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What the Muses Deign: What Apple does right

by Porruka, porruka@macedition.com, November 23, 2001

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Here at MacEdition, we catch quite a bit of heat for what seems to be a consistently negative tone toward Apple, the company and its products.

Witness some of the feedback on recent coverage of the iPod. Despite this, we don’t think Apple is a complete failure, we don’t think Apple is going to go out of business next week, we don’t think that Apple can’t create great products, and we don’t think Apple is just resting on its laurels. Whatever problem we pundits (and others) may have with the marketing side of the company, the products, when taken in a vacuum, generally stand out as superior.

AirPort

Regardless of what Dell likes to claim, Apple’s pet project with Lucent brought to light a world of networking convenience with the AirPort-branded version of the 802.11b wireless networking spec, currently coming into favor with the rest of the world under the name WiFi.

Was AirPort essential for Apple’s survival? It doesn’t seem so. Is it expensive? Not really, considering that the AirPort card pricing still beats the price of similar PCMCIA hardware from other vendors, and Apple now throws it in for “free” on the latest and greatest 667MHz TiBook.

And as is the true measure of any technology, this technology has finally made the IT big-time: It now has its own analyst report. Here’s to the forward-looking and price-competitive AirPort and the growing 802.11x market.

ColorSync

Color on screen meet color on printer. Today, this is not such a foreign concept, but not too many years ago the two concepts not only didn’t meet, they actively avoided each other. Apple, with its fortunes hung on desktop publishing and the creative community (which happens to care about making output colors match screen colors) put together an API and a bit of magic and out popped ColorSync. (Okay, it didn’t happen quite that way, but you can read part of the official story for yourself.) Where would we be today without a standard way to match colors from screen to printer? Just ask any Windows-based publisher.

LCDs

No, Apple didn’t invent the LCD. Al Gore did. But that’s not really important right now. How has Apple done LCD right? By quickly moving to some of the best LCD displays in the consumer/prosumer market. Indeed, in typical Apple fashion, it can’t leave success well enough alone and has crippled some of these world-class beasts with the well-meaning but misguided ADC (Apple Display Connector). Still, Apple has really helped bring LCD into the mainstream thought. Why else would there be so much clamoring for the (as yet) non-existent flat-panel iMac?

AppleScript

What’s probably the most unsung hero of Mac OS technologies? That’s right, AppleScript. Hundreds or thousands of businesses rely on AppleScript every day, to consistently produce whatever effect it is they rely on from regular Mac apps; the same apps you and I use every day. Print houses rely on it to process raw materials into publications. Workflow relies on it so heavily that Apple got an earful about the movement of AppleScript to Mac OS X (you know, that OS based on Unix where there are forty bazillion ways to script things – except for Mac apps, that is). Everyone who uses a Mac benefits from AppleScript, either directly or indirectly.

Gigabit on the desktop

What other company will do this? Even though it’s a feature that only a small number of owners will use (and likely drives up the price of machines that have it) Gigabit Ethernet is something really cool for the ones that actually can use it. Service bureaus. Graphic artists. Video editors. Anyone that has the need to shuffle gobs of data (like real-time video) from one machine to another in a hurry. This is a good thing? Yes, it’s forward thinking, just like making SCSI standard on older Macs wound up being forward thinking.

FireWire

FireWire. IEEE 1394. i.Link. Call it what you will, but I call it messing with the kid. That, and a connection method that does seem destined, finally, to take over the home entertainment cabling space. There is still plenty of dissension as to whether the home entertainment center of the future will be based on technology like FireWire or whether it’ll be Ethernet-based, but regardless, this is one Apple technology that is finding its place in high-speed connectivity situations (video cameras, hard drives, etc.).

So, what’s this list really about?

No, it’s not just a token example of, “Well, we bash Apple all the time so let’s publish something not so negative.” It’s meant to point out that Apple does indeed add to the technology space in positive ways, sometimes specific to the Mac OS, other times more generally. And Apple needs to continue to do so. Those of us who watch the company and report on it will take it to task when it falls down (or even when we think it will fall down). The times it knocks a home run, we’ll be sure to shout those from the rooftops too. Even if it means changing our minds and recanting a previous position.

So let’s all keep an eye out for Apple’s hits as well as its misses. It takes both to play a complete game.

—porruka
Editor-in-Chief, MacEdition

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