The Mac Webb


- 2002.07.03

Readers in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area are familiar with the works of longtime Sports Writer Blackie Sherrod. Blackie was in his prime shortly after the founding of the original 13 colonies, but continues to be a fixture with the Dallas Morning News. Over the past decade, he has been subjecting us to articles which have no coherent theme or ideas. He simply scattershoots, throwing out random thoughts as they come to him. He was the model from which Larry King based his own disjointed writing style, referred to as "".

I like to contribute to Low End Mac on a monthly basis and have found that my mind will remind me to contribute by throwing an idea for an article to my conscious approximately every three weeks. This time I find that I have a group of small ideas, which although extremely important to the community, are a bit lean. As such, I will pay tribute to Blackie and submit these scattershots.

New Releases for Macworld?

I was talking with some of the employees at the local Apple store, and we began speculating on possible releases to coincide with MWNY. We threw out the usual rumors of G4 iBooks and G5 Power Macs and tried to base our speculation on the current product life cycles. If you examine the current product map, it is difficult to see where any major changes could be made.

On the portable side, the PowerBook has just gone through a wonderful revision in the past 60 days, and the iBook specs were raised to keep the two machine relatively close to the previous capability gap. In the The iMacdesktop arena, the Power Mac specs were just raised, and the iMac still has the new computer smell. The eMac machine is both brand new and dangerously close to hurting the value of the new iMac. The Xserve is a brand new product, and the iPod was recently upgraded to offer a higher capacity drive.

In the hardware arena, the employees and I decided that a Quicksilver case update and a possible iMac upgrade were about all that seemed realistic. It seems this summer will again be the platform for highlighting software with heavy emphasis on 10.2.

I was able to come up with one upgrade I would love to see and that no one else in the group had given much thought: AppleWorks 7.0. After my switch to OS X early last year, I made a concerted effort to keep my PowerBook Microsoft free. I did this for a few reasons, but most important in my mind was the stability of my system.

Anyone who has used Office or Explorer knows that these products are a leading cause of instability for an otherwise stable platform. As none of the major Microsoft products had been carbonized at that point, I took the opportunity to make the switch. When examining my computer usage, three of the top five tasks (word processing, email, browsing) had been traditionally handled with a Microsoft product. With the arrival of OS X, I began to use AppleWorks as a primary application for the first time since Claris was absorbed.

In my mind, the AppleWorks application accomplishes about 80% of the tasks I need an office suite to handle - at a quarter of the cost. The failings for me are the same well-documented limitations: The inability to have multiple worksheets in each spreadsheet is a tremendous liability for the spreadsheet application, and the lack of PowerPoint translators is another factor that, if addressed, could greatly improve interoperability.

Additionally, the application needs a redesign to better conform to the OS X interface standards. A new revision would be a boon to both the consumer and education markets, and it seems Office's stranglehold still keeps many users from switching completely.

I Hate the New Ad Campaign!

When I first heard of the "switch" campaign, I thought it would be a wonderful way to show Macintosh computers in the real world. I pictured an ad showing John Smith carrying his PowerBook into a corporate setting, trading files with PC users, connecting to PC networks, working wireless, etc. Or Mike Admin, firing up his iBook to manage his Unix network remotely. A real study in the way Mac machines interact well with the rest of the computer world.

Instead, we get a collection of people who are quite frankly a bit strange - and not one computer on the screen. I understand that it may be a bit passé to actually show your product in a commercial, but wouldn't you prefer seeing OS X screen shots to this group:

I must agree with Andrew Orlowski in his concern for the image the ads promote. To quote the author, "The bad news is that Apple couldn't have picked a starker collection of life's losers with which to promote the Macintosh."

What happened to the simplified product grid?

One of the best things that Steve Jobs did when he rejoined Apple was to simplify the Apple product grid. At the time, Apple had an absolutely silly number of units available to the public, all of which varied only slightly from the next. It was difficult for the channel, difficult for Apple procurement, and untenable to consumers. Apple was losing a fortune in inventory issues and was on the verge of collapse.

Steve brought the company under control by building a simple product grid. He offered both a desktop machine and a portable machine for both the professional user and the consumer. Moving to only four basic computers lowered costs, allowed for just in time inventory, helped clear the channel, and pulled Apple out of a terrible mess.

Fast forward to 2002, and we see that the professional still has a PowerBook and Power Mac, and the consumer still has an iMac and an iBook. The complications arise when you are now faced with two form factors on the iBook and an additional machine, the eMac. Are we going to see the rumored "iBook LE" with a G4 to complicate matters?

The additional units and products are not a problem as of yet, but if I see a Performa G4 this fall, I am going to have a fit.

Thanks for the iPod Service

Kudos to the Apple store in Dallas for the good service in helping with my five month old iPod. My trusty player had suddenly started to exhibit horrible battery life, with a best-case time of around 1.5 hours. Now this machine is 5 months old and long past the 90 day warranty.

I took the machine in to talk with a Genius about ways to recondition the battery or any other thoughts on the problems with the machine. Instead, I was given a replacement machine on the spot with only a few signatures on a repair order. It would seem the iPod warranty period has been adjusted without much fanfare.

I did not probe further as I wanted to get out of the store quickly to ensure no one reclaimed the new machine. I recommend users take problem iPods into a local Apple store rather than calling support. LEM

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