The truth about iBooks and Dvorak

According to a Salon's Janelle Brown, my dear ZDNet colleague, John C. Dvorak, is a sexist, by way of his recent column on the Apple iBook ("The iBook Disaster").

According to a Salon's Janelle Brown, my dear ZDNet colleague, John C. Dvorak, is a sexist, by way of his recent column on the Apple iBook ("The iBook Disaster").

Brown slammed Johnnie Boy -- who, by the way, does NOT look like a pulling guard for the Dallas Cowboys -- claiming his piece was "chock-full of sexist stereotypes." John's comments like: "The only thing missing from the Apple iBook is the Barbie logo. The system, which looks like a makeup case, promises to be a disaster once people come to their senses," have set-off Brown, and others (both men and women) who columnize for a living.

All of which I respond to by saying, "Way to go, John!"

In case we all have forgotten, a columnist's job is to present provocative and interesting viewpoints to stimulate a readers's interest and response. In my original column on the iBook that ran last Friday ("How Good is the Apple iBook?"), I presented one viewpoint of the iBook -- praising its innovative design, good performance, and reasonable price.

John took a different tack -- a fairly obvious one (let's be honest here) -- but it was effective. He did two jobs in one column: 1) He slammed the iBook for being cutesy and pretentious; 2) He yanked the collective chains of protofeminist writers everywhere with his smartass Barbie comments.

So what?

Does anyone really think John C. Dvorak is a raging anti-feminist traditional male beating a drum in the forest with a group of half-naked middle-aged old farts? I sure as hell don't, and I have known John for many years. Does anyone really think John C. Dvorak's comments on the Apple iBook would have been read by as many readers had he chosen a more delicate expository technique? Not a chance.

John got his points across, with style, even if I think he really missed the boat at analyzing who will buy the iBook and why. Just as many predicted that the cutesy iMac would be Steve's Folly and were proven wrong (the iMac remains the best-selling desktop computer on the planet), John has decided to lead the charge against the iBook as Steve's Folly, version 2. If he's right, he claims place of primacy as the first serious naysayer. If he's wrong, no one will remember.

That's smart.

And by tossing-out his iBook bon mots in the form of a politically incorrect diatribe, John proves he's a smartass, too.

But neither being smart, nor being smartass will save John on the core of his opinion, which is that the iBook "promises to be a disaster once people come to their senses." People have yet to come to the senses on the iMac, in case he's forgotten.

For John, it's a style issue, not an issue of the soul of the new machine. As he writes, "In fact, I have no problems with the technical details, the power, or the price. In fact, it's a pretty hot system for the money, if it works as advertised. It's the image of the iBook that bugs me and the ooohs and aaaaahs it received when it was introduced."

Well, John, it's the technical details, the power, and the price that are going to sell a ton of iBooks, my friend. Not its cutesy case (although some will coo over it). The consumers of computers are not as stupid as we might think. Cute is nice. But cute and powerful and cheap wins the day.

Just as the basic value premise of the iMac (despite all those clever "No Artificial Color" billboards) was that you got a nice all-in-one hunk of computer at a nice price in a not-so-ugly case, the iBook makes the same point for portable machines.

You do not need the effects of a reality distortion field in order to see that; nor do you need a substantial Barbie collection as a prerequisite to buy an iBook.

Personally, though, I would love to see an iBook come out in olive drab and khaki to go with my GI Joe collection. But hey, that's just me.

Let me know what you think about this iBook controversy in the talkback below.