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Analysis: New Macs prove the simple stuff still counts
by Bob O'Donnell, InfoWorld columnist
(IDG) -- Leave it to Apple to prove once again how ridiculously convoluted the general ambitions and directions
of the personal computer industry typically are. In one fell swoop the company that only one year ago
many feared was on the verge of extinction (myself included, as this old column proves) both brushed
aside conventional thinking about what's important in a computer and managed to set the course that the
rest of the computer industry will follow.
I'm referring, of course, to the new computers that the company unveiled at the Macworld Expo last
week in San Francisco. Both the new line of iMacs and the next-generation Power Macintosh G3 systems make their mark not through complicated technical enhancements -- though they do have some
-- but because of incredibly simple things.
Making the slightly tweaked and slightly less expensive new iMac available in multiple colors (or
"flavors," as Apple prefers to call them), for example, is a great idea. In some ways it's trivial, but in
others it's really not. I know I'm probably going to catch some heat for saying this and I realize that in
the technology-driven IT world about the last thing people worry about is the color a computer comes
in, but I think people are really going to like it. Once again, I think Apple has taken the lead in
recognizing how people think about computers -- essentially as appliances, not technical devices -- and
made the right move at the right time. And whether you think it's stupid or not, I virtually guarantee you
that we're going to see a lot more colorful PCs this year as a result of these new iMacs.
In the newly unveiled next-generation Power Macs, I think the most important innovation is the door
panel that gives you easy access to the computer's innards. Sure, the 100-MHz system bus and built-in
FireWire support is nice, but even dedicated IT junkies have got to admit that quick entry to a
computer's motherboard for adding memory, drives, add-in cards, and what have you is incredibly
useful. The only question I have is, why doesn't everyone already do this?
What's even more interesting about these simple enhancements that Apple has made (and that PC
makers are sure to soon replicate) is in how they make you realize how far we still have to go. When
you're caught in the day-to-day technological developments that surround PCs, it's easy to lose sight of
the big picture in terms of where computers really are in their evolutionary development and where they
can still go.
Seeing these types of simple enhancements and the amount of recognition they've already
received clearly demonstrates to me that we're still pretty early on in the evolutionary cycle of personal
computing devices. Yes, gigahertz processors and gigabytes of RAM are on their way, but we're still
missing a lot of the simple stuff too.
As for the future, I take hope in believing that there are still going to be many more days when computer
system designers slap themselves on the head and think, "Why didn't I think of that?" Here's hoping that
the new Macs start more of them thinking in the right direction.