Apple began 2004 with very high hopes for a special year. The Macintosh turned 20 in January and most observers expected an overhauled design, perhaps a 20th Anniversary Mac, or, well, anything. Here’s the scorecard for Apple’s Mac Union a little more than half way through 2004.
Instead, the iMac continued as is for a few months before lapsing into non-production while waiting for the new G5 iMac. At the San Francisco Macworld Expo, the Mac and Apple faithful were treated to a new, and not-unexpected iPod-mini.
New iMac? C- (it’s planned to ship in September; probably nine months late)
Jobs and company struck down the naysayers (expecting a $99 iPod) with a $249 price tag for the mini, and promptly took orders for a 100,000 units. Eight months later, the iPod mini remains in short supply and Apple is expected to sell nearly one million iPods this quarter, perhaps 4-million for the entire year.
The iPod, iTunes, and the iTunes Music Store are great success stories and 2004 saw the launch of iTMS in Europe; UK, France, and Germany. Other countries will roll online later in the year.
New iPod mini? A- (a nit on the price; $99 would be nice)
iTunes Music Store? A- (delayed roll out in Europe)
By all accounts, the iPod is holding down the fort at Apple.
What about the 3 ghz PowerMac G5? Not a chip in sight a full year after CEO Steve Jobs said Apple would deliver the new iBM speedster. Fault was laid squarely on IBM’s shoulders for not getting the chip in sufficient quantities for the new iMac and the 3 ghz PowerMacs; shifting to a 90 nanometer chip taking much longer than expected.
3 ghz PowerMac G5s? D- (even the 2.5 ghz machines aren’t to be found)
Mac OS X. Introduced as Panther version 10.3 last fall, Mac OS X continues to increase in features, stability, dependability. I’m on 10.3.5 now and was reluctant to make the upgrade from 10.3.4. Panther is one solid OS. I have a PowerBook using Panther that hasn’t been shut down in nearly a year. My desktop PowerBook has NEVER seen a system crash (save for the occasional Internet Explorer attempt at the Blue Screen of Death).
Tiger, of course, looks promising and has enough must-have features on the list to make it a must have. Frankly, I’m glad it won’t show up until sometime early next year. I need to milk Panther for awhile.
Mac OS X? A- (a nit only because I had to pay for the upgrade from Jaguar)
How about iLife and the Pro apps? iLife added GarageBand to the mix and now every Mac ships with iTunes, iDVD, iMovie, iPhoto, and GarageBand. There’s nothing quite like that bunch on the Windows side of the world (the dark side). Improvements to iPhoto (speed) and iMovie (stability) and iDVD (more themes) made the suite sweet.
The Pro applications, DVD Studio Pro and Final Cut Pro received updates. 3.0 for DVD SP, and HD status for Final Cut. Even PC magazines drool over DVD Studio Pro and feature length movies are being edited on Final Cut Pro using Macs.
iLife? A- (hard to complain considering the price)
Pro Apps? B+ (some stability bugs remain)
How about he low end of the scale? The eMac is now available for $799 at 1.25 ghz with 256 megs RAM, and a 40 gig hard drive. It’s not a screamer, but it’s a bargain. It’s not the lowest priced computer available anywhere but holds its own in value.
Low end Mac? B (still have to pay extra for that 17” CRT)
What’s left? Supercomputers using Mac Xserve G5s, Xserve RAID, and friends. Pretty much everyone who cares says these are great machines that are priced right. Hey, they’re making cheap supercomputers out of Macs. One even ranked in the Top 5 of all SuperComputers.
Mac Xserve G5s? A- (nit because I can’t afford one)
What about buying a Mac? Apple software? Online or retail? There’s no question that Apple has all the ducks lined up when it comes to selling Macs these days. The online Apple Store is considered the best way to buy computers online. Period. In fact, no other online hardware computer maker gets more traffic than Apple.com.
Retail stores? Wow, aren’t they great? Not wanting to sound like an Apple apologist, who else has scads of people standing in line for hours to get into a new store on opening day? The flagship stores in San Francisco, New York, Tokyo are works of art and highlight the Mac world in a way CompUSA, Best Buy, Sears, and your friendly neighborhood Apple store never could (and never will).
Apple Retail Stores? A
What did I forget? What else needs to be reviewed and graded? Click Here to send Feedback.
Overall grade for Apple for 2004? B+
Not shabby for a company that was “beleaguered” just a few years ago. There are other categories worthy of consideration: Market Share, Revenue Growth, Speed Comparison/Bake Offs, and new but not-announced products (where’s my personal video recorder?). The scorecard would be mixed, I’m sure. Oh, there’s that little Steve Jobs’ cancer surgery to dampen the summer, too. For everyone.