PowerBooks For All

“The book is here to stay. What we’re doing is symbolic of the peaceful coexistence of the book and the computer.”

Vartan Gregorian,
on computerization of the New York Public Library card catalog

Things Macintosh
(SOUTHDALE MALL’S FOODCOURT – Edina, Minnesota) I’m “on location” here, trying to scarf down some Chinese food since I have time between appointments. Scarf complete, I pull out my PowerBook WallStreet G3, fire up Chronos’ Consultant (an excellent program, BTW), and use its memo feature to jot down some thoughts that eventually became this column.

WallStreet PowerBook G3As I hunt and peck on the keyboard, my Muse is interrupted by a gentleman who asks me, “Do you like your PowerBook?”

I look up and see a man, clad in a black power suit, holding a tray of fast food.

“Oh, I love my PowerBook,” I reply, and quickly add, “I love it with a love that should probably cause my wife great concern.”

We both laugh.

“Why do you ask?” I inquire.

“Well, I’m considering buying one of the new G3 PowerBooks,” he explains. “You see, I….”

“Do it,” I cut him off. “Buy it. You will not regret it.”

We continue to chat about PowerBooks, the state of the Macintosh, Apple’s stock price, etc. I find out that he is a portfolio manager at a local investment firm and a Mac user since 1984. He explains that he needs the portability of a laptop, but it must be a Mac.

He also says, “I will never buy a desktop again if I get a PowerBook.”

“I guarantee that you won’t,” I say. “I don’t plan to.”

Ready or not, the portable age is upon us.

tangerine iBookI think more people will be making the switch in the future, the switch from the ball-and-chain desktop to the take-it-anywhere portable, be it a PowerBook, an iBook, a Palm handheld, or whatever else is waiting in the wings to be revealed as The Next Big Thing in computing – or should we say The Next Small Thing.

I work weekends at a local CompUSA, and I marvel at the number and types of people who are buying PowerBooks and pre-ordering iBooks.

The customer profile spans the gamut of walks of life: the college student whose school is rumored to have ordered more iBooks (and AirPorts) than any school in Minnesota; the elderly lady who waited for me to finish an iMac training class to discuss the 12.1″ screen on the iBook and the 14.1″ equipped PowerBook – either way, the lady says, the computer must be portable; the graphic artist who loves the looks and price of the iBook, but cannot compromise expandability found only in the PowerBook.

The list is lengthy, and it could include the people who still use older (just-as-trusty) Macs like the PowerBook Duo.

The debate has been about whether (Farewell to the Desktop, Jason D. O’Grady, MacWeek) or not (Death to the Laptop!, Jason D. O’Grady, MacWeek) all desktop Macs should be jettisoned for PowerBooks.

I want to add my voice to the growing chorus, for I think it will be a major discussion in the company of the new millennium – just like the cordless phone.

At my place of employment, there are two divisions of people: the day-to-day staff that is supplied with desktop PeeCees, while the movers and shakers have IBM ThinkPads in their corner offices, decked out with docking stations and other desktop accouterments.

Many companies are becoming more and more similarly set up, like the executives mentioned above, though not necessarily with groups of Haves and Have Nots. Many are seeing productivity levels rise when the computer can go with the employee. If they’re anything like me, they will be more productive with a laptop, since my inspiration comes more readily when I’m away from my desk and when there is no computer around to enter my latest additions to the Next Great American Novel.

Think about this: how many people do you know who own at least one cordless phone? The numbers are impressive, no? I think everyone I know has one. This could be a foreshadowing of potential PowerBook sales in the future. The Palm handheld or some form type of Windows handheld is becoming equally ubiquitous.

If you’re on the market for a new Mac, there are several reasons that you should at least entertain the idea of a portable:

  1. Cost is coming down now, thanks to iBook and in the future with the advent of things like Apple Computer’s Unified Motherboard Architecture.
  2. Features are nearly comparable with desktops. My PowerBook has ethernet, IrDA, SCSI, modem, video out, ADB, sound out, TFT screen, microphone, speakers, DVD-ROM, Zip – and USB, by Christmas, if Santa thinks I’ve been a good boy.
  3. Battery life is becoming much more efficient, thanks to processing improvements in the Mac OS and the PowerPC.
  4. You can take things with you that were heretofore unheard of. I’ve taken PowerPoint presentations that I created in minutes and shown them at meetings. True, they can be carried to the meeting on, say, a diskette, but if you take your PowerBook, you can be sure the “projector” works properly when you get there.
  5. They look gooooooood. It never fails that people stop to compliment me on the clarity and crispness of my screen, the style of my casing, or the fact that I’m playing “Austin Powers” on my laptop while I eat lunch. Yeah, baby! It’s a great conversation piece (oh, behave!).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do plan to buy an iMac “for my wife” one day, but there is no way I could write a regular column for two e-zines and have time to produce one for Low End Mac – not to mention use PageMaker to create a newsletter for my Toastmasters club, maintain the homepage with Adobe PageMill, learn Quark Xpress in my spare moments, design a handbook for an iMac class I teach, ad nauseum. My PowerBook helps me maintain this pace.

My point is this: We often talk about how the Mac empowers us. I’m here to tell you that the PowerBook empowers you even further.

Like I told the man in the mall, “Buy it. You won’t regret it.”

Rodney O. Lain lives in Minnesota. He is a regular columnist for theiMac.com and SemperMac magazine. He wrote this column for Low End Mac on his PowerBook G3 and regularly contributes his thoughts on Things Macintosh.

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