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ATPM 4.02
February 1998

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Apples, Kids, & Attitude

by Robert Paul Leitao, rleitao@atpm.com

The Answer is Simple, the Ramifications are Not


Dear Readers:


While preparing this month's piece, I came across the column I wrote for ATPM 2.08. I was amazed at how well the words in this column continue to reflect my sentiments and Apple's circumstance today. Thank you for joining me on this short trip down "Memory Lane." I'll be back next month with a look at things from a slightly different angle!


Rob


"I want to play with my ---puter!" This was Matthew's proclamation as he walked over to the 7200 and ceremoniously pushed the "big button" on the keyboard. In his own determined style he pulled out the Childcraft chair from underneath the desk, sat down, patiently waited through start-up, then double-clicked the game icon that was in the folder on the CD-ROM and set to work playing his favorite educational game. Not bad for a 3 1/2 year-old, I thought.


In 1984 Apple computer introduced something that astounded the world. Today, in 1996, I see the same excitement about the Macintosh in Matthew and Jessica. It has literally opened a new electronic world of sight, sound, learning, and play for the two of them. Twelve years ago the introduction of the Macintosh brought about a whole new approach to personal computing and it was a revolutionary idea. The Macintosh was intended to help people do the best that they could do by providing an operating system that afforded everyone a sense of personal competence no matter what their level of computer experience. It also created an opportunity for millions of people to express their ideas, hopes, dreams, and to use their inherent skills without the need to understand or master arcane commands and file structures. The idea was simple. The ramifications to the computer industry were not.


The Macintosh is still the best personal computer available to the American consumer, and to people throughout the world. Anyone who tells you differently is at best ill informed, close-minded, or simply silly. At worst, someone who tells you differently is perpetrating a fraud and telling you a lie.


What happened to Apple Computer over the past few years is a series of unfortunate management missteps. It is my view that Apple Computer attempted to be an American Sony. The company's management lost its focus and allowed attention to be diverted to things other than providing the best personal computer possible and continuing to tell the Macintosh story.


It is a tribute to the Macintosh technology and the people who continue to develop it that more wasn't lost than a little bit of market share and time. Guess what? Things have begun to change. When you go through a difficult transition and things that you may have taken for granted are suddenly at risk, it can often bring about a very quick attitude adjustment. The Macintosh pays Apple's bills. The profits from Macintosh sales used to pay a dividend to shareholders. These above statements are simple. The ramifications from the management missteps are not.


When I first began this column I thought about how much of myself should be revealed and how much should be kept private. Every month, those of you who read this column are in so many ways invited into my life, my views and my home. For me to present only a segment or a part of me would require too much effort and a contrived, bifurcated approach to what I write, and how I think about this column. I hope nothing I do ever gets that complex. In a very short period of time segmenting myself would exhaust me.


For those of you who may have wondered why the mother of our children has not been mentioned in this column the answer is simple, the resulting ramifications are not. My wife and I are divorced. That's simple. For Matthew and Jessica the ramifications are not. I am also a devout Roman Catholic. Most often that's also simple, but sometimes, in my current circumstance, the ramifications of this are not.


The divorce was not my choice. But it is a situation to which I must adapt. When I found myself flat on my back it forced me to reevaluate everything in my life. Again, not by choice but from the ramifications of the divorce. There were many things I couldn't hold onto such as certain personal goals, ambitions, and even some long-held ideals and entrenched beliefs. Quite honestly it hurt, and in many ways it still hurts and always will hurt. In learning to adapt to my new life I've had to refocus on what's important, what helps me make it through the day, and even sometimes the night. For me, it's often prayer.


The changes at Apple, I'm sure, often hurt the people involved. They are letting go of many outdated beliefs, inefficient product lines and some very good technologies that just don't fit the current market reality. Many of these changes are not an easy choice, but a necessary response to the ramifications of past mistakes and the changes in the ever-evolving computer industry. Strangely, at a time of difficulty, some decisions become much more simple.


It used to be said about Los Angeles, where I now live, that it is seven suburbs in search of a city. Apple Computer, in my view, had become several ideas, concepts, technologies, and products in search of a consumer or end user. The problem is that much of what Apple has developed outside of Macintosh hardware and software has done very little to generate more sales.


Unlike a lot of people I don't quibble with Apple's decision to go slow with licensing the OS. Quality control is important. However, I do think that Apple tried to keep too much of the market for Macintosh hardware peripherals. The more companies that depend on your main product for their product sales means that more companies are directly and indirectly helping to sell your product, too.


I believe that Apple Computer will be for a short while a smaller company. It will also be a healthier company. At the same time, ironically, by reducing its size and scope it will become larger in its influence and the Macintosh OS market will once again grow, thanks in large part to the third-parties now involved.


Apple Computer is an industry leader. Whoever tells you otherwise is no different in their outlook than the persons referenced above. The influence of this industry giant is far greater than market share data would indicate. If this weren't the case the press wouldn't be so preoccupied with its performance and with every new product and new technology that the company brings out. There are very few companies that are scrutinized and analyzed as much as Apple. Sometimes this is out of a fascination for what the company can do and sometimes out of an ingrained resentment that any company can be as consistently innovative and fun.


Apple Computer is also the only company I know that has so many end-users passionately committed to the company's continued survival and success. For many of us, the Macintosh is not just our computer, it's the resource and tool we use to work, to play, and to help transform our ideas into reality.


I know that many of our readers and fellow Mac users do not share my faith. That's not an issue. In the ten years I've owned a Mac, and although I've attended meetings, I've yet to join a user group. This may soon change (a reader reminded me that there is a very good Mac user group in my area). However, I have joined a prayer group. Over the past couple of years I've come to know that you can learn a lot about a person, their concerns and their outlook on life by what they pray for. I've spent a lot of time praying for Apple. I know that I'm not alone. There are people of many faiths and different denominations who have done so too. In my view, the reason for this is that many Mac users share in common a deep, abiding respect for human dignity, and an appreciation for personal expression. The Macintosh as a creative tool has unlocked many otherwise hidden talents and skills among its millions of users.


Ask anyone the following question: If you were given 24 hours to create a message in sight and sound that would effectively communicate to everyone in the world the one thing that's most important to you whether it be a relationship with God, family, friends, an idea or personal principle, etc., what computer would you use? The answer is simple. Anyone who doesn't choose a Macintosh may not have understood the awesome ramifications of the question.


There are people who claim that only little differences exist between the Mac OS and Windows '95. Sure. I could always use a paper and pencil to balance my checkbook. Better yet, I could also light charcoal in my fireplace to warm a pizza. Some people just don't get it.


I've gone through a lot of changes in the past couple of years. It's been an opportunity to realize what's most important to me and what in life I cherish most. As I write this, one is sleeping quite comfortably in my bed and the other, wanting to be just a little closer, is asleep on the loveseat with his favorite pillow and "blanky." In the morning, just before they go to their "other house" to spend a few days with their mother, Jessica may ask to use my color printer. She likes to draw pictures for her mother on the computer and give them to her. This is one way she expresses love.


I'm glad she has a Macintosh. Jessica's message is simple. The ramifications of being able to effectively communicate that message to the most important people in her little world are not.


"Apples, Kids and Attitude[TM]" is © 1998 Robert Paul Leitao, <rleitao@atpm.com>.Blue Apple

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