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Rumors Sites: Harmless Fun, Or Scourge Of The Earth?
February 4th, 2004

Author's Note: Although Macworld San Francisco 2004 is a distant memory, I wrote this shortly after the keynote speech, and since I am excruciatingly lazy, I decided it would be this week's column.

Well, another Macworld and keynote speech have come and gone. So why are so many of you so disappointed? I mean, let's recap:

  • iTunes Music Store: dominating with 70% of the legal download market
  • iPod: number one in market share and revenue
  • Xserve: becoming a real alternative to existing enterprise solutions with the introduction of G5 processors and better security than Windows
  • iLife: even better with the addition of the very impressive GarageBand
  • iPod mini: tiny, colorful and I want one, but my wife will get one first (don't tell her; it's a secret)

Sure, there are some legitimate criticisms of the above, and I will mention them later, but people, this was good news. Yet a common response on the message boards can be summarized as, "This was the lamest keynote since Gil Amelio came on stage drunk and wandered around for seven hours." (Seriously, what was that all about? It's like Gil was pulling some Andy Kaufman routine on us.)

Admittedly, this keynote did not have the ground breaking news that others have had, but we already know that Steve Jobs has decided to minimize the importance of Macworld so that he can announce products on his own timetable. Macworld is still incredibly fun. Just ask many of my esteemed colleagues at TMO, who sported pounding headaches every single morning for a week. Now, that's fun!

I understand why Apple hates rumor sites, and I am beginning to get onboard. The main reason that so many Mac faithful felt so disappointed was that they had read ridiculous conjecturing on these rumor sites. A US$99 iPod? C'mon, have you learned nothing about Apple? Apple does not EVER play the low margin, commodity game. That's a Dell strategy.

"What is the low margin, commodity game?" you may ask. It's a topic for another column, that's what it is.

I read rumors of an Apple TV set top box, of an Apple cell phone, and the infamous Apple PDA. These rumors are worse than Jason of Friday the 13th fame. They just won't die. And trust me on this one: these rumors are the product of wishful thinking by people who like Macs. Just like you. The only difference is that you haven't started a Web site that purports that what you think might be a cool product from Apple is really coming.

You haven't started a web site like that, have you?

I am not saying that the keynote was perfect. I did think the price point on the iPod mini should have been US$199, but I also recognize that Steve and company probably know what they are doing. I suspect that if that price point had been so important to meet, they would have met it. I also suspect that we will see a price drop shortly, maybe when component prices ease, or maybe when production is ramped up. It does get old to read that once again Apple has underestimated demand, and that once again they have shot themselves in the foot.

(An aside: remember when the iPod first came out, everyone thought it was really cool and retro that Chicago was the font it used? Chicago was the default font for menus in System 7. The iPod mini uses Charcoal as its font. That was the menu font for OS 8 and 9. Gotta love those little touches.)

My only other complaint was with iLife '04. I love GarageBand, and have already ordered my copy, but the main reason I ordered iLife '04 was for the performance improvements to iPhoto and iMovie, which I desperately needed. The ability to actually cope with the number of photos I have taken, or create a movie project longer than five minutes without excruciating delays does not a full number upgrade make. That's called a freakin' bug fix.

I know there are some new features of both iPhoto (like batch processing of keywords, and star ratings of photos) and iMovie (notably, the ability the nondestructively trim clips in the timeline), and that the iApps are a teensy weensy bit more integrated, but I stand by my argument, especially for those Mac users that have no use for GarageBand.

Even so, my complaints are really nitpicking. For US$49, iLife is an outstanding value, far superior than anything offered on Windows. And since we got all of the earlier versions for free, shouldn't we be grateful for that, instead of ranting about the cajones that Apple must have to begin charging us now (the easy comparison to a crack dealer notwithstanding)?

So, bottom line, I have some minor issues with an overall positive keynote speech. That's no different from every other keynote I have attended. (Okay, so I watched the QuickTime webcast of this one, but that is splitting hairs.)

Which, in a very roundabout way, returns me to my original point. I am beginning to think that the wild speculation by the rumors sites in the guise of actually knowing something about the internal workings at Apple may just be doing Apple some harm. Sure, it's one thing to wonder, "What if?" But to pass yourself off as an insider when you clearly are not, and mislead readers with false expectations that don't pay off only serves to disenchant Apple's most important customers.

Apple is seeing some real, positive changes that I believe will be the talk of the show next year at Macworld. I think we will see marketshare improvements across the board, but especially in the Xserve lines, no small thanks to the recent security failures of Windows. I believe that Apple will continue to dominate the online music business, expanding to global markets.

And if we all hadn't been expecting an Apple-branded girl robot last week, like reported, a lot more people would see that this is one of the best time for Apple Computer in a long time.

is an Idiot. He is the co-founder of IWS Interactive, a New York (and now Houston) based development company for Macintosh. Now he spends his time writing about, developing for, and getting clients to buy Macs. Oh, yeah, and he recently had a kid. So his days are filled with taking care of little Jack, then playing with his Mac. He wouldn't have it any other way.

You can send your comments directly to Gary, or you can also post your comments below.

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