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OPINION OCTOBER 23 , 2000
Talkin' Smack: Steve Jobs Said the 'S' Word

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And this, my friends and dear readers, is why, when I heard Jobs utter this accursed "S" work, I was so taken off end that I had to pull my headphones off and and sit in quiet meditation until I could get rid of my sudden case of acute shudders. The metaphysical link was broken.

See, Apple's been doing everything right since the company returned to the loving hands of Jobs. They've advertised like crazy. They've brought back industrial design. They've put out some truly great machines. They've recaptured the hearts and minds of creative professionals. They've started the second desktop revolution in desktop video. And, what's more, they've quadrupled their cash holding (since the last time I checked) and brought quarter on quarter revenue and profit growth.

That's pretty amazing.

It turns out the one thing they can't do is forecast, and Wall Street just can't stand for that. Despite the fact that Apple's profit and revenues were more this quarter than last year, the fact that they didn't meet their own predicted growth was just too much for analysts to bear.

Now, analysts aren't too bright. In fact, during the aforementioned conference call, one of them even asked whether the reason the G4 hadn't yet exceeded 500 MHz was because of Moore's Law.

So the way you deal with these people is to use Latinate, abstract clichés while they just nod silently, pretending to understand. I've seen it happen in person many times, and it's quite amusing.

So, in this respect, Steve Jobs's use of "synergy" was a triumph for Apple in the financial world. Before the "S" word incident, Apple had reported a strong quarter, but not as strong as expected, and the stock dove. After the "S" incident, Apple announced it would be having an actually bad quarter next quarter, and the stock rose. Brilliant.

However, the story is reversed for users. Jobs said he'd have cheaper Cubes for us next year. He said newer, faster G4s would be coming in the next six months. How much faster? Couldn't be much, unless Motorola decides to bite the big one like Intel and fudge the whole process, sacrificing performance for a higher clock rating.

While, yes, faster processors are nice, it's not what we ought to be focusing on. I don't have a 400 MHz computer. I have a G4. You have a 1,200 MHz peecee? You poor thing. I have a G4.

You know and I know what we want in our new 2001 models. We like the dual G4s. We like OS X. Faster processors? Sure, but I'm not in that much of a hurry. (I'm still feeling pretty good about having a computer that's not out of date eight months after its release.) What we want are more expansion slots. We want flawless USB implementation. We want some ASICs to take the pressure off the CPU. (Personally, I could also use a keyboard with white or light gray keys so I can actually see what I'm typing.) You know, SGI's machines are only up to 400 MHz, but you don't hear their users complaining too much, and they're paying $18,000! Good goobily goop! Can you imagine how cool an $18,000 Mac would be? We could have a V8 configuration of Trimedia processors for rendering, super fast memory, a faster system bus.... Somebody get me a napkin.

But "synergy" isn't about gear. It's about excuses. I want gear. That's why we all got started in computers in the first place.

I'm not saying that Apple's going to fall short next year. I have high hopes for a G4 PowerBook and OS X on multiple processors. Will these things come to pass? I don't know. When the "S" word was uttered, my personal metaphysical link with Jobs was broken. It was like a million voices all cried out at once and were silenced. The Super hippie Jobs died at that moment. Will the shell that remains be able to carry on the good fight? Next year will tell.

I, in the meantime, have one less voice in my head to deal with. I guess that's a good thing. The Voice of Jobs was always drowning out this one really interesting guy who kept mumbling something about Jodie Foster. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some fan mail to write.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital DTP; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, DCC Designer, DCC Workstation, Digital DTP, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Plug-in Central, Presentation Master, ProAudio.net and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.

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