MacEdition Logo : Click here

A MWSF wish list – it’s the little things that count...

By Tony Leggett (pocwactso@macedition.com), 9 January 2001

Boy, this little corner of MacEdition sure gathers dust quickly. It must be that us plain old customers without any connections to speak of only come out of the woodwork on or around major Apple expos. With that spirit in mind, I thought I’d trot out something for MWSF2001.

While rumors on the megahertz issue are flying everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, I’ve ceased worrying about them. While I personally still think we’re not likely to see more than 600MHz any time soon, I’ll be delighted to be proved wrong.

So why not save yourself the angst? Why worry about matters beyond Apple’s control when there are other pressing issues? In that spirit, I’ve put together a “top ten” wish list (in no particular order) focusing on the smaller – but equally important – details that Apple could be fixing now.

I’ve tried to keep this list realistic, yet at the same time I don’t expect Steve to be granting too many of them. So without further ado, here they are:

[Ed note: Fanboys may find the following article distressing...]

Wish #1: Death to the Apple Display Connector!

The simplest, most obvious thing Apple could do to demonstrate that it has developed a less “hockey-puck”-style response time to user feedback would be to let the ADC die the swift horrible death it deserves. It was a terrible idea that cost Apple countless sales, all in the name of reducing “visual clutter”.

Visual clutter?? When the Cube already has an external power brick and sound box? I have a novel suggestion: if aesthetically discerning Mac users are upset with the clutter left by a compatible, industry-standard monitor connection and a power cable, Apple could supply a Graphite-tinted plastic sleeve. And for the budget-minded, there’s always string ties!

Let’s give DVI and VGA another chance.

Wish #2: The new Pro keyboards work as advertised

Fortunately, the guys at As the Apple Turns suggest this wish may soon be granted. There should also be a return of the power button to the USB keyboards, as most people really liked that feature. Quite simply, if Apple can’t write a simple software patch to enable the Pro keyboards to work on all USB Macs (regardless of model or software version), heaven help us with Mac OS X.

Wish #3: Apple revives the 20" CRT display

... and remembers that ColorSync matters for some people.

The Cinema Display is a wonderful piece of technology; it’s still the largest LCD display you can get on the market. It won high praise in the non-Mac press (even being named a finalist in the PC Magazine: The 2000 Technical Excellence Awards) for its performance and clarity. It garnered a lot less praise for its pricing and proprietary connector.

Even though it’s got an impressive viewing angle of 160 degrees, it still can’t deliver 100% colour consistency for JGP (Jane Graphics Professional). I’m talking about the high-end graphics crowd (the DTP, more so than the Web design or video editing crowd) who need to have their colours just right, from monitor to the printing press.

It’s fiddly stuff that the majority of people (including myself) probably wouldn’t notice. Why has ColorSync been so neglected? Why is there no ColorSync 20" CRT? Sure, this is targeting a fairly small market nowadays, but only because Apple has made it that way...

Wish #4: The design of the new PowerBook retains its professional look

Call me a Luddite, but I like the look and feel of my “boring” black Lombard. I like the dual expansion bays that come with both the 1999 series and Pismo PowerBooks. It would be a crying shame to see that versatility lost with the new PowerBook in favor of a fixed battery and removeable media drive (as has been rumored in many reports). If people want to buy a PowerBook with a fixed battery and limited expandability, they can. It’s called the iBook.

Wish #5: Mac OS 9.1, the free MacOS update that actually works, no questions asked

Ideally, OS 9.1 should be a free download (and it seems I may get that wish, all 72MB of it). The wake-from-sleep problems previously alluded to by my erstwhile colleague on certain laptops are very real (and seem only USB-related for this little POCWACTSO). Although not given much acknowledgement by Apple, I just hope 9.1 finally fixes them. Having PC users gloat over your unstable PowerBook gets tiresome.

Wish #6: Hardware DVD decoding

There’s speculation aplenty that Apple may be about to bolster its lineup with DVD-R drives and possibly even debut DVD authoring software at MWSF. While I don’t have the extra US$1000 to afford the former nor the crystal ball to predict the latter, I have a simpler, much cheaper suggestion – hardware DVD decoding. Sure, software decoding is “good enough” if you have enough RAM, but playback deteriorates with virtual memory turned on, and downright sputters should you hold down that mouse!

Apple likes to model itself as “the Sony of the computer industry”; well, Sony’s already adopted hardware DVD decoding. If it’s a good move for the PlayStation2, it’s a good move for Apple (particularly for the next wish to be effective).

Wish #7: Apple moves beyond iMovie marketing

Given the G4’s flaccid progress in recent times I doubt we’ll see a return of the tank ads any time soon, but surely there’s got to be more than just Jeff Goldblum dancing around in little iMovies? The bulk of Apple’s recent battery of ads have been either the minimalist-style panoramas parading iMac colours (to the tune of various “raves-from-the-grave”) or Jeff talking about iMovie.

I’m not against promoting iMovie per se, or Jeff Goldblum – he’s fine for the voiceovers. It’s just that these ads may be creating the impression that Macs are useful for only iMovie. Let’s say I’m a first-time customer with no Mac knowledge, no kids and no interest in desktop movies. Imagine my reaction should I wander into the Apple section of a computer store: “Wow, the Macs play my DVDs? Gee, the ads didn’t mention that,” or “You mean you’ve got wireless networking, too? Like Compaq? Why didn’t you say so?”

By all means promote iMovie; it’s just crazy that other great features such as AirPort and DVD playback don’t get a mention as well.

Wish #8: Come back, educational sales force – all is forgiven

For those wondering why Apple’s educational sales are suffering, Bob Moriarity of MacCPU has an excellent article on the topic. Rather than paraphrase, I’ll just quote the relevant part here:

In June, Apple cancelled the contracts of 44 outside companies who specialize in dealing with schools. In one fell swoop, thousands of man-years of education sales experience got tossed away. Guess what? Education sales by Apple are in the tank. So Steve Jobs hired a VP and gave her a nice office. She’s sending out nice coupons for $100 off to schools. That was such a stupid decision that business schools will be using Apple as a case study for the next hundred years.

Steve has acknowledged that he screwed up with education and sadly, anything Apple does now will be a case of closing the gates after the horse has bolted. Perhaps the new education VP should instead be handing out new contracts (with grovelling letters of apology) to the ex-education dealers?

Wish #9: Shipping Carbonised apps from some of the big boys

Microsoft Office 2001 is still Classic only, as are many of Adobe’s big name apps such as Photoshop. Microsoft has justified its Classic-only stance by declaring that Carbon is still “a moving target,” for which only Apple is to blame as it dawdles with its APIs. Adobe has committed to Carbonising Photoshop “soon” without a concrete shipping date.

Sure, there are a reasonable amount of applications already Carbonised, and a plethora of developers have committed to ship Carbonised versions “soon”. But, “shipping is a product feature” and I’ll be much happier once mission-critical applications like Office and Photoshop are Carbonised and in plastic packages. After all, it will be a tad embarrassing if Steve still has to do his Photoshop “bake-offs” in Classic mode after Mac OS X ships...

Wish #10: International pricing always follows the Mothership

Some may find this hard to believe, but while Apple was actively discounting products, some international outposts actually raised prices. Yes, I’m banging my parochial drum again, but on November 6th Apple Australia raised its MAP on many products by A$200 across the board. The low-end iMac debuted in Australia at A$1595, and was then readvertised as “now starting from A$1795” (still its current price). What was just starting to look very tempting to first-time buyers jumped just a skosh above that pricing sweet spot.

Part of what prompted the price rise was the Australian dollar dropping roughly 10 percent last year. Yet in the last month, it’s almost recouped those losses. It’s called market volatility and Apple Australia’s decision to maintain its margins could mean it’s now sitting on a stockpile to clear out at firesale prices. What makes this worse is that other vendors are somewhat sheltered from currency fluctuations, as many of them at least partly assemble their products from cheaper local components.

To be fair, Apple Australia’s pricing on models such as the Cube has kept close parity with the US.

“Oh, and one last thing” ... Mac OS X gets NT friendly

Yes, it’s a bonus wish. Our great and fearless CEO may have said, “We’re not going after Enterprise,” but Mac OS X still has to be able to seamlessly plug into mixed networks. By “seamlessly”, I mean so there is no way that the Mac-hating MSCE network admins at the end of the hall can keep you off their network. All they can do is glower moodily (remember, this is a wish list).

Sure, you can currently hook up a Mac to a mixed network, and there’s plenty of places that show you how. But in terms of simplicity, it’s still not a case of “there’s no step three!” And that’s what it needs to be. (Think “Apple Internet Assistant” easy.)

Just imagine the marketing potential of such a move: “Mac OS X – now your work computer can be the same as the one at home!”

Are there items left off this list? Are there items that shouldn’t be on it? What’s your “top ten“? Let us know!

E-mail this story to a friend