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ATPM 6.01
January 2000





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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,


OK, it’s time to get a little personal.

When I graduated the University of Maryland back in 1991 with my brand spankin’-new Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature and Language, I had to figure out just what the heck I was going to do for a living.

When I was in school, the thought of my life after graduation never crossed my mind. After all, I’d be in school forever, right?

Anyway, once I graduated, I got my first job working as an Administrative Assistant for a local chapter of a famous national children’s charity. While there, I learned about a neat career field known as public relations. I talked with my boss about becoming the chapter’s chief point of contact with the media. Soon, I found myself tackling more of the public information/relations tasks for the chapter.

My career as a Public Information Officer really kicked into high gear when I was hired by the local county government here in Florida. From writing articles for publication to planning and executing special events, to calling the media to alert them about late-breaking news, the experience I gained has really helped to make me a better practitioner of my trade.

One of my tasks involves assisting our county officials in writing speeches. Since I had little experience in this, my first few attempts were a real pain in the rear. Writing speeches is tougher than writing for a reading audience because you have to consider a number of different things.

For example, you have to be very careful about alliteration, adding convenient places for the speaker to pause, and linking too many difficult to pronounce words. Most importantly, your audience can’t go back to reread a section to get the meaning of some complex concept.

One day, while writing a speech for one of our county officials, I found myself stumped. The words just weren’t flowing like they had to. I asked one of my fellow Public Information Officers for some help. Noticing my confusion, she asked me if I had ever heard of the K.I.S.S. principle—Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Of course, it made sense. Keeping speeches to a simple theme would really help to keep the audience on track while making the speaker feel more comfortable with what was being delivered.

I bring this up because Apple has taken advantage of the K.I.S.S. principle over the past few years with great success.

Back in the bad old days, Apple Computer was awash in a number of different products. There was the Performa line. The Centris series. The Quadra series. The LC series.

Things were very confusing indeed. A perfect example of this was when our office was ordering a new computer to replace the aging IIvx we were using for graphics design. The model we wanted was the Performa 6115CD. The specs matched what we needed, and the proposal I had written was accepted and approved by our office’s purchasing department. Well, when we went to order, the 6115 had been canceled, replaced by the 6116. As far as I could tell, the only difference was the screen size, but that change required me to redraft the proposal and have the office recur the purchase order. Aye, Carumba!

Then, on came Steve Jobs, the iCEO. A disciple of the K.I.S.S. principle, he sought to simplify the Apple product line and make it easier for the average Joe or Joanne to buy a Macintosh computer.

The goal of the restructuring was to create product line that would feature four elements:

This way, it was believed, it would be easier for someone coming to the Macintosh computing family to go directly to the segment they want and easily select the equipment to suit their needs.

The Professional Desktops and Notebooks effectively evolved from the existing product line. The beige G3’s took on their award winning shapes and blue colors, and the black notebook computers, well, got faster and stayed black.

The designers at Apple got really creative when it came to the design of the consumer models. The iBook definitely has a cool looking design, and, I am hoping that to get my hands on one sometime in the future.

The iMac, Apple’s consumer desktop model, sold great guns when it was first released. The sleek new design and translucent body was a draw in its own right, attracting people who were fed up with Windows, or who were first time buyers drawn to the advertised ease of use.

When it was released, Steve Jobs had introduced it while lifting a page from the book of the legendary auto pioneer Henry Ford:

You can get any color iMac you would like, as long as it is Bondi Blue.

The original iMac came in one color, had one configuration (unless you added memory), and was indeed as easy to get connected to the Internet as advertised. The iMac took the computer world by storm.

The first update of the iMac, the revision /B’s were rolled out very quietly. A few hardware and software tweaks were made, and the new units were rolled out, supposedly to be sold in the rotation as the rest of the stock.

It wasn’t until the revision /C iMacs that you actually had a choice to make. Apple’s five new colors—Blueberry, Grape, Lime, Tangerine and Strawberry—allowed you to personalize your computer to fit your tastes. Interestingly, from what I understand, the weaker selling models—Tangerine and Lime—seemed to sell better near universities which shared those colors. At least, that was what was reported from near Gainesville, Florida—home of the University of Florida Gators whose colors are blue and orange.

The revision /D iMacs offered the same fruity flavors, but cranked up the performance a nudge to make the computers a better deal. I’m particularly fond of the blueberry revision /D iMac I’m writing this story on!

Now, with the new crop of iMacs, I have to wonder if Steve Jobs and the rest of his Apple cronies are straying from their belief in the K.I.S.S. principle.

This latest round of improvements is the first time when consumers have an opportunity to select more than just the mere cosmetics of their iMac. Consumers can now select from three configurations:

My question is why offer such a selection of iMacs to consumers? Isn’t this defeating the K.I.S.S. principle?

Let’s face it—offering simple CD-ROM players on computers as we enter the 21st Century is sort of near sighted. Since DVD compatible CD players are going to become the norm over the next few months, why not offer them on all of the iMacs? Hey, why not just keep the iMac with one configuration, so ordering will be as easy as possible? If new computer buyers were willing to shell out $1,299 for a revision /A iMac, they wouldn’t mind forking over that for increased performance, storage, and a DVD player.

My fear is that the next edition of the iMacs will come with more options—say, flat screens vs. the regular CRT’s, or built in fast access cable modems vs. the 56K modem, and then what? Ordering an iMac could go from being a three minute experience to a long debate on the merits of FireWire over USB.

Of course, it seems that the decisions Steve Jobs and Apple have made so far have been nothing but positive. And, I’m sure that in the future, iMacs will continue to sell like hotcakes. I just wonder if it will be just as easy to order an iMac in the future. And, if customers—especially first time computer buyers—have to make a number of difficult decisions, will they still see the iMac as the easiest way to the Internet?

I hope Apple won’t have to K.I.S.S. new customers good bye...

apple“Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac user” is copyright © 2000 Tom Iovino,

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