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Commentary: Apple still too slow with new features

Apple has attempted to make a splash in the market with high-performance Power Macs and notebooks, but there are a lot of bumps in the road.

By Michael Silver and Mark Margevicius, Gartner Analysts

The recent announcements by CEO Steve Jobs may not be enough for Apple Computer to overcome the problems that led to its earnings warning in September.

At that time, Gartner believed Apple had not delivered enough innovative features to counteract a cyclical downturn in the PC market. In Apple's latest announcement, the timetables for delivery of new technologies, such as Mac OS X and rewritable CD and DVD capability, indicate that faster sales will likely not occur until several months after these technologies debut in March.

See news story:
Microsoft to release Mac OS X Office in fall
Apple has attempted to make a splash in the market with high-performance Power Macs (up to 733 MHz, with a 133-MHz bus) and notebooks that offer increased durability, lighter weight, longer battery life and enhanced CD/DVD capabilities. In addition, two new multimedia applications, iTunes and iDVD, target consumers entering the age of digital convergence; however, both applications face bumps in the road to success. The iDVD must run on systems configured with Apple Superdrives, available only on high-end, commercially targeted systems, and iTunes requires a CD-rewritable drive currently available only in business-oriented Power Macs.

Apple customers wishing to use iTunes or iDVD for other systems must purchase additional hardware. Gartner believes that most commercial customers looking to use the new hardware features will have little need for iTunes and iDVD and will likely delay their Mac purchases until OS X ships with native OS X applications.

Apple obviously believes it will have completed development work on OS X in time to ship it in March. However, Gartner believes the delay in shipping systems preloaded with OS X represents an admission that all the applications are not in place for the average consumer or professional to have an experience at least as good as that of running OS 9. Although OS X can run most legacy OS 8 and 9 applications in its "Classic" mode, they have a different look and feel, as well as a performance penalty (at least in initial start-up performance) compared to native OS X "Carbon" and "Cocoa" mode counterparts.

Notably missing native OS X applications are versions of Real Networks and Windows media players compatible with the Carbon version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.5 browser included with OS X. Running other applications in Classic mode may pose slight annoyances, but a lack of media players and other popular browser plug-ins that run natively under OS X severely degrades the native version of IE.

Another important application, Microsoft's Mac Office 2001, will not ship a native-mode version for OS X until the fall, and users will have to run its applications in Classic mode in the meantime.

OS X is a key part of Apple's strategy to induce its current users to upgrade to faster, more powerful machines--and to appeal to new customers as well (for example, Unix-based OS X will run X-Windows applications). However, Apple's traditional, loyal base of users will likely require updated, native-mode applications before migrating, and consumers need a rich, seamless Web experience.

(For related commentary on Mac OS X, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.