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Feasting on the Hands That Feeds You
Its a tough time to be investing resources in the technology sector. Even if there was a huge, growing market space, there is more than enough competition to go around. Even worse, there are more than enough enemies out there who will take advantage of every opportunity, fair and unfair, to beat you down and stand higher upon the bones of your accomplishments. One would think that anyone with a clue, or who might have at least heard of the board game, wouldn't strive to pass any more ammunition to one's competitors than they already have.
I guess sometimes there are disadvantages to thinking different.
I've said all along, as have many other people, that its Apple's products that I'm enamored with. The company itself is just that, a company, Its a big corporation that sometimes fails to see the forest for the trees. I mean, as the saying goes, if its not one thing then its another. Apple converts the free iTools service to an allegedly revenue generating product with little or no regard for the desires of very customers being targeted. Rumor has it that the iApps were headed for the same wasteland when, at the last minute, the keynote was changed for fear of a backlash. The wonders of Jaguar are offered up without any opportunity for an upgrade price.
Then there's the saga of the Big AlBook.
It never comes as a surprise to anyone when the shipping target for a new product is missed. That's especially true for Apple. This time the folks at 1 Infinite Loop have outdone themselves. Late February was declared as the point in time when the faithful could get their hands on Cupertino's ThyroidBook. Of course, that didn't happen. What could be worse? Simple: Finding that Apple is playing favorites with its own retail outlets at the expense of all the other vendors who have struggled to market our beloved Macs in the face of dwindling market share, and dwindling profits. With few exceptions it doesn't appear that many of the internet and catalog resellers will be taking delivery of the 17” PowerBook G4 until mid-April.
Mid-April is over one fiscal quarter after Apple announced the thing, and something like six weeks after they were supposed to be shipping in quantity. Apple's legal department, which is so quick to spring to action at the slightest external provocation, seems to not be offering up very good advice to the corporate powers that be. There are a few resellers out there who have filed lawsuits against Apple for just this sort of behavior. Whether or not there is any legal merit to the case isn't so much the issue though. What is at issue is the fact that Apple and the Mac have few friends out there. There is no reason in driving a bigger wedge between the rest of us and the world at large.
What's next on the horizon? Much has been made of some mysterious music service Apple is threatening to unleash on the world. After that, sometime this summer, a Panther in the form of MacOS X 10.3 will supplant our beloved Jaguar. Oh, I forgot, Jaguar isn't actually loved universally. The current incarnation sports an obnoxious date and time bug that shouldn't have made it through quality control. Its nothing compared to the ranting and raving over dropped dial-in connections and dropped modem calls that have been permeating the net since 10.2.4's release.
So, how much is everyone going to be expected to lay down for the privilege of Pantherizing their Mac? Will those who are actually paying for the iTools-by-another-name service get a price break on either of these offerings? Sadly, I expect not, though they should.
Nobody, least of all me, expects Apple to stay in business or be successful by giving everything away. Unfortunately Apple has demonstrated that there is a limit to the charity offered up by those of us who prefer their products. When you only command something like 3% of the attention of the purchasing public, you can't afford to take even one consumer for granted. There are too many alternatives, and too many opportunities to exercise them.
I've speculated in the past that we are our own worst enemy. We clamored for Apple to close the pricing gap between Macs and the allegedly comparable wintel systems out there. To a large extent they've done that. The financial folks deride the eroding profit margin represented by such efforts, but its the sort of thing that had to be done. Unfortunately you just can't offer a superior experience or a superior product when you're charging the same price as everyone else. In many ways, we got what we asked for. There are more complaints now than ever before about Apple and the seeming indifference exhibited by those in power at the company. If things continue as they have been, we'll all look forward to the day when we can pick up a cheap Dull, put linux on it, and go happily on our computing way.