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ATPM 9.10
October 2003





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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Andrew Kator,


Some of the arguments about PCs, Macs, OS 9, and OS X are just a result of the human condition in general. People are just unable to see the forest through the trees.

A sad but real example of this is around me in my neighborhood. Isabel has left millions in Virginia without power and water, still the case several days after the storm. My neighborhood is located between a hospital and a government complex, so we only lost power for a few hours and water was restored within a day.

The biggest complaint from my neighbors is that we still don’t have cable. How can someone complain about cable when in the neighborhood behind us they still don’t have electricity? When people’s homes are destroyed? When millions of our neighbors are without potable water?

There are three trees in my parents’ house. Their power and water won’t be restored for weeks, let alone cable. They are still in the house because they have to wait around for the insurance adjuster. There is so much damage in the state that the insurance adjuster won’t visit them for a few more days. They visit us every few days to take a shower, recharge all of their devices, fill up with gas and water, and go back to wait.

None of the trees hit the various Macs at my parents’ house, so I guess that’s all they need! Unfortunately, the batteries in the iBooks and PowerBooks don’t last that long.

Sarcasm aside, Macs have gradually been shifting away from just computers people choose for productivity and ease of use. Since the introduction of the original iMac, Macs have been becoming a statement of identity for a new generation of users. For them, owning a Mac defines who they are more than what they actually do with it. This trend has been capitalized upon by Apple, seen in the switcher ads highlighting Tony Hawk, Yo Yo Ma, and other personalities.

Is there anything wrong with owning a Mac because Tony Hawk uses one? It’s not a motivating factor in my purchasing, and I’m somewhat unable to relate to someone who makes purchasing decisions based upon celebrity—but I can’t say it’s wrong. I hope all of the consumers who might buy Macs for such superficial reasons will eventually use the machines to discover something within themselves they might otherwise have ignored, such as developing an interest in video or photography through the use of the iApps.

Either way, one thing is for sure. This isn’t your mother’s Apple, nor the Apple that created the computers of years past. Most public and consumer opinion of Apple is based upon the Macintosh and the company’s history as an innovative computer manufacturer, but Apple is changing with the times. Some of these changes make more sense with some brief background about Apple’s current management lead by Steve Jobs.

Early in Apple’s history, Jobs had obviously brought success to the company, but his unconventional management style clashed with the corporate culture that overwhelmed the 1980s. In 1986, Jobs was ousted from his leadership position and he left the company. That same year he purchased a special-effects computer division that George Lucas had recently created within Lucasfilm. Pixar started with 44 employees, and over the next several years Jobs navigated the company into the production of short animations, television commercials, and motion pictures. Pixar’s financial success with 1995’s Toy Story and subsequent films promoted Jobs to a new position as media mogul.

In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple Computer and brought with him the decade of media and consumer experience he had gained through Pixar. Under his new leadership, Apple moved into the professional media production markets with Final Cut Pro (1999), and subsequently purchased and developed other production technologies. Each of these moves further into the professional market led to new products for consumer use, such as the iLife suite of applications. Apple’s turnaround and continued success has led to the company branching into other consumer genres with the successful iPod consumer music products and the iTunes Music Store.

Pixar, Jobs, iPods, and the iTunes Music Store all point to Apple moving into more consumer markets. Apple is in a unique position to continue delivering new consumer technologies, and they will expand into other media markets.

Apple will continue to develop professional production tools, further entrenching itself in the media production industries. Apple’s inclusion of Cinema Tools with Final Cut Pro 4 indicates its continued interest in motion picture production solutions. The professional tools will continue to trickle down to consumers, giving more tools for consumer creativity. Expect future consumer applications to offer the ability to create content previously only seen in professional products.

Media will be streamlined as the same technologies used for creation will be used for delivery, with everything in the same digital formats from start to finish. There will be no more need to transfer from film to digital and vice versa. Apple’s Xserve with QuickTime Broadcaster and QuickTime Server will continue to develop into a digital broadcast server, including motion picture projection abilities and satellite network integration. Apple’s products will provide an integrated, networked, and complete solution, including digital broadcast and motion picture delivery systems for studios and theaters.

Consumers will have more options than ever before to legally own and view high-quality digital content. Media will be less dependent on technology penetration (DVD, CD, VHS) and other consumer media formats because the information will be delivered via software and independent of individual consumer devices. Owning an Apple product will mean easy access to all media in high-quality formats, the same way that owning a Mac now offers easy legal ownership of downloaded music with the iTunes Music Store.

Make it, distribute it, and view it—all using Macs and Apple products.

George Lucas is confident that motion pictures will make a full digital conversion within the next ten years, where movies are delivered digitally to theaters and distributed to consumers at home in a similar pay-as-you-view basis. Steve Jobs has management background in both the media and technology industries. Apple has created a model for digital media delivery and is known for technology innovations. Expect some interesting developments.

Of course, Apple could “drop the ball” as it has many times in the past. Six months after introducing the iTunes Music Store to Mac users, the world is begging for it to be available for Windows—and it’s still missing.

Apple is moving away from just making better tools for productivity to making better tools for consumers. I think it may be a good thing that Apple is changing strategies, but there are going to be (more) growing pains.

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