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Mac Prophet sees Mac Profits?
The future may not be as bleak as some say


By: Brad Hutchings


There is just too much irony in putting up one article that criticizes playing prophet, then the next day putting up an article (letter) that does exactly that ~ David K. Every

Date: 09/12 8:13 AM
Received: 09/12 6:37 AM
From: Hutchings, Richard B. "Brad", brad@hutchings-software.com
To: dke@mackido.com

Dave,

OK, after seeing Mark's excellent piece, wanting to be on record predicting Steve's new strategy correctly, and I'm seriously considering a three month stint as Apple CEO in a few years, so I figured I'd write a speculative piece and offer it to you for MacKiDo.

Of course, if you publish this *after* Steve announces the new strategy that Ric is falling all over himself over, I'll look like a real dumb ass, so time is of the essence.

Brad
<mailto: "Brad Hutchings" brad@hutchings-software.com>
<http://www.hutchings-software.com>


Speculation

by Brad Hutchings
September 12, 1997

First, let's get a couple things straight. I'm not propheting in this piece; I'm speculating. I have absolutely no basis to claim any of this as fact. I'm just positing a scenario for consideration of MacKiDo warriors and wannabes.

I am a Mac developer. I think Apple's greatest achievement was OpenDoc. I'm not mad at Apple for March. I believe the best days for the MacOS and OpenDoc are in front of us. Here's why...

The Situation

  • Except for UMAX, clones are dead. There was a lot of hand wringing about this
  • CHRP may be dead.
  • According to DataQuest, Mac marketshare is expected to pick up this fall with the installed base upgrading to new machines.
  • Developers are irritated (especially those that had bundling deals with Motorola, its licensees, or Power). It will take a phenomenal story to make them happy again.
  • Rhapsody DR1 isn't going to pay the bills this year, so it won't be that story.
  • Apple has asked for a 50% price cut on PPC chips.
  • Apple has asked the education channel about Network Computers, as if purchasers (or anyone for that matter) have any idea what an NC is.
  • Jobs and Ellison like NCs.
  • Last, but not least, the Reality Distortion Field turned Ric Ford from bitter critic to enthusiastic supporter in 20 minutes! Ric said the confidential part of the strategy would grow the Mac market substantially.

The Strategy

Remember I said this was speculation? Good.

Apple is getting into NCs, as has been rumored.

So, you ask, "What exactly is an NC?".

It's a Macintosh. It has 32 MB of RAM, 2 GB IDE hard disk, 603e at 200 MHz, Ethernet, serial ports, TV/monitor connection, IR port, DVD/CDR drive, PCMCIA, HDI-30 SCSI, MacOS 8. Fold up your PowerBook 1400 and set it on your TV set. That's the profile.

The bottom line issue with cloning for customers was price. The bottom line issue for Ric Ford was price. Steve mentioned price to Ric (remember, this is speculation), and that's what turned Ric around. Street Price of the Macintosh NC: $599.

Good for Apple

Macintosh NC is cute, simple, elegant, inexpensive, more powerful than a PC, easily deployed at home/school/office. Macintosh NC looks good in their Super Bowl debut, setting up within 20 seconds to that "Dah, dah, dah" theme song. Apple: one of the three greatest lifestyle brands. MacOS: one of Apple's two most important assets.

Good for Developers

Unlike the neutered Pippin, Macintosh NCs will run all current MacOS Software. Apple will have several configurations, offering excellent targeted bundling options. Macintosh NCs will be more economical than upgrading current Macs for most users. Developers will be able to depend on later system versions, faster processors, and more Memory.

Good for Customers

Attach three plugs and power it on, whether at home, in the office, or at school. Customers will have enough memory for today's software, enough hard disk space for their data, and enough networking power for the future right out of the box.

The Future Apple Lineup

  • Serious high end multiprocessing PowerMacs: $5K
  • PowerBooks: $2K - $4K
  • Newton eatMe's and Message Pads: $700 - $1100
  • Macintosh NC: $599 - $899
  • Macintosh NC clones: $50/NC licensing fee to Apple
  • Most important to me: millions more customers who can try OpenDoc and realize what a kick-butt way of computing it represents!

 

I'm happy. I hope I'm right!

~Brad

Brad Hutchings is a partner in Hutchings Software.


My Response

Again, me putting in the last word.

Brad is a sharp guy (I've worked with him before), and I think he may be getting pretty close to the mark on more than a few points here (if not nailing them).

I'm not free to disclose some information I get, but Brad's speculation seems to match up with other facts and rumors coming from Apple. (Gosh that sounds impressive, and gives my opinions a lot more weight than they probably diserve -- without me actually having to actually say anything.) Remember, this is all speculation. Brad doesn't want to call it playing prophet -- but heck, that is what it is -- just with a little more honesty. He's guessing (based on rumor and fact fragments on hand) -- but so are other "analysts".

Playing prophet and looking for what is reasonable and likely, is far better (for Apple and the industry) than playing prophet and predicting Apple's immediate and eminent demise because of Every action that Apple MAY do (that you disagree with).

There are many Brad's out there -- people with speculative ideas of where Apple may go, that are far more positive than the mass of angry reportings. Unfortunately, their voices are often lost in the din, or never heard.

When Apple cancels cloning (and you know that the board is sharp, and Steve Jobs is sharp) -- then we have to assume that Apple has something up their sleve. Some plan exists. We should not assume the worst! Assuming the worst just proves that the presses constant bashing is tainting our views. When something angers us, we need to stand back, take a breath, and think before we react.

We do know that it is likely NC's, and that Apple wants to INCREASE marketshare and profits (clones weren't achieving that for Apple). Brad's plan is a good one -- but there are likely many other good plans as well. We will probably soon learn what Apple's plans are. We only need to show a little patience before breaking out the pitchforks and lighting the torches. Hopefully, some harsh lessons learned this time, will teach us to be more patient next time! We need to learn what Apple's plans are before we crucify them for bad planning.

I, for one, feel that if Brad's plan is close to what Apple's real plan -- then I will be pretty happy about Apple's directions. I beleive that lowering costs is a good way to try to increase marketshare. Cloning was just ONE way to lower costs and increasing volume -- this is another.

This doesn't mean that the Brad's are any more correct than the others -- though I do think Brad's idea is probably closer to the truth than what many others have speculated.

The real point is that there is always more than one way to look at something --

  • There is guessing towards the positive and reasonable.
  • There is admitting that you don't know (or have a clue) as to what Apple is doing.
  • Or there is looking at Apple through fecal tinted glasses, and assuming everything that Apple does will be wrong and bad (and smell foul).

There needs to be a balance.

The first two don't hurt anyone -- so I have more tollerance towards.

The last one does hurt people. It can put people out of a job, it can take away people's livelihood, it can inflict emotional harm, it can cause stress, it is just basically hurtful. If you are correct in your predictions of doom and gloom, then it may help a few people (but that has to be weighed against the risks and harm) -- if you are wrong in your predictions, it can harm a lot.

Too many are willing to kick Apple when they are down -- or try to put them down. Too many are always looking at the negative and guessing at the worst. Not enough speculation is positive or even well reasoned.

In balance, even I was probably too negative about Apple (or about one certain leader there of) -- and the frightening thing is that I was one of the MOST positive people discussing this issue.

So let's all take time, and a deep breath, and see where Apple is going. There are many things that Apple could do to justify their actions... if we'd just slow down and give them a chance.

~ David K. Every


Brad's response to my response

Uh, oh -- looks like he gets the last word.

Dave, just so nobody worries that I'm speculating out of turn, I don't get the information you get.

~ Brad


Created: 09/12/97
Updated: 11/09/02


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