Jeffrey Young offers his perspective on Steve Jobs' latest product rollout:
Cut the turtle-necked geek-icon some slack, dudes!
I’m astonished by the reaction to Steve’s presentation earlier this week of the new Intel based Mac Mini. Smart guys like Om just don’t get it. He has completely missed the point…and so have all the rest of those that are dissing the announcements. Fellow ZDNetter David Berlind has his own problems with Apple that color his judgement too. Constructive criticism is one thing; whining about how you’re “let down” by Apple because they didn’t make the product you imagined, or don’t like Apple’s DRM scheme are exercises in arrogance and egotism that demonstrate a tin-ear, not insight.
Look, lord knows I’m no Steverino apologist. He did look a little subdued, not his usual ebullient self as Dan Farber pointed out in his post on the event—watch the video for yourself. And OK, the iPod hi-fi system is a little…well, derivative might be the best phrase, although Doc Searls (feeling the pain of his Sonos purchase) is more dismissive. And the leather carrying case? Pleeeez…come to think of it maybe Steve was embarrassed by it and that partly explains his behavior.
But none of this matters. The critical part of the show was the Mac Mini, and Apple’s relaunch of Bonjour, the company’s weirdly simple Wi-Fi networking scheme. This combination shows off everything that makes Steve the consumer impresario of the tech world, and further distances himself from both his Evil Empire northern neighbor Bill Gates, and jabs another stake into the side of the Texan Big Hat clonemaker.
Let’s start with the simple fact that in 25 years Intel-based PCs still look like the IBM PC-XT I bought in the early 1980’s. Alright, Dell, HP and all the other suspects have turned them on their side, made them slightly smaller, and provided some space age plastic work.This is progress? So along comes Steve—in 2006—and delivers an innovative box with an Intel processor in it. Apple is already more than six months earlier than it predicted moving to Intel processors (unless they were totally sandbagging the dates), so their engineering teams deserve big bonuses even from the famously parsimonious Steve.
So the chattering masses snivel because it isn’t some tablet iPod video device that they’d burned up the blogosphere bloviating about incorrectly for a week. Hint: The iPod is now mainstream, so Steve has moved on.
That alone would be enough to write home about, but the cognoscenti seem brain-dead when considering the impact of the Mac Mini and Bonjour on the home electronics environment. Apple has just sent a shot over the bows of both the consumer electronics companies and Microsoft’s media center aspirations that will reverberate for years.
Here’s why. Most of us with families and houses have TVs and stereos and DVD players and radios and all sorts of stuff strewn around with no way to interconnect them except for wires. Computers live in home offices and bedrooms, but rarely get into the stereo closet because: a) There’s no room for them; and b) They don’t interact well with TV displays. Sure you can make it work, but you gotta jump through hoops and if you’ve ever tangled with connecting a Media Center PC to your home stereo you know what I’m talking about. Dozens of schemes are out there to get all the gear to work together, none of them simple and elegant and all hobbled by Microsoft’s inelegant systems.
Now along comes Apple with the Mac Mini and Bonjour. Hide the tiny new computer alongside the stereo gear, connect your TV set and surround sound decoder, play any songs or videos from any other computer within range in the house (remember, Bonjour works with PCs as well as Macs so it hosts all your media types), surf the Web from the couch, and voila! You’ve integrated the web, entertainment and computer files, TV, and the computer. With characteristic Apple elegance, the system works easily, without complexity and while you’re not likely to use the Bluetooth keyboard for everyday email, it does work.
OK, there’s no Tivo or DVR in the Mac Mini, but that’s a business with no future anyway. Don’t you think that Apple is about to blow up the video distribution business with iTunes, just like it did with music? (Sorry David, that C.R.A.P. will keep haunting you.) When it does this, broadcast and cable television with its rigid time schedules will be so last century. Don’t take my work for this impending announcement: Nick Carr got it first by understanding the meaning of Apple’s recent purchase of a massive peering facility in Newark California, and AppleInsider’s reporting on a new marketing survey being circulated in southern California ices the cake.
As usual, Steve is way ahead of the curve. He’s about to invade everyone’s home, while the clueless are still obsessing about yesterday’s iPod Nation…and getting mad at him for being far ahead of the curve.
Get over it.
Jeffrey Young is author of iCon Steve Jobs : The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business.