Mac Scope

Playing the Game of Hype

Stephen Van Esch - 2002.03.27

Apple is one of the few companies that can really get the hype machine working overtime. Both hardware and software have received the treatment as Apple has released each new product as the one thing that will bring world peace, alleviate famine, and abolish old age.

The problem is the sizzle versus steak ratio can be a bit high at times.

The iPod is an example of this. Hyped beyond belief, it could do nothing more than disappoint when it was delivered. Of course, the Mac press got into the act and, fueled by the Apple marketing machine, speculation was rampant.

In truth, Apple was only one of the players in the iPod hypefest - not innocent, but not entirely guilty either.

Things seem a little different with the new iMac.

In this case, Apple might have to shoulder most of the blame. While the iMac is one great machine, it'll only reach it's full flat panel iMacpotential if it can actually reach the doors of the people who buy them. It's not news that the iMac is hitting retail shelves at a very slow rate. With the anticipation surrounding this machine, Apple has to be able to ride that wave of expectation. Many people may have been caught up in the moment and bought an iMac. Apple must strike when the iron is hot and make sure that pre-orders are filled quickly.

Of course, Apple is not entirely to blame. The shortage of flat panel monitors seems to be culprit, but at the very least Apple should be as forthcoming as possible with the problems they're encountering. That's just plain old fashioned customer service.

More troubling are reports that Apple is holding onto machines for their own stores while letting the resellers slide. Apple can't carry the entire selling load with their few Apple retail stores and online store. Resellers keep the company bottom line healthy. Without the resellers, Apple is dead in the water. Resellers shouldn't have to pay the price for Apple's roll out mistakes.

Apple enjoys playing the hype game and, for the most part, it works and helps the company sell machines and software. The press gets to spill ink and gain readership as they speculate about Apple's next big thing. I'm still amazed that the iMac is still getting great press from newspapers around the world. It seems that almost every day since Macworld, some journalist discovers the iMac and how great it is. Pretty much everybody benefits from the hype arrangement.

Sometimes, however, Apple gets ahead of itself. While it's impossible to predict every production problem, contingency plans and an honest policy with customers and resellers can only improve relations for everybody involved.

Too much sizzle and not enough steak will only be tolerated by the press and customers for a limited time.

Yes, Apple has created a product that almost sells itself. It's useless, though, if it remains vaporware for customers. LEM

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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