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ATPM 2.09
September 1996




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Apples, Kids, & Attitude

by Robert Paul Leitao,

A Tree Grows In Ventura

"We came all the way here to see a tree?!" This was Jessica's bemused statement as we piled in the car and headed back to Hollywood from scenic Ventura, about sixty miles from where we live.

We had spent much of Labor Day in the City of Ventura - walking the beach, checking out the different bookstores, and finally having lunch at a place which served Strawberry milkshakes. It was a nice time for the three of us. Jessica's statement was simply a reminder that although we had done many things, we had yet to see "the tree."

On the way out of Hollywood I had mentioned to Matthew and Jessica that there was a very large tree I had once seen in Ventura that I thought was particularly beautiful and majestic. I told them that I was hoping I could show it to them while we visited this ocean-side city. This was more of an outspoken thought than a "mission," but it was something that seemed to stick in Jessica's mind. This was also the last day before she was to begin Kindergarten.

Matthew and Jessica had been with me for more than two consecutive weeks for our summer vacation together. Due to my schedule there was very little time to get away except for short day trips to nearby places. During this time they also had a chance to see more of what I do everyday and it was fun having them accompany me on my "daily rounds."

In the days leading up to Labor Day we used the Internet to track Hurricane Edouard and the beginnings of Hurricane Fran. Hurricanes are the subject of one of Jessica's newer educational books as well as a real-life drama for many who live in the path of these giant storms. We also found a web site devoted to Matthew's favorite storytime subject "Thomas the Tank Engine" and his friends. This site allowed us to download pages for Matthew and Jessica to color. We also cyber-visited many other places designed specifically for kids. I mention this because the Internet is now an integral part of our daily life.

The Thomas the Tank Engine site is located at:

For me, this relatively new form of interactive communication has changed many things about my day. I hardly ever purchase a newspaper anymore because I get most of my news and information from Internet sources. My long distance phone bill is now a third of what it used to be simply because I now use e-mail, which is a much more efficient way to communicate bits of information.

Those who scratch their heads and wonder why more "money isn't being made from the Internet" may really be missing the proverbial "forest for the trees." The Internet and its graphic component, the World Wide Web is not yet (as of September, 1996) where one looks to find local businesses and many consumer-related products. However, this type of consumer-oriented advertising will, I have no doubt, one day find its way onto the Internet or one of its successors.

To find where dollars are currently being invested one must look at business budgets and corporate expenses. First, look at the cost of telephone service such as local and long-distance charges, telephone hardware (including fax machines), equipment maintenance, etc. Secondly, consider just how many dollars businesses currently spend on hotels, airfare, car rentals, meals and meeting places so that two or more persons who live in separate places can communicate effectively with one another. Thirdly, think about how much money businesses spend on next-day delivery of packages that contain nothing more than information printed on paper. Now consider just how much of a financial investment businesses will make in computer hardware and software to completely eliminate some of these above-mentioned expenses and to significantly reduce a few of the others.

Many of the software technologies being developed today will reduce not only the amount of traditional telephone usage, it will soon replace the fax, most document-only overnight packages and in many instances the need for business travel as well. Why travel and take two or three days away from your job or business when a video-conference facility is available in the next room or by the hour at a local video-conference center? "Intranets" will bring world-wide offices or even adjacent office buildings a lot "closer" to each other.

The Internet and its successors will transform the manner in which we communicate and thus the manner in which many of us will work and live. It is my view that this new information revolution will eventually have as much impact on the development of society as did the printing press. The ability to communicate interactively across continents in a virtually instantaneous manner will also broaden the scope of education for our children.

The U.S. and most other nations are no longer in a position to finance great public works programs such as large new airport facilities and expansive new freeway systems. The costs of such programs are staggering and fiscally prohibitive. The "information age" must find new "avenues" or "channels" of distribution.

We've recently seen large mergers in the entertainment industry and in industries involving local and long-distance telephone service. Companies are looking to acquire distribution systems that are already Wired into homes such as cable TV and local telephone service. This way information, entertainment and other services can initially be delivered utilizing an existing communication infrastructure. In short, there will be a big push to bring information, services and entertainment to you rather than vice versa.

America Online has been successful in building its subscriber base because it learned an important lesson early. When you can charge people for something that you don't need to manufacture (time) and it costs you very little per unit (a minute of time) to maintain, the more profit you make by simply providing an entertaining service. What you simply need to do is make it a worthwhile place to spend the time for which you charge.

Other online services that attempted to attract a broad base of consumers were too busy adding on additional fees for many of their services. They also missed the proverbial "forest for the trees." They became so focused on maximizing the average revenue per minute that the user experience was less enjoyable and people felt far more time- and money-pressured. AOL now has well over six million subscribers because it charged less for the service, provided more content without additional access fees and thus created a more comfortable and relaxed user experience. More people were apt to stay online longer because they enjoyed themselves.

AOL also has chat rooms and a lot of them. In my view, chat rooms are a social phenomenon of the "information age." They illustrate the extent to which people will seek out others to communicate, share an idea, or just find someone with whom to argue. By providing forums for people to communicate in this way, AOL developed a consistent revenue source for the company.

The Internet and "intranets" will continue to grow and transform the way we work, live and access information. As we head into the Christmas season there will be a heavy consumer push on Internet-related devices and items. Consumers will follow slowly. The big change will ultimately be the manner in which we access and share information across town and around the world. As I mentioned, the Internet has already changed the way in which I gather information and now go about my day. It is also transforming some of the ways that Matthew and Jessica learn and play. I'm happy that their idea of a family pet was incorporated into Apple's browser software design and is called a "Cyberdog." The Internet truly has opened the entire world to their interactive exploration.

It has been stated many times now that Apple Computer is focusing much of its attention and development effort on Internet-based technologies and products. QuickTime and the continuing development of OpenDoc are examples of Apple's technology leadership and vision. In my view, Apple is very well-positioned for the continuing information revolution.

As we were heading out of Ventura and looking for that special tree, I remembered the first time I saw it. It was the day after Thanksgiving in 1994. A friend and I took a day trip to the area to do some casual Christmas shopping and to simply walk around by the ocean. I liked the ocean breeze and she enjoyed the gourmet coffee shop. We were walking through a park and we looked up and saw this beautiful, majestic tree which towered above the surrounding square.

We sat under the tree for just a little while and we talked about what it would be like to be a child and grow up in a neighborhood with a park just like this one. It'd be the center of neighborhood communication and the spot for games of "Hide and Seek" and "Kick the Can" on those long summer nights. It's a place where the ocean breeze blows and the whistle of the freight train can be faintly heard as the engine and rail cars slowly wind their way up the California coast.

Maybe Jessica was right. Maybe we did drive all the way there to see a tree...and feel an ocean breeze, look at bookstores galore, taste a strawberry shake, and hear the faint sound of a freight train as it slowly wound its way up the California coast. These are thoughts that bring out the child in all of us, no matter when it was that we may have started Kindergarten.

Add to this scene a Macintosh with an Internet connection to view the rest of the world and I might never want to leave. Who knows what the future brings. Stay tuned...the information revolution has begun.

"Apples, Kids and Attitude" is © 1996 by Robert Paul Leitao, [apple graphic]

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