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(Nikkei BP Group)

(No.1 High-Tech News Site in Japanese)

  • Apple Offers Users Professional Level of Performance, VP Says
  • October 15, 1998 (TOKYO) -- In a turnaround from a year ago, when the company was in dire straits, Apple Computer Inc. is now mounting a major comeback with the growing popularity of its iMac model personal computer.
    Phil Schiller, a vice president of Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer, gave a keynote address at the WORLD PC EXPO '98 exhibition. Nikkei Personal Computing (Nikkei PC) interviewed Schiller during his stay in Japan, and inquired about the background of the iMac's success and Apple's strategy for future products, including operating systems.

    Nikkei PC: What are the reasons for the success of the iMac?

    Schiller: There are several factors behind its success.

    First, its design is even more highly accomplished than users had expected. Also, there's the fact that it is a very good product in terms of cost-performance. It incorporates some key technologies, such as its PowerPC G3 microprocessor and a low-flicker display that is easy on the eyes.

    Another reason is simply that it is very easy for users to set up.

    The final reason is that we've scored a marketing victory.

    Nikkei PC: Will the iMac become a catalyst that brings about an increase in the number of Mac users?

    Schiller: The iMac is being marketed to three main user groups.

    The first of these groups is made up of existing users, and there are more than 10 million of them, who are already using Macs in their homes. The second group consists of all the potential new users who have never purchased a personal computer. The last target group is the so-called PC Switchers, or those who have owned a Mac in the past, but have since switched to using PCs.

    Regarding the first of these groups, the iMac is proving particularly attractive to existing Mac users who bought their current model around four years ago and are now looking at newer models for an upgrade.

    In the second target group, that of users who are new to the personal computer market, there are about 5 million to 10 million people joining the ranks of personal computer users every year, and we are working to make sure that our brand appeals to them.

    As for the PC switchers, we just want them to come back once more and try using a Mac again.

    As for all three target user groups, we are proud to have come up with the type of product that consumers are finding attractive.

    Nikkei PC: Now that the Mac market is active again, are companies that formerly produced Mac software and peripherals returning to the fold and working to develop new products for the Mac platform?

    Schiller: Since the launch of the iMac, many developers, with Microsoft Corp. first and foremost among them, have announced plans to release new products or new versions of existing products for the Mac platform. Our program for developers has been undergoing changes since last year, and we've also been strengthening our support infrastructure.

    Nikkei PC: Can you tell us about the iMac Portable that reportedly will be released in 1999?

    Schiller: It's incorrect to call it the iMac Portable. It will be a portable Mac for the consumer market, equipped with a full-spec Mac OS and not a trimmed down or light version.

    We are paying attention to factors such as its size and weight, and the length of its battery life, but we think there are other more exciting things that we ought to be concerned with.

    Of course, it will be important to set the price at a reasonable level. Just as with the iMac, we will try to offer it under the concept of 'a machine with professional-level specifications, but available at an easily accessible price.'

    The development team includes some members who were responsible for development work on previous products, such as the eMate, a notebook machine aimed at the educational market, and the Newton, a personal digital assistant (PDA). So, we can look forward to seeing a good final product.

    Nikkei PC: Exactly how "portable" will it actually be?

    Schiller: There is a certain demand for sub-notebook size personal computers, such as Sony Corp.'s VAIO and IBM Corp.'s ThinkPad 560, and that's something we recognize as important, particularly with regard to the Japanese market.

    However, at present the basic policy at Apple is to try to develop 'worldwide products,' and as a result we are working to create products with common specifications for the whole world, which means that the number of our individual products is decreasing.

    Looking from a global viewpoint, sub-notebook personal computers still constitute only a small-scale niche market. They are simply out of reach for the average consumer.

    But, having said that, that doesn't necessarily mean that we are satisfied with the size and weight of the current PowerBook G3. We need to make the new product both smaller and even more light.

    Nikkei PC: If you recognize the fact that sub-notebook personal computers are popular in Japan, why don't you just license the Mac OS to a Japanese manufacturer and have that company produce the hardware for you?

    Schiller: There's absolutely no possibility of that happening. We accept that Japan is an important market, second only to the United States in terms of size, but we have no plans to start producing different models specifically for particular markets or regions.

    Nikkei PC: When will you start shipping the Mac OS 8.5 that was demonstrated during your keynote speech at the exhibition?

    Schiller: I'm unable to reveal the exact date. However, it will be soon, and we will also try to release it at the same time all over the world. The success we had in marketing the iMac has given us confidence, so we are also planning a large-scale marketing campaign for the Mac OS 8.5.

    Nikkei PC: The Mac OS 8.5 was originally scheduled to be released in July of this year. Is it likely that the delay will in any way influence the development schedules of your future OS products?

    Schiller: Overall, a delay of 90 days is not such a big deal. There are cases involving other companies where delays in the scheduled launch of new OS products can be measured in units of years.

    At Apple, our plans for the future launch of OS products will remain exactly as before, with releases going according to schedule. Next year will see the release of our Mac OS X (ten), and before that we'll be marketing a Mac OS X server.

    Related story: iMac Stimulates Japan PC Sales in 4th Week of August

    (Nikkei Personal Computing)

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    Nikkei BP BizTech, Inc.
    All Rights Reserved.
    Updated: Wed Oct 14 17:41:24 1998 PDT