students, and helping community multicultural-awareness efforts. He also "preaches the Gospel" at a Minneapolis Micro Center -- he's the bald black guy. Rodney "drives" a G4 Cube and a PowerBook G3. After enjoying a popular run at Mac, "iBrotha" was axed, to readers' dismay. Back by popular demand, it now runs exclusively at Mac Observer every other Friday, replacing "Rodney's Soapbox."

[Editor's Note: Rodney O.Lain passed away in June, 2002.]

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