Even a world-class procrastinator like me has to admit its a little late for predictions about last weeks Macworld Expo/New York.
Regular readers know I generally uphold a (possibly masochistic) tradition of posting my best guesses about the announcements that will be featured at the next big Mac event (often to see them shot full of holes enough to rival Bonnie and Clydes Ford V8).
When it came to the 2002 edition of the East Coasts biggest Mac-focused trade show, I missed that window of opportunity: Summer travels took me out of the office (and away from much of the debate I helped spark over Macworld Expo press access for independent Web sites) until the eve of Steve Jobs Wednesday-morning keynote presentation. By the time I returned to my word processor, the sheer volume of speculation already circulating about Apples plans seemed to render redundant anything I could add to the discussion.
But while I muffed that chance to play Expo visionary, theres still time to review Apples major announcements from last weeks show and—looking forward—to cast them in the context of what Apple apparently has in store for the coming weeks.
Cost controversies. Lets get these out of the way first, since the volume of debate over Apples pricing for its enhanced online services and upgraded Mac OS X threatened to drown out the other themes at Expo.
Not even Jobs himself was able to elicit applause for the announcement that hitherto gratis iTools services unveiled in January 2000 will now be part of .Mac, a suite of online goodies that includes such niceties as virus checking and greater storage capacity but carries an annual fee of $99 ($49 the first year for current users). That includes users who simply want to continue using the Mac.com e-mail addresses that Apple promised to supply them in perpetuity when they purchased Mac OS 9 two years ago.
And after they got beyond the feline packaging to the fine print, plenty of Mac users were heated up that those who purchased Mac OS X any time before the Expo will have to pay the full $129 price for Version 10.2 (a.k.a Jaguar).
I couldnt even play Apple CFO Fred Anderson on TV, but it strikes me that Apple is buying itself some significant grief in exchange for minor boosts to its bottom line.
What real difference would it make to provide a free e-mail-only option for the first 6-to-12 months of the new .mac regime? Company representatives told me that Apple had decided it simply wasnt its style to provide such a service slathered in third-party ads, a la MSN or Yahoo! If thats the case, Apple could distinguish itself even further from the competition by letting current owners retain their e-mail privileges for a year, ad-free, while the company demonstrates the advantages of making the .mac move.
As for Jaguar, I fear that users readiness to embrace the upgrades tremendous advances in performance and stability will be somewhat tempered by this draconian upgrade policy. Many serious Mac users have already ponied up for earlier versions of Mac OS X, only to conclude that their bugs and compatibility quirks were a bit too frequent for daily use. Why should these platform loyalists pay a $130 premium now for moving from a build that was inadequate then?