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Apple’s New Products: Is the Excitement Waning?

Last year, we all know that huge crowds awaited the arrival of the first iPhone, as customers hoped to be the first to get theirs before Apple and AT&T ran out of stock. They needn’t have bothered, of course, since there were ample supplies available. So whether you waited a week or an hour, it didn’t make a difference. Except for your patience, and perhaps the weight you gained from sitting around eating hot dogs and drinking colas.

With iPhone 3G imminent, again the tech press is checking out various Apple stores to see how many people are hanging out waiting to get first diggs. This time, stores are opening not at Apple’s usual 6:00 PM product intro time, but at 8:00 AM, local time, simply because of the extended activation process. Each sale is expected to take roughly 10 minutes, and I expect Apple’s own employees might need some extra time during the first few days to get the process down pat. Here you can expect that the cashiers at the AT&T outlets will have the advantage, since they are experienced at this sort of thing.

Regardless, published reports claim that Apple has ordered huge supplies of the new iPhones and that nobody will be forced to go home without one. Now I’m sure high initial demand could result in spot shortages for a few days, but that’ll be rectified before long.

In my case, I have to get one right away, since Craig Crossman, host of the nationally-syndicated Computer America radio show, has asked me to appear as a guest on the show on the evening of July 11th to talk about iPhone 3G. So obviously I’m going to have to acquire one to speak knowledgeably on the subject.

I suppose I could fake it, of course, but I am tempted to invest in the new device strictly because I’m not at all happy with Internet performance on the current model when I’m not in a Wi-Fi hot zone. While a five bar signal is usually sufficient for AT&T’s Edge network to deliver adequate performance for email and browsing, if the signal strength falters to any extent, download speeds fall off considerably.

Indeed, when I’m out doing errands, or just having lunch or dinner, I will stop and consult the iPhone for messages and to keep tabs on these sites to make sure nothing is amiss. A long wait can become highly irritating, although it took a while for me to arrive at that conclusion. Originally, I was just happy to have decent Internet access while on the go, without having to take my MacBook Pro along with me.

How easily one’s standards of acceptability change.

It all comes down to this: People who want to be early adopters will no doubt rush into the stores on Day One to acquire Apple’s latest and greatest. Of course, when it comes to the iPhone, those who paid $599 for theirs last year must have felt mighty irritated when the price dropped $200 just a few months later.

This isn’t to say that the iPhone you buy this month for $199 will cost $99 this Christmas, but don’t be surprised if it does. By letting wireless carriers subsidize the purchase of your new iPhone 3G, Apple has accepted the standard industry pricing policy. That means that the cost of acquisition will only go down over time.

Remember, for example, when a Motorola RAZR cost several hundred dollars? Today, they are given away, or sold for a token payment in exchange for the requisite two-year contract.

In the scheme of things, then, it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for most people to set aside their daily routines and spend endless days trolling in front of an Apple Store in hopes of getting their iPhones first. Once the product spreads into the marketplace, your initial status won’t count for anything, unless you get your picture in the paper or on YouTube, so you can boast about it to your friends or family.

Or perhaps endure their pity for wasting so much time in such a silly pursuit.

But if the crowds aren’t so large this time out (and who can predict), how will this extend to other Apple products? What about those late night parties to celebrate the arrival of a new version of the Mac OS?

Consider that Snow Leopard is expected to arrive a year from now, or thereabouts. Unlike previous releases, it won’t be chock full of new eye candy or whiz-bang features designed to tempt your eyes and your wallet. Native support for Microsoft Exchange, for example, carries very little sex appeal. And having an operating system that takes up fewer gigabytes on your hard drive, and runs faster owing to internal improvements, isn’t something to shout about.

Well, maybe you will have high praise if you suddenly find yourself getting your CPU-intensive tasks done more quickly. That, in the end, might have far more appeal than a new Finder feature, Dock design overhaul or other snazzy interface revision.

So I don’t expect the crowds to be lining up around the block for Snow Leopard, unless Apple springs a few surprises on us and packs in some extra fancy features to entice you to buy your upgrade.

On the other hand, while outside waiting in line for new tech products doesn’t seem terribly logical, there’s nothing wrong with having fun. But it’s not something I care to do during the summer here in Arizona, particularly when the temperature exceeds 110 in the shade.