Wall Writings
My Mac Magazine #33, Jan. ’98

Happy New Year to all you Mac lovers out there! I happen to believe that it will indeed be a very happy New Year for Apple and all Mac users. I am extremely excited about the Macintosh and its prospects for 1998, and it’s because of something that some people thought Apple should have gotten rid of a long time ago: its hardware line.

The title of this month’s article is inspired by a song by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, “Another Drinking Song.” The refrain of the song says: “What you call the disease / I call the remedy / What you’re callin’ the cause / I call the cure.” In Apple’s case, I feel those lyrics fit the situation of Apple’s hardware line very nicely.

More than once, many people have recommended that Apple abandon its hardware line and focus solely on selling the Mac OS, much like Microsoft sells Windows to PC companies. This would theoretically allow Apple to cut a tremendous amount of operating costs and focus on expanding the market share of the operating system itself, regardless of what brand of computer it runs on.


We all know how well Apple’s attempts at licensing its operating system were, so there’s a hole in that theory to begin with. But even more than that, I don’t think that Apple can afford to abandon its hardware line. In fact, I think that’s where the key to Apple’s success is.

Let’s look at past history. In the beginning, in addition to the Mac’s cool GUI, the ability to use a mouse, a built-in monitor, and ease of hardware setup were some of the Mac’s biggest strengths and main selling points. What made Apple’s PowerBooks (especially the Blackbirds, the 520 and 540 models) so attractive was not the operating system, but their cutting edge features and industrial design. Several years ago, when Apple introduced the PowerPC chip, the move to RISC processing was heralded as a savior for an Apple that was lagging behind Intel processors in terms of performance. Power Computing’s trademark aggressive marketing strategies were highlighted by the fact that, at that point in time, its 225 MHz model was the fastest computer on the market.

With the introduction of the G3 Macs late last year, Apple did it again. Increased performance, a competitive price, and cutting-edge technology provides for hardware that not only improves the performance of the Mac OS, but equals or surpasses the best that the PC world has to offer. With fast clock speeds, a faster System bus, and a backside cache, Apple can once again lay claim to having the most powerful computers on the planet, including the fastest notebook computer around.

As much as I like Apple’s encouragement for computer users to “Think Different,” I also think that it could stand to brag a little bit about its new top-notch hardware. People looking to buy a computer for the first time probably aren’t experts on the subject, and they probably don’t know or care about the differences in operating systems. But they can understand the concept of raw power. There are some professionals who don’t care what environment they work in, as long as they can use a computer that’s going to let them do their job most quickly and efficiently. There’s enough people out there that buy into the Tim Allen theory of “more power,” people who will be more impressed by the number of instructions per second and the number of megahertz in the clock speed than they will the ease of use of the use interface. Apple could do well to snare some of these customers by showing off their brand new models.

Sure, you and I know there’s a lot more to computing than the speed and power. We also know that for most everyday users, the difference between 180 MHz and 250 MHz isn’t really that big of a deal. But who cares? It sounds good, and it’s a lot easier to say “my computer’s faster than yours” than to say “my computer has a more intuitive GUI than yours.” People who really want to keep with the Joneses will have to admit that right now, Apple is the tops on the market. (Unless some ornery PC manufacturer has built a new, faster system in between the time I wrote this and the time you read it.)

Hey, I love the Mac OS just as much as anybody, and it’s the main reason I use a Mac. But Apple can use any positive PR and marketing advantage it can get right now, and that’s why I am in love with the new G3 Macs. I seriously believe they could turn out to be more of a cure for Apple’s woes than anybody ever imagined.


Mike Wallinga (mikew@mymac.com)

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