Sniveling about Steve Jobs

Sniveling about Steve Jobs

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Apple
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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.

macmini200.jpgLet’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.

Topic: Apple

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  • close, but not quite

    I love my ipod. I'm part way through the excerise of moving my music library into Itunes. My LPs and cassets take more time than the CDs, but I know not all are hindered by such relics.

    My life is so busy I almost never get the chance to sit in the family room and listen to my big system, so getting my years worth of music onto my shuffel has reopened my library, and I'm enjoying it like a reunion of old friends.

    Now, me thinks, why devote all this footage in my family room to a rack of knobs and leds, when it is all there to support hard media, which I-tunes has made almost obsolete.

    I could really clean my room up, and have better access to my music if I could just switch over all the way.

    Cool, Jobs just released the mini mac. I may be saved.

    Or maybe not.

    Lets see, what to do about Blue Ray? The mini can't help me there. Yet. Maybe that will be taken care of in the next release. But that points to a larger question of keeping up with the technology march.

    I've accepted that I'll probably be buying a new Ipod (or some other portable device)every couple of years, but I'm not sure I'll be eager to swap $1000 mini's at that rate.

    Also,since the real value is in the data -the music and movies - and the time it took me to get it into iTunes, shouldn't a "media hub" have an obvious "back up" answer? When my turn table stopped spining, I had to replace a belt. I was back in business in minutes. Hard drives aren't so eaisly brought back to life.

    What? I need a music decoder because the mini dosen't have 7 channels of good audio out that I can feed straight into my Adcom. Wait. Better yet, give me powered speakers with wireless connection. No speakers are too personal a choice, I think I'll hang onto my Polks a while longer.

    Nope. Sorry. The Mini was a nice swing, but a miss never the less. It certinaly is a nice step in the direction of allowing me to condense to a flat screen, a media handeler, and speakers. I'm sure there is more to come, but I was supprised how small this step was.
    toddpie1
    • Interim products

      I think you're right, and the new Mini is (like the new iMac and
      MacBook), an interim product. It's a matter of getting the Intel chip
      into the Mac and working out the bugs. I'm expecting to see some
      more interesting things from Apple down the road, but these to me
      seem more like taking the old Mac boxes and putting a new chip in
      them.
      tic swayback
  • Computer Entertainment Trends Are Not All That Hot

    I?ve had Windows Media Center for about 6 weeks, and overall it has been a disappointment. For some reason the My TV section of the console kept crashing the console, and for another mysterious reason, it took about 15 minutes for the MC console to unfreeze after I initially started it up. I was willing to put up with this until I realized later that most of my movie recordings were DRM?d (or should I say CRAP?ed). Now DRM is very significant because it ties your content to a particular machine. Not to two or three machines: just one. And if you change the configuration of your machine, you may not be able to access the content again. (Maybe with some adjustments you can.) You cannot edit your content. You cannot even view it directly using Windows Media Player (WMP). And here?s the doozy: content owners can reach down and deactivate it at will ? making your time an effort recording and organizing your content, much less than it would otherwise have been. This to me was an outrage, so went used an alternative to Media Center to bypass its DRM limitations, and other problems.

    When Berlind therefore goes on and on about DRM: he?s not just running up his mouth. This is a real concern. Computer companies may be getting all excited about up coming content related technologies. My whole feeling however is that their efforts are going to bomb. You can?t expect consumers who are used to carrying around their content on vinyl, cassettes, CDs, etc. with the ability to use them freely, on just about and device, to transition to what amounts to deluxe prisons in which content companies erect barriers to how they can use your content. Therefore Apple may have made content easy to download and be used between the iPod and the PC, however people will become enraged when they realize jut how much it, other computer companies, and the content industry, have curtailed their freedom.
    P. Douglas
    • Roll your own....for now

      I think that for now the best solution is to roll your own box. Buy a
      cheapie PC, install Linux and set it up as a DVR, free from all the
      DRM constraints of Microsoft or Apple. It's hard to say how long
      this will continue to work, once the MPAA bribes enough
      congresscritters to get the broadcast flag fully enabled, but then
      again, like any other DRM scheme, it should be easily defeated.
      tic swayback
      • Entertainment Industry Picking Off Computer Companies One By One

        What I?d like to know is why there aren?t consumer protection advocates and computer companies countering entertainment companies? advocacy of Congress? These groups should be saying that it is fine with them for the entertainment industry to pursue anti-piracy measures: just so long as they don?t trample on the consumer?s right to use their content freely. Instead, computer companies are being picked off one at a time by the entertainment industry lawyers.
        P. Douglas
        • That is puzzling

          I understand why there aren't consumer protection groups--there's
          no profit to be made there, so no huge influx of cash to buy votes.
          But why the big electronic companies, whose revenue dwarfs the
          entertainment industry by 10 times, allow the smaller industry to
          destroy their ability to innovate and profit, is beyond me.
          tic swayback
  • Consumer Advocacy

    C.R.A.P. is a fragile premise. Bless the impulse to be a consumer
    advocate, but give us a little credit. DB's "DRM is evil" spin seems
    to presume consumers are powerless to resist that latest
    Coldplay rif. As though we can't turn down a bouncy tune or
    movie.

    Do we trust Apple or Microsoft to not gouge us? It's up to you.
    Either way, content creators have a right to secure their product
    from theft just as any manufacturer or retailer.

    So this is Microsoft antitrust all over again right? Wrong. Apple is
    not offering FairPlay under licence to all comers in the same way
    Microsoft does with WMA. The result is competition where it
    counts. This is no longer a contest to see who can extrude
    plastic in the most attractive shape. Neither is this about another
    parade of cheap, mediocre, crackerjack favors all with a
    Microsoft brain transplant. This is about competition in
    technology, competition in software, competition in integration,
    and competition in form and design. Finally and most
    importantly, competition in DRM. The best package wins. Finally
    the way it should be. The way it should have been from the start.

    Apple's success is the result of merited work. Their success in
    being the only other real alternative to a Microsoft media
    monopoly is welcomed by many of us.
    Harry Bardal
    • Bit of a Nit

      Microsoft does not offer WMA to everyone.

      When you can play a WMA on linux without cracking and hacking, then you can claim Microsoft is generous with their licensing.

      And yes, I'm more than willing to purchase licensed software for my linux box. I see no problem with open source and proprietary coexisting on Linux like they do on Windows and OSX. It isn't that Microsoft cannot license WMA to run on Linux, it's that they refuse to.
      joe_coder
  • Intel Mac mini is a dog

    The Mac mini, as originally released, was a good value relative to other Apple products. For the first time in forever, it was possible for me to realistically consider going Macintosh. It is one thing for me to compare a $400 or $500 desktop PC to the $500 mini, or upgrade the mini to a $600 model to make it even better.

    Sure, they gave it FrontRow, which is an awesome addition and probably worth a few extra bucks to a lot of people.

    But the mini now starts at $600.

    I simply cannot justify buying a mini, with or without FrontRow, for $600 as the base price. They took the mini and priced it right out of the sweet spot. It was at the top end of the sweet spot to begin with.

    I held off on going Mac because I wanted to see how the Intel chips would affect the Mac. Paul Murphy was right (http://blogs.zdnet.com/Murphy/?p=479), going Intel would not drop Mac prices. They went up. I think my prediction that Intel CPUs will not drive Apple sales (http://techrepublic.com.com/5254-6257-0.html?forumID=99&threadID=184332&messageID=1903809&id=2926438) will hold true.

    At the end of the day, people such as myself who are looking at the mini as a way to get ourselves into the Macintosh system with a minimal upfront investment just don't have the rest of the package to take advantage of the value add. We would prefer a lower price any day of the week. For example, someone who isn't able to spent $600 on a mini isn't going to have this amazing home theater setup or whatever to take advantage of FrontRow. I know that my ancient 17" CRT screen and my dinky speakers (not to mention the lack of seating in my home office) just don't justify it.

    All Apple needed to do was offer the mini, sans extras like WiFi (I hate wireless networking), FrontRow (don't need it), Bluetooth (don't need it), and just offer a version that has all of the same CPU, disk, and memory options, but without the fancy stuff, and drop the price $150, and these things will sell a lot better. I know that would bring them back into my budget.

    J.Ja
    Justin James
    • Price vs contents

      I'm less worried about a higher price if the contents of the box warrant it. The CPU is certainly better than the G4. Early reports say it's even fast enough to wipe out the hit you take from emulation. So for so good.

      Where I think this "media" Mac fails is on video. Shared video memory and one of the worst video chips on the market seems so, well, anti-mac. Basically, if you want to do any real media work with this machine (rip a CD, watch a show, play a song) that is at least similar to the quality of dedicated hardware you need to buy an external audio card and an external video card. In other words, you have to buy more dedicated hardware.

      You'd be better off buying the iMac and figuring out how to hide the darned ugly thing in your living room. (yeah, that big plastic frame-thing looks like a Hello Kitty branded computer. Great for teenage girls, bad for living room decor.)

      I was so close to finally ditching the PC for a Mac. I was waiting for an intel Mini that I could unix on to my hearts content AND buy games for. But who wants to play a game on shared video and a cruddy Intel video chip?

      Looks like I'll be going WinTel/Linux again.
      joe_coder
      • the intel video chip is faster than the previous mac mini

        Google is your friend. Check out the reviews of the chips
        performance.
        This is no SiS crap (SiS may have moved on by now, but my SiS
        integrated graphics was lousy), it can run Doom3 UT2004 (at
        640x480 with very acceptable frame rates).
        Why don't you do some research before dissing a product?

        Fine you don't like it. Others do, vive la difference.
        What is so wrong with just not buying something if you don't
        like it, why do you have to burn others for liking them?

        Jeez I thought america was about choice.

        You could try writing your post again from that point of view.
        stevey_d
      • Not true for all buyers

        "I'm less worried about a higher price if the contents of the box warrant it. The CPU is certainly better than the G4. Early reports say it's even fast enough to wipe out the hit you take from emulation. So for so good."

        I would agree, especially in the mid and high end of the price range (I think the MacBook Pro is a good example). Sadly, the $100 price difference is also a 20% price difference, whereas on the MacBook Pro (compared to the PowerBook), it is a 5% difference. At that bottom end of the price range, $100 can make a world of difference.

        Even though the extra $100 come with well over $100 worth of value add compared to its predecesor, I still would be happier if they offered a version without the wireless stuff (Bluetooth/wifi/FrontRow) and offered a less expensive version.

        At the previous price points, the mini (especially once you factor in the cost of monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers) was at the just barely at top end of "budget". Now it is firmly in "mid range". Most people looking to buy a computer are looking in the "budget" category, especially since a "budget PC" today blows way a high end PC from only a few years ago, not just in performance, but features. Sure, the added features help the mini compete with the budget PCs on that front, but the price hike doesn't help. The PC market has managed to boost performance and add features while dropping the price. The new mini has a very large performance boost, a ton of new features, but sadly, a significantly higher price.

        J.Ja
        Justin James
      • iMac is nice

        You may not like the way the iMac looks but it is very functional
        and is a great spavesaver. I like the old lampshade style with the
        floating in space screen, but the newer iMac is very solid and
        functional. My biggest complaint is the fact that it is not
        designed to be user repairable. I've always used Mac towers and
        in my old G4 I can install a PCI card or hard drive in less than 5
        minutes, RAM in about 30 seconds. You don't expect that kind
        of functionality in a compact form machine. Everything else,
        especially the ability to use two monitors is decent.

        The Mac Mini would be really nice except for the graphics
        system. It probably works better with 2 gb of RAM, but Apple
        could have done better with that. Still there is a copycat small PC
        with most of the same features including the same video output
        that costs about $100 more for very similar configurations. I
        have a feeling they will upgrade the graphics in the mini in the
        future probably when the Intel chips come down in price.
        MacGeek2121
    • rubbish

      you can't afford it so you trash talk it?
      that's mighty big of you.

      I got an old mac mini, which is great, this new mac mini has wifi
      and bluetooth, is faster, has faster graphics and you don't need
      a usb hub, and all for $100 more.
      WHERE IS THE PROBLEM BUDDY? I mean where?

      Go look at www.mp3car.com for an Aopen PC that looks like a
      Mac mini. Same spec, when you add it up (1.5GHz cpu) is $749.
      The slot load cdrom is expensive, the laptop drive is expensive.
      If you want the nice form factor pay the money.
      Quit wingeing.
      stevey_d
      • Read closer please

        "you can't afford it so you trash talk it?
        that's mighty big of you."

        OK, I probably should not have called it "a dog". But the fact remains that the mini was a great reduced-cost alternative for PC users, and now it isn't.

        "I got an old mac mini, which is great, this new mac mini has wifi and bluetooth, is faster, has faster graphics and you don't need
        a usb hub, and all for $100 more. WHERE IS THE PROBLEM BUDDY? I mean where?"

        Read my post please. The problem is that they are not offering a version without all of that stuff. I even stated in my post that the fact that all of that stuff adds only $100 is a good value. But that still doesn't change the fact that "only $100" is a 20% hike, and brings the mini out of range for many buyers, especially when they compare it to a PC. If someone can spend $400 - $600 on a PC, the mini at its previous price point was worth the stretch to the top of that range. The mini at its new price point, while being a great deal, is still outside the range. When you factor in the lack of things like a monitor, keyboard, etc. that frequently can be had in the PC market while keeping the total cost under $600, it makes it hard for many buyers to justify it.

        As I made *quite clear* in my previous post, all of those added features, while great, are not needed by myself, or many other people. So why not offer a less expensive version without those features? That is what I made clear in my original post, which you so elegantly misread at your convenience.

        "If you want the nice form factor pay the money."

        I knew I forgot something in my original post.

        I don't want a mini for its form factor. If the eMac was less expensive than a mini, I'd buy an eMac, shove it (CRT and all) under my desk, and use my current monitor. I want a Mac for MacOSX. I think it is an amazingly slick piece of software, I have FreeBSD on my home server and love it (but don't like GNOME or KDE too much), love the Mac integration, and I would like to start writing code for Macs. Unless the only way I could get a Mac in my budget was if they packaged it in a 1986 Chevy Caprice, the form factor is unimportant to me.

        J.Ja
        Justin James
        • want a cheap OSX machine, try eBay..........

          There are hundreds of clean used and new Mac's to be had by
          reputable sellers if you really want to run Mac OSX on the cheap.
          I've never been able to afford but (1) new computer personally
          after becoming paralyzed from the neck down, so I saved up to
          buy a PowerMac 8600 for $2700 back in '94. Now you can find
          a dual G4 machine for under $500! I buy all my Mac's used and
          upgrade them when money allows. If I can do it on a fixed
          income, anyone can. Best of luck to ya!
          BillyB40
        • You want a cheap Mac. It could be done.

          I agree. Apple would do well to offer a stripped down version of
          the mini for $399 to $459. The Wi-Fi and Blue tooth easily add
          $100 to the price. I don't know if Apple will ever offer such a
          machine. After all it's the mini form factor that keeps it from
          being like other cheap PCs. I think Apple could offer a new
          cheap model eventually for the Education market but I think it
          will not be an eMac with Intel although so far that's where Apple
          is heading. Apple has a couple of months to redesign for the
          education market. I think the professional Mac will probably
          have a redesign and I think we'll see new designs that we haven't
          seen before, some good and some not so good. I don't think
          Apple is going to start making machines for the Walmart market,
          but you never know.
          MacGeek2121
  • ((( This products did NOT deserve a Special Event )))

    This products are great, but I really don't believe they deserved a "Special Event" (which Apple usually saves for "WOW" products like the iPod Nano or 5G iPod) Whats up with the Apple iPod Case/sleeve?... No open clickwheel... No open screen... no dock connecter access... and its only $100... Apple, GET A GRIP!
    MauiMac
  • although not for non-techies, the same functionality can be had for ~$400

    or less. I was evaluating several different "media center" type options, and the best one from both a price and functionality standpoint was a modded xbox running Xbox MediaCenter software. Plays music, DVDs, and videos, from local storage, streaming from LAN or internet, or USB devices. Gorgeous and configurable UI, full HD support (including upsampling videos/DVDs to 480p/720p/1080i), real-time Dolby-Digital 5.1 encoding. Cost would be about $150 for the xbox, $50 for a mod chip, $20 for HD connector, $15 for the remote, and $100 or so for a larger hard dish if you wanted lots of local storage.
    mattdevo
  • I'll keep my old Emachines mini-tower...

    ...as my idiotbox/vcr...maybe some day yet it'll be in fashion!
    Feldwebel Wolfenstool