I read a lot for my work. I inevitably run into material, such as the SCO Group's lawsuit against IBM, that makes me bang on my desk. Not only is it bad karma, it’s unforgivably bad "lawyering" -- the filing document contains so many factual errors that I could make a career out of refuting it item by item. I also ran into a story in a business publication I generally respect, warning Apple that it faces an uncertain future if it doesn’t innovate soon.
For some analysts, I predict a bright future writing horoscopes and fortune cookie truisms. Is Apple really in danger because it hasn’t made a major new product announcement in the past 30 days? If that’s true, the industry is on a tighter release schedule than I thought. There is no lack of innovation at Apple; most competitors fare poorly by comparison. Apple is sticking to its message (dare I say “vision"?) with such focus that it drives some paid observers crazy. A steady, consistent drive to push technology forward does not make headlines.
Apple’s consistency drives me crazy sometimes, too. When I saw the announcement come across the wires that Microsoft was buying Connectix, the supplier of the PC emulator for Mac OS X, I thought that spelled big trouble for
Apple failed in its previous attempts to capture a share of the general computing market. There are innumerable technical and marketing-related reasons, but I place some of the blame on Apple’s determination to make Windows run on its platform. There were software emulators and PC-on-a-card units that plugged into the Mac. As a result, reviewers who didn’t “get” the Mac (I was among them) wound up rating it partly on its skill at emulating a PC. This time around, Apple is soft-selling Virtual PC. If it goes from a soft-sell to a no-sell because Microsoft snapped up Connectix, it will probably do the Mac more good than harm.
That’s a case where Apple’s best course of action is to do nothing. Let’s look at an example of doing exactly the right thing when business sense seemed to dictate another course. Apple’s high-powered machines are too loud. InfoWorld’s P.J. Connolly noticed that about the first-generation XServe. That quality of my lab’s dual-processor Power Mac G4 has me in the habit of putting it to sleep when I answer the phone. I use the machine as a server, so I don’t know OS X Server as well as I should. Apple’s first response was a patch to the operating system that caused the variable-speed cooling fans to run a little more quietly. Now Apple has taken the incredible step of offering existing Power Mac owners the chance to swap out their power supplies and fan for much quieter units. The cost to customers is $20.