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John Dvorak's 'Barbie' article caused quite a stir, as did the MSN/AOL debacle. See what the readers say...

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Story: iBook is so 'girly' it should sport a Barbie logo

Dear Editor

I wish I knew what John Dvorak looked like, or when he was born -- though from his "girly" article, it's not hard to guess that it must have been way, way before the fifties (certainly way before Steve Jobs).

His codgery critique of the Apple iBook's supposed semblance to make-up kits reminds me of an old granddaddy ruminating that when HE was twenty he didn't have any of these sissy, bubble-shaped, heated automobiles to drive to his girlfriend's in; he had to walk four hours each way through six feet of snow -- even the bloody weather was manlier in his day!-- all the while trying to convince us, and himself, that his waning smarts and vigour are not being superseded by younger folks.

Mr. Dvorak is not dealing in simply sexist issues, but generational ones. Like, Mae who? And has he noticed that most "college kids" are precisely the "kind who wear those ludicrous baggy pants"? At least he acknowledges, albeit unwittingly, that Apple's marketing is bang on target.

Mr. Dvorak, we understand your pique that the iBook was not made for people your age. It was hard enough for you grasp and keep up with computer technology and their hyperspeed trends, and it's certainly unfair to expect you to stay hip on the developing aesthetics to boot. It's okay. When you're soon put out to pasture, there will still be grey ThinkPads for you.

Derek Thorne

Story: as above

Dear Editor

Dvorak's a man who can't see the beauty in being different. What's so wrong with the iBook? It's not a square, grey, dull-coloured laptop, so it breaks the mould. Thank goodness men like Dvorak don't rule the fashion world -- we'd still be wearing those ridiculous bathing suits from the 1920's and dark suits would still be the rule in all corporations. Casual day? Forget it -- it's too different.

So, Dvorak, what's the big deal with a computer that has a little colour? Do you feel intimidated by that, are you scared that your feminine side might pop out and you'd suddenly have to admit you played with Barbies as a young child?

Let's wait for the public to decide on this new line from Apple. As far as I'm concerned, they look pretty cool. And for the price, maybe I'll dig out my old college backpack and carry an iBook to work every day.

Russ Hall

Story: as above

He is out of touch and he doesn't really seem to understand today's markets either.

The iBook has some design flaws. I think the handle is a little "sissy". But the design as a whole is cutting edge, and has mass appeal to the most dynamic, largest and most lucrative demographic in history: the(roughly) 26 and under age group affectionately known as GenX.

Not only is this machine a great consumer product for younger more savvy, less conformist people (i.e.: not Dvorak), it's a great lead-in product for the rest of Apple's line of products. After 6 months to a year of use, the higher end G3 PowerBook will be a very tempting purchase.

Jobs is brilliant in this regard: get a young massive user base hooked on Apple design and tech on the low end, then when they need or want more, and have the money to spend, UPGRADE!

Dvorak is simply a dinosaur. Who is the fastest growing demographic of users on the Web? Women. Largely ignored until now, women are just starting to grab the interest of large computing powers. Why have women been ignored? Because women have been alienated by the exact type of thinking displayed by Dvorak. Women don't want to tangle with the tech. They want it to work and be easy to use. They want to use computers to communicate, share and learn. They aren't interested in computers for the sake of computing (when would you ever hear a woman boasting: "check this out, I've 256Megs of ram, an 8Gig hard drive and a 450 megahertz processor! I'm such a stud!"). If it also looks pretty and its light, fits in a bag and even has a handle, then the deal is sealed.

As for men, gender bending is in. It's sexy for guys to be into style and design. Muscle bound frat boys all shop at Abercrombie and Fitch and Old Navy these days not just because their girlfriends want them to, but because they're realising that they too can be pretty, it's OK for them to be pretty, and in fact, they ENJOY being pretty. Many of them will even admit it, or flaunt it. Japanese influenced girlie-pop style sells like crazy: does the VW Beetle ring a bell?

The appeal of tech these days isn't the nuts and bolts, what's under the hood, macho, supercharged ideals reminiscent of Tim Allen grunting about his favourite muscle car. It's about lifestyle. It's about being cool, confident and hip. It's about computers making your life easier and better, letting the engineers figure out how the stuff works so you can spend more time doing the things you want to do. Like cuddling with your girlfriend.

Simon Potter

Story: as above

As a wearer of 'ludicrous baggy pants with the built-in rope that's used for a belt' I could feel rather insulted by Dvorak's comments. But then I could laugh and say "What a stupid name Dvorak is" but I shall do neither of these things because I think that he is missing the point.

Microsoft currently sells to the PC dominated market of the grown ups. Windows is what they have always bought, so that's what they buy, warts and all.

By targeting Macs at the younger generation, and to those 'ludicrous baggy pants' wearers who can see beyond the marketing hype, Steve Jobs is selling to an audience with an open mind, that will then demand Macs when they start work, and will start to counter the view that nothing is better than Microsoft.

I think Steve Jobs is being very clever indeed.

Alex Wright

Story: as above

Dear Editor

Tsk. Shame. Sigh. John D uses the word 'girly'and 'effeminate' like they're bad or something. Obviously he hasn't taken his nose away from his keyboard long enough to notice that 52 percent of the population IS girly and effeminate. And that the boys club of the Internet was infiltrated by women long ago.

Who cares what the iBook looks like? Market forces, not its appearance, will determine its success. Maybe it would be nice to have a swoopy, curvy, brightly coloured battery operated brain instead of those corporate grey or black bricks we suffer with now. (I'd like purple, please!) Maybe a future shape will permit it to fit on laps better. And backpack? My student days are long behind me, but a backpack computer case doesn't scream 'Steal me' like a boring old briefcase does.

There are TWO sexes in this world, not one, and BOTH are capable of making their own decisions on what is cool ahd what is not. And guess what -- the word girly is not an insult anymore -- it's a power word.

Lorie Johnson

Story: as above

Dvorak is right. The iBook is a girly computer. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that -- if you're a young girl looking to buy a laptop computer. If Apple wants to target young girls, so be it. I just wish they'd also create more masculine, or gender-neutral, designs for iBooks, iMacs and the new G3's. Until they do, I'm not buying any more Macs.

Max Sheridan

Story: as above

Dvorak is right!!!!!

It is very refreshing to read an article by someone besides myself who can't stand the debate over coloured computers. Who cares what colour it is? It's a tool, not a fashion statement. When is Apple going to get it through their thick heads that the kind of people they are aiming their cute coloured computers at are such slackers that they can't afford them?!?!?! Jobs needs to wake up and smell the coffee: its 1999 not '69!

Give me power and speed. Damn the rest.

John Forsythe

Story Is AOL the height of hypocrisy

No, AOL does not have it right!

What many of your clients, (like myself) who use aol both for personal Internet use and more importantly for assistance in small business use, is a similar system to the American model where local calls are free. then it would be possible to make full use of the WWW without trying to budget for time spent on research etc. A higher monthly charge to balance this would be acceptable and easier to programme into business costs. The way it is at present is highly restrictive to small businesses who would really benefit from unlimited access in the American style. The new free AOL does not in any way address these restrictions. If the true potential of e-commerce is to become available to anyone except the major UK corporations these changes will have to be made.......however, in this benighted country I am not sure if anyone gives a damn about small businesses anyway!


Story: as above

A rather belated attempt to cash in on a relatively old idea.

Freeserve is starting to become bloated with newbies, but that's not to undermine the fact that most people don't want to pay for access. Many experienced (I won't boast by saying expert) users of computers and the Internet, like me, have switched to isp's like Freeserve because it has liberated us from the annoying shackles of contracts and single dial-up accounts.

Who's to say you can't open an account with every good free provider online right now? No-one. The ones who survive will be the ones with the best access times -- simple as that. Free isp access is just one more step to the liberation of the Internet for UK users. We have the choice to in theory 'two-time' our established pay-Internet provider by using a free dial up account instead, but retaining the pay-service for less-mobile data like 40meg websites on their reliable servers.

The next step is, obviously, free calls. But that won't happen -- you can count on that for the time being. The telephone network would crumble with everyone installing new standard lines and leaving their computers online 24hrs a day. No, there would have to be a catch...the reinstation of monthly charges, most likely.


Story: as above

I think aol.......should offer its existing aol.UK to all, as should all ISP's in the U.K.. I also think the net should be 100% free including calls. once again the U.K. public get a raw deal compared to the u.s.a.

or go one step at a time.......I would willingly pay up to £20.00 a month to join a good ISP....if I did not have to pay for my calls. (as would most in the U.K. ) the biggest expense in using the net is the phone charges.....and the only winner there is BT and the other telecommunication companies.

to inexperienced users of the net I include myself in that group.takes an age to find what you want and the hours just tick by.......if Tony blare wants every child in the U.K. to have access to the net......then make it 100% free.

with cable tv going into more and more homes........the net will no doubt go down that route.......and surfing will be a lot quicker (like teletext)....and I should imagine free. then where will the isp's be...........left with no subscribers at all.

Story: UK snoop plan will force Net users abroad

While I do not indulge in illegal activities on the web or any other place for that matter. I am concerned about the government plans to get ISP to agree to intercept transmissions.

It smacks of big brother is watching you. I regard it as the thin end of the wedge. We should have the freedom to express our views however, lately it has seemed that increasing the government wish to have more control over the populous. To say it would be used to help drug dealing and terrorism, seems to me to be a red herring, so to speak.

To say if you are not involved in illegal activities means you have no reason to fear these sorts of policies is not strictly true. Mighty Oaks are grown from little acorns, and from small seemingly innocuous laws come strict controls.

yours sincerely

Dawn Anderson

Story: as above

I am a contractor in the UK IT industry and to be honest, I have already given up on this country and since last month have been actively seeking work in the USA.

I would not say that their plans to intercept Internet communications is thefinal straw, I gave up long before that.

The government just does not get it and they seem hell bent on driving the UK IT industry into the ground and bring UK PLC down with it. Why have I had enough ?

1. Forthcoming Tax changes that will affect the UK contractor market (IR35)driving skilled freelance IT engineers overseas when there is already a severe skills shortage within the industry.

2. The fact that they have failed the consumer and the Internet industry with weak telecoms regulation by people who do not understand the industry or its economics. Do the DTI and Oftel think that the more they tell us that there is no need for regulatory change or that 'the explosion of subscription-free ISPs is proof that competition is working' that the statement will become truth. While high metered charges restrict net use in the UK. If someone here followed a typical Internet usage pattern they would end up with a £150-200 a month phone bill, approximately 10 times the USA cost of unmetered access.

3. As a contractor, I clock up 1000's of miles in a year. Out of every £10 I put in my petrol tank, £8.50 goes in tax. With Petrol FIVE times more expensive here than in the USA, this is an indirect tax on business, and inflates wage claims, both having a detrimental effect on a businesses competitiveness.

4. On a personal issue, I feel strongly about the draconian censorship of film and video in this country. In the USA the right to freedom of self expression is enshrined in the first amendment. I want to be treated like a grown up.

5. while on the subject of constitutional rights, another springs to mind, the 5th and the right to silence. Here within the past few years similar rights have been eroded to the point of being worthless by allowing a court to read guilt or what ever it wants into such silence. There is also the issue with the new caution which turns the right of disclosure in favour of the prosecution forcing the defendant to disclose his defence to minimise the chance of a not guilty verdict. Now we have Jackboots Straw trying to remove the right to trial by jury at a time when they are also trying to increase their snooping powers on my Internet communications. The USA may have its faults, but without a written constitution, the UK is fast turning into a police state.

6. Virtually across the board, the USA taxes are lower, resulting in lower prices and thanks to unmetered local calls it is much easier for consumers to shop around for the best price adding to competition without spending the value of any saving on call charges.

As for the issue of increased snooping powers, frankly I am beyond caring as I have already thrown in the towel with UK PLC.

Paul Hatch

Story: as above

I for one would probably move outside the UK ISP wise. Whilst I am not anti-government, this sounds very like another attempt by the "establishment" to put some form of controls on a medium that they don't understand and can't really find a way to tax , yet!!

I am reminded of a saying, often used by myself, origins unknown to me "knowledge is power" lets face it if the public really new exactly what the Government gets up to there would probably be a revolution. The Internet is probably the biggest threat to traditional benign dictatorship (so called democratic) type governments since the newspaper.

Finally, ZDNET is my right arm information wise, keep up the good work.


Bob Dobbs.