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What the Muses Deign: Sometimes it snows in April (or May)

By Porruka (porruka@macedition.com), May 24, 2002

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Note: If you tuned in to see the results of the shareware vs. commercial debate, I’m going to have to put you off to yet another installment. In a way, it fits this week’s topic, but regardless, there are some pieces to that particular puzzle that are not yet in place. Mea culpa, and it will be forthcoming.

This past weekend, there was a winter storm advisory in MacEdition’s home office of Reno, Nevada. This past weekend is also contained in the month commonly known to most as May. May and snow don’t generally go together, even at 4500 feet elevation, unless of course, you ask a native to the area (which I am not). In the end, though, it snowed in the higher elevations only, but it got me to thinking about the migration of Apple’s hardware release strategy over the past year or two, about what’s expected and what might actually happen.

Anticipation of precipitation

How many of you out there remember the anticipation of MacWorld Expo keynotes (raise your hands)? You know, the ones where, unless it was the second coming of Woz and there was an Apple Event, hardware would be announced there. These hyper-large venues (eventually including Seybold or NAB) were the places to hear about new Apple kit. The problem, more often than not, was the hardware only received minor changes. Big stage, big microphone, small announcement. The result? Lots of negative press on Apple. “That’s all?” “We got all lathered up for that?” And it seemed to keep happening, again and again. Until all of a sudden, it wasn’t happening any more. Anyone notice the revision in the iBooks this week? Sure, folks noticed, when it was pointed out to them. Where was the Apple hype machine? Where it belonged, in the closet.

30% chance of hardware with scattered software

Of course Apple did not hype the iBook revision. Of course Apple didn’t make a global media circus out of the latest revisions to the TiBooks. Neither change in the respective platform deserved the kind of attention that Apple previously lavished on such releases. Does that mean I’m dissing the hardware? Not at all. The upgrades are decent enough for what they are and depending on what machine a person currently uses, the new hardware might be compelling enough. What Apple has done is more appropriately set expectations in the community. It’s a welcome sign that Apple may finally be figuring out that it doesn’t need to cry “hardware wolf” from the rooftops to get anyone to listen (and in fact, will keep more ears tuned in by not doing so). It also gives the rumor sites (and columns) a chance to show their mettle (even if it’s distateful to The Mothership). Like any good game of “kit and mouse”, the real questions should be “why” and “why now”?

Flurry-ous

Apple and Steve Jobs have never been ones to hold back or to wish to disappoint the crowds. If anything, the previous policies on announcement were an error in favor of trying to satisfy the throngs. At this point, if Apple (and more likely, Jobs himself) is willing to make market-sensible release timings for the expected hardware, what does that imply for the expos? Surely Jobs isn’t going to let the keynotes of such events as the MacWorlds turn into snoozefests. Why would the press come and dote on the company if all that’s there is a rehash of what’s already available? No, it seems that another step in the transition of Apple Computer into “Apple” (the proprietors of “Club Macintosh”) may be happening before our very eyes. The decks are being cleared of the “minor but essential” upgrades and releases, leaving the showcases of expo keynotes for what hopefully will be the truly dazzling.

No accumulation (this time)

There’s speculation that Apple will release something extra between now and MWNY. If so, it will be an interesting exercise for the readers to watch what sort of announcement Apple makes, as it should give an indicator of what to expect at the Expo keynote. After all, people pay big money to get to the Expo keynote. It seems Apple, on this newly corrected path, wouldn’t want to disappoint.

Porruka (a pseudonym) is Editor-in-Chief of MacEdition. Read previous “What the Muses Deign” columns.

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