March 1998

Around MacWorld in 80 Ways

by Robley Curtice

In a black leather coat, a black tee shirt, and loose-fitting jeans, Steve Jobs strode onto the stage at MacWorld in Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, for his most recent good-news speech. Yerba Buena Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel was jammed with the faithful to hear whether the SS Apple would avoid becoming SS Titanic. Jobs gleefully announced that Apple had turned a profit in the last quarter (initially $45 million which would become $47 million when all the beans were counted) for the first time in nearly a decade. He then highlighted new software partners coming on board, the success of Mac OS/8 (over two million copies shipped), better distribution channels and finally the new Power PC G3 with a 300mhz chip. (Perhaps these new PCs account for 47% growth in the European market in 4Q. ) One of the new software partners is Oracle who unveiled an entire Java-based suite of 35 enterprise applications for financial computing, previously these were only available on Windows. A clear call to put Macs in the business offices too.

A lucid statement of the Apple paradox, IMHO, was in a conference session termed "Don Crabb Unleashed." Mr. Crabbe, Director of Instructional Laboratories, University of Chicago, said that the $45 million profit was a really big deal: the first win for Apple in a long time. In an analogy, that possibly originated with Jobs, he compared Apple to an airplane in a dive. The first consideration was to level off, not to crash the plane. That was accomplished. But now the plane has to climb or it will go back into the dive. And Apple canít just coexit with Microsoft, they have to try to beat Redmond to gain customers. The projection of sales of 80,000 G3s sounded like a start. The absence, however, of future projections in Jobís speech disappointed Crabbe since it makes it difficult to forecast any future results, and the absence of the very name "Rhapsody" in Jobsís speech further bothered him.

Appleís only strength in sales, the panel noted, are in the Content-Creation and Education markets, but even these markets have seen a constant erosion. "How many work in a shop with constant pressure to get rid of Macs?" was the question to the audience that elicited a show of hands. And as we mentioned before, the fact that Jobs did not illuminate any long-term goals was troubling. He has indeed saved the company, but now he must decide to step away or take over, they thought. One or the other. Not both! Crabbe considers Jobs an entrepreneur and a visionary but not a manager so Apple probably should select a new CEO. And the new manager just canít have Jobs, the founder, looking over his shoulder. So the future is still chancy.

Market Perspectives, Inc. survey said that 96% of attendees that come to MacWorld do so in order to check out new products. The products that caught our eye were the recordable CDs from Yamaha, Ricoh, Optima, and Cedar. Insigni has a new version of its SoftWindows95 program that allows one to run Windows 95 program on the Mac Ė albeit slower. Microsoft Office 98, Macintosh Edition, had great new features not found in Microsoft Office 97. And finally Apple itself debuted the newest QuickTime, version 3.0. This application now features streaming, a digital format, offers virtual reality, features better video and audio, and runs off any HTTP. It was the default application for video on the Web even before this hot new edition.

The booth with the sizzle had to be Iomegaís where stunning models in skin tight jumpsuits, Dutch boy wigs and sunglasses froze into standard mannequin poses and then scared the beejus out of you when they suddenly moved. There was always one posed on a huge chrome Harley hog that was raffled off (the Harley not the model). To compound the noise of Moscone in full chaos with all of its loud presentations, Iomega gave out clickers that soon caused the place to sound as though there was an attack of the locusts.

Robley Curtice (, a San Franciscan, is an early-retired teacher who haunts West Coast technical conferences searching for the 21st Century Killer App.

Copyright © 1998 by Robley Curtice. All Rights Reserved.

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