For Apple, Print is Dead

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During Apple's press conference at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention, Apple's Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, Phil Schiller, made the bold proclamation that Apple believes desktop video is now bigger than desktop publishing. When asked to expand on this thought, Mr. Schiller pointed to the number of digital video cameras on the market, the number of iMac DVs sold, and the number of iMac DV owners using their Macs for video (one in three users in the U.S. and one in two in Japan).

While no one in the audience actually clutched their sides and fell to the floor in a fit of uncontrollable laughter, the consensus in the press room afterward was that the dazzling lights of Las Vegas' famed strip may have briefly scrambled Schiller's judgement.

But after revisiting this notion it occurred to me that rather than issuing a lunatic statement for the pure pleasure of confounding the press, Schiller was offering a broad hint that Apple was preparing to once again change the way people think about computing. Schiller's message: Print is dead.

Granted, the idea seems as goofy as Schiller's own contention about desktop video, but when you view it in the context of Apple's recent actions, it makes perfect sense. Before dismissing the thought outright, see if the following doesn't lead to an inevitable conclusion.

Shortly after making The Statement, Mr. Schiller touted iMovie as a program so simple that a manual was unnecessary. While this may or may not be true, it did remind the audience that printed documentation has all but disappeared from Apple's products -- whether it be the Mac OS, AppleWorks 6.0, or Apple's computers. Although this has proven to be a boon for the computer-book publishing business, it does indicate that Apple has developed a certain disregard for words printed on paper.

But it's more than ink-on-paper words that Apple would prefer to dispense with. There are certain electronic words that Apple finds superfluous as well. For example, Apple's Tech Exchange, where users can post messages about Apple products, has recently been stripped of any words Apple deems to be "criticism." Should a well-meaning user post words to the effect that perhaps someone at Apple might have tested hot-syncing a Palm Pilot to a Mac running OS 9.0.4 -- and therefore ensure that the process would actually work -- those words would be expunged as criticism and, therefore, unnecessary.

And then there are the words that Apple feels bound to publish but would prefer that you not see. Apple redesigned the Technical Information Library (TIL) so that recent TIL documents -- documents that, among other things, detail bugs and workaround to those bugs -- are no longer listed. Apple continues to issue these documents but since print is dead and the words largely needless, why make them easy to find?

Inevitably there will those cynics among us who will suggest that with Apple's Return to Profitability comes Apple's Return to Arrogance and Paranoia -- that the company is simply unwilling to countenance criticism (or open itself to criticism by committing words to print) because, after all, Apple Knows Best.

I admit that I was sympathetic to those cynics, but Mr. Schiller has opened my eyes. It's not about paranoia, it's not about arrogance, it's simply that Apple's moved on. Words are strictly 20th century. The future is video.

Get the picture?

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