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Busman's Holiday
Where're we goin', Apple?
by Steve Wood
October 30, 1998



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I had taken the pledge to stop complaining about Apple's callus actions canceling applications and technologies. I felt proud to be a Mac user when I saw the New York Times article, "Mac OS Is Better Than Ever." I'd even written Jonah, my MacTimes editor, that I hoped to do an extra piece this week on 8.5--something nice, without again mentioning the overpricing of the upgrade. But then reports about data loss with 8.5 began to surface with alarming regularity.

Along with the disk damage reports, the emails began to roll in--first about Apple shutting down the Cyberdog site without any warning, and then about HyperCard. The MacWeek promo of Mack the Knife's recent column says it best, "HyperCard 3.0 is lying very still. "

In between these events, I read Dennis Sellers postings "What's happening with AppleWorks?" and "The Fate of AppleWorks, part II." Dennis offers some very positive suggestions to Apple for the future of ClarisWorks/AppleWorks, while mentioning that others (moi?) have questioned Apple's future plans, or lack thereof, for the integrated office suite. From my first MacTimes column, I've consistently expressed my concern that Apple's refocusing on its core technologies is going to mean that many of the applications we Mac users have purchased and learned are going to be abandoned.

I originally thought that ClarisWorks/AppleWorks was beyond Apple's apparent insatiable appetite to destroy all things Claris. Promising technologies have also fallen along the wayside. But the Apple steamroller that has squashed Emailer, Organizer, and Cyberdog among others, (possibly a few Pentium laptops, too) now rolls toward HyperCard and may not stop until it has rolled over an elegant but simple productivity suite. If Apple chooses this action, it will be truly unfortunate for the millions of ClarisWorks users, who like me, depend upon it to do many routine daily tasks and a few that would be difficult with any other single tool.

Don Crabb's recent postings that mentioned the demise, and later, plans to resuscitate the All-in-One Macintosh model for schools also cause concern. While I hope the All-in-One survives, school technology directors need something more than Don's hints about what's going to be offered and when.

We all know Apple can't continue to support everything they used to in the bad old days. Apple's financial resurgence is partly due to trimming tangents from their focus. But each branch trimmed also carries many Mac loyalists who feel betrayed by the company upon whom they had pinned their computing plans. Further, many of these folks have very real dollars and cents stakes in the trimmed applications and technologies. While I think all of we Mac supporters are thrilled to read headlines saying good things about Apple, we're left wondering what will survive the Steve Jobs rapier ax.

Apple media events, such as the recent show unveiling Apple's recent earnings report and system 8.5, don't mean much when the application critical to your computing has just been axed, frequently without announcement or warning. There was a great line in the Tom Cruz/Kelly McGillis flick Top Gun that almost applies to Apple: "Maverick, (Apple) your family name isn't that good. You need to be doing it better and cleaner than everyone else." Well, Apple's "family name" really has been great, but it's recent history suggests it needs to be hanging on to every Mac supporter it can--doing it "better and cleaner" than the other guys.

So let me propose something. Let's not have a giant Apple media event. This time, let's not showcase good, but late and overpriced system updates that may trash your drive. Let's not wildly promo immature new technologies. Let's have Steve do a little hand-holding for those of us, and there are many, who are wondering where we're going. And it definitely is a "we!" We bought on to ClarisWorks, Emailer, Organizer, Cyberdog, HyperCard...on and on. Many of us bought on to the fabulous G3 series. Many of us continue to live and breathe Apple and Mac OS. But inquiring minds need some answers, and right now, the Inquirer is giving us more info about where Apple's going than Apple's leader is.

How about some direction, Apple? Where are you taking us? We know, or at least hope, OS X is about a year away. We know the G4's are coming. But what about the things we use everyday? Does everything from the past have to be killed?

  • Is or isn't Emailer dead? Why not roll it into an all new AppleWorks, as Dennis Sellers suggests?
  • Where are you going and when with HyperCard? If HyperCard is dead, what replaces it, knowing that many depend upon it for light programming?
  • Is there going to be an All-in-One Mac for schools, or do you really expect us to use the iMac? If you do, you're in for some terribly sad education sales results.
  • Was it really necessary to ax the Cyberdog site? You'd already chopped the technology off at its knees, but did it cost that much in resources or lack of focus to just continue maintaining a site that many still wanted?

Franklin Roosevelt became one of America's most cherished presidents with his fireside chats with the country while the depression, and later World War II raged. How about a few chats, not media events, but friendly status reports to those who have kept and will keep Apple in business. Maybe a free regular email to subscribing users. It might just take away some of the bitterness of these continuing tough decisions Apple seems to be making.

Okay, I've had my rant. I don't expect we'll hear any definitive answers anytime soon from Cupertino. I'm not going to lead the loyal opposition in a campaign on these issues. Maybe these apparently callus actions are critical to Apple's future success.

I'm going to go back to writing about all the neat Apple stuff that I like and use...that is, if I can find any that aren't lying very, very still!

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updated and reposted to the new MATH DITTOS 2 site 6/18/2000
©1998 Steven L. Wood