Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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5/25/2005
06:33 PM
Patricia Keefe
Patricia Keefe
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Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

Besides the obvious technical intrigue ignited by the potential for creating a whole new generation of 'Intel Inside' Macintosh hardware, recent reports of chip talks between Intel and Apple are a sign that maybe Apple hasn't taken its eye off the ball after all. I was beginning to wonder. The paranoid bunker mentality that sometimes envelopes Apple's leadership seemed to have intensified since January, evidenced in part by a string of p

Besides the obvious technical intrigue ignited by the potential for creating a whole new generation of 'Intel Inside' Macintosh hardware, recent reports of chip talks between Intel and Apple are a sign that maybe Apple hasn't taken its eye off the ball after all.

I was beginning to wonder. The paranoid bunker mentality that sometimes envelopes Apple's leadership seemed to have intensified since January, evidenced in part by a string of petulant tantrums.Is all the fussing and gnashing of teeth over unauthorized biographies, leaking product specs, and overeager Mac-enthusiast sites getting in the way of what's supposed to be Apple's core mission? Namely, the delivery of highly innovative, secure, well-designed technology? Reasons to be suspicious were starting to pile up.

Sure, Apple's had great success on the hardware end of things, pumping out new Mac servers and its mini computer to great reviews. It's enjoyed phenomenal success with the now-ubiquitous iPod. It even beat out Google in a survey on brand recognition, and its second-quarter numbers were fantastic.

But the picture has been a little less sunny on the software side. Yes, the new Tiger operating system was introduced to Grrrrr-eat reviews, but it's also required more than 20 patches between the Tiger operating-system client and server. The Panther operating system also required a 20-patch bandage, and there have been two cases of buggy iTunes. Great hardware is nothing without software. And it wont take you far without power. Last week, the vendor was forced to issue a recall for its lithium ion batteries used in three lapotop models.

The personification of prickly, Apple has never been an easy company to deal with, no matter what market segment was involved, from its historically unuser-friendly policies (locked-down hardware and a lack of expansion slots) to battles with its reseller channel to an obsession with secrecy that seems unmatched in the industry.

Most recently, Apple's crusty crankiness has manifested itself in a series of legal actions--against employees, Mac enthusiasts (you know, the pro-Apple people), and publishers of no doubt rehashed Steve Jobs bio material. (Is there really anything new to say about the Life of Jobs or the history of Apple?) And lets not forget the sniping match with environmental activists. All that spying by private eyes and courtroom bluster from attorneys adds up to big costs in time, money, and attention span. It's draining and exhausting. Fighting always is.

This is risky because while Apple rails against these curious infidels and traitors to the cause, the competition is quietly creeping up in the background. For example, the debut of Yahoo's Music Unlimited music-subscription service caused a ripple on Wall Street, impacting even Apples stock, while security experts are warning of an uptick of interest in the Mac among hackers and other cybervermin.

Maybe Apple's management should just consider letting go and laying back. You cannot stop the publication of most books, so why waste the time? All it accomplishes is free publicity for a topic you want to suppress. Mac enthusiasts in general, and the targeted sites in particular, are a good thing--even if they leak a story or two. They provide free, often adoring publicity and marketing to the perfect target audience--what's to complain about?

The company's time, energy, resources, and considerable determination would be best directed toward tightening up software quality-control processes and making sure the paths Apple blazed into personal and entertainment technology are not overrun, and overtaken, by the barbarians on the horizon. gearing up to storm Apple's gates.

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