The Rumor Mill

The 10 Worst Mac Related Moves of 2002

- 2002.12.27

This has been a year of great successes for Apple, starting with the flat panel G4 iMac making the cover of Time magazine; running through some profitable quarters, breaking the GHz mark, and launching Jaguar; and ending with the iPod available at Best Buy, Target, and even the Dell online store.

But all has not gone well for Apple and the Mac Web. While others celebrate Apple's many successes, the Rumor Mill takes a break from groundless rumors and looks at the down side of 2002.

10. This Is News?

The number of sites with links like "Apple updates Hot Deals section" - sometimes several times per week. This is news? Sure, like the "news" that DealMac has daily updates. Is Apple paying these to post these links? (And if so, how can I get a piece of the action?)

9. News Aggregation Sites

The latest trend in news is not-quite-news sites that don't do news, only link to news, and do it all automatically. Sites like MacSurfer, MyAppleMenu, and Apple Quicklinks are fine - they link to new content selectively. But then there's MacNewz (ugh, I hate that Z), which just uses RSS news feeds from a whole bunch of sites to create a long, slow-loading page of links. But at least it's updated every 15 minutes around the clock by their software.

If you want really good news aggregation, run Mac OS X, download a copy of NetNewsWire Lite (it's free!), and pick the sites you want to track.

8. Apple Demolishes Product Matrix

Once upon a time Apple had a very, very confusing product line. Consumer models might be Performas, educational machines LCs, and "business" Macs were Quadras or Power Macs. PowerBooks somehow ran parallel to desktops, and some models appeared under Performa, LC, and Quadra or Power Mac labels.

Thank Jobs that his Steveness simplified things starting in 1998. The iMac was the only consumer desktop, and it came in one configuration (32/4/CD-ROM) and any color you wanted, as long as it was Bondi.

The beige Power Mac G3, available in desktop and minitower configurations, gave way to the blue & white Power Mac G3, a pro model initially available at 300, 350, and 400 MHz speeds.

The Lombard simplified the PowerBook G3 line from three WallStreet models to two slimmer, lighter, faster machines, and the matrix was completed with the introduction of the first iBook in the summer of 1999.

Consumer models came in one configuration; pro models offered two or three choices of CPU speed and more expansion options. Simple.

Today the matrix is under attack on all sides. Consumer desktops include the G3 iMac and the eMac. Pro desktops - dual processor G4s. In between, the flat panel G4 iMac. That's a 700 MHz G3 CD-ROM iMac, a 700 MHz G4 Combo eMac, an 800 MHz G4 SuperDrive eMac, four flat panel iMacs (700 MHz CD-RW, 700 MHz Combo, 800 MHz SuperDrive, and 17"), and Power Macs with twin 867 MHz, 1.0 GHz, or 1.25 GHz processors. And don't forget the Xserve, Apple's slim line server available with one or two G4 processors. That's a dozen machines scattered across five product lines.

Things are only slightly better on the portable side. The traditional low-end 12" iBook comes in a 700 MHz CD-RW version and an 800 MHz Combo version. These are complemented by a midrange 14" iBook. On the pro side, there are still just two PowerBook G4 models, one at 867 MHz with a Combo drive and the other at 1 GHz with a SuperDrive. Five portable options.

The simplicity is gone. We can readily distinguish between portable and desktop Macs, but the line between consumer and pro models has been blurred by the 14" iBook and G4 iMac. While we all appreciate the options, the matrix has been completely remixed.

7. Quark Leaves Blinders On

According to some sources, part of the reason Apple is delaying X-only booting is that the slowpokes at Quark are taking forever and a day to port XPress to Mac OS X. Our advice: Learn InDesign. Looking at Quark's less than stellar track record with updates and customer service, just bite the bullet and leave XPress in the trash bin of Mac history, along with eWorld, MacWrite, HyperCard, Claris Emailer, and a host of other long since abandoned apps for the classic Mac OS.

6. Slow Death of Local Apple Dealers

Three cheers for the high visibility and success of the Apple retail stores, but between Apple's stores and CompUSA's store-within-a-store, Apple has made it that much harder for longtime Apple dealers to survive. Sure, a lot of sales are to new switchers, but some come at the expense of local dealers.

As if that wasn't enough, between Apple's online store and all the other mail order houses, dealers have a hard enough time of things without being given such paper-thin margins on the low-end Macs that they may not even break even if the customer pays with a credit card.

Three cheers for the local dealers who offer service and support. May you find some way to stay in business as Apple grows its own share of the retail market.

5. Combating Unsupported Installs of OS X

There's a great utility out there, XPostFacto, that lets a lot of Mac users with older Macs and PowerBooks install Mac OS X on their computers, assuming sufficient memory and drive space, as well as a compatible video card. Thousands of long-term Mac users are using XPostFacto to experiment with OS X, the Mac OS that Apple wants all of us to migrate to.

But with the release of Jaguar (Mac OS X 10.2), Apple upped the ante for these stalwart souls. You have to have a G3 or G4 processor to run Jaguar, leaving some of these OS X adopters behind.

4. The Cost of Jaguar

Ever since Apple announced that Jaguar would not be available as an upgrade, the Mac Web has been up in arms about it. We tend to be early adopters, quick to buy OS updates, yet after paying for OS X 10.0 (full price if we hadn't paid for the beta) and a small fee for the 10.1 updater, Apple wanted us to pay full price for Jaguar.

I'm not questioning that Jaguar is worth $129 to someone finally making the switch to OS X; I am questioning the wisdom of not offering a reduced price upgrade for those who had already begun the switch.

Yes, I chose the word begun deliberately. A lot of rabid Mac fanatics have not migrated to Mac OS X. We have tried it. We like it, but for one or more reasons (productivity, favorite applications, instability of IE 5.2, whatever) we are still trying OS X, not switching. Our $149 investment in 10.0 and the 10.1 update are thrown out the window for the sake of Apple's bottom line.

Apple threw use a bone with the $199 five-user family pack, offering a decent value to those with 2-5 Macs capable of running OS X - but what about the rest of us? Apple has done a disservice to early adopters and actually slowed the adoption of Jaguar, which they want to make the base level OS X, by refusing to offer a reduced cost upgrade plan for their most loyal users.

3. Apple's Refusal to Acknowledge USB 2.0

In probably the worst case of "not invented here" bullheadedness exhibited in 2002, Apple refuses to support USB 2.0, believing that it will somehow destroy Apple's own FireWire standard. This flies in the face of Apple's many decisions to adopt industry standards:

  • SCSI, 1986
  • NuBus, 1987
  • IDE hard drives, 1994
  • PCI expansion slots, 1995
  • VGA monitors, 1997
  • USB 1.1, 1998

The simple fact is that Intel so desperately wants USB 2.0 to succeed that they sell USB 2.0 chipsets for the same price as 1.1 chipsets. Apple's decision to actively ignore USB 2.0 means that Mac users buying faster USB peripherals, such as CD burners, will be limited to USB 1.1 speeds unless they want to buy a third-party USB card.

I urge Apple to stop being so protectionist, adopt USB 2.0 in the next round of new hardware introductions, and allow Mac users to benefit from the many USB 2.0 peripherals appearing on the market.

FireWire will not fail because of it.

2. Death of iTools

Millions of Mac users signed up for free iTools accounts and mac.com email addresses - you remember, the "free email address for life." A host of freeware and shareware authors made their programs available on homepage.mac.com, and all those billions of emails sent from mac.com addresses helped generate goodwill for Apple.

Until Apple killed iTools, replacing it with $99/year .mac. Sure, they added several new features. Yes, they offered a first year discount to current users. Uh huh, they did lose a whole lot of subscribers, something on the order of 80-90% if I recall correctly.

Not Apple's brightest move. And to compound things, they set accounts to automatically renew by default, so .mac users can expect a $99 charge on their credit card next September unless they change that setting.

On the other hand, free and low-cost email and web space providers have made the most of Apple's blunder.

1. Rumor Sites and Parodies of Rumor Sites

To begin with, rumor sites are practically parodies of themselves. As the Apple Turns has always filled the gap between news, commentary, humor, and rumor. The Rumor Mill has been serving up rumor parody since December 1999. And Crazy Apple Rumors (CARS) is posting parodies on a daily basis - and Rumor Tracker actually tracks CARS right alongside (il)legitimate rumor sites! We have too many rumor sites; any more parodies will only encourage them.

Of course, someone could provide a very useful site by simply tracking the accuracy of each site's predictions: what they predicted, when the made the prediction, when they said Apple would fill that prediction, and whether they were right in their prediction. That could help rumor trackers weigh the merits and demerits of the various rumor sites.

Just don't confuse them with the legitimate rumor parody sites. We're a whole different kettle of fish. :-)

- Anne Onymus


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