Mac man seeks Windows converts

9 Jan 2003

In 1976 Steve Jobs (pictured) and Steve Wozniak changed the computing world forever with the Macintosh PC.

The new computer changed the world of computing forever and Wozniak and Jobs became creatures of IT legend.

In the years that have intervened, Jobs got the boot and Apple’s meteoric rise petered out (you only have to read ‘On the Firing Line: My 500 Days at Apple’ by ex-CEO Gil Amelio to get a picture of the tortured politics on the corridors at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino) and Apple came dangerously close to rotting to the core.

Zoom forward to late 1997 and the return of Jobs on a salary of US$1 a year (plus a Gulf Stream personal jet and millions in share options) and Apple’s fortunes have shifted immensely.

Among Silicon Valley workers Jobs enjoys something of a rock god status that goes back to the core of what Apple was all about, innovation that was started by changing the form factor of computers from traditional beige boxes to colourful iMacs, prompting a return to popularity of the Macintosh PC.

Today, Apple is focusing on steadily returning to its previous highs as a technology innovator and it appears that Jobs considers eroding the predominance of the Windows PC as a personal vendetta.

Speaking this week via a video link from the annual Macworld Expo in San Francisco to an assembled audience in Paris, Jobs revealed that some 50pc of Apple computer sales come from people switching from Windows PCs. As well as this, the company has evolved to its OS X operating system along with a host of some 5,000 new software applications and a growing online community of software subscribers. For example, some 250,000 people are paying subscribers to Apple’s iCal calendaring services. As well as software and owning the intellectual property of its G4 processor, Apple now sports a range of aesthetically innovative iMacs, iBook notebooks and titanium PowerBook PCs and other interesting peripherals such as its X server and iPod multimedia entertainment device.

“Our strategy is working,” Jobs told assembled Mac advocates. “For example, our latest iPod is commonly regarded as the Walkman of the digital age. Since launching four months ago, some 600,000 iPods have been shipped. That’s one for every minute since we started shipping. In Japan, the home of the Walkman, we have 42pc of the personal entertainment device market.

In his hallmark blue jeans and black polo, a greying but nonetheless effervescent Jobs told Macworld Expo that there are now some five million active users of OS X throughout the world, 3.8 million of whom came on board in 2002 alone. Much of Jobs’ keynote address centred the digital lifestyle. “We are going to put all our eggs in one basket on this one. We are approaching an inflexion point in humanity. Life is going digital. Music, photography, communication – it’s all there. Nearly everyone owns a digital camera and digital versatile disk has proved to be the most explosive technological device in history,” he said.

Waxing lyrical about the digital lifestyle, Jobs introduced a new suite of software that integrates its four core digital products – iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD into one suite entitled iLife, proudly exclaiming: “iLife does for our digital lifestyle what Microsoft Office did for office productivity – all the applications you need are in one box and they all work together. We are far ahead of our PC competitors in offering the best in class applications for digital music, photography, moviemaking and DVD creation.”

Jobs also reveals an entirely new web browser dedicated especially to the Mac, code-named Safari. The new browser, through tests, is understood to be over three times faster than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and runs Javascript over twice as fast. Innovative features include Google search capabilities integrated directly onto the toolbar; SnapBack, a new way to instantly snap back up to search results or to the top level of any website after browsing down one or more levels; a completely new way to name, organise and present bookmarks; and automatic pop-up advertising blocking. Other software innovations revealed by Jobs includes the long-awaited music and film productivity software in the form of ProTools and Final Cut Express as well as a contender for Microsoft’s PowerPoint presentation software entitled KeyNote.

However, saving the best for last Jobs declared that Apple’s PowerBook G4 notebooks are still two years ahead of the rest of the notebook community and revealed the company’s latest PowerBook, a 17-inch notebook that is one-inch thin, which he claims is a world first and which in two weeks will retail online for €3,499. The new notebook signifies Apple’s strategic take on the evolving Wi-Fi market.

Up until now, the wireless networking market has been built around the 802.11b wireless networking standard. While the rest of the industry endeavours to move towards the new 802.11a market promising faster speeds and greater security, the new laptop range from Apple offers the new built-in AirPort Extreme 54Mbps system, using the alternative 802.11g Wi-Fi standard. “We kicked off the Wi-Fi revolution and now we are going to take things further. Many users are going to wonder why they even need a desktop computer anymore,” he concluded, declaring 2003 the year of the notebook for Apple.