Apple's Current Status
By: Jeff Furlong
May 14, 2002
Apple has changed its stance since I last wrote about the topic. So, what are the new important aspects and meaningful suggestions which I have to offer? These key issues will be addressed and discussed, as I have worked greatly with the Mac community on these subjects. This is my fourth text concerning Apple's status, with others being Apple's New Status, Apple's Status, and Apple Comeback. They have each proved to be very accurate and very good at predicting the future. You can read up on them if you would like.
Most recently, Apple announced a rebate offer on the Power Mac G4's. Depending upon the system you purchase, you can get a mail in rebate for $200 or $300. Such action is usually followed by a revamp of the product or rebirth of the system. This change will most likely occur at MacWorld NY. I highly doubt that we will see a new G5 processor, given IBM and Motorola's current designs. Therefore, the G4's will probably get a boost. A rearrangement of optical drives, standard graphic cards, and most importantly faster processor speeds are what I am looking for. Currently, the low end G4 only has a CD-RW and an ATI graphics card, which is nice. But, Apple has recently been flexing the high end muscles into the low end machines, such as the case with the PowerBooks. Besides, G4 owners should have the ability to at least read DVD's and display intense frame rates. The present situation on processor speeds is a bit bleak. Just imagine it. In the non-Apple stores and in print, there is a P4 running at 2.5 GHz for about $1000. On the Mac side, G4's start at 800 MHz and range to dual 1 GHz. Many consumer's will stop comparing once they compare the speeds, sadly. But if they do stick around, the $1600 to $3000 price tag can easily cause them to migrate to the PC side. Despite Apple's vigorous effort to explain the Megahertz Myth, some people still firmly denounce it or do not know about it. Many Mac users, including myself, know that a 800 MHz G4 can crush a fast P4 in PhotoShop or DVD encoding, but the average person does not know such a thing. A greater processor speed will close this gap, creating a self marketing notion, as well as increasing the Mac community's power. I'm not sure which is more important, though.
The PowerBooks have recently been given an increase in speeds. It is unclear if these will again be adjusted at MWNY. However, since the price has already gone up after these upgrades, it is my hope that Apple will give them a bit more power at MWNY. I would doubt 1 GHz, but could see 933 Mhz TiBooks. I am very pleased to see the standard combo drives and the standard gigabit ethernet connections. Though, perhaps for $2500, an Airport card should be included in the entry level. Otherwise, bring the prices down a bit at MacWorld.
The introduction of the eMac was something which I was not prepared for, but did greatly welcome. I have been trying to convince Apple for quite some time that the education market is extremely important. They have finally delivered with the eMac. The 17 inch screen is truly needed for classroom environments, as is the G4 processor since students today do a bit more than graphically add two numbers . The wealth of ports and power make this machine great for schools.
Obviously, the recent iMac redesign was a great hit. It is finally available in all configurations with only a small backup in shipping. The $100 price increase by Apple was a bold move, but I don't think that consumers acted in great response to this. It is worth paying the extra amount to get a great system with power and style, not to mention the small footprint and thin screen. I don't really see any changes here.
The iBook is running at 500 Mhz and 600 Mhz. It is cheap in terms of price, but let's at least make the entry level model 600 Mhz. PC laptops are crushing here, and the iBook is a G3, so I could expect a small upgrade here. Though somehow I just don't see it happening at MWNY. Maybe Apple has bigger issues with bigger systems.
On the notion of bigger systems, the announcement of the Xserve is something that has been rumored for some time. This is a smart decision by Apple. The true server industry is something that is dominated by multiple processors, RAID solutions, huge memory capabilities, etc. Apple has only contributed with a desktop server running OS X Server, which is fine for smaller jobs. However, now there is a solution for customers who want a rack mountable device which they can plug into their cabinet. The standard Apple characteristics are implemented here as well, ease of use, plug and play, future expandability, and so on. My only concern is questioning how Apple will market these machines. They may have to push some info onto the server owners who have ritually purchased from other companies. This is a new market for Apple, but with the correct approach, they can pull it off.
Finally Mac OS 9 is done and OS X is the standard. Many people have pushed off converting, but since PhotoShop 7 and so very many other applications are now made for OS X, it really is time for everyone to run the new wave. If everyone goes to OS X, surely Apple will spend more time working for improvements on the core. The next major release, code named "Jaguar," should be released during MWNY or shortly thereafter. These enhancements, such as QuickTime 6, will greatly be appreciated.
Perhaps Apple has launched so many physical stores to spite most of the Apple resellers, who could not market Apple products fairly. Many resellers had trouble in addressing concerns and found it easier to sell a PC to a potential Mac consumer. Apple is taking back its territory here, and indeed some small resellers are closing their doors. I warned of such a thing in my last article, noting what Apple may do. It was a bit foretelling when Jobs cursed at the heads of the retailers at a past expo. But what can you expect, the man has earnestly created a Mac product, only to see the poor sales representatives sell a PC in ignorance. Apple is becoming more self-sufficient so that it does not need the resellers. I imagine some of them will stay on friendly terms, but the majority of what there was can leave. Perhaps this will cause the remaining Apple resellers to reconsider their commitment. The physical stores have had some large costs to be created, but they are beautiful and have already indicated signs of turning profits. It is in here that potential customers can receive the attention and care that they deserve.
Also in the news, Apple has been expanding its digital video capabilities. Obviously the SuperDrive has been in place, but Final Cut Pro 3 and other tools are widely available for purchase. In addition, Apple has acquired some other digital video companies. This proves that Apple is seriously trying to step into the video production market. This has been an area where Macs are greatly preferred, but to keep that, more devotion must be installed in this industry. Digital video equipment is costly, but companies are certainly willing to spend a huge amount of money for a quality product, something which Apple can provide to them. This is a very logical decision for Apple.
So at MWNY, we should expect to see some updated products, such as the G4 towers. I will certainly keep my eyes open for the next release of OS X as well, which should hopefully be at MWNY. But resides the expo, Apple is expanding its product market into digital video creation and servers. These new steps are sound, considering Apple has an abundance of capital and cash. The digital video market will be easier to capture since Apple has more than its foot in the door. However, in the realm of rack mountable servers, Apple will need to sell this idea to customers before selling the actual product. Despite this, I am confident Apple can continue to grow and continue to turn decent profits. (On a somewhat related note, why have Apple execs dumped so many shares of the stock? Apple, I would not mind reading your official explanation. Use the link below to send info. Perhaps for the rest of the people, this is a great time to buy. I see AAPL as a sound long term pick.)
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