iThings Considered

Apple's Internet Strategy:
Reorganization in Progress

Jake Sargent - 2001.02.27

Back in 1998, just before the Internet exploded (or perhaps a bit after), Apple introduced the iMac. This was a revolutionary step to making the Internet accessible to people who did not want to pay the price of high-end machines. The iMac was a sign that Apple knew of the potential of the Internet and was going to do whatever it could to make the Internet accessible to the novice user.

This brings us to iTools, iReview, and iCards - three services that Apple introduced on its Web site more than a year ago. These services were created to provide Mac users with an easy way to interact with the Internet and make the gap between the Web browser and Mac OS Finder as small as possible.

Lately, the hot topic in the Mac community has been how Apple has removed the iReview tab from its navigation bar. So what?

The iReview page now forwards to Apple's iTools: Does that mean the service is gone - or did Apple just take it down for a little adjusting? Either way, Apple is obviously reorganizing its Internet department.

So what does the future of Apple's other Internet services look like? Is it bright?

As part of its reorganization, Apple is making an effort to slowly merge iCards into iTools what now may become the portal for all of Apple's future Internet services. Eventually, the iCards tab will most likely disappear altogether, and the service will only be available via Apple's iTools.

I think this is being done to simplify Apple's Web site. Although Apple's navigation system is far easier to comprehend then that of its competitors, its many tabs may seem somewhat overwhelming to the first time visitor. If Apple can organize these tabs in a more approachable manner, which I believe it is in the process of doing, it will make for a more appealing web site.

I, for one, was a big fan of iReview. I felt the service gave surfers a great way to find new web sites, and it provided web sites with a great way to get feedback from such an admired and knowledgeable company as Apple.

iCards, on the other hand, is what I consider a rather unneeded service. The number of different sites on the Internet that give you the ability to send postcards online is tremendous - and I think the idea of sending a greeting attached to a picture is cute, but not that practical.

Apple thrives by offering services and products that other companies don't - so how is iCards different from the rest of the crowd? It's not. It may have a few advantages to attract users from other postcard sites, such as a better design and more stable system, but it's not original enough to get the attention it needs to survive.

iReview was different. To my knowledge, there is no other site on the Internet that reviews other Web sites. iTools is different: It is the only service of its kind that interacts with the operating system in such a fantastic way. These are the kinds of services that Apple needs to make more of to attract visitors - not replicas of existing services like online postcards!

If these services are offered for free, how does Apple profit from them? Apple doesn't make any money from iTools, iCards, or iReview (with the exception of those who buy extra iDisk space, which I assume is not a huge income for Apple), but it does help with Apple's marketing. Existing Mac users visit Apple's site to use its Internet services, and while they are there, they may come across a new Flower Power iMac, check it out, and end up making a purchase. Apple's Internet services entice PC users into switching to a Mac by providing Mac-only benefits, like iTools.

I'm sure Apple's Internet services result in many computer and software sales, but I'd like to think that that's not the only reason Apple created them. I've always pictured Apple as a company that's for the people - if they've got the resources to create great services like iTools, than they should do it for the good of the Mac community.

iTools, iReview, and iCards have certainly been a success over the year that they've been around. I hope that the disappearance of the iReview tab doesn't mean that it's gone for good.

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