Macworld or iPodworld?

Dan Knight - 2006.01.11

The more things change . . . well, the more they change. And I'm talking about Intel-based Macs.

It's 4-1/2 years since I last attended a Macworld Expo, and back then the focus was on the Mac. Walking through the show floor this year, you'd wonder whether the Mac or the iPod is getting more attention.

Steve Jobs discussed iPod sales figures before he talked about Macs. The iPod is outselling the Mac at about 7:1. And everyone under the sun seems to be making iPod accessories.

This is great for Apple and all these companies making iPod stuff, but is it good for the Macintosh?

In my opinion, yes. The broad iPod market is not only good for Apple's bottom line, it also keeps the Apple brand in the public eye. iTunes exposes Windows users to good Apple software. The iPod lets them experience Apple quality.

Halo effect: Windows using iPod owners are more likely to consider buying a Mac than they were before they bought an iPod.

Not only are iPod sales through the roof - 14 million last quarter, 32 million last year, 42 million to date - but Mac sales are also up. Apple sold 1.25 million Macs last quarter and about 4.6 million during calendar 2005. That growth isn't as explosive as the iPod's, but it's a far cry from the days when Apple scrambled to move 3 million Macs.

If anything, the iPod has broadened Apple's focus. They were once seen as strictly a computer company, the people who made the Apple II series, the Macs, and that curious footnote in PDA history, the Newton.

With one single product, Apple has become a digital content company. The Mac lets you write, crunch numbers, surf the Web, email, message, manage your music collection, store and work with your digital images, share you calendar, sync your preferences and bookmarks with other Macs or your cell phone/PDA, download audio and video content, create your own blogs and podcasts (and now videocasts), edit your digital video, burn your own CDs and DVDs, and much more.

Apple is making the most of that with their "Intel Unleashed" ad, which explains how until now Intel CPUs had been doing boring work in boring computers - but imagine the possibilities now that Intel is inside a Mac. iPod owners have already glimpsed those possibilities.

I think digital integration is Apple's future. The Mac will become a smaller part of that as Apple integrates it with digital television, becomes the dominant platform for podcasters (GarageBand '06 will give Apple the market as quickly as the iPod came to dominate the MP3 player scene), improves integration with PDAs and cell phones, grows their portable video market, and encourages other vendors to create add-ons.

The Mac has always been aimed at creatives, and after all of these years Apple is telling each of us that creativity lies within. We can make beautiful personal web pages easily with iWeb. We can make our own podcasts using GarageBand and the microphone built into our Macs. We can take home movies and digital photos and use them to create a gorgeous multimedia experience without knowing what's going on behind the scenes.

You were born to be a poet, an artist, a dreamer. Apple makes that possible, and while the Mac is the crucial hub of the creative digital lifestyle, it's only the hub.

Maybe Macworld will become Appleworld someday. LEM

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