Friday, February 24, 2006

Luxury Laptop and the End of the Jobs Reality Distortion Effect

Maybe I was a smaller minority than I thought when it came to liking Apple products becuase they were NOT Intel based. From a Slashdot posting:

"My laptop is a 1.5 GHz PB G4. I love using it because the design and ergonomics are perfect. But it's embarrassingly, painfully slow compared with any higher-end Windows book from the last year or so. Once more apps are native and the 64-bit mobile processor (Merom) is here I'll be thrilled to switch."

I like my 1.5 Ghz PB G4 too. But I didn't buy it because it was the fastest laptop at the time (it wasn't). In fact I didn't even care that much that it was a laptop. I just wanted something that was quiet. It still does the job for me, and if Apple had simply gone to current G4s and upped bus and memory speeds people would be happy with them too. But guess what: If I run Linux on my PB it is blindingly fast. My much older iBook runs Linux faster than the PB runs OS X. As much as I like the look and feel of OS X it is in fact the OS that is the pig. Faster hardware (of any kind) simply makes it seem less of a pig.

My next laptop (now that Apple has taken this path) will probably be either an AMD 64 or one of their new dual processor systems. Both AMD technologies are equal or superior to equivalents from Intel (which has frequently failed to meet their "roadmap" promises lately). Look at the stock charts and you will see that both Apple and Intel are looking for PR stunts to revive their suddenly flat performance (in the market). I'd say the stock analysts could teach the Slashdot and Macrumors crowd a thing or two about what is coming up on these companies "roadmaps".

The other thing that I think the Apple marketing people have figured out is that Apple no longer has a monopoly on upscale "fashion statement" laptops. Consider these for example:

Long ago Apple actually MADE computer systems, but economics drove them to spec them out to China (mainland, Taiwan, Singapore, etc). Those same economics are squeezing them out of the design business as well, and ultimately (or maybe already) Apples involvement will be no more than as a shopper for what is available wholesale over there, and THAT, my fellow Apple loving friends is what is more behind this move than anything else. At any given time there are hundreds of ready made designs (almost exclusively Intel compatible of course) available that the manufactures will customize only insofar as the external appearance (and only then to a limited extent).

Apple wants to "simplify" its profit making to nothing more than a commissioned sales rep with their own logo. Bye bye Firewire or anything else that makes an Apple computer truly unique.

Apple is positioning itself as three more and more independent profit centers: hardware, OS and related software, iTunes (media). As far as I know, each leg of this stool is profitable. But each leg also has foreseeable problems that could make them money losers. (See: "Steve Wozniak Slams Apple Over IPods, Intel")

Clearly they are preparing themselves to jettison whichever profit center goes negative first. They have given up on the synergistic effects of the Apple product suite, and are now quite happy to have iTunes run on Windows, OS X to run on non-Apple equipment or Windows run on Apple equipment. This flexibility is a good thing in a way, but can also be a very bad thing which can get rapidly worse as this synergy breaks down.

I just ordered a gig of memory for my PB 1.5 G. This will be my computer for everyday use for another few years I expect. When Apple support for the PowerPC starts to get weak (which I'm afraid could happen really quickly as it becomes a second class citizen) I'll switch over to Linux and get an immediate supercharged effect. In the mean time I'll probably get a fairly fast AMD desktop system for under $1K for gaming, and by the time I'm in the market for another notebook, I'll have my choice of models in fine Corinthian leather, graphite, or for all I know, nano-particles.

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