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July 30th, 1998

Hey Apple? Can You Make My iBook Charcoal Gray?
by T.S. Roach
T.S. Roach is a long time Observer. He offers his thoughts on the iBook color issue.

Having just returned from MACWORLD New York '99 and having had the opportunity to witness Jobs' keynote first hand (ever the consummate public speaker) and personally fondle several of the new iBooks (they were consenting), I must say that I am suitably impressed with the not-so-'lil Book's technology. But...

You see there's always a 'but.' I can't say that I fit exactly into Apple's target market for the iBook, but I come close; moreover, I *would* be a buyer, but...

I am a recent college grad, an aspiring software developer (even being paid to follow this dream), something of a power user, knowledgeable about computers in general, and a Mac tech support veteran to boot. I already have a PowerMac G3 (soon to be upgraded to 500 MHz thanks to PowerLogix $599 special at MacWorld -- great deal) with a 12 GB hard drive, CD-R, 19" monitor, etc., and while I would love a Powerbook to complement this arrangement (and it would be convenient whilst I travel), an iBook is more along the lines of what would best fit my needs and my budget -- the perfect second computer/mobile complement.

The problem is, have you seen the new iBooks? Yeah, the style and design are fine, but do I really want to be seen carrying one of these in public (in Tangerine or Blueberry)? How about into a business meeting with a client? Not bloody likely.

I admit that I suffer from a certain amount of vanity. I'm male, and as such, I subscribe to a certain amount of the male macho image. I like to think that my need to portray this male image is somewhat less than that of the stereotypical male persona, but c'mon people. I have real trouble seeing myself carrying around the iBook and not being self-conscious about it, let alone bringing it into a serious business setting! Sure, it's tough to admit, but it's true and it will affect my purchasing mindset.

Fortunately, for the sake of my own dubious sanity, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Before the official introduction, I had made a deal with my 11-year old nephew. If he could raise a preset amount of $$, I agreed to provide him with the rest of the capital needed to purchase an iBook. He was rather excited ("You're my favorite Uncle," that type of thing). When I came home from the expo with a full-size poster of the new iBook, he laughed. "The other kids will laugh at me if I bring that to school." I imagine that school kids are closer to Apple's target market and that is not a positive reaction (at least I imagine that is not the reaction that Apple was shooting for -- hey, I've been wrong before.) I figure that your average college student feels a similar sentiment. How would you like to be the one brining the iBook to the fraternity house?

It's sad to say, but I agree with *some* of the sentiment expressed by John Dvorak in his most recent column, "The iBook Disaster." I say *some*, because let's face it, Dvorak's not the quickest bunny in the forest. But for the first three paragraphs, he hits the mark moderately close. Imagine, if you will, Don Crabb carrying around a Blueberry iBook by its handle -- do you have the mental image? Too funny.

Now, I want you to understand, I love the colors on the iMac, and even on the Blue & White PowerMac G3s (mostly). But, and there's that word again, the same color scheme for the iBook instantly discourages a large portion of the consuming public. I fear for the success of the iBook -- on the basis of this issue alone.

My suggestion is that Apple offer a dark charcoal gray accent, or a deep navy or gunmetal blue, in addition to the current color offerings. It could be a saving grace for the innovative and powerfully competitive machine. Apple has been, in recent times, responsive to their customer's concerns. Now, well before the official ship date, is the time to let Apple know that there is a large contingent of users who desperately want to buy an iBook, just not in Blueberry or Tangerine or any of the other fruity flavors. Remember the iMac modem?

Here's hoping for an iBook I can carry about with pride.

I realize some people love the current color schemes and respect their right to do so, but it's not for everybody, and it's a more significant issue than a cute lil' Blueberry iMac could ever be. There's a market for Blueberry and Tangerine on a portable -- I'm just not part of that demographic. My thoughts, I welcome yours.

[Editor's Note: If you want to see some close-up pics of the iBook, check out our MACWORLD iBook image gallery.]

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