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Duo, An Alternative View

Thanks to wonders of that modern monstrosity known as "global marketing" we can easily second-guess Apple’s intentions and judge its image solely by creative reading between the lines. Take the new European PowerBook Duo brochure (the doubly-folded 8-page job, with a dock swallowing a Duo on the cover). I have it in Swedish in front of me and am sure that other versions could be found in many other countries. Not surprisingly, if subjected to analysis according to principles of investigative logic learned from a Mr. Sherlock Holmes, that brochure yields a lot of inside information about Apple itself, and of the perception that Apple holds of the world at large.

OK, let’s start with the cover: obviously we’re in a home office, not in some glass Ivory Tower setting. Female hands with oh-so-long fingers (nails too long for a concert pianist) fondle a Duo. Dark wood, moody lighting, the works. What’s that thing, right next to the dock? Aha, that’s a crystal ball! One with etched outlines of the continents, a crystal-ball globe! Hmm… Apple has designs on the world.

Conclusions of the cover: Apple can afford to hire a first-hand (sic!) hand model for its Duo-posing. Obviously, the company feels that a Duo is NOT the solution all by itself. You need a dock. And there’s still a place for a crystal ball.

We now switch to the inside. The headline proclaims, in Apple’s 80%-squeezed, global-image-standardized Garamond type, "the best of two worlds." A different woman’s hand hovers over a stationary dock’s keyboard, frozen for all eternity in the process of extracting a closed Duo from the slot. And you can see right through her hand so no detail of the keyboard beneath is obscured. Clearly, this woman is no concert pianist either, but one afflicted by the Common Advertising See-Thru (CAST) syndrome, that’s so prevalent among people appearing in computer ads of recent years.

Unfolded twice over we see two headlines, "Best among portable," and "Best among stationary," accompanied by pictures showing a Duo 230 alone and inserted into a dock. Once again, the hands shown typing are of models with that CAST syndrome. Come to think of, they could be hands of the invisible Chevy Chase, doing a bit of commercial work between real acting jobs.

More conclusions: Apple can afford to hire plenty of models. Also they’re not afraid to be represented in print by individuals stricken by modern four-letter maladies.

Here comes the coup-de-grace: along the bottom edge of the spread there are 10 small pictures of a woman shown in what Apple clearly considers to be Recommended Poses To Assume With a Macintosh Duo. Starting on the left, that woman, let’s call her Ann, is seated at a table that has "Designer Desk" written all over it. She is so totally engrossed in what’s happening on the docked Duo’s 14 inch/ 256 color screen (32,000 with 512K of VRAM) that she has to support her chin with one hand while womanhandling, one assumes, the tiny trackball with the other.

Next, Ann has turned towards us to show off her shapely legs. She has finished work for the day and is now in the process of withdrawing what looks like a greyish pizza carton from the dock. Soon Ann has succeeded with the task. Standing with a great mane of Rula-Lenska-like auburn hair, she puts the Duo into an attache case. Caution, Ann, you’re doing it all wrong! You’re supposed to turn the Duo on its axis so it won’t occupy more than at most half the space inside! How else are you gonna fit the WSJ, the WWD, and your career woman’s papers there as well?

Image four: Ann has turned around and is now heading away from her previous position, an occasion also to show her dynamic profile. Thus we arrive at the center of the brochure. Surprise! Ann has veered off home for a change of clothes, then headed for the park to resume, one assumes, working for the same company that keeps her in designer desks, dual-modality computers, and more than one change of clothes. She now sports a yellow polo sweater, faded jeans, and Easy Rider-model leather shoes. A scarf around her hair, she has "casual" and "at ease with my Duo" written all over her body. She is writing a memo to her boss, or maybe she’s the boss who’s writing a memo to her underlings – it’s hard to tell. In any event she’s clearly enjoying the wrought-iron park bench, harder though it may be than her padded Designer Chair.

Never mind, we’re now at picture six of ten. Ann has risen and is once again headed somewhere. She has her Duo in a shoulder bag, not in a briefcase. Judging by the next picture, she was heading home where she keeps her Duo next to a monitor next to a picture of someone obviously worth remembering and an empty(?) milk(?) bottle.

Once again she is shown engrossed in her little new computer. Doesn’t Ann ever rest? Is she under such pressure that she has to keep working all the time just to pay the basic bills? The brochure doesn’t tell. As in the office, she has assumed that one-hand-under-chin-the-other-on-trackball intense position. She’s had time enough to change clothes once more, that much we can see, and also for some remodelling of her hair so now she’s not at all unlike, say, Diane Keaton impersonating a young Katherine Hepburn.

In either case, she has clearly finished whatever she was working on since, in the next picture, she is once again moving, same clothes, Duo gripped tightly in her bare hand, all smile.

Next pic, we know why she was smiling. Ann is seated on an airplane; she must’ve been sent off on a junket to some faraway balmy place, all expenses paid, no excuses! As befitting someone entitled to travel in Designer Armchair Class she is now wearing the standard Travelling Businesswomen garb: white silk shirt, bluish jacket, hair gathered in a bun, grey slacks, earclips, pumps. After all, she has an image to project and maintain, her company’s as much as her own, has she not?

So where is Ann headed and for what purpose? We are let onto the secret in the concluding picture. Ann is standing next to her Duo that’s connected to a largish monitor, obviously looked at by some important clients. She must have brought a change of clothes with her because the earclips are the only element that I recognize from the previous setup. Uniform this time is standard Modern Female Pink issue, no extras. She reminds me of someone whom I cannot yet place. One hand on the Duo, she is pointing with the other at the monitor with a very low-tech, wooden pointer. What a letdown… couldn’t she at least have used one made out of laser?

And what, exactly, is it that has thus far been the objective of Ann’s work activities? What is she pointing at on that 40-inch monitor? The answer, extracted with the help of a 15x magnifying lens and a lot of logick[tm], is a QuickTime movie of a vestibule of the Kendall Tower building (Greenwich Square, London, England), that this Havisham & Wemmick company is trying to palm off on some investors in today’s tight money markets. This gives her away… our Ann is, obviously, Ann Angell, the real estate agent in charge of that object whose datafiles are portrayed on all the screenshots in the brochure.

Still, this brings us to the more serious matter of all that free publicity extended to Superior Products, Havisham & Wemmick and Nakamura and Associates, the three real-estate companies whose names appear in Ann’s onscreen data. Simple analyst though I may be I just know that there’s no such thing as free publicity in today’s complex business world. Everything is deeply intertwingled. Is Apple already owned, or about to be taken over, by a group of real-estate companies, perhaps with plans to use the California manufacturing facilities to write off profits of future shady deals? That Nakamura name is a dead giveaway. Clearly, this is no laughing matter but one that warrants further investigation by more competent Apple-watcher-cum-conspiracy-theorists than myself.

Well, that’s about it, folks. Now we know who Apple had in mind when they made the Duo… real-estate agents. Oh, yes! The woman Ann reminded me of: Molly Dodd, of the Days and Nights of fame. Pure coincidence? You may care to remember that Molly was a real estate agent herself before giving up her job to concentrate on the search for Mr. Right, before she met the Indian Brahmin, the neighborhood garbage collector, the All-American pilot (the one she left in disgust because he was too perfect for love), rejected once again the alto-saxophonist, her divorced first husband, until finally meeting Him in the guise of a Hassidic all-thumbs-pianist from Williamsburg, N.Y. That’s the kind of adventurous person whom Apple obviously considers worthy of a Duo.

Thus we arrive at following Authoritative Conclusions From The Thought Server: Apple may or may not already be secretly owned by some Japanese real-estate conglomerate. While they’re still based in Cupertino, CA, it is nice to know that they selected Molly Dodd to be their role model for a Macintosh Duo user. They could have picked up Margaret Thatcher and then where would we be?

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