Welcome the iPony
Hello everybody. It’s nice seeing you again.
You may have read the My Mac staff’s discussion of Apple’s new iBook that was posted on our website late in July. Well, I thought I”d take my two cents’ worth and save it for this month”s column. In a column I wrote in June, “Hot Rods for the New Millennium” (My Mac #50 https://www.mymac.com/archives/jun_99/amalgamation.shtml), I compared how folks now talk about and work on their computers with the way our dads and uncles used to talk and work on their cars. There are some interesting comparisons that can be made with one particularly strong comparison springing to mind concerning the iBook.
I remember Lee Iacocca talking about the Mustang when it first came out. Originally, the Mustang was built on the Falcon chassis to keep costs down (and isn”t the iBook the first to use the Universal Motherboard Architecture?). The Mustang also debuted at a very reasonable price (only $2,368). Incredibly stylish for an American car, it competed very nicely with many of the European sports cars of the day on styling, if not on performance.
It was such an eye catcher that one cement truck driver in Seattle, having spotted it at a dealership, was so transfixed that he crashed his rig through the showroom window! Time and Newsweek magazines simultaneously featured it on their covers. Everyone was buzzing about it. The Mustang was hot!
When you looked at the base Mustang it was incredibly inexpensive. It had a generic straight six-cylinder engine, a three-speed manual transmission, and manual this and that and everything. It was a simple car, though very stylish. It was truly economical in its base form. Nothing too fancy and it even got respectable gas mileage.
However, what Iacocca and Ford found out was that people were ordering their Mustangs in droves with V8 engines, 4-speed transmissions–even automatics–along with tons of other options. $1,000 worth of options on average, in fact, and this is in 1964 dollars! Imagine increasing the price of a car by a nearly a full third with optional equipment. This is where Ford made a ton of money on the Mustang.
Lee Iacocca said something about the public in regards to these “options” people were ordering that stuck in my mind. I must paraphrase now, but it was something like, “The general public is so desperate for economy that they will pay anything to get it.”
After heaping on all these options, the Mustang certainly had more performance but not much economy. And those options were almost pure profit for Ford.
Due to the wild success of the Mustang, one bakery went so far as to put a sign in their window that read “Our hotcakes are selling like Mustangs.” It fed on its own success. And even people that were more affluent and could afford something more expensive bought one, though they did so with a very heavy hand on the options list. It was the best selling first year of any vehicle made (nearly a half-million), only to be eclipsed by another Iacocca product many years later when Chrysler introduced the minivan (and the fact that you can buy a “Town & Country” edition–with leather seats and all sorts of bells and whistles–seems to prove that Lee was indeed right about the buying public).
The Mustang was so wildly successful that it spun off not only the Mercury Cougar (just a bit of trivia: the Mustang was almost named Torino or Cougar before Ford finally settled on Mustang), but an entire new segment of the industry, the Pony Car. The rest of Detroit wasn”t far behind in introducing the Camaro, the Barracuda, and even the Javelin.
So why this history lesson on the Mustang?
Well, even my local TV and radio news has been broadcasting stories on the iBook. They were covering it like a national event. I was shocked that such a product announcement would be covered by the local news as part of their national news content. (I”m not sure if this is a commentary on the lack of the hard news gathering of local news stations, or how far reaching Steve”s Reality Distortion Field has grown, or both.)
The iBook may achieve the same “Gotta have it at any cost” of the Mustang or even its older brother, the iMac. The base iBook runs $1599, the AirPort card $99, the Base $299.
The iBook in its base form is quite a respectable machine. The USB is more than enough connectivity for the beginning computer user. Its portability is a major selling feature. The AirPort technology is the perfect mate to the iBook, providing just enough expandability that the iBook physically lacks in an area that is largely untapped–home networking.
Think that the public won”t pay more for an iMac “to go”? Just remember the Mustang.
Adding more RAM? No problem, just check off the box that says “V8” on the order form. Wireless Internet? (Automatic transmission) Oh yeah, go ahead and add that, too. I’ll be glad to reach into my pocket again so that I can have the coolest gee-whiz techno-wizardry available on the block. (And remember, this isn”t just gee-whizardry. This is an incredibly useful advancement that once again puts Apple in front of the curve.)
And if John Q. Consumer truly needs more expandability in the future than the iBook offers, Apple will have that, too. They’re called the PowerBook G3 Series and the new Graphite and White G4 Towers!
This iBook is an introductory model. Just like the Mustang, it is simple, sporty for the price, and appeals to young buyers. You bring them into the fold and let them grow up with you. When they go to buy another car, er… I mean, computer, won’t they want one that uses all the software that they currently have? One that they know has served them well already? One they know and trust?
I don’t think the iBook is going to suffer from a consumer point of view at all. And I don’t think that the price will be a sticking point, either, since it’s still hundreds less than a number of other notebooks. I don’t think the lack of expandability is that big of a deal as many people have pointed out. Not for the first or beginning computer user, anyway.
I think Apple has another Mustang on their hands.
Now quick! Run over to you dealership, er… I mean the Apple Store and start checking out that factory order form, er… I mean WebObjects order page and check out the options. And welcome the iPony.