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Rebuttal: The iBook Disaster
From: John C. Dvorak

Rebuttal by: George Edward Green III

Well once again, despite vast public cautioning, John C Dvorak has been writing. Unfortunately the man has managed to pen what I consider his worst work so far. Dvorak manages to insult everybody, Apple, Barbie, Women, his audience, and himself. His point? The iBook is effeminite. He's wrong of course, but some of his arguments need to be addressed before anyone takes them seriously.

The only thing missing from the new 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.

I should say that I do admire much of what Steve Jobs has done in the recent past, and I've promoted the idea of new designs and new colors for computers. They're needed. But this system is an embarrassment. I suppose I shouldn't say this, but I can only describe it as a "girly" machine. You expect to see lipstick, rouge, and a tray of eye shadow inside when you open it up. You don't expect to see a 12-inch LCD; you expect to see a 12-inch mirror. No male in his right mind will be seen in public with this notebook. The only guys who might buy it are the kind who wear those ludicrous baggy pants with the built-in rope that's used for a belt. Is it a woman's computer? No, I don't think women will think much of it either. It looks too juvenile--something a kid, a little girl, would like. Something you'd get at Toys "R" Us. It's awful, and I'm shocked that nobody in the Mac community has spoken up and said, "Stop, already!"

Just wondering, has anyone opened up ANYTHING with the Apple logo, and a translucent case expecting make up? Has anyone since the 80s owned a makeup case the size of an iBook? No of course not. The two really bare little if any similarity to eachother. I suppose it does in fact bare some similarity to a make up case though, the same similarity... a lunchbox might. However even if it did would that be a bad thing? Its really high time somebody started seriously targeting girls with computers. Girls also tend to be more fashion conscious, so Apple's new focus on style should make it more appealing to them. Also if the iBook is too juvenile looking then prey tell what does this bde for the iMac which look like a larger version of the same? Unfortunately for john, the iMac sold spectacularly, and the iBook is likely to do the same on th basis of its specs alone. But what of these kids with ludicrous baggy pants, with built in rope? I think Dvorak is addressing cargo pants like Old Navy sells. The people buying these are the kind who can afford an iBook. I suppose Dvorak would rather Apple target the average guest on the Jerry Springer show instead? These vile wearers of baggy pants are apparently a large group or old navy wouldn't be doing very well, nor the GAP, nor any of these many companies making more affordable clones of these products. If Apple is making products that appeal to a huge market what is Dvorak's criticism? That its not many enough...

Instead, we read pro-Mac columnists like Don Crabb who say "I hope they make enough." I'd like to see Crabb, a large, burly man who looks like a pulling guard for the Dallas Cowboys, open up an iBook on an plane and not feel humiliated. In fact, I challenge anyone out there to pull out this makeup case in public and not feel embarrassed. I can just see the executives gasping when they first saw it. "We said make it look like a Compaq, not a compact!"

Well heck John, you got the girls already, and the baggy pants wearers, so I suppose picking on fellow columnists size had to be next. I'd also pont out that John's challenge was answered before it was issued. I couldn't walk near the Apple area at Expo because to many folks were looking at iBooks, ordering iBooks, and seeing iBooks demonstrated, and mobbing the poor Apple rep brining in batches of iBook posters. I had to go the long way around to get where I wanted to go in anything less than 1/2 hour (for about 100ft of space). These people didn't seem to shy to be seen with the latest gizmo on the block, and sang nothing but praises for its design,

Of course, the iBook isn't out yet, so people can criticize specs but not performance. Some have questioned the screen size (12.1 inches) and hard disk capacity (3.2GB), but as someone who still uses an IBM ThinkPad 560 with an 800-by-600, 12.1-inch screen and a relatively small hard disk, I wonder what all the fuss is about. The connectivity for the system seems well thought out. 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. Do they spray some sort of mind-numbing gas in these auditoriums where Steve Jobs speaks? Is his "reality distortion field" really that powerful? Why wasn't there snickering? Why didn't people throw tomatoes?

Why no snickers and food throwing John? Well I was there and didn't see any armed Apple reps so I'm going to have to go way out on a limb here and say; the general public DOESN'T agree with John C. Dvorak on this issue. In fact Dvorak is the very FIRST person I've heard criticize the design of the iBook. I must admit to having been somewhat frightened when they did so with the iMac, but since then they also targeted its colors, and the looks of the G3, and both are selling awesomely. Now I'm just wondering when they'll start saying the OS 9 CD is aesthetically unappealing. There are columnists who feel the need to say negative things even if they know that few agree with them, and that in the end it doesn't matter if everyone did; the machine will sell based on performance. For instance I think the new Firebirds look neat, but they hardly suit my driving needs (fuel efficeincy, costs etc.) Thus, even though I like the appearance I won't buy one. Yet I hate the look of the Chevy Citation, and had I not been given a Fiero for free would have driven that anyway as I could get one cheap. Aesthetics only make a good product sell better against similarly priced, and featured products with different styling.

What are they thinking at Apple? If you check the Apple Web site, you find that the iBook is intended for home use and for "dorms." You'll actually find some odd clues about the current mindset at Apple when you read the iBook page.

"Say goodbye to network cables...Why is this important? Because however well-designed your home or dorm is, chances are your jacks--those little holes in the wall you plug your phone line into--are in the wrong places, or in not enough of the right places to be really convenient."

Does anyone find it a little peculiar that Apple feels they have to explain what jacks are? Is this to differentiate phone jacks from the game "Jacks" that little kids play? What is the audience for these computers?

How this bit on jacks relates to Dvorak's point about the iBook's appearance I don't know. However having worked in tech support on a college campus with Jacks in the wall I'd safely say that NOTHING its so basic that it does not need to be explained. Also keep in mind that in many cases the customer being target won't be the purchaser, and so you'll have parents who are clueless shopping for their children who know what jacks are. However few even realize that dorms are fully wired, and may assume that if they are their easy to get to (which they often aren't). Still this seems an awfully trivial thing to criticize, so I must assume Dvorak was running out of steam about the iBooks looks...

On that same page, Apple says:

"The iBook has a tough polycarbonate body built to withstand life in a backpack--and no doors or latches to break."

Life in a backpack, eh? Obviously, the primary target here is college kids. Who else lives in a dorm and uses a backpack? Jobs can't seem to get this group out of his head. When he formed NeXT, it was to make a system for kids in college. What's with this hangup? And if this is the audience he's after, you have to wonder if this effeminate computer will be welcomed over at the frat house. If anybody doubts that this sissified computer has the earmarks of a disaster waiting to happen, just read the features page on the Apple site. This description stunned me:

Well he's yet to really define how the iBook is girlish for starters. I cannot fathom what makes it seem so. It simply looks like a sleek blue and white laptop to me, and since I'm both male, and a college student I somehow think me at least somewhat better qualified to consider whether my peers would approve of it thean Dvorak. He probably paid for his entire college career with what I'll spend in a year. Times they have a changed, and Dvoraks males is outdated. I half expect him to talk about how the iBook simply wouldn't go with drool stains, and a loin cloth, and how real males don't type, they bash rocks, and grunt. This is the nineties, and sex stereotypes are passe. Today's male can see both a good machine (specs), and a cool looking computer.

"The first thing you'll notice about iBook is its enticing design and incredible attention to detail. You can get iBook in two delectable translucent colors, both featuring a stunning shape that's sure to attract attention. Try the convenient foldaway handle to find out for yourself how easy it is to take iBook wherever you go."

Who writes this stuff? Enticing? Delectable? Where's Mae West when we need her? There has to be something wrong with a company that describes its computer colors as delectable, don't you think? When you see some guy pulling an iBook out of his backpack a few months from now, tell him his little computer looks delectable and see what he says.

Well I can't imagine anything too wrong with the use of the word delectable. Especially consider the same company is named after a piece of fruit, and has a best selling line of computers in fruit flavored colors. Also, owning an eMate I've had people describe it as everything from looking like a playschool toy, to being an incredible work of art (that one believe it or not from a die hard PC user!). Still this has never stopped my emate from being the best portable I've ever owned, with the longest battery life, most stable OS, best included apps, and simply rock solid durability. I think that's what people are going to see in the iBook as well. It features innovations in wireless communication, a long battery life, a compact, but user-friendly design, eMate quality durability, and the ease of Mac OS. (All of this not to mention that its processor runs as fast as my PRO G3 DESKTOP!)

The iBook is only a disaster waiting to happen if you're a PC vendor touting the increasingly slower and hotter Pentium chips. For the K-12, college, and even business markets the computer has all the markings of a winner. Would it be smart of Apple to ship a more conservative color for the business executive who doesn't want to stick out? Sure, but that hardly disqualifies the machine's consumer potential. It seems to me Dvorak's biggest problem is that the computer does everything it should. It's a consumer-oriented machine, and Dvorak simply isn't a consumer, and is out of touch with their needs. Apple made its cash of the education and consumer markets and I somehow thin their R&D labs know a bit more what that market wants than Dvorak who is the first person I've heard of to mistake anything over 3 inches in diameter to be a compact makeup container. I have actually seen Dvorak decent articles, and personally feel he'd be better writing what he knows. Apple has blown away the rest of the personal computer industry and ran circles around the biggies in the industry as they are taken out at the knees by cheap PCs. Yet Apple hasn't lost a single sale to them, or if they have it hasn't hurt 'em. Apple knows what their doing; the iBook looks great and the target market knows it, and its going to be a huge success. Let's just hope that no one has to bother crabby old machismo John Dvorak with the news; he'll be far to busy with his "magic math box", beer, and aging frat pals.

Created: 08/02/99
Updated: 11/09/02

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