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The Rodney O. Lain Archive

How Apple-Rumor Sites Hurt Macintosh Sales

Rodney O. Lain - 1999.04.13

This article was originally published on The iMac.com, a site which no longer exists. It is copyright 1999 by RAC Enterprises, which also seems to no longer exist. It is thus reprinted here without permission (which we would gladly obtain if possible). Links have been retained when possible, but many go to the Internet Wayback Machine.

Eight Ball. P1. MacMate. WinMate. WebMate. myapple.com. "Do the Evolution."
 - Names and codenames of projects supposedly slated to be unveiled by Apple, Inc. in coming months

I bought my very first PowerBook last month.

Of course, it's a G3. It processes at 233 MHz, but it doesn't have the speed-enhancing backside cache that allows the G3 to crush Pentiums as advertised. And it only has a 12" passive-matrix display. Oh, and it doesn't have the graphics capability to run the Connectix Virtual GameStation that I bought with it.

Try to suppress your snickers and laughter.

I knew it wasn't top-of-the-line when I bought it, but I bought it nevertheless. And I still love it. I rhapsodize about it as though it were a one-gigahertz G4 speed-demon. As a result, I haven't touched my trusty, ole Power Mac 7200 since getting my PowerBook, except to make sure I can transfer files between the two of them, á la AppleTalk and a newly purchased crossover/ethernet cable.

Now what does this all have to do with rumor sites? Plenty.

You see, I didn't buy my PowerBook out of necessity. I bought it on a lark (contrary to what I told The Wife) - a lark coupled with the fact that the extra money from my CompUSA job has been burning the proverbial hole in my pockets.

But still, you ask, what does this have to do with Mac-rumor sites?

Just read on, brother (or sister).

Should You Buy Next Year's or This Year's?

It wasn't an easy decision for me to buy a PowerBook, much less a discontinued PowerBook, with all the Internet hoopla surrounding Apple's upcoming consumer portable and the other cool widgets coming out of Cupertino - especially the hoopla coming out of the Mac-rumor sites. I must admit that I, too, read the rumor sites religiously: Mac OS Rumors, AppleInsider, ad nauseum. And just as much as the next guy, I love the inside info that they pass on to us Mac faithful.

But when I show up for work at CompUSA each weekend, I see the downside of feeding the public a regular diet of rumor, even if it is true - especially if it is true.

Sales have been sluggish for Macintosh PowerBooks. I've been working at CompUSA for well over a month, and the only one that I've sold was last Sunday (of course, I'm not counting the one I bought, even though I credited myself with the sale :-) Now, don't get me wrong. I have had many customers who've expressed strong interest in the PowerBook. And God knows I've tried to sell them. But I have several things working against me. But there is one that is the bane of my sales existence.

* There is hardly a person who hasn't heard about P1.

Don't play dumb. You know what is the P1: Apple's answer to the market segment (most of you reading this) that would love to own a portable Macintosh, but doesn't want to shell out $3000. With a price point that will cause Wintel makers to chugalug Maalox more than ever, this baby promises to make the iMac's 800,000 units sold look like a child's revenue from a homemade lemonade stand.

But, I can't blame 'em: rumored to have a 300 MHz G3 processor, FireWire, USB, plus a whole host of other cutting edge goodies...

(Excuse me, I'm drooling.)

As a result, customers come in on a regular basis, asking me when is the P1 going to ship.

And don't get me started about the people who've heard of "Eight-Ball."

<sigh>

I see many people who are holding out to buy next year's G3 (and I've heard several who are waiting for the G4; they appear to have the money). Me, I buy stuff sooner than later. But the majority of those who don't, those who hold out on their purchases actually hurt existing Mac sales. Maybe it's Apple's fault for not cranking out Macs fast enough (a good problem to have, mind you). If more Macs were being produced, we salesmen would have more existing product to sell, making current inventory easy to sell.

But I don't purport to have all the answers.

Think of Them as That Ugly Girl with a Crush on You

Face the facts, Apple. Who else out there is innovating in the computer market? Intel? Websites are created daily to keep track of their pyramid-shaped PeeCee. Dell? Shyeah, right.

Apple is the only computer company that has groupies. We are fans of the Mac. We know what it is all about. We get it. I'm pretty sure that Apple views many of the Mac sites on one hand as a bunch of wannabe "sleazy journalists." On the other hand we probably remind the Cupertino crew of that girl in high school or college that had a major crush on us: outwardly, we utterly disdain her, but privately we are glad to be the center of someone's universe.

And when you're really drunk, you'd realize that she's not that ugly :-)

Face It, They Do Serve a Purpose

A friend once said that in many ways, bad press is better than no press. Good point. Hey, those rumor sites, if nothing else, generate and sustain interest in Apple and in things Macintosh. In many ways, it's free publicity.

I, too, believe that the rumor sites reveal more stuff than they should: AppleInsider revealed pictures of the Apple Studio Displays, as well as the Yosemite towers. But they did do it virtually the night before Macworld San Francisco started. And I'm sure that many of the sites probably exercise discretion in how soon they release info (just think if AppleInsider had spilled their guts in, say, November instead of Jan. 3.

All in all, I am led to believe that lately, the Mac-rumor sites have been detrimental to Apple's sales figures. With rumor and innuendo, it often gets nigh impossible for us salespeople to create interest in current products. Rumor mongering many times hurts all people involved, from Apple's boardroom to the cash register. In that regard, I'm angry at those who produce rumor sites. I'm indignant.

But if those sites cease to exist today, I'd probably die.

- Rodney O. Lain

Rodney O. Lain, a former university English and journalism instructor, works full-time as a software developer and works part-time at a local CompUSA Apple Store Within A Store. A card-carrying member of the local Macintosh User Group Mini'app'les, Rodney writes this column exclusively for theimac.com. His greatest desire is to become an African-American Guy Kawasaki. A self-professed "workaholic writer," he waxes prolifically about race, religion, and the "right OS" at "Free Your Mind & Your Behind Will Follow", his unabashedly pro-Mac website. When he's not cranking out his column, he collects John Byrne comic books, jogs, and attempts to complete his first novel. He lives in Eagan, Minnesota, a southern suburb of St. Paul.

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