Things Macintosh

I'm a Drop the Funk Bomb on Ya

Milking the Macintosh for all it's worth

Rodney O. Lain - 2001.03.20

The bigger challenge for Apple is that they have to make a computer that kills the Macintosh. Right now, they're milking the Macintosh. But what they need to do is jump to the next curve.
  - Guy Kawasaki

Gentlemen, it's the twenty-first century. You've got to have an open mind.
  - Frank Miller, Ronin, 1987

Advertising imitates life, and vice versa - at least when it comes to Apple Computer.

At least this is what I'm thinking as my wife and I sit here, watching Apple's latest advertisement that features one of my favorite musicians, George Clinton. I'm sitting here telling wifey (every few minutes or so), "you can call me Barry" with my ersatz-baritone or that "I'm gon' drop the funk bomb on ya" with my weak approximation of Clinton's gravelly speech.

Who cares that they never show the product in the ad (nor do they even mention the product's name - what was it supposed to advertise? iMacs? Power Macs? iTunes? All of the above?). Who cares? It is a great commercial, even though it was stingy with the details.

It's a great way to build the brand without having to put a product in the audience's face. This star-studded ad says that we should "concentrate on the fact that this is Apple we are advertising, not the Macintosh, not iTunes, not the iMac, not Mac OS X." I try to understand this, but often can't. I didn't understand the reasoning behind such ostensibly lame marketing until recently.

I found a bit understanding by doing something that I hope Apple execs get a chance to do on a regular basis: I spend a lot of time talking with Apple customers. I thought I'd pass along what I've come up with, though I feel that only forward-thinking Mac users will "get it."

I've seen the future....

It began for me with a conversation yesterday with a customer at Micro Center in Minneapolis. It ended with an on-line computer article this morning and a recalled comment from the Steven P. Jobs.

I talked with this guy about OS X, particularly its Unix heritage. We discussed the upcoming OS X Server, especially how it is, basically, an amalgamation of AppleShare IP, Mac OS X's "Aqua" interface, and NeXTstep/OpenStep technologies.

For a while, we argued whether or not Mac OS X is nothing but NeXTstep in sheep's clothing. It was a short argument, since we both agreed that it is, that the "classic" Mac OS will die this weekend with the official advent of Mac OS X.

Do you believe in the brand?

I started this piece by saying that "advertising imitates life" is an apt description of this "new" Apple Computer. I'm referring to "Think Different." It's more than a marketing mantra, an advertising slogan. It is an announcement of the anachronistic element of the Macintosh/Apple community.

Apple is slowly, but methodically, moving away from the Macintosh. I'm not the only person who feels this way.

Last week, Charles Haddad, Mac watcher for BusinessWeek online, drew similar conclusions in his public reprimand of fellow Macolytes. What drew my attention, though, was his inclusion of a Guy Kawasaki comment, which is included in this column's epigraphs. He has summed up Apple's strategy for the next few years: Apple is positioning itself as not just another PC maker, but as a company that dares to be forward thinking with the advancement of its technology.

Look at Apple's current products. The iMac is just another Mac, yet it is not. Mac OS X is just another version of the Mac OS, yet it is not. In 1997, Apple CEO Steve Jobs chided Macworld attendees' booing Bill Gates by saying that we must rid ourselves of the notion that in order to win, Microsoft has to lose.


Talk about major paradigm shifting. But it is happening right before our eyes. If you put the "Think Different" talk in wider perspective, you will see that it is a twofold campaign.

  1. To advertise the Apple brand. This is already known.
  2. To preach a new message to the choir

The new message is this: The Mac (and the Mac OS of the new millennium, for that matter) will be nothing like what you presently see on store shelves (the audience shouts a big "duh!"), and it's already transforming. All of the hints are there: G4 Cube, all of this talk about "digital hubs" and "digital lifestyles."

I hasten to add that this column isn't directed towards to many of you. This isn't for those of you who can see the obvious. This is for those still holding on to their Quadras and their SEs (with two floppies containing System 6), pining for the good ol' days when software fit on one floppy.

I, too, involuntarily resist the changes that are happening. But I'm getting the new religion: I like being able to find more peripherals for my Mac, thanks to USB and FireWire; I like the stability of my PowerBook, thanks to OS X; I like being able to connect easily with PCs, thanks to TCP/IP; I like being able to buy cheap RAM and hard drives for my computers.

These are just a few benefits of thinking different. More will follow, as we see the lines between Mac and PC blurred even further in years to come.

Part of me doesn't like it, but it will eventually all be seen as being done in the name of progress. For the Mac.

One day, we may not call our Mac a "Mac." It will seem strange, but I believe that it will be a good thing. When you realize what's happening to the beloved Mac, you may feel as though a bomb is being dropped in the middle of the Mac community, destroying everything we've ever held dear about our favorite computing platform. But that is a good thing, also.

Time will prove this to be the ultimate message of "Think Different." You've been warned. You've been prepared in advance.

Rodney O. Lain (1968-2002) called himself a fashion victim: He liked wearing socks with his sandals. When he wasn't dispensing fashion advice, Rodney wrote for Low End Mac, The Mac Observer, Applelinks, and many other websites. Rodney lived in Minnesota. His own website was, and we have collected as much of his writing that has since disappeared from the Web as possible in The Rodney O. Lain Archive.

The most widely read Things Macintosh columns:

  1. Apple is a company, 10/4/1999
  2. The main difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, 1/17/2000
  3. The $600 iMac, 12/24/1999
  4. Apple will rule the computer world, 11/17/1999
  5. I'm not paying $20 for my OS X upgrade, 2001.07.25.
  6. A Mac is like Prozac, 10/13/1999
  7. I'm a drop the funk bomb on ya: Milking the Macintosh for all it's worth, 2001.03.20.
  8. More links and links to memorial articles in the Things Macintosh index.

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