A Macworld is a happy world, at least inside San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center this week.
After giving standing ovations to Apple's past in the form of the two Steves at Gil Amelio's keynote, Macworld Expo attendees were by and large enthusiastic about their favorite company's future.
But that's to be expected. In its twenty years of existence, Apple has built up tremendous loyalty among a core of users who would perform self-immolation before switching to any other platform.
Even with technical glitches and gratuitous celebrity schmoozing, Amelio's 2 hour, 40 minute speech was a rallying cry for customers who want promises of a bright Apple future.
Amelio explains recent red ink.
Sure there was information about Apple's new OS and 360-degree cameras, but it was obscured in the leisurely pace of the event. It felt like sitting on the porch swing, listening to Grandpa hold forth while every so often a good friend drops by--"Why if it ain't ol' Jimmy Barksdale! And Paul Maritz, too? Get on up here, you sly dog!"--until everyone retires to the living room to watch Independence Day, one of the worst films in both human and extraterrestrial history.
Somewhere in the third hour, the audience suddenly stood and whooped and hollered as if they had Powerbook batteries in their pants when Steve Jobs took the stage. He didn't exactly breathe fire in his relatively few minutes on stage, but he still showed the eloquence and charm of old in an appeal to the developers in the audience.
Jobs fires up the crowd.
The main message was two-fold: Apple is committed to both System 7 and the new Rhapsody OS. And Apple is still going to save the world, just like the alien fighters in the Independence Day clips Apple showed--in case you didn't get it.
Some developers felt that the System 7 commitment was especially crucial to calm the nerves of the development community.
Luke Adamson of Omni Engineering gives Apple a thumbs-up.
Rajesh Viswanathan praises the power of the PowerPC.
Deciding to bundle the Power Computing Mac clones with the Be OS may indeed turn out to be a smart move in the long run. Taking up a huge corner of the exhibition hall, the company's "It's a war out there" booth was part of a marketing blitz to push the company's status from 'sleeper hit' to 'mainstream player'. Or, as a Power Computing poster put it: kick Intel's ass.
The war theme was appropriate for a second reason this week: a few steps into the Expo exhibit hall and one can feel the bunker mentality starting to take over. A representative of the Los Angeles Macintosh Group, organizers of the annual MacFair L.A. show, told us the real reason Apple has been having such a tough time.
Who's Apple's number-one enemy? Find out here.
|Peter Gabriel jammed with Kai Krause.|
The new Apple executives constantly belittle Apple's old disdain for anything "not invented here." But it is Apple's anti-establishment image that rallies the ground troops. That's why the Next acquisition was so beautiful: it does allow Apple to have it both ways. 'NextStep wasn't invented here, but it was invented over there by one of our own, Steve Jobs, so it's almost invented here. In fact, it should have been invented here.'
Rhapsody has already restored some confidence among developers, and that was important for the long term. But it turns out that many attendees on the show floor, from high school kids to aerospace engineers, didn't really care about the OS plan at all. To them, all that mattered was that the Mac remain a Mac, no matter what's in its guts.
Lockheed's Bill Wagner is a true Mac addict.
One Apple employee who watched the keynote from Cupertino told me that the company still holds the same fascination for him as when he joined straight out of college. "I sat and watched and thought, 'I work for a weird company,'" he said. "And that's why I chose it."
|Attendees compete for prizes at the Mac clone maker's multimedia trivia game.|
Photos by Donald R. Winslow