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ATPM 2.08
August 1996





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by H.M. Fog,

The Future is Hot…and Cool!

Apple Computer revolutionizes the computer industry with the Macintosh "Mac-like" is added to industry parlance as a term for graphic interface excellence.

Apple strikes again with the introduction of the Power Mac

Power Computing establishes a strong, vibrant Mac clone market. The Internet "explodes" as a broad-based, graphic-intensive communication medium

January 1996
Apple "senses" the fast-paced market change

February 1996
Apple realigns management and selects a new Chief Executive Officer

April 1996
Apple "cuts" with the past and "writes-down" existing inventory

May 1996
Apple announces its technology strategy and new corporate plan

Summer 1996
Apple Computer and Power Computing, in tandem, introduce the next generation of personal computers to the performance demanding, communication-hungry world
[f1 graphic]

The influence of Apple Computer is often disputed, but its impact on the personal computer industry and its influence on the manner in which we now use graphics to communicate cannot be refuted. Make no mistake. Apple Computer is the personal computer technology leader. It has been since 1984, it remains so today.

This month, at MacWorld Expo, Apple Computer released the next generation of personal computers. The performance leap of these machines is simply masked behind familiar model names. The "heart " of the top-of-the-line machines is the PPC 604e micro-processor. This chip represents a powerful advancement in chip technology from the strategic partnership of IBM, Motorola and Apple Computer. It is the potential of this chip and its future siblings which enticed IBM and Motorola to license the Mac OS for not only their own potential product offerings but to sub-license the OS to clients as well.

This month's product releases from Apple are significant for three reasons. First, as mentioned, the top-of-the-line models utilize the powerful 604e micro-processor. This means they are among the fastest and most technologically advanced personal computers available at this time to the general market. Second, they represent the initial offerings from Apple's current management team. Third, and perhaps most important for high-end users, the models include a mulit-processor (or MP) version which is called the Power Macintosh 9500/180MP.

Dr. Gil Amelio, as we all know, assumed the leadership at Apple Computer and promised to cut costs, realign the management structure and make the company more "responsive" to customers and software developers. Among the key components of this strategy is to reduce the number of motherboard designs, make products more uniform in terms of parts and to reduce the development time for new products and hardware enhancements. The effort to streamline a company's products, introduce new models which incorporate new technologies and significant hardware enhancements all at the same time is not an easy one. Therefore, this article focuses less on the in-depth particulars of the product changes and more on the momentum of the changes that are taking place.

There has been some murmuring that the new products being introduced seem more like incremental improvements rather than broad advancements in product development. More obvious hardware changes such as moving from Nubus to PCI and from SIMMs to DIMMs received a lot of media and industry attention because they also impacted the product life of previously installed machines (i.e. the computers you currently own and use). Apple's newest offerings blend well with the existing product line and allows users a seamless integration of the new advancements in technology while maintaining the user value of existing Macs. The fact that these products have been developed and are being released without an unnecessary disruption to the product life of previously installed machines and, with the exception of the 9500/180MP, without the immediate need for third-party developers of related hardware and software to reengineer products to accommodate the new offerings speaks very well of the company's management.

This indicates that the new management at Apple has a solid, workable business model and product plan. The simple truth is that many of the new offerings are a broad advancement in product development that integrate so seamlessly into the product line that they seem more like incremental improvements.

Along with the 9500/180MP which will dramatically reduce the processing time required for high-end rendering such as CAD, 3D and computer animation, Apple is also offering a single-processor 9500/200 and 8500/180. In addition, Apple announced that a180MHz PowerPC 604e microprocessor upgrade card will soon be available for selected previously installed Power Macintosh systems.

Apple has also released new Performas, including tower-style systems, built around the 603e micro-processor with clock speeds of 200 & 180 MHz. These new Macintosh systems are on a performance par with their Intel Pentium counterparts.

Fast on Apple's heels is Power Computing. This reference is not to the processing speeds of the Power Computing's product line but in reference to this company's pace at establishing itself in the Mac OS market. The fact that Power Computing was able to beat Apple to market with a faster single processor computer utilizing the advanced 604e micro-processor technology should not only have been expected, it's a very good harbinger of things to come. In addition to the short development time required to bring the PowerTower 225 to market, Power Computing continues to innovate and to develop its product line. This means that the company will not be satisfied with simply offering lower-cost versions of older technology. This not only leaves room for other clone makers such as UMAX to develop a full product line, but it also indicates that Apple Computer and Power Computing can compete well with one another while also working in tandem to grow the over all market share of the Macintosh OS.

The PowerTower 225 (pictured below) represents an important milestone in the continuing development of the Mac clone market. Strangely, by being Apple's biggest competitor in the Macintosh OS market, Power Computing is also Apple's best friend.

[f2 graphic]

The presence of Power Computing and UMAX in the Macintosh OS market alleviate Apple's burden of "carrying" more models than it can efficiently manufacture, distribute and sell in order to maintain overall market share for the OS. This will lead to a more efficient product line for Apple and will help reduce the number of different motherboard designs needed to support sales. With a stable clone market as an underpinning, Apple can also focus more effectively on developing and licensing the Macintosh OS and the manufacturing of premuim-priced, high-end hardware solutions.

One final note: The release of Power Computing's PowerBase product line and UMAX's Typhoon product line is an indication that the Macintosh OS will maintain a healthy position in the lower-end consumer market. This will mean the continued development of Mac OS consumer-related software. The more efficient product lines, with fewer overall motherboard designs, will make more enhancements and incremental upgrades available to the lower-end Mac OS machines, too.

Simply put, the new Macintosh OS machine bought today will probably last much longer than the Pentium and PentiumPro box bought tomorrow.

The Mac OS market is hot and the products are cool!

© 1996 H.M. H.M. Fog is a west coast computer consultant who sometimes writes articles for ATPM. [apple graphic]

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