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    December 27th, 2006

    I suppose I shouldn’t be ragging on people who deliver expert opinions, since the name itself is probably an oxymoron. On the other hand, it’s interesting to look over what happened through 2006 when it came to the Apple universe, just to see where folks failed to deliver an expectations.

    I suppose the biggest issue was the migration to Intel processors, because it proceeded at a breathtaking speed, much faster than Apple promised, and how often does a tech company fulfill its promises?

    This time last year, the expert opinion had it that the very first Mac to attain Intel-inside status would be the Mac mini, but the available chips, the first of the Core Duos, worked best in the iMac and what became the MacBook Pro. In this case and throughout the year, a lot of what you saw was actually dictated by Intel’s production schedule and how quickly they could get chips in sufficient quantities to the marketplace.

    In short, you didn’t have to be an expert to come up with an informed opinion.

    So you could pretty well telegraph what Apple would do and when. For example, when the new dual-core Xeons appeared, speculation mounted that they would fine a home in the widely-expected replacement for the Power Mac. With MacBooks and a MacBook Pros in circulation, you just knew the new model would be called a Mac Pro. Steve Jobs telegraphed the direction of using the word “Mac” in all of Apple’s computers when the PowerBook vanished for good, even though some folks thought the new names were rather clumsy.

    But when you look at the moniker of a typical PC, Mac Pro flows rather well from your mouth. However, I do admit that I still tend to refer to my MacBook Pro as a PowerBook, as does my wife. Old habits die hard.

    Suggestions that Apple would deliver brand new form factors to coincide with the new internal workings were also dashed when no such thing happened. Instead, the new models, from the outside at least, looked extremely close to the ones they replaced. In other words, they looked like Macs, despite the fact that they contained parts from Intel. While it’s fair to say they are ideal form factors and there’s little reason to simply change them without good reason, it also works well from a psychological standpoint. The long-time Mac user doesn’t have to confront any difference, other than the fact that their new computer is a lot faster than the old one.

    Over the year, every time you heard news about a proof-of-concept Mac virus or an Apple security update of one sort or another, you could hear the “experts” ranting about how Mac OS X would seem be inundated with malware. The security software companies selling Mac products would jump into the fray to sell a few more copies, but that’s to be expected. I’m more concerned about the so-called informed opinions from people who became what appeared to be fear merchants.

    Yes, there will be Mac viruses that’ll spread into the wild, but the fundamental architecture of Mac OS X will make them less harmful than the ones on the Windows platform. For the sake of the millions of businesses who exist on Windows, let’s just hope that Vista will be more resilient than XP, but there are already inklings that it’s just not so. But I’m not going to go there, as I don’t want to become a fear merchant as well.

    Of course, when it comes to experts, Wall Street can fail with the best of them. Every single quarter, they delivered sales expectations that Apple surpassed. How often did you hear of a deep stall in Mac sales because you were waiting on the sidelines for the Intel versions of new hardware? Yes, it did happen to some extent, but not enough to keep Mac sales from soaring.

    When it came to the iPod, you almost felt that some analysts wanted it to fail, as they claimed there were rumblings in the sales channels that sales had stalled there as well, although it never really happened. So maybe the Zune player would succeed after all.

    While I don’t pretend to know what’s been happening during the holiday season, it’s also clear the Zune was a non-starter, and the few stores I checked had an awful hard time keeping iPods in stock. In other words, whatever Apple has shipped so far this year, they could probably have shipped still more if only stocks were available, but don’t take my casual analysis as anything beyond an anecdotal remark.

    For 2007, you’ll hear more expert views on the Apple universe. An Apple mobile phone is already at the top of the list, and I’ve already weighed in on that score more than I care to for the moment. There are also suggestions that there will be new directions in the design of future Macs going forward, now that the processor migration issues have been resolved. Or maybe not.

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