In the last 56 days Apple has updated every product in its pro and consumer line-up. Starting with a PowerBook change in mid December, Apple then updated the iBook with a 14-inch display at Macworld Expo. The Expo also saw the introduction of the revolutionary new iMac. Then in late January, the company finished the updates with a new line of Power Mac G4 desktops with speeds up to 1GHz in a dual-processor configuration.
While the year started off with a flurry of product announcements, the upcoming Expo in Tokyo will see no new hardware; in fact, the company will not be updating its line of computer products for the coming months, according to Apple’s senior director of Hardware Product Marketing Greg Joswiak. Joswiak recently spoke to MacCentral at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters.
“We’re not planning to introduce any new CPUs at Macworld Tokyo, as a matter of fact, we’re set for some months now,” said Joswiak. “Having just updated all four product quadrants, it’s really nonsensical to think we’re about to update the quadrants again at Macworld Tokyo.”
Satisfied with the current line-up of hardware, Apple will now focus its attention on converting the other 95 percent of computer users. Apple made it clear last year when it rolled out its retail stores that they were aimed at attracting Windows users, as well as offering a service to the Mac faithful.
“We had a couple of things in mind with our stores: one was to put them in very high traffic locations,” said Joswiak. “If we’re going to talk to the other 95 percent, we have to be where they’re at, instead of making them come to where we are.”
This strategy seems to be working; at his Macworld Expo keynote, CEO Steve Jobs said that 800,000 people had visited the various Apple store locations in the month of December alone. Of the people buying Macs during that time, 40 percent were people switching from Windows to the Mac.
“There is an excitement in the industry that goes beyond the Mac installed base over what we’re doing,” said Joswiak. “This is not coming from just the PC customers, but also the Unix customers.”
Apple has not been ignoring its Unix based customers either. Last week the company announced the release of Apple/Genentech BLAST, an implementation of the popular bioinformatics tools from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Apple said this implementation is up to five times faster than the standard BLAST implementation.
“BLAST is just the beginning of lots of things that the Mac and Mac OS X is going to do for the Unix community,” said Joswiak.
Mac OS X is a unique mix of a revamped Mac interface built on Unix underpinnings. Most developers have pledged support for Apple’s new operating system, with many crucial applications already shipping. Microsoft has shipped Office v. X, IBM is shipping ViaVoice for OS X and Adobe has several native products shipping (Photoshop should be here sometime this year). Other companies are hard at work to bring their applications to OS X.
In January, Apple took a huge step making Mac OS X the startup OS, signaling a transition. “Mac OS X 10.1 was the start of us getting more aggressive in telling our story. In January we made Mac OS X our default operating system — we were telling our customers to switch, it was important for us to switch, too. Our customers and developers are responding.”
Games have regained an importance again at Apple. Many Mac game developers have already brought their products to Mac OS X, while still others are releasing public betas of their work. MacPlay announced at Macworld Expo San Francisco that going forward, all of their new game projects would be built for Mac OS X.
“Games have to be important for any consumer product you have and that’s why we’re investing more on the hardware side for games. Nvidia is now on the iMac and the desktop system and we are also offering an ATI option on the desktop as well.”
The introduction of the redesigned iMac and gigahertz-clocked CPUs on its desktop machines should also add to the excitement the industry feels about Apple products. Apple reported last month that they received 150,000 pre-orders for the new iMac; that’s more than they had for the original iMac released in May 1998. This is of particular significance when you consider the timeframes involved — the original iMac was announced in May, but didn’t ship until August; the new iMac achieved its record number of pre-orders in three weeks.
“The iMac is huge for us because it’s very symbolic of what we do and who we are — it’s a package of innovation,” said Joswiak.
The new Pro desktops have also been a success since their introduction last month.
“The response has been phenomenal,” Joswiak said. “We’re very pleased with the response we’re getting to the dual 1GHz. It is the fastest Mac ever made and the fastest PC for the creative professional.”
Motorola’s Apollo G4 chip, which is currently shipping in Apple’s newest desktop machines, will be the chip of choice for some time to come.
“The G4 has a long life ahead of it,” said Joswiak. “There are a number of tweaks and revs that will happen to that processor over a long period of time.”
Of course, Apple’s iApplications are a huge draw for many considering the purchase of a computer. iDVD, iMovie, iTunes and iPhoto are all easy to use applications that fit into Apple’s strategy of making the Mac the Digital Hub. iTunes and iPhoto are both free to download and iMovie is included free with Mac OS X 10.1. You can upgrade to iDVD 2.0 for US$19.95 from the Apple store.
“The thing that drove the popularity of the Mac to start with was the things you can do on the Mac that you can’t do on the PC or are many times harder to do than on a Mac,” said Joswiak. “That’s why all of us fell in love with the Mac. We’ve recaptured some magic — it’s not just cool hardware anymore, it’s a whole total cool solution.”
“We wanted to start this year off with bang — let’s refresh all the product lines, and get OS X as the primary operating system — we’ve got the better solution,” said Joswiak. “With our current products, there’s never been a better time to buy a Mac.”