Going for it

Ten years ago, Apple and the Mac were at a low point. Sales were sagging. Microsoft was giving Apple walking-around money. The Mac clones were dead. The two leading Mac magazines, Macworld and MacUser, were folded together into a single magazine. Things looked bad.

How things change. Apple is riding higher now than it ever has in my time at Macworld, which stretches back—you guessed it—exactly ten years. Not only is Apple selling more Macs than ever before, but the company continues to expand, with products like the iPod, the Apple TV, and the iPhone. Whenever you think Apple could coast, Steve Jobs instead puts his foot on the gas.

Out with the old

The best example of this is the wholesale replacement of the iPod mini two years ago. The mini was the most successful iPod model at the time, but Apple tossed it overboard and replaced it with the iPod nano. That ruthless approach continues this month, with Apple comprehensively refreshing the entire iPod product line (see page 20). In addition to new video-playing iPod nanos and the classic iPod (reborn as the, er, iPod classic), Apple has touch-screen devices: the iPhone and the new iPod touch.

In less than three months, Apple has sold more than a million iPhones. That’s a huge number for any company, but Apple dreams bigger. And so the company introduced a $299 8GB iPod touch based on the same hardware and software as the iPhone, and reduced the 8GB iPhone’s price from $599 to $399.

Predictably, early iPhone buyers cried foul over that price drop, so much so that Apple has tried to make amends with a $100 store credit to those who bought an iPhone before the cut. Steve Jobs’s explanation for the price drop neatly summed up Apple’s attitude: “We have the chance to ‘go for it’ this holiday season.”

In truth, Apple’s been “going for it” for years, and I expect that to continue. With the iPod a continued smashing success and the Mac on an upward trajectory, Apple decided to take on a whole new market with the iPhone. Rather than protect iPhone sales for the holiday season, Apple has gone ahead and released an iPod based on the same technology, and at the same time made the iPhone much more affordable. This is not a company content to run out the clock and protect its lead. This is a company, to steal some James Bond terminology, that’s bent on world domination.

In with the new

Bold action can have unexpected consequences. Apple’s seen this play out numerous times over its history, perhaps most notably (at least until this iPhone price cut) with its elimination of the floppy drive, SCSI, and serial ports when it released the original iMac. What was a bold move then seems almost quaint now, but at the time Mac users were furious that Apple would make their floppy disks, keyboards, and serial devices obsolete.

The release of iLife ’08 (see page 62) included a similar bold gesture that generated anger in some quarters. In this case, fans of iMovie, Apple’s venerable video-editing program, were up in arms over Apple’s wholesale rewrite of the software. The company tossed the old iMovie on the heap and replaced it with something completely different.

Having used iMovie ’08 a bit, I find it to be brilliant at making it easy to quickly cut videos. But I also understand why iMovie veterans are steamed. The older iMovie was much more full-featured, allowing users to generate professional-looking output cheaply and easily. Will Apple respond to their concerns, as it did with the early iPhone adopters? I sure hope so. There’s definitely a place in the Mac software market for a video editor that’s more than iMovie ’08 but less than Final Cut Express. Here’s hoping that Apple finds a good way to provide those features to the people who want them.

Ten years later …

Ten years ago, with the November 1997 issue, two great Mac magazines, Macworld and MacUser, combined into one. As I said at the start of this column, that year was a tough time for Apple. It was also a tough time for those of us who write about Apple. The merger caused incredible staff turmoil, but the Macworld machine kept on churning during those dark times. Less than a year later, Apple released the first iMac.

In that decade, I’ve gone from being the Web site editor at MacUser to the editorial director of Macworld , with a half-dozen jobs in between. But there’s always been one constant in my work: the enthusiasm of Mac users and the wonderful community that has grown around Apple and its products.

Here’s to another ten great years.

[ Got a comment about the latest iPods, iMovie ’08, or anything else Apple’s released lately? Join the discussion in the Macworld Forums, or drop me a note .]

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