Is Apple’s "Switch" ad campaign helping PC users think different or blurring the carefully defined brand that the company has spent years developing? Simon Spence returns with more insight into the Apple brand. Also in this issue, Adam reports on the first week of PayBITS results and generates envy among TidBITS staffers by upgrading his TiVo. We also note the releases of Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, two Mac OS X security updates, and Default Folder X 1.6.
Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar Unleashed — On Saturday, 24-Aug-02, Apple released Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, the second major update to Mac OS X since the operating system’s release on 24-Mar-01. As with Mac OS X 10.1, Jaguar offers significant improvements on the status quo, bringing back features from Mac OS 9 (such as spring-loaded folders and Software Base Station) and breaking new ground (look at Rendezvous and Inkwell). We’ve looked at Jaguar’s features in brief before, and additional coverage will be forthcoming as we learn more. In the meantime, Jaguar discussions have already started on TidBITS Talk – be sure to check them out for details. A single-user copy of Jaguar costs $130, or you can buy a 5-license family pack for $200. [ACE]
Mac OS X Security Updates Released — Apple has made available a pair of security updates for Mac OS X to help prevent unwanted access to your Mac. Specifically, the updates modify components of Mac OS X to incorporate changes in OpenSSL 0.9.6g, and the Sun RPC XDR encoder under Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar. Security Update 2002-08-20 applies to machines running Mac OS X 10.1.5; Security Update 2002-08-23 works on Macs running Jaguar. The update is either a 2.2 MB or 5.6 MB download, depending on which version applies, and is available through Software Update or as a separate download from Apple. [JLC]
Creo Sponsoring TidBITS — We’re pleased to announce our latest sponsor, Creo, whose Six Degrees software brings to email the elegant thought that computer programs should make easier those tasks that you already perform. Implementations of this concept are few and far between – perhaps the first was Super Boomerang, which tracked recently opened files and folders and made it easier for the user to open them again. There’s also the way some email programs record the addresses of people to whom you send messages and make it easier to send messages to those people again. Six Degrees takes the concept one step further, looking at your incoming and outgoing mail to determine relationships between the people with whom you work, the messages you send and receive, and the files attached to those messages. Then it provides a simple interface to find, for instance, the latest version of a file in progress, the message that contains it, or all the messages from the person who sent it so you can track the evolving discussion surrounding the file. That’s all without requiring you – or anyone with whom you work – to change your working style.
As much as Six Degrees is useful today – assuming you use Microsoft Entourage on the Mac, or Microsoft Outlook on Windows – I’m even more interested to see how Creo extends the concept of using implicit relationships within your email to help you focus on important messages and avoid the crud (how many of us have relationships with spammers?). Don’t underestimate Creo – a scan through the developers’ weblog shows that they’re thinking hard about the implications of what they’ve created and how it can help pull email out of the morass of both legitimate and unwanted messages. [ACE]
Default Folder X 1.6 Adds Jaguar Compatibility — St. Clair Software has updated Default Folder X to version 1.6, adding Mac OS X 10.2 compatibility and other features to the Open and Save dialog utility. This version incorporates one of the most useful features of the original Default Folder, enabling you to click on a Finder window (even if it’s obscured by other applications’ windows) to display that window’s contents in the Open or Save dialog listing. Default Folder X 1.6 also now connects to folders on remote servers if the folder is in your Favorites or Recent Items list, improves compatibility with AppleScript and QuickTime, and incorporates a number of other fixes. The update is free to registered users and is a 2 MB download. [JLC]
Since PayBITS is such a major experiment for us, I thought I’d provide a quick report on how the first week went. Despite my not realizing that building a suggested amount into a PayPal URL would prevent people from entering their own amount (unless they cleverly edited the URL), my iPhoto Techniques article received 26 payments for a total of $116.50. I wouldn’t walk past that on the sidewalk. Even more impressive was the response to the PayBITS block at the end of the actual PayBITS introduction, which attracted 53 new TidBITS contributors and generated over $1,100. A huge "Thank You!" to those of you who participated, not just for the financial support, but also for believing that it’s reasonable to assign value to the information we consume.
Feedback about PayBITS continued to roll in to TidBITS Talk and to me personally, and I’ve tried to reply to everyone. Most people were still overwhelmingly positive about the idea, though some remain unconvinced that it will work in practice. All I can say is that you never know until you try.
As we continue, we’ll be testing out a variety of different things with PayBITS, including varying the wording, testing different payment services, and more. Plus, a number of people have expressed interest in writing for us to help test PayBITS, so we won’t have any trouble providing a wide variety of great articles in the near future.
Tonya and I have been big fans of the TiVo digital video recorder since we first got a 30-hour unit a few years back. It fits our style of watching television perfectly, since we previously used our VCR to record TV shows for watching when we felt like it, rather than on the scheduling whims of network television executives. There may not always be much on TV that’s worth watching, but if there is, the TiVo captures it for us. (See Andrew Laurence’s two-part TidBITS review of the TiVo for full details; there’s also been a great deal of discussion of TiVo and other digital video recorders in TidBITS Talk.)
But all was not well in TiVo-land for us. The change happened when we moved from Seattle back to Ithaca last year. In Seattle, we’d happily limped along with antenna reception of about six channels; the TiVo helped us extract shows we wanted to watch from our limited selection. The video quality wasn’t great, but that was largely the antenna’s fault, and we weren’t interested in buying a satellite dish. In our new home in Ithaca, though, we could no longer receive TV over the air, forcing us to pay for cable. The TiVo showed its worth once again, helping us find good shows from our now-massive selection. The video quality still wasn’t great because I’d set the TiVo to record at either Basic or Medium quality to avoid erasing shows before we wanted to watch them. Even then, the TiVo didn’t have enough space to store the variety of shows we might want to watch on any given night.
Clearly something needed to be done.
Perhaps the Sequel? One possibility was buying a new TiVo Series 2, which offers up to 60 hours of recording time (all the quoted sizes match roughly to gigabytes of disk space when recording at Basic quality, the lowest level, so a 60-hour unit probably has a 60 GB hard disk in it). The TiVo Series 2 is also smaller, features a new remote control, and, most interestingly, has a pair of USB ports, just like on our Macs.
Research on the TiVo Community Forum revealed suggestions from TiVo about how they expect these USB ports to be used. With USB-to-Ethernet adapters, you’ll be able to download program data over a broadband Internet connection rather than the internal modem, and at some point you’ll be able to access your TiVo over the Web. Plus, that extra bandwidth will enable a video-on-demand service, making it possible to order just shows you wanted – the example given was the popular Se… er, "Fooling Around" in the City" (dratted content filters!) that would otherwise require a monthly subscription to HBO. You could also attach a USB CD-ROM player, have the TiVo Series 2 import the music in MP3 format in a Music Library (complete with album names and title tracks downloaded from the Internet), and play it from there. Finally, TiVo also plans to make it possible for you to connect digital cameras for importing and displaying photos. Slide shows could even include music from your Music Library.
Although the TiVo Series 2 hardware is available now, none of these services are out yet as far as I can tell (though there is completely unofficial support for a number of USB Ethernet adapters, with which you can download guide data over the Internet instead of via the modem). TiVo’s Web site merely says that the "two integrated USB ports will allow support for a number of digital peripherals and access to exciting new future services in home entertainment." Since I’m already happily using my Macs as MP3 music and digital photo libraries, I’ll wait and see how good a job TiVo does. Plus, buying a new TiVo Series 2 would cost $400 for the hardware and another $250 for the lifetime service. $650 is more than I’d like to spend right now, especially given that the TiVo Series 2’s 60 GB hard disk isn’t that large compared to the size of inexpensive hard drives today.
(And yes, I know I could also buy a ReplayTV unit, which already has some of this functionality, but I’m extremely fond of the TiVo and its interface. For other people, a ReplayTV or other digital video recorder might be a good choice.)
We Can Rebuild Him. We Have the Technology — These promised features for the TiVo Series 2 are possible because the TiVo is essentially a computer running a custom version of the Linux operating system. And as Andrew Laurence mentioned in his review, a huge user community has grown up around the TiVo, in large part because the company has been accepting of the many hacks and modifications TiVo owners have performed on their TiVos.
Without question, the most common hack is to add more disk space to a TiVo by installing a second hard drive. The process involves connecting the new drive in slave mode to your Mac (not too hard in a Power Mac, but essentially impossible in any other model), formatting it with Erik Wagner’s free MacTiVo Blesser program, and then transferring the drive over to your TiVo.
The MacTiVo Blesser program is a bit old, isn’t Mac OS X-native, and the last comment posted on the site is from over a year ago (plus, unless Erik has ponied up for .Mac, the entire site will go away soon). It didn’t make me particularly comfortable, and although I’m perfectly capable of mucking around in the innards of computers, the discomfort discouraged me from taking the time to investigate more fully. More recent and more supported software and instructions are available for PCs, but I couldn’t muster enthusiasm for using a PC if I could possibly avoid it. Finally, I was concerned that any bare drive I purchased wouldn’t come with appropriate mounting hardware for the TiVo – I’m not one of those people who can bear attaching hard drives with plastic cable ties.
In short, dealing with the TiVo had been pushed to the back burner.
Arthroscopic Surgery — That was when Michael Adberg of Weaknees.com (a self-admitted terrible domain name) contacted me to ask about sponsoring TidBITS. He and his partner did FileMaker consulting, but they’d started Weaknees in late 2000 to provide TiVo upgrades after they’d been bitten by the TiVo bug. Sponsoring TidBITS was a bit expensive for them, but then Michael suggested paying partially in the form of a TiVo upgrade. Though we don’t make a practice of it, we’re not opposed to the concept of barter, particularly for hardware we’d likely buy anyway. Besides, we like to have experience with our sponsoring companies, and what better way to get it?
Michael shipped me their standard upgrade – currently priced at $265 with free shipping – for adding 145 hours to a single-drive TiVo (I had to check the model number on the back of my Philips-built TiVo to verify that I had a single-drive unit). The well-padded package included a pre-formatted 120 GB Maxtor drive, printed installation instructions, a mounting bracket, all the necessary mounting hardware, and the all-important Torx #10 screwdriver for removing the screws that hold the TiVo case shut. I happen to have a collection of screwdrivers that included the necessary size of Torx screwdriver, but many people may not have this particular tool, without which you can’t open a TiVo.
(For anyone who works with electronics frequently or finds opening cases with lousy or incorrectly sized screwdrivers frustrating, I strongly recommend Wiha’s tools – I have a slotted/Phillips set and a Torx set, though I’d probably get one of the larger interchangeable blade sets if I were buying now.)
With everything ready, I disconnected my TiVo from its many cables, set it on the dining room table, removed the screws, and tried to open it. Failing miserably, I then followed the advice Weaknees suggested for opening the extremely tight case (which involves putting the TiVo on the floor, where it’s easier to apply more pressure). It’s certainly possible to open TiVos, but TiVo has no incentive to make it as easy as Apple does with the Power Macs. Bear in mind that opening your TiVo voids your warranty.
The rest of the upgrade process went exactly as the instructions said, including cutting a cable tie that restrained the second power connector and removing the hard drive cable from a clip. The two pages of instructions were accurate, clearly written, and accompanied by pictures, though marred slightly by a couple of typos and the way they made you go off in the middle and read a separate set of instructions for attaching your drive to the mounting bracket. If you’ve ever opened up a Mac to add memory or a hard drive, you shouldn’t have any trouble installing a hard drive in your TiVo. The hardest part for me, in fact, was getting the case back on straight after I was done. The entire process took less than 30 minutes, despite the fact that I was working methodically to avoid mistakes.
After I reconnected all the TiVo’s cables and plugged it back in, it came back up and reported 184 hours of space at Basic quality. More important to me was that it said I’d have almost 52 hours at Best quality, so I immediately changed all my Season Passes and Wishlists to record at Best quality. Later that night, after the TiVo had recorded some shows, Tonya and I compared the difference between Basic and Best. Basic was certainly watchable, but Best was crystal clear, and using it significantly improved the TiVo experience for us. Life was good again.
(I also noticed that Weaknees sells external modems you can use to replace fried internal modems and recommends using a phone line surge protector to safeguard your TiVo’s modem from thunderstorms. It’s good advice – two months ago, a massive storm managed to hang our TiVo’s modem for ten days. I was initially worried I’d have to hunt down a new modem, not realizing at the time that the TiVo modem is soldered to the motherboard. Luckily, unplugging the TiVo and plugging it back in reset the modem; I’ll be getting a phone line surge protector to go with the old uninterruptible power supply I use to protect the TiVo, VCR, and cable box from power spikes and outages.)
Goldilocks Upgrades a TiVo — To sum up then, there are three basic ways you can expand your TiVo.
First, as I noted earlier, you could buy all the parts and pieces separately and do it yourself. That will undoubtedly save you money because you aren’t paying for someone to format the drive or package it with mounting hardware and installation instructions. If you’re comfortable buying and installing computer components, and you have the time to spend assembling all the parts, this is certainly the least expensive approach. The TiVo FAQ will point you in the right direction.
Second, there’s the upgrade kit that I got from Weaknees. I gather that there are also a few other companies offering similar upgrade kits. Upgrade kits are ideal for people who are comfortable installing computer components, but don’t mind paying more to avoid the trouble of researching and ordering all the pieces and formatting the drive (which isn’t even possible unless you have a Power Mac or a PC).
Finally, if you’re just too intimidated by opening your TiVo, Weaknees and other companies will perform the upgrade for you. It costs more, of course, and you must ship them your TiVo. I’d recommend this option for people who have never opened a Mac before and who are concerned they might not understand the directions (you can read Weaknees’s instructions online if you’re unsure of your comfort level).
In the end, I’m glad I used the Weaknees upgrade kit, since doing it from scratch would have taken hours, and that in turn would have meant putting the task off forever. Now I have a far more capacious TiVo that can store a wider variety of TV shows and play them with a high quality picture, and the whole effort took less than a half hour out of my weekend.
PayBITS: Did you find this article especially helpful? Consider
compensating Adam a small amount (perhaps $1) for his efforts!
What’s this? Read about PayBITS: <http://www.tidbits.com/paybits/>
In the first of these articles I looked at the basics of brands and the way a brand is separate from both the company and the company’s products. This week I’ll take a closer look at Apple’s brand and the values behind it.
Design Supports the Brand — Throughout Apple’s history, groundbreaking design has played a key role. The original Macintosh bore little resemblance to the hulking IBM PC-compatibles of the day, while other attempts to stand out – such as the Macintosh TV and the Twentieth Anniversary Mac – were unfortunately never meant to be mass market products. It was only with the advent of the iMac and iBook after Steve Jobs’s return to Apple that style and design came to the forefront in Apple’s hardware products. In short, Apple’s product design elegance in both hardware and software plays an essential role in the company’s brand message.
It all makes a difference. Minimizing windows with smooth animation in Mac OS X, the glossy white plastic used in the iPod and iBook, the clever packaging that comes with all of Apple’s products – everything combines to support a message about the brand. Simplicity, attention to detail, ease of use, creative thinking, and an absence of jargon are all messages conveyed through these products. Steve Jobs has said that Apple’s position in the computer industry makes it possible to design a product from scratch. By controlling both software and hardware, Apple can integrate their products more tightly, providing an advantage over PC companies like Dell and Gateway. Even when Apple does offer a cross-platform product, the PC version isn’t as good. Look no further than the iPod: the Mac version outshines its Windows-compatible counterpart thanks to its tight integration between the iPod hardware, the Mac OS, and iTunes.
Brand messages are supported by other aspects of the company’s activities as well. The first-time visitor to the Apple Web site is left with an impression distinct to the Apple brand. The site is clear and easily navigable, and it manages to avoid clutter and technical terminology. Contrast this with the complex and confusing Dell Web site. (Really. Open the links below in two windows, and browse around a for a minute. You’ll see what I mean.)
With Apple, the impression you’re left with matches the experience of the product. Anyone who has received a new iPod will tell you of the beauty of the packaging, its simplicity and attention to detail tying in with the product itself. Buying from the Apple online store, the purchasing experience, the packaging, and finally the product itself and its functions, all fit into Apple’s carefully constructed brand promise. That’s one of Apple’s major strengths – the company maintains its brand promise from the customer’s research phase on the Web site, through the online store purchasing experience, and all the way to the point where he or she unpacks and starts using the product. Arguably, the Dell Web site risks leaving the consumer feeling bewildered by the site’s complexity. The relationship between the consumer and the brand is of necessity rather than attraction. Consumers may use and find value at the site, but it is difficult to see how it could appeal to them or inspire brand loyalty.
Brands Go Deeper Yet — This element of promise conveyed by a company’s products and Web presence goes well below the surface. Since the "1984" commercial (if you haven’t seen it before, or at least recently, it’s easy to find a downloadable version) that launched the Macintosh, Apple has overtly challenged convention. The "Think Different" marketing campaign that Apple started after Steve Jobs returned to the company asked consumers to step beyond conventional wisdom that has resulted in 95 percent of computer buyers looking no further than Windows on Intel-compatible processors. Given its strong base in education and creative content markets, where iconoclastic thinking is commonplace, or at least admired, Apple’s approach is correct.
However, I would suggest that Apple’s customers should not simply be seen in terms of market segments. Apple’s brand message is actually focused on people of a particular outlook, and that may or may not correspond with specific professions. This point is important, because brands deal with people on a level of feelings and instincts that goes beyond role and circumstance. The "1984" commercial epitomizes rebelliousness and the chance for a fresh start, smashing the status quo along with the Orwellian vision of video-induced conformity. In an age when a desktop computer was still a rarity, Apple offered the consumer "fire from the gods," giving the individual power and freedom that was at the time nearly unimaginable. Such was the brand promise, and the Macintosh delivered on that promise. Apple’s brand has remained remarkably consistent ever since, and that is, to a large degree, the secret of Apple’s long-term success. Products change quickly, technology constantly evolves, but the message stays the same. Consistency over time makes a strong brand, especially when it’s supported by fresh and contemporary ways of demonstrating the same attitudes and brand promises.
During the early 1990s it could be argued that Apple stopped rebelling and tried to compete with the PC world on the unfamiliar ground of the corporate market. The company lost touch with its origins, and only with "Think Different" in late 1997 did Apple return to its beginnings and rediscover what made the company and its products special. With its release in 1998, the original iMac delivered on the promise of "Think Different." What most people miss in all of this is that the suggestion Apple needs to sell to the corporate market to succeed is flawed, because Apple’s carefully cultivated brand image will never appeal to the bean-counters of the world. From a brand point of view, Apple sells to the "Think Different" market irrespective of whether the particular customer works in the corporate sector, in design, in film production, or in education. Apple appeals to an attitude choice and not a market segment. Market segmentation is a conservative marketing tool that fails to recognise the strength of brands working at a deeper level.
Of course, there were limitations in Apple’s approach with "Think Different." The message could inspire consumers, and it was a call to reject conformity and bland establishment values. However appealing it may have been to some people, that message was also tremendously threatening to others. Choosing to think in a different way could be risky, and Apple’s attempt to make a virtue out of difference could equate to isolation. Plus, the brand promise of "difference" could translate into "incompatible" to a potential purchaser. That’s the downside of having a brand as strong as Apple’s – it can generate both positive and negative instinctual reactions.
The new "Switch" campaign refocuses Apple’s primary message on ease of use and represents a new tone for Apple. "Think Different" was necessary for Apple to re-establish their mark of differentiation as a way of regaining lost confidence amongst the Mac community. But that’s done – Apple is now a reinvigorated organisation and can move toward using more subtle, less confrontational tones in attracting new users. Less confrontational doesn’t necessarily mean safer, however. There’s nothing wrong with pushing the view that it’s easy to switch to a Mac, but at the same time Apple must take care not to blur the lines it has spent so long defining. Consumers intuitively see through mixed messages, so Apple must avoid suggesting that ease of switching is equivalent to compatibility – doing so would damage all those years of praising difference. It’s a fine line to negotiate.
Still, "Switch" carries a powerful message. Ease of use is as relevant today as it was at the introduction of the Macintosh, when the world realized there was more to computing than the DOS prompt. "Switch" points to how much simpler it is to use a Mac, a territory both Mac and PC users associate with the Apple brand. Windows has never been able to make a strong claim to this space, and Apple’s promotion of new technology such as Rendezvous promises new simplicity when it comes to complex computing tasks (even if long-time Mac users know that in some senses Rendezvous merely brings to TCP/IP what AppleTalk had provided all along on the Mac). Apple needs to gain the confidence of potential buyers, and since ease of use is a constant gripe for PC users, this new, softer approach may produce results.
Looking Toward Retail — As a brand, Apple is strong, and the company’s brand promise is currently matched by the user’s experience online, with Apple’s products, and in marketing campaigns. The main place where Apple’s brand suffered was in the retail space, where buying a Mac was often a frustrating, unsatisfactory experience. In the final article in this series, I’ll focus on Apple’s retail strategy and the role the Apple retail stores play in confirming the brand in the mind of the consumer.
[Simon Spence is head of research and information technology at Alexander Dunlop Ltd., a brand consultancy working with multinational corporations to define brand identity. He also provides Mac consultancy to small businesses and educational establishments in Ireland.]