Summer doldrums: A tale of two product launches
by Alan Zisman (c)
1999. First published
in Vancouver Computes,
A tale of two product launches. Unlike the
novel, I won?t start that it was the best of launches, it was the worst
of launches (and so forth).
As a technology writer, I get a lot of invitations
from companies looking
for publicity. Mostly, I don?t go?the food?s not that good as a rule,
most of the time, I?m chained to my day job anyway. But in the summer,
I?m a lot more flexible, and these two events were on consecutive days,
so I made an exception.
Invitation #1 was from Apple?Steve Jobs was giving the
at the summer MacWorld Expo in New York, and Apple Canada was
it in an auditorium in downtown Vancouver. So I joined a couple of
Apple fans (remember, ?fan? is short for fanatic).
As always, Apple provides a good show?at least when
compared to the
competition. At last summer?s Windows 98 launch, for example, it was
odd, to say the least, to see Harvard dropout Bill Gates role-playing a
professor, trying to teach us that the growth of computers was like the
growth of the automobile, early in the century, with the Internet
to the highway system. Excuse me, sir, will this be on the test?
Apple?s presentation was a bit more lively, starting
off with ER?s Noah
Wylie pretending to be Steve Jobs, complete with black turtle-neck and
?insanely great? clichés. After the real Jobs introduced the
new iBook notebook, he demonstrated its durability by having an
Apple exec jump out a window. Not high art, perhaps, but entertaining.
While this isn?t the place for a review of the iBook,
my first impressions
are that it looks like nice value?certainly the $2400 Canadian price
it right out there with PC notebook models from IBM, Toshiba, Compaq,
more. But the iBook stands out from the crowd with its fast, PowerPC
and that it?s a Mac.
And in a field of black or charcoal notebooks, the
iBook comes in your
choice of bright orange (?Tangerine?) or blue (?blueberry?). Although
have suggested that the shape resembles a toilet seat, no one is going
to mistake your iBook for a run of the mill notebook.
The next day, I attended product launch #2 at the
Pacific Space Center
(aka the Planetarium). Here, along with half a dozen or so from the
press, I saw Creative Labs Canada and partner Empac (a Canadian systems
integrator and distributor) launch the Blaster PC. Not available in the
States??Only in Canada? Pity? I hear you say.
Not surprisingly, neither Creative?s Mark Jamieson nor
Ng could match the showmanship or charisma of Apple-founder Jobs. And
product they were touting was yet another beige, tower-case PC.
Not that the Blaster PC is a bad product?inside, it
includes the high-end
sound and video that Creative Labs is famous for. The custom
design makes it easy to plug things in, putting the jacks on the front
of the case, along with a big, handy volume control. (Has it really
the PC industry nearly 20 years to think of these enhancements)?
with FM tuner, these PCs make a good start at being the center of a
Like the iBook, Creative expects that the Blaster PCs
will be available
in September in selected stores (with custom ordering over the Web, in
conjunction with local dealers), with models at a range of prices.
It?s not really fair to compare these two
events?certainly, Apple had
the advantage of the enthusiasm of a crowd, both live in New York City,
and at the local re-broadcast. The same product launch would have
a lot of its energy, if the only viewers were a handful of jaded press
types, as at the PC Blaster launch.
But is it just me, or do PCs in general seem, well?a
bit dull? Maybe
it?s their background as machines for running spreadsheets in corporate
offices, while the creative types used Macs. Maybe it?s the ongoing PC
addiction for beige while Macs are in a range of fruit flavours. (A
ago, Jobs suggested that he was hoping to market computers the way
marketed watches?as fashion accessories). Without getting into the
PC vs Mac war (which has gotten boring in its own right), it seems to
that Apple?s about the only major company in the industry with much of
As an experiment, I?d love to see Creative offer
buyers on the web site
a range of colours, including generic beige. How much extra would it
to the price?
What do you think? Have computers gotten boring? If
so, what would it
take to bring the excitement back? Let me know.