Apple to Facilitate Ecommerce
12/17/99: American Express has been pushing their new blue card, which is optimized for online transactions - at least with Windows computers.
Well, Apple's going to teach them a thing or two!
Come the Macworld Expo, Apple will replace the current USB keyboard and mouse. The new mouse, as other rumor sites have noted, will be less circular, more egg-shaped - just like all the decent mice on the market. Steve Jobs will be grinding his teeth over this, but the market has spoken. After all, not only are we buying third-party mice for the iMac and G4, but some are actually buying the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer.
The new teardrop mouse will break new ground for Apple. It will offer a right button, a left button, and a clickable scroll wheel - just like most third-party mice do these days. (Yes, Steve hates to follow the crowd. Look for other innovations, and I don't just mean a see-through case that lets you watch the two-colored mouse ball rotate.)
But that pales in comparison to the new keyboard.
What, is Apple finally going to do the right thing and bring back the extended keyboard so many of us once used?
Maybe. And if the other rumor sites are right (aren't they always?), definitely.
But that won't be the standard Mac keyboard. No, the new standard keyboard will be just a bit larger than the current one, reaching back about 1/2" toward the computer.
In that extra space, Apple will incorporate a credit card reader, something that American Express can't be too happy about, since Blue will now have competition. OS 9.0.1 will have full support for it, including ecommerce plugins for Netscape and Microsoft web browsers.
No longer will you have to pull out your credit card and enter the card number and expiration date. Instead, you'll just swipe it through the slot on the back of the keyboard. The OS and plugins will make sure the numbers are valid, then securely transmit them to web sites using Apple's ecommerce module.
Best of all, being a USB device, the new keyboard can be retrofitted to any Mac with a USB port. In fact, sources indicate the Apple Store will have a special bundle price for OS 9.0.1 on CD along with a new keyboard.
Sorry, American Express, but Blue has just been joined by every Visa, MasterCard, and Discover card in the world.
And not only will Apple offer this on the standard keyboard, but on two possible additional ones: a traditional Extended Keyboard design and an ergonomic model.
More than that, the new PowerBook (see our earlier report) will also have a credit card reader, although our sources have provided conflicting reports on where it will be located. (Best guess: a standard module in the PC Card slot, although that may be a tight fit.)
The iBook? It'll have to wait for the next design, since there's no easy place to add it with the current plastics. Apple may release a free standing USB card reader for the iBook and other USB models.
Of course, the Apple Store will be fully prepared to accept orders on the first day of the Macworld Expo. Expect the Mac mail order houses to follow in short order, followed by leading ecommerce sites such as Amazon.com and Dell Computers.
If Apple is smart, and I'd never say they aren't, they'll find a way to sell these keyboards to the Wintel world, along with free Windows drivers on CD-ROM. Not only would this support the card scanner, but also allow remapping the Alt/Option and Command keys to the way Windows people are used to using them - just the opposite of the Mac standard, of course. (Swapping keys around. That's innovation - for Microsoft).
- Anne Onymus
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