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  • Does Apple Really Build What You Want?

    November 3rd, 2009

    When the Cube first came out in 2000, I got one to evaluate for a major online tech site. As I took it out of the box and hooked it up, my wife waxed enthusiastic over the sexy industrial design. When I wrote up my review, I remarked, quoting a line from an Indiana Jones movie, that it “belongs in a museum.”

    While I realize some of you still have a Cube running at your home or office, my opinion at the time was that it was best used for a museum piece, since it wasn’t a terribly practical product. Nowadays, I even wonder if it wasn’t designed largely to satisfy the personal indulgences of Steve Jobs, since it echoed the original NeXT Cube in some respects.

    Certainly it wasn’t a very practical design. If you moved your hands too close to the touch-sensitive switches, you might accidentally put the thing to sleep, as my wife did often during routine cleaning of my office. The expansion slot was a little too small for some peripheral cards, and performance was decidedly lackluster for the price of admission.

    Even after a fairly substantial price cut, Apple realized that they couldn’t sell enough Cubes, so they discontinued that model in 2001, just weeks after Jobs denied any such intention.

    However, such products as the Mac mini, AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule and even the Apple TV are clearly influenced by the Cube, and the form factors are certainly more practical. Well, that is unless you really need to open up your Mac mini and add memory or replace the hard drive.

    The larger question is how much does Apple consider the public when creating a new product. Did they, for example, respond to your demands when they created the iPod? Probably not, but they surely saw a need to build a digital media player that would better fulfill the potential of such a device than anything competitors offered. They were right.

    On the other hand, some of you really wanted Apple to enter the mobile phone business, and it is clear that they resisted for years until they could create the iPhone, a product that most agree set a new standard for style and usability.

    When it comes to Macs, six distinct product lines, half in the desktop and the other half in the note-book category, are far fewer than anything most other PC makers offer. Yes, there are ways to customize individual models with extra RAM, larger drives, and, sometimes, different graphics hardware. But the choices Apple offers are again quite minimalist for anything but a Mac Pro, where there are far more ways to build the computer you want.

    Apple gets criticized for the lack of choice. In large part, I think Steve Jobs is responding to the problems that afflicted the Mac lineup in the mid-1990s, when there were so many models even company executives couldn’t readily distinguish one from the other. That situation, in fact, probably holds true for most PC box makes to this very day. I challenge any Dell executive, of any position within the company, to fully explain the confusing, overlapping and useless variations they offer customers. You almost wonder if they would seriously consider letting customers select the color of the screws used on their desktops if they thought a few customers would want such a choice.

    However, Apple’s overly threadbare product choices can engender its own brand of customer confusion. I mean, when someone tells you they have an iMac, that provides only the barest amount of information as to which model they actually have. After all, iMacs have been around for over 11 years, and they’ve undergone several deep design upgrades that bear no resemblance whatever to their predecessors, except for being all-in-one computers. Compare, for example, a 27-inch iMac with the original Bondi Blue edition and you’ll see what I mean. If you didn’t recognize these machines, would you be able to identify both of them as iMacs.

    My desktop computer is a Mac Pro, and you certainly have a picture of what it looks like. But unless I also identify it as an Early 2008 model, you wouldn’t know which one I was talking about. The same holds true for my Early 2008 17-inch MacBook Pro.

    The car makers have this down pat. Even when the models change only slightly from year to year, certainly you’d understand what I mean when I tell you my son has a 2007 VW Jetta, as opposed to, say, a 2010 model.

    In any case, distinguishing one model variation from another is not a serious issue unless your Mac requires repair or you need technical support. The real issue is whether Apple’s approach can deliver the computer you need. If, for example, you don’t like glossy computer displays, you are obviously not a potential iMac customer. Apple doesn’t give you a non-glossy choice, except on some versions of the MacBook Pro. Even then you have to pay $50 for what I expect you’d interpret as something that offers less and not more.

    Apple’s logic is that they aren’t going to build a product unless they can sell enough copies to make it profitable. That means that you won’t get a non-glossy iMac unless demand is extremely high. There will probably never be a mid-priced expandable desktop without an integrated display simply because the market is moving towards note-books.

    So, yes, Apple will build what you want, but only if the “you” can be counted in tens or hundreds of thousands.



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    32 Responses to “Does Apple Really Build What You Want?”

    1. Andrew says:

      Isn’t it like that with every company and every product line though? Yes, Dell, HP or Lenovo offer a very wide selection, but some users will still likely fall between the cracks. The only real difference is that the cracks between Apple’s models are larger and deeper.

      Lets say I wanted to replace my MacBook Air. Apple doesn’t make what I want, which is a version with a matte screen. Other than that omission, the current model (or my late 2008 model) are perfect for my needs in a courtroom laptop and satisfy me completely.

      Lets say I wanted to replace my Lenovo ThinkPad T400, we get the same problem. I want the thinner and lighter T400s, but I also want discreet graphics that are only available on the thicker and heavier standard T400 that I now own.

      Neither of these machines can replace the other, and each are compromised against what I really want. I want a matte screen MacBook Air and a 4 lb ThinkPad with discreet graphics. On the Air I am stuck with glossy, which I do not like, and when I carry my ThinkPad I’m stuck with a thick 5 lb instead of a thin 4 lb package.

      The gaps in Lenovo’s lineup are narrower, but are gaps nonetheless, and while neither Apple nor Lenovo offer exactly what I want, both come close enough to part me from my hard-earned money on a bi-annual basis.

    2. dfs says:

      Does Apple build what exactly I want? Well, how can it, when (as far as I can tell) it does little if anything by way of focus groups, test marketing, and the other things by which corporations conduct market research, so I have never been asked what precisely I want. Apple puts out what it expects a large number of consumers want, and it usually gets it right, as its sales figures show. They build enough flexibility and options into their models that there is a Mac reasonably close to what the majority of their customers find satisfactory. Sometimes they get it wrong (the hockey puck mouse, maybe the glossy screen), but sooner or later they self-correct. But ask yourself what the alternative strategy would involve. It would mean going back to the Sculley/Amelio policy of putting out an unreasonable number of models, which created all sorts of manufacturing and marketing problems. When he came back, Steve in his wisdom greatly streamlined and simplified the Mac lineup, and that was one of his smarter business decisions. And sometimes Apple manages to make something better than what I would have designed for myself. “You don’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.”

    3. Andrew says:

      Except for glossy. Glossy is not great under the bright flourescent lighting of many courtrooms, outdoors, in a parked car or on an airplane, which are precisely where ultraportables like the MacBook Air are meant to be used.

      • @Andrew, I feel your pain, but I’m not personally impacted by glossy. I like glossy, but I do think maybe Apple ought to lower the bar about how many non-glossy units it needs to sell in order to justify its availability.

        Peace,
        Gene

      • EricE says:

        @Andrew,

        “Glossy is not great under the bright flourescent lighting of many courtrooms, outdoors, in a parked car or on an airplane”

        Spoken like someone who doesn’t own a glossy display 🙁 I use my MacBook Pro in all those situations just fine. In fact, I *can* use my MacBook Pro with it’s glossy display outside, where my PowerBook and PC laptop from work are totally useless in bright sun with their matte displays. While I understand some don’t prefer glossy displays, please stop spreading misinformation – especially about full sunlight, which is one area where glossy displays are clearly superior.

        • Andrew says:

          @EricE,

          I didn’t say I can’t use it, as obvioulsy I do, just that the reflections are annoying in those situations. I most definitely DO own a glossy display, a late 2008 MacBook Air to be precise, and in those settings with harsh or direct lighting its display is inferior to the matte screen on my ThinkPad T400, which is equally bright but doesn’t have so much glare.

          The Air’s other attributes still make it a better courtroom machine than the ThinkPad, but it isn’t “perfect” or “exactly what I want”, which are the focus of this article.

    4. Thomas says:

      Aren’t there aftermarket matte overlays you can buy? It’s a lot easier to turn a glossy screen matte than it is to turn a matte screen glossy.

    5. Andrew says:

      Usually glossy is fine, and the glossy screen on the MBA is not as reflective as that of the MacBook Pro, but when I travel with my ThinkPad and its matte screen I am reminded that there is a better way.

    6. Kaleberg says:

      Most computer makers use their product line designators to indicate what they are selling. Apple uses them to indicate what you might want to buy. iMac just means basic desktop with a built in screen. MacBook means low end laptop; MacBook Pro means high end laptop. It’s sort of like buying a sedan, an SUV, a hatchback or a coupe.

      One thing I like about Steve Jobs is that he is in it for the money. An awful lot of business people are in it for the power and control. He’ll often say one thing, but then, when it makes business sense, do another. Look at your Cube example. Remember when he argued that no one wanted to watch movies on a iPod? Who knows, maybe there is hope for that mid-range tower yet.

      • EricE says:

        @Kaleberg,

        “One thing I like about Steve Jobs is that he is in it for the money. An awful lot of business people are in it for the power and control. He’ll often say one thing, but then, when it makes business sense, do another.”

        While I’m sure they don’t mind the money, if you listen to him talk about products, especially at their introduction he will always refer to “we wanted this, so we decided to create it”.

        I think that’s what really sets Apple apart – they make products they want to use. They are one of the few tech companies that ignore the tech-geek feature checklist nazi crowd, which is why the tech crowd tends to heap disdain on them but normal users love them.

        There are more normal users then techie geeks, BTW 🙂

    7. Louis Wheeler says:

      This is a matter of product differentiation. Every company decides what mix of features and services it will choose to sell. It uses that mix to position itself in the market. The problem is that the Wintel market is very wide and is only competitive at the hardware level, so there will be plenty of features and hardware which Apple will choose not to offer. If you are looking for something to gripe about, you can always find something in Apple’s product line — no Blue Ray on Macs and no Flash plugins on the iPhone, for example.

      Apple has its own ways and practices, as any convert from Windows will tell you. Apple has very long term plans which we know nothing about. Apple is not in computers to make a buck; it is pushing its vision of excellence. Sometimes that vision is wrong or takes very long to persuade the customers.

      Does Apple listen? Yes, sometimes. That is why it put Firewire back on the MacBooks. And also why it created the Mac Mini Xserve.

      Is Apple ever going to be slavish to its customers? No, never, but this not necessarily a bad thing. We customers can be wrong too. Sometimes, Apple has a better idea.

      Apple got itself into trouble in the 1990s, by being to much like wintel. I don’t think Apple should go back there. Apple does a pretty good job of finding out who its customer base is and ignoring the rest.

    8. Bill Burkholder says:

      BTW, they just took FireWire back out of the low end MacBook…

      What I want is that proverbial mid-range desktop with three slots, two HD bays, two OD bays, support for 16GB RAM, a multi-format memory card reader on the front, with next-gen FW and USB, and a socketed, upgradeable processor. Build it to last ten years, and charge for that. Make it modular, publish the specs for upgrading everything, and I think Apple could sell a gazillion of them.

      They could sell one basic device, then allow the consumer to do the upgrades. Or, you could customize your order on the Apple Store Online, the way many models are customized now.

      A laptop built along the same ideas would be great, too… Wouldn’t it be nice to buy the device, knowing that you could easily change the drives, the RAM, the processor, the screen, the keyboard, the battery…

      Hell, even if they allowed just Genius Bar folks to do the upgrades, they could sway a huge contingent of Windows folks to switch. Many Windows users just want a sense that they can tailor their box to their own preferences.

    9. jsk says:

      I don’t think you can go by sales numbers to say whether or not Apple got the feature set right. When people buy Macs, they generally are buying them for the OS and the software, the exact hardware mix is secondary.

      To answer Gene’s question, No, Apple doesn’t really build what I want. I use 15″ laptops. Glossy screens drive me crazy and give me a splitting headache; so I was thrilled when Apple brought back the matt display. But for me, now, it the ports. I was dumb founded when Apple ditched the PC card in favor the ExpressCard/34 slot. That was fine if you used fast wireless cards, but horrible if you were a professional photographer as the 34mm slot only handles SD cards, not the Compact Flash cards that pro-level cameras use (like the cameras I have). Ditto when they eliminated the ExpressCard/34 slot in favor an SD slot. While this choice is good for most home users, it isn’t OK for me and Apple offers zero choice in the matter. (Yes, I know you can get an external card reader, which is what I have to do; but that is hardly ideal for a laptop in the field.) Would this lack of choice prevent me from buying a new 15″ MacBook “Pro” (other than the price)? No (but the glossy screen did).

    10. Richard says:

      I don’t think Apple has a clue what the customer base actually wants. They simply depend upon the Polyannas who will uncritically gush about anything shipped.

      It is said that Apple “listened” about the Firewire ports…was that necessary. Anyone, anyone at all who has had contact with the Apple user base should have known that the customers wanted Firewire in the first place.

      Anyone who has used a high-glare screen should know, without even asking, what a PITA they are. Is it really that big a deal for a company to offer a choice? I think not.

      What about eSATA for the Mini? Once again, anyone, anyone at all should have known that there is a great benefit to having an eSATA port. There is already SATA controller for the internal drives. Would it have been that hard to put an eSATA port in and, perhaps, a new chip that supported the extra port? Again, I think not, especially considering how simple the actual physical port would have been to add with a combo USB/eSATA port.

      Everyone wanted the ExpressCard slot that was used for a variety of purposes.

      jsk is probably representative of a great many photographers, both amateur and professional, who found the Macbook Pro all but useless in the field with the high-glare screen.

      So, Gene, to answer your question. No, Apple does not deliver products which suit me or which, I believe, a rational management team would deliver whether they were “just what I wanted” or not. Steve Jobs is part of the problem because of his infamously abusive management style and refusal to listen to anyone who has the temerity to tell him something he doesn’t want to hear…they usually don’t do it for long. Steve has done a lot of good for Apple, but you really have to wonder if the company would be better off if he stepped back into a secondary role as “co-founder/CEO Emeritis” or whatever. His ego is getting in the way.

      Is this returning to the days of old when Apple did a miserable job of managing the product line and inventory? No. But Apple needs to produce products that people want. If I had a choice of purchasing the OS and (legally) purchasing hardware to run it there would be little question but that I would be running some non-Apple hardware right now.

    11. Hyper Hip says:

      Gene,

      Apple will build what you want, but only if the “you” can be counted in tens or hundreds of thousands

      Maybe there’s more to Apple’s madness than is first apparent.

      Drivers:
      More important drivers that work. Wasn’t Snow Leopard hailed for it’s “slimming down?”
      How easy would it be to convince component manufactures to write Mac drivers for “tens or hundreds” or maybe even thousands of units sold to Mac users? Would the cost of doing so in-house or even by third party programmers be worth the cost/benefit? Who gets the blame if said drivers are crap?
      I’ve built my own PCs, “driver and firmware Hell” takes a lot of the shine off of the “do it my way.” (With apologies to Frank Sinatra)

      Support/Genius Bar:
      Compare satisfaction ratings of Apple Support with ANY other support. Now they have a few hundred configurations to contend with. (remember, iPods, iPhones, Air Ports, etc.) Could they be expected to maintain that level with thousands of variations?
      No other computer company can.
      Have you ever enjoyed the “Windows Waltz Across Texas” (With apologies to Ernest Tubb) support?
      Please remember that Apple builds with “hand” selected components and writes the OS. How can they do the “manufacturer” vs. “software” runaround that you expect with HP, Dell, or Acer? That’s just not fair!
      Say a prayer for the “Guru Bar” staff with tens of thousands of hardware configurations to support.

      Apple’s logic is that they aren’t going to build a product unless they can sell enough copies to make it profitable.

      Excellent point! What company/shareholders wouldn’t trade their first born for Apple’s profit margins?

      If you are uncomfortable with buying a computer that is “less” than you think you need or “more” than you think you need, there are always “Hackintoshes” or Psystar. (to paraphrase Tim the Toolman Taylor, “more is always better”)

      Glossy screens? Not important to me. My 24-inch late 2006 iMac is non-glossy and my 13-inch, late 2008 aluminum MacBook is glossy. The iMac is used at home but the laptop is used in the dark at DJ gigs. The only regret I have with the laptop is the lack of a backlit keyboard. At the time the extra $200 for that model didn’t seem important. Once again, Apple knew better than I did.

    12. Jeff says:

      “I don’t think Apple has a clue what the customer base actually wants. They simply depend upon the Polyannas who will uncritically gush about anything shipped.”

      The financial reports say otherwise.

      • Richard says:

        @Jeff,

        The financial reports are irrelevant. They are incapable of determining what sales would have been if any given company had done “Y” instead of “X”. The only thing a financial report is capable of telling those who decipher them is relative performance to a prior time frame, and sometime poorly.

        If your comment is that “Apple making money and must be doing OK”, I would not argue the point. They could very easily do much better though.

        • Jeff says:

          @Richard,

          So if Apple does exactly as you want, instead of making truckloads of money, they’ll have to hire a freighter to haul it all away?

          Have you considered renting yourself out to any number of failing tech companies? I’m sure there’s a great future for you as a consultant.

          • Richard says:

            @Jeff,

            Jeff,

            Your comments are not responsive to the question and are bordering on irrational. No one knows what the direct impact of a specific change might be. Not you, not me, not Steve Jobs. Each of us has an opinion, but that is all it is. The financial reports do not prove your assertion. They just say that “Apple is making money and is doing OK.” That is all.

        • EricE says:

          @Richard,

          “The financial reports are irrelevant. They are incapable of determining what sales would have been if any given company had done “Y” instead of “X”. […] If your comment is that “Apple making money and must be doing OK”, I would not argue the point. They could very easily do much better though.”

          What unbelievable hubris. Apple has the highest margins in the business, has a market cap larger then google and a pile of cash on hand that’s the envy of businesses everywhere and just because they don’t do exactly what you want they could do better?

          Apple doesn’t have to be all things to all people. They don’t have to have the largest market share. They realize that and are comfortable with who they are – incredibly successful! Just look at everyone who swore they would be “dead” without the latest tech geek feature checklist-nazi fad: netbooks. Well, Apple has had three blockbuster quarters in a row with no netbook, the PC vendors with netbooks have had flat earnings despite all their “marketshare” and now netbook popularity is waning because people are realizing they really are cheap, crappy machines after all (duh!).

          Apple puts out a very specific experience, and “cheap” is not their experience. If you want cheap, there are other choices – have at them. If you want a Mac then Apple has choices. Hyper Hip does an excellent job of pointing out why Apple does what they do – and no, an image of Steve Jobs in his lair cackling over denying users what they want is not a realistic supposition about their motives :p

    13. Louis Wheeler says:

      Apple does not attempt to serve everybody. Apple has its core markets and moves out from there. It is very careful about what it does.

      Back in 1997, Apple abandoned most of its customers to concentrate on Graphics, Design, Education and the upper end of the consumer markets. Apple had to do this because it’s previous management had been trying to compete with Microsoft on Wintel’s playing field. They had brought Apple to the brink of extinction.

      Since then, Apple has concentrated on excellence, but excellence is a value judgement. This means, that many people disagree with Apple on what that virtue is. Hence, Apple will always disappoint someone on software or hardware. Apple will not play Microsoft’s game. Nor will it try to out compete the hardware marketplace. It often does not boast about its technical superiority, because there is a FUD machine waiting to pounce.

      Apple is in this game for the long haul. If it must sacrifice its security for twelve plus years in order to move NeXTstep to the Mac, as it did with the Carbon API’s; it will do that. And then, it will move on to the next great thing. The point is that Apple is not standing still. It is moving slowly and relentlessly into ever wider spheres. This is reflected in its rapid growth rates.

      Eventually, Apple may get around to pleasing all those who have complained about Apple on this web site, but it will do this on its own terms. Apple is not your servant, or your master. It has its own vision. Many people will agree with that vision, but Apple will let go, by the wayside, those who do not.

      • Richard says:

        @Louis Wheeler,

        Are you telling me that you like the high-glare screens or that you would enjoy being restricted in the speed of an external hard drive because Apple did not do the very obvious and add an eSATA port to the Mini?

        • Jeff says:

          @Richard,

          I certainly like the colors of the glossy screen on my 2008 MacBook Pro, and don’t find the lack of a few ports to be an important issue. If you don’t like what Apple offers, you’re certainly free to look elsewhere. I’m sure you can find plenty of PC vendors that will configure to your exact specifications.

          You can’t please everyone all of the time, if Apple tries to be the next Dell and offer every possible configuration and price point in order to please everybody and get their logo onto as many desktops as possible, they’re in danger of becoming just another low-margin PC company.

        • Louis Wheeler says:

          @Richard,

          No, only Apple needs to think that. This has to do with what market Apple is trying to serve. Is there enough market for the two items you mentioned? Certainly, the latter would have been useful on the Mac Xserve Mini.

          It is a matter of costs as well. Would enough people pay more for this feature?

          As I said, Apple is not trying to please everybody. In fact, to please its target market, Apple may have to offend its core markets or Visa Versa. I see hints of when what benefits the graphics users conflicts with what the consumer users want.

          You can tell me what you like, Richard, but do you have any proof that Apple is wrong in its choices? At best, you can disagree with their priorities. But, this is true of any company you could name.

          • Richard says:

            @Louis Wheeler,

            You rather pointedly avoided answering the question I posed which was simply do you like the high-glare screen and do you enjoy being restricted to a slow external hard drive connection? I just wanted to know.

            Obviously, I would have made different choices, but that does not in any way infer that I want or even suggested that Apple should have a multiplicity of choices “a la Dell”. I did not suggest that. There were two rather simple choices and I asked if you liked them.

            I can tell you that professional landscape photographers went to some lengths online to express their disgust and loathing for the high glare screens on the MacBook Pros for use in the field. Eventually Apple relented and offered an anti-glare screen for the 15″ MBP. But do you like high-glare screens?

    14. Louis Wheeler says:

      As I said repeatedly, it’s not about what we as individual like or dislike. This is about the art of marketing which is always a numbers game. Apple is not your servant. It can have its own reasons for doing things. It owes you nothing.

      Complain all you want, perhaps Apple will listen.

      I will answer your question though. I have a two year old 24 inch iMac with a glossy screen and it doesn’t bother me, but I have adapted to it. If it had irritated me, then I would have put on an after market matt film. The cost of that was about $40.

      The point is that I don’t think that Apple must cater to me. I have my priorities; I don’t like Microsoft Windows. The 24 inch iMac was the best choice for me but it isn’r perfect, nor do I expect it to be.

      Nor am I some flaming prima donna who thinks the world revolves around me. I am no narcissist.

      • Richard says:

        @Louis Wheeler,

        Gosh Lewis, flaming prima donnas and narcissism. Whatever happened to a simple answer to a simple question. At least you finally answered half of the question. I guess you simply are not going to answer the other half of it.

        I do think you are rather thin skinned to react to a simple question in this manner.

    15. Louis Wheeler says:

      Gosh Richard, Can’t a guy state broad marketing principles without people making it personal?

      Perhaps, I am being too pedantic in this, but Gene’s question has wide marketing ramifications.

      Apple does not, and cannot, do everything that Wintel does. Apple got into trouble when it tried to do that in the 1990s. Apple listens, but it has goals it is reaching toward; Goals which we may be unaware of.

      The fact that Apple has its priorities causes people to dislike its choices. Sometimes, when Apple chooses to please one segment of its base, it irritates the another segments.

      Apple is less than 10% of the US market. If it is to expand, and it is expanding at 30% a year, then it needs to offer more choices. But, I suspect it will do so carefully.

      I don’t know what Apple’s plans are. Would an eSata controller on the Mac Mini be of interest to me? No. Could I see Apple adding it to the Mini line? Yes, now I can. Why? Because the Mac Mini Xserve is going to be huge among Apple’s SMB customers. The Xserve Mini cost a thousand dollars and it replaces Wintel products which cost 3 to 25 times as much. It will do a better job than a small Wintel server, If for no other one reason, because it will have no malware.

      Apple is in process of trying to take over the SMB market, so this means that Apple will create new products, or it will adapt old ones, which will appeal to SMB users.

      What I infer is that you want Apple to make a Mini Tower. I’ve heard many Mac users ask for that product. But, Apple has not seen enough customers to warrant it.

      Do I care about the high gloss screen? No, it doesn’t bother me. If it did, I would put on an After market film. It will be another two years before I’m ready to trade in my iMac, anyway.

      You are taking this personally. I am not. I am simply trying to see where Apple is headed toward based on the choices it has made.

      Apple is currently distracted by other issues now. Things are going on which Apple needs to adjust to. Changes in technology are coming down the pike like a steam roller, which Apple must plan for.

      Apple cannot be all things to all people; it is too small for that. There are parts of its customer base which it must neglect.

      • Richard says:

        @Louis Wheeler,

        Thanks for the simple answer to a simple question. I never took anything personally…and I was not the one engaging in hyperbole either.

        On the subject of growth, I have picked up any number of reports about various institutions and businesses purchasing large numbers of Minis specifically for the purpose of creating low cost server farms. The details were a little skimpy on some of them as to whether they were primary systems or backup systems, but Apple most probably knows rather precisely and has chosen to recognize the trend with the server offering.

        It is probably no great revelation that Apple may be considering products which create positions in markets they presently do not serve or which are served only indirectly by products which are used even though not specifically intended for those uses. (I am reminded of a software company which hosts an annual meeting with their customers and starts out by asking “what are you doing with our product” so that they can make changes to facilitate what the customers have dreamed up which none of them could have foreseen.)

        It will be interesting to see if, when and under what circumstances Apple seeks to increase the user base beyond “incremental” growth.

        Yes, Apple is small and has to allocate their engineering resources from one project to another carefully. This is one reason that Snow Leopard will help the company by not having to expend resources continuing to develop the OS for the PPC based systems. It is time, even though many people, myself included, will be affected by the policy.

    16. Louis Wheeler says:

      “On the subject of growth, I have picked up any number of reports about various institutions and businesses purchasing large numbers of Minis specifically for the purpose of creating low cost server farms. ”

      LasVegas macminicolo has a great write up on the Mini XServe:

      http://www.macminicolo.net/state2009.html

      You can use the Mac Mini Xserve in several ways: as a local server, a remote server located next to very fast pipes or as an off site backup system. One thing that small businesses need and often don’t have is an off site back up. A place like Macminicolo would be ideal for that. That is a good reason for Apple to add an eSata controller.

      “It will be interesting to see if, when and under what circumstances Apple seeks to increase the user base beyond “incremental” growth.”

      Yes, I want to see that too. But, Apple needs to be careful. It cannot directly confront Microsoft and its niches in government and Big Business sales. Those fiefs are too well protected.

      I see Google’s Chrome OS doing much of the attacking here. Why? If Google is smart they will create something that Ubuntu, Red Hat and the other Linux distros have failed to do. Google will create a Linux OS for novices and casual users of inexpensive hardware. Google will create web applications that ordinary people can use.

      Apple and Google should split the consumer market between them in a few years. Apple gets the users who need real computing power and heavy duty applications.

      Nor does Apple need to push for growth. Apple is growing at close to the ideal rate — 30% a year. Some companies allow success to go to their heads and stop doing the things necessary to maintain the growth. That is why I appreciate Apple being modest and restrained. It is good that Apple does not reply to Microsoft FUD.

      The smart people are waking up. It is best that the dummies remain on Wintel for a while.

      System Seven is quite polished version of Vista, but all the internal flaws which it inherited from Windows Server 2003, after Longhorn failed, remain. System Seven has only about 20% better security than Vista and Vista was about the same better than Windows XP SP2.

      http://www.rixstep.com/2/20090601,00.shtml
      http://rixstep.com/2/1/20091105,00.shtml

      Apple is not really trying to attack Microsoft. It knows that all it needs to do is bide its time. Apple must get its own act in gear rather than being adversarial with MS. It needs to get the bulk of its Intel users into Snow leopard and its developers into creating 64 bit apps, with GCD and OpenCL enabled. Only when those events have occurred will the changes become fast and furious. Apple needs to keep nibbling away at Microsoft’s flanks and let word of mouth garner it customers.

      System Seven is a disaster waiting to happen. Eventually, reality will set in for deluded people. It’s better that people get disgusted and walk away from Windows. There is an un-learning curve that Windows converts must go through before they GET the Mac. Only someone sufficiently motivated will endure a month of struggling with a Mac until they get it.

    17. matt_s says:

      I would like Apple to sell a powerful, small footprint & lightweight 10″ or 11″ LCD laptop. Removable battery. No DVD. Core2 Duo with enough RAM to run FCP & Photoshop. DVI &/or HDMI, 3-4 USB2.0 ports, 1394a IO & Gig Ethernet. The Air is sleek & cool but it’s not a road warrior machine & it’s too big. The key element is the footprint: 11″ maximum screen size. I would be willing to pay $1600 for such a machine. I believe a lot of other folks would, too. There’s simply nothing in the Mac lineup for heavy travelers (I will end up with around 140 EQS on United this year).

      I would like Apple to change it’s policy of killing & strangling and instead, support developers in delivery of an iPhone external keyboard. While the virtual keyboard is fine for replying to a few email or sending a text message, I want a real, manly keyboard to pound out hundreds of email responses. This would make business travel much more enjoyable.

      Apple’s laptops are either desktop replacements or student offerings. I’m not exactly sure where the Air would fall… it’s a novelty machine, perfect for strutting at Starbucks but not entirely suitable for extended international travel.

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