Mac UK

Steve, the iPod, and the Future of Apple

Dirk Pilat - 2001.11.06

Hello everybody, out there in geek, nerd and dweeb country (I recently had to explain to a German the difference between the three of them: Quite tricky. Maybe you could help me come up with a definition?) where you are probably poring over Apple's latest, um, invention which is supposed to make us feel happier, more content with life, and lighter (as Steve is extracting a cool 349 pounds out of our wallets. That's pounds as in British currency, BTW).

For 349 pound sterling I could go on a weeks all-inclusive trip to Barbados, getting drunk in the sun for 24/7, getting even fatter, and generally enjoy myself silly. Another option would be to buy a nice piece of software like Adobe GoLive or Softpress' Freeway 3.5 (which is at the moment the only Web design application native to OS X) plus another 512 MB for my increasingly scratched and battered iceBook. Or icebookI could fly 35 times back and forth between Germany and London to visit my girlfriend, thanks to Ryanair's revolutionary pricing. Or I could add another mobile music device to my already impressive collection of a Minidisc player/recorder, a CD Walkman, and a "classic" Walkman. Guess what poor Birgit would prefer.

On the other hand I have always been a gadget freak, and buying Apple products is good for the shareholder value, annoys Wintel Losers, and probably can help you look cool - or maybe not.

The only question that really rings in my head is "Why?" Probably 75% of potential clients who already use an Apple computer already have some sort of mobile music/noise (in case of Nu-Metal, definitive noise) delivery device in which they parade around and invested a bit of money. Why would they now change to an admittedly clever and beautiful iPod, which is still essentially a Walkman with the added bonus of a FireWire hard disk?

Apple knows that it can depend on the faithfulness of thousands of nerds to their brand but a) isn't this pushing our loyalty a bit far (349 pounds for a Walkman, for Allahs/Buddahs/gods [insert deity of choice here]) sake and b) are there really a couple of million potential iPod buyers out there who will make this the success his Steveness believes it should be. I am not convinced, but who knows: Maybe Ben Affleck will wear it at the Emmys and everybody then wants to have one.

I read an interesting article on leadership recently, in which the author pointed out that companies which benefit from a charismatic president or CEO (think GM, Intel, Apple) will have problems after they resign. Just think back and remember the state of Apple under Amelio and suchlike and the change that came about when his good old Steveness (only whispered be the name, as he can get pretty upset pretty quickly - remember the "Digital Camera Disaster" during the NY Stevenote and his subsequent aerial assault of one of his assistants with the poor device?) took over.

So obviously we, his shareholders, followers, and believers wish him well and a long healthy life, but maybe the board should insist on a member of the staff monitoring Steve's nutrition, fluid intake, and exercise regime, as the man is not immortal and one day vascular dementia or Alzheimer's will kick in, and what then? At the moment I can certainly see no one who can whip a gaggle of programmers and designers into shape like he can, and there is no Kim-Yong Ill-like figure on the horizon who might be able to take over. On the other hand, by that time Apple might be a division of Sun, Oracle, General Electric, Walmart, or even Microsoft.

The day good old Steve will announce his resignation, Apple's share price will tumble faster than you can say "bloody OS X printer incompatibility," and there will be much howling and gnashing of teeth. So if there are any signs of memory loss, depression, halting speech, and too many repetitions during the next Stevenotes, sell your shares quickly and save the money.

OS X makes XP look what it is, a cheap copy. LEM

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