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Dream to be Different

Voltaire said that if there were no God, man would have to invent Him. In a lesser but just as strong and pervasive sense, if there were no Apple Computer, mankind would have to invent it, for we are dreamers, and dreamers look up to the sky, always searching, thinking of what could be.

In contrast, most analysts look down into the murky swells of the business world when they analyze Apple. Sam Whitmore wrote a calm and accurate accounting of Apple’s problems in PC Week (22-Jul-96). An Apple fan couldn’t complain about his thesis, for it was even-tempered and to the (business) point. But the article, as with all the articles that suppose to articulate Apple’s demise, overlooked something very important. Sam forgot that there are those who have never been afraid to be different or be outcasts. The dreamers, the writers, the artists, the scientists – all those people who look to the future and say "why not?" – walk to the beat of a different drummer.

Now, with the further delay of Mac OS 8, one of the most challenging tasks Apple has undertaken, it will be all too tempting, even for the Macintosh supporters, to start casting the stones of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Do we ask more courage from Apple than we ask from ourselves?

Once upon a time, a man named Steve Jobs, filled with passion and fire, depicted PC users as zombies, walking stoically off the cliff of mediocrity. No one liked being compared to a mindless automaton, and indeed, Microsoft has made a good living by giving business people what they have dearly wanted most for the last ten years: respectability. The line that Windows 95 is "just as good as a Mac" is the anthem of those who, for years, never had the vision or courage to embrace something better. Microsoft’s strength is also its weakness.

There will always be those who are sparked by the glimmer of something just a little better, just a little cooler, just a little more inspiring. And there will always be Dilbert-esque managers who must exert their control by ignoring the advice of their technical people. Here’s an example from a Computer Weekly article from 1991, titled: "Reaction to 50 MHz 486 is lukewarm." It quotes a woman from Hughes Aircraft as saying, "many of our users have more power than they need right now [with 80386-based PCs]" A manager at Chevron concurs, noting, "Right now we could justify the price only as a server." To be fair, these people were using DOS, not a graphically-based system that demanded considerable horsepower. (And the Macintosh IIfx delivered just that at that time.) So where were these people looking? They were staring hard at their budgets.

Where are Macintosh users looking? Men like Douglas Adams and Arthur C. Clarke look to the stars. The spirit of Apple Computer is that of excellence and adventure. It embraces the future and everything positive that the minds of men can conceive of. We’ve often paid a little more, but we paid the money out of our own pockets. Some of us make a living by day with Windows so we can spend our own money on something that captures our imagination in the evening.

Apple lost its way in recent years. Apple forgot about inspiration and wonder. It got caught in price wars, desperately seeking acceptance at any price. Now, Apple’s destiny is to be the best. Truly, there may only be ten percent of the population that cares about the best. But if Apple gives up that ten percent, there are other dreamers and entrepreneurs standing quietly in the wings waiting to take up the cause. We cannot predict what they will do, but the spirit of the dreamers who want something more will always be with us. More than anything, we want Apple to know that.

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