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Talkin' Smack: Rising Expectations

Make the rumors come true this time By Dave Nagel
By now you've all read the rumors about a possible new line of Macs emerging in the extremely near future. Normally I don't touch rumor stories without seeking some sort of reliable verification, but I'm not going to let this one go. Why? I'm desperate.

Rumor stories like these crop up all the time. Most of the time they just get people's hopes up and fail to pass. But regardless of whether these ones prove accurate or not, they are, without a doubt, an indication of what Apple should be doing.

Back in the mid-'90s, when the Macintosh was losing the general computer market badly, Mac journalists made it a habit to instruct Apple on what it ought and ought not to do. It was harsh. It was all-pervasive. And, for readers, it grew annoying very quickly. Nevertheless, in the long run, Apple followed the advice of journalists and the comments of readers, and they have profited tremendously by this advice.

We all like to give Steve Jobs credit for returning to Apple as the resurrected savior of the Mac platform. But what did he do to turn the company around? Everything the journalists back in the '90s said Apple should do: launch a marketing blitz, slam Microsoft, move the OS into the modern age, etc., etc.

Granted, it's much easier (and cheaper) to float advice than to implement it. But, when times are desperate, we in the Mac community rally together and offer what help we can to get our platform back on track.

Now, I've been giving Apple a hard time ever since the ill-fated keynote address Jan. 7. That's not what this column is about. It's about what Apple needs to do now to make it up to the professional market. And what that needs to be is an announcement of new professional hardware. I don't care when the hardware actually gets released. It could be later this week or later this year. But the announcement needs to be now.

Creative professionals demand the fastest possible hardware. We need it. Whether we're rendering animation or applying Gaussian blurs on poster-sized images, we place more burden on the CPU than any other set of users. Faster hardware means that we can get the job done more quickly, which, in turn, means that we can take our work to even higher levels while still operating under deadline.

What we need to know now is how Apple plans to address our needs. Me, I'll stick with the platform to the bitter end. There's simply no way I'll trade the Mac OS (especially OS X) for some Microsoft forgery regardless of the differences in the hardware. But I know from the vast amounts of e-mail I received following Macworld that many of you do not feel the same way. Many of you, judging from your letters, are feeling very tempted to defect over to an Athlon workstation just because you need raw power on the front end.

On the other hand, also judging from your letters, you would be willing to delay this year's hardware purchases for a few months if only you knew that there were a viable professional Mac model on the way.

This is why Apple needs to act now. The Macintosh dominates the creative market now, but this year could mark a turning point in this domination as more and more users place more and more demands on the CPU. Apple could lose the professional market if they fail to address our needs. And all we need right now is just the slightest indication that these needs will be met soon.

We don't need to wait for the big surprise announcement at the next Macworld. That's just silly at this point. I say announce now, deliver later. (Of course, deliver now, if possible.) Make the rumors come true. The creative market might just depend on it.

Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications. You can reach him at dnagel@digitalmedianet.com.

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