Business-like, isn't he?



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    Think Different

    by Alan Zisman  (c) 2003 First published in Columbia Journal ,  September  2003

    You may remember the ad campaign from a couple of years ago… the copy read: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world—are the ones who do. Think different”.

    If when you read ‘Think different’ you think ‘Apple Computer’ then the ad campaign’s efforts worked. (If you think ‘Should be think differently’ than your high school English teacher’s efforts worked).

    In last month’s column, we saw how Microsoft’s near-monopoly on personal computer operating systems and office software, and the company’s fierce determination to maintain its market share have won it the less-than-complimentary nickname of ‘The Evil Empire’ from some computer users. If you’re looking for an alternative, Apple hopes that your desire to ‘think different’ will lead you to look their way.

    The company has its roots in the counter-culture of the 1960s and 70s, originating in the mid-1970s as a two-person startup in a garage in Silicon Valley. Its founders, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (the ‘two Steves’) had a success with their early Apple II personal computers, and the company grew rapidly. But IBM’s 1980 entrance to the personal computer market (their original IBM PC was powered by Microsoft’s DOS) kept Apple out of the rapidly-growing business market. Apple countered in 1984 with their Macintosh line of computers, the first popular model to feature a computer mouse, a user interface that was easier to use, and that showed documents on screen that looked they way they would print out.

    The Mac debuted with a TV ad (directed by Ridley Scott of the movie ‘Bladerunner’) that featured an army of depressed, uniformly-dressed worker drones, being lectured to on a big screen. Oppression ends when an athletic woman hurls a sledge-hammer, smashing the screen. The tagline: Macintosh—why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’.

    In the twenty years since, Apple has built a successful business by maintaining its rebel cachet, with its Macintosh computers becoming the favourite for artists, graphics and web designers, musicians, and other creative professionals. But there’s been a tension there: despite early ads claiming they were ‘the computer for the rest of us’, with Macs priced higher than PCs, true starving artists have been tending (especially lately) to use low-priced (or free) PC clones, perhaps running some of the free, open-source alternatives to Microsoft’s Windows and Office that I’ll look at next month.

    But Apple deserves credit for continuing to do things its own way; to produce consistently produce computer hardware and software that isn’t yet another beige PC clone. Apple’s products are more stylish and better integrated than any PC. And while last-year’s PC seems obsolescent already, Macs just keep on getting used, for years longer than equivalent PCs.

    Apple hit some hard times in the mid-1990s; Microsoft’s then-new Windows 95 seemed good enough to lure customers away, and the company had seemed to lose its sense of itself. Founder Steve Jobs’ return helped fire the company’s will to succeed, and even in the recent tech-downturn, Apple has continued to innovate.

    Apple’s new OS X operating system is eye-catching, stable, and powerful, and their new G5 desktops are arguably the most powerful personal computers available. While different (and in many ways better) than the majority Windows majority, they are able to work with Windows-created documents and play nice on a Windows network. If you can afford one, a Mac desktop or notebook is an attractive way to Think Different.


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan