online roundtable discussion
about Apple kicked off today. What makes this particular discussion interesting is the panel of luminaries that are participating — Apple expatriates like Jef Raskin, widely credited with starting the Macintosh project, Jean-Louis Gassée, former president of Apple’s products division and Gil Amelio, former Apple CEO (expected to make himself available mid-week), as well as a bevy of other experts, analysts, and journalists associated with the Mac market.
The forum’s moderator, John Murrell, started things off this morning with a deliberately provocative question. “Apple was the driving force behind a number of developments that affected all personal computing — interface conventions and desktop publishing, for example,” said Murrell. “Can Apple still create technology that changes the non-Mac world?”
This has led to what you might expect — a spirited discussion involving the invited guests.
Gassée, who now heads BeOS maker Be Inc., scoffs at the suggestion that Apple could do anything but change the world. “… [Apple is] practically Redmond’s advanced development lab,” said Gassée, referring to Microsoft.
The Mac Show host Shawn King posits that Apple proves that on a regular basis, with products like iDVD, and Final Cut Pro. “What indications does the questioner see that Apple *won’t* continue to create technology that changes the non-Mac world?” asked King.
Creative Strategies president Tim Bajarin would seem to agree. Bajarin said that Apple’s focus on being the hub of the digital lifestyle may enable them to transcend their status as a computer maker into the realm of consumer products. “While the PC is by no means dead, there are many new opportunities for Apple to explore that could extend their role and keep them important in the next wave of the digital revolution,” said Bajarin.
That’s not all, suggested WorkingMac.com publisher David Leishman. Apple is strengthening its leadership role in the educational market with services like PowerSchool, the student information system (SIS) it acquired earlier this year. “This system, combined with Apple’s attractive, relatively inexpensive and well-reviewed iMac and iBook models, ensures the company a place in future community-based education discussions,” said Leishman.
Former Apple manager Mark Gonzales discredits the notion that Apple is really that much of an innovator. Sony, for example, is “setting the pace” for adoption of IEEE 1394, or FireWire. And USB was around before the iMac, he said. Apple made a strong impression with AirPort’s pricing but the company played “hit-and-run,” he said, by introducing a product and not following up. iMovie? Gonzales would love to try it out, but he uses a PC. And that’s the crux of the problem, posits Gonzales — too much focus on too small a customer base.
“It also raises questions, again, of Apple working with others (like Adobe) who currently have a larger impact with users,” said Gonzales.
So far, it’s been an interesting discussion, and we’re just scratching the surface here — for the blow-by-blow, make sure to visit SiliconValley.com. The roundtable runs now through August 16.