Mac Scope

Apple's Biggest Challenge: Overcoming Stereotypes

Stephen Van Esch - 2001.02.21

Several articles have recently touted the fact that Apple wants to compete directly with Sony in the digital appliance market. This is all well and good. Moving beyond the "computer" market and into new spaces that service Jobs' "digital lifestyle" is a good idea - a good idea that will face an uphill battle, I suspect.

Currently most people categorize the things they see around them. For example, a person knocks on your door and tells you that they're on a scavenger hunt. The last item on the list is a 7-foot piece of wood. The person is very rich and will pay you $10,000 so that they can get every item on the list. Unfortunately, you don't keep wood of that exact size in your basement so you have to turn the person away and lose out on $10,000.

This is a prime example of missing the forest for the trees. Of course you have a 7-foot piece of wood. It's right in front of you: your door.

Your door has been categorized as a door in your brain. It's a door, not wood. This same problem applies to Apple's movement into the digital appliance market. Currently, computers are workhorses that people use to assemble documents, surf the web, and exchange email. Apple must aggressively promote the Mac as more than this.

One excellent example of this is in the area of digital music. A friend of mine has several hundred MP3s. He's interested in playing these MP3s on his stereo. After a lot of hemming and hawing with his friends over the best method to do this, he decided to convert all of his MP3s to a format that his stereo could understand and burned everything onto CDs.

Anything wrong with this? Yes, there is. It's cumbersome, it's time consuming, and it's not particularly flexible. Why not just hook your stereo to your computer and run everything from there? Response from my friend: "You can do that?"

People don't think of the computer as the center of the digital household. Currently what they see is a computer and myriad of other objects that are not connected in any way. All the objects are categorized. The stereo plays music, the TV displays images, and the computers accesses the Internet.

What Jobs must do is to convince the population that the computer plays music, displays images, accesses the Internet in addition to a thousand other things.

Apple is slowly moving toward my ideal living room setup. I've wanted to use my Mac as a central unit for awhile. I'd like to have my Mac display DVDs on my TV (so I don't have to buy a DVD player), hook up to my stereo so that I don't have to switch CDs, as well as do all of the other things I currently use the machine for. If I can do all of this wirelessly, so much the better.

While I can see the computer being the center of it all, I'm sure that there are thousands of others who think that the computer is just another box among many.

If Apple can convince people otherwise, they will definitely be in for some good times. If they can convince people that a Mac is the best way to do all of this, buy your Apple stock now.

Unfortunately, changing human behavior is not the easiest thing to do. Apple will definitely face an uphill struggle.

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