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Of Mice And Hype

MWSF - Of Mice And Hype

by , 9:00 AM EST, January 4th, 2002

Dr. Harv Benderfritz of the Institute of Applied Psychology and Waffle Shop in Vanderhaven Montana has released the results of a study of the affects of hype on lab mice. In his study, Dr. Benderfritz divided a group of 10 standard laboratory mice into 2 groups; one was the control group and was allowed to cavort and play as mice have a habit of doing when they find they are part of a control group, the other group was forced to watch every MACWORLD keynote in which Steve Jobs gave his famous, "oh, and one more thing..." phrase.

Dr. Benderfritz found that the mice in the control group continued to cavort and play, while the mice in the study group went on to become emanate scientists or really great waffle chefs.

While Dr. Benderfritz may have found a link between Steve Jobs' keynotes and tasty waffles, he has not uncovered what affects the media blitz Apple is currently engaged in has on mice, or the public at large. It could be that we won't care after Jan. 7, but I think it's a valid concern, at least at the moment, and should be pondered studiously.

Let's examine the facts, shall we?

Fact 1: There is a MACWORLD coming on Jan. 7, barring any unpleasantries. (Fingers and toes are crossed.) MACWORLD expos have historically been the events in which Apple and the many vendors who support Apple products unveil new products. This is nothing new to anyone even remotely acquainted with the Mac industry. Apple normally tries to keep a lid on things by keeping tightlipped about new products, preferring to surprise us, then stand back while we oooo and ahhhh over whatever was unveiled.

Fact 2: Steve Jobs will be the keynote speaker for said MACWORLD. Again, this is nothing new. Mr. Jobs has given the keynote at every MACWORLD since his return to Apple, and what was to be talked about in each keynote has normally been the source for rampant speculation for many weeks before the keynote is actually delivered. The speculation, fueled, in part, by rumor sites that "release" information garnered from "reliable sources," has a tendency to build upon itself, becoming wilder as the keynote date approaches. In recent keynotes, the speculation actually detracted from the real announcements made. People expected one thing and reality gave them something else.

Fact 3: Apple could use a healthy shot in the rump to get people excited about its products again. True enough, the iPod is a hit, and the iBooks and TiBooks are getting media attention like nobody's business, but the mainstays of Apple's offerings, the professional and consumer desktops, i.e. the Power Mac G4 and the iMac, have pretty much fallen from the limelight. The pro desktops are suffering from the nagging ill effects of the Megahertz Myth. No matter what Apple has done to dispel the myth in the past, the plain fact is that the fastest desktop system on the planet currently is arguably not the Power Mac G4. Power Macs do an admirable job in keeping up with the latest crop of P4s and Athlons, but it's not like it was before when you knew your Mac smoked any desktop made.

The iMac, once the darling of the media and every high schooler in the country, is now a notable and stylish has-been. Still very capable, but so passé' with it's now tiny 15" tube.

Given the three facts above we know something has to happen at the January MACWORLD, so people who watch Apple already have reason to speculate. But this is where it gets interesting because, this time around, Apple is actually trying to get people to take notice by dropping little hints here and there about what they have in store for the public, but keeping the lid clamped so tight that guessing is really the only thing anyone can do.

I noticed it during the introduction of the iPod. Apple said something to the effect that they have other cool things in the pipeline, that the iPod was only the tip of Apple's iceberg. From there, Apple has continually stoked the interest of the public and the press, announcing in Sweden that a new 'thing' will be shown at the upcoming Macworld, possibly allowing leaks about the Taiwanese making LCD iMacs, and now, in the final days before the Expo, changing their main webpage daily with increasingly more provocative slogans like, "This one is big. Even by our standards." and my personal favorite, "Beyond the rumor sites. Way beyond."

The press is taking notice. Stories about the upcoming Expo have appeared on CNN, ZDNet, eWeek, and other mainstream channels.

At the typical online Mac hangouts, the buzz about what Apple has is store for us has taken on an ominous tone. Folks seem to enjoy the speculation, but many wonder aloud if Apple is pushing too hard to get media attention, and some wonder if Apple can meet the promise of the hype. Will the keynote be like having a backstage pass to the future?

If nothing else, Apple has managed to pique the curiosity of many. Isn't that what it's all about? It could be that Apple has a whole mess of alien technology that it has managed to work into really affordable consumer products. It could be that Apple has used the latest top-secret design concepts lifted from Los Alamos to bring us a really fast desktop system. It's entirely possible that Apple has developed quantum computing and has packaged it in a really stylish iMac. And it is conceivable that all Apple is trying to do is tell the rest of the world that, on January 7, at noon(EST), they should pay attention to Apple.

Whatever gets announced at the keynote, one thing is clear; Apple will not be ignored.

Waffles, anyone?

Vern Seward is a frustrated writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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