Apple’s customers remain loyal despite Amelio’s exit

Customers in Apple Computer's core publishing and education markets are not sufficiently concerned by Apple's corporate fortunes to contemplate a change of platform. None of the local Mac sites contacted by Computerworld says the resignation of CEO Gil Amelio and Apple's continuing financial losses override what they see as the advantages of the platform.

Customers in Apple Computer’s core publishing and education markets are not sufficiently concerned by Apple’s corporate fortunes to contemplate a change of platform.

None of the local Mac sites contacted by Computerworld says the resignation of CEO Gil Amelio and Apple’s continuing financial losses override what they see as the advantages of the platform.

Phil Venville and Phil Sallis, IS registrars at Auckland and Otago universities respectively, recently travelled to Apple’s Cupertino base for a briefing. Although there was no explicit hint of the departure of Amelio and software VP Ellen Hancock, Venville says their exit was “not a surprise — although perhaps the timing was. We view it as the end of a phase. I think we are looking at a more dominant position being taken by Next management, Avie Tevanian in particular.”

“I came away from [Cupertino] feeling quite confident that they do have direction and they do have a clear idea of where they’re going with their development strategies,” says Sallis. “I would think that what happened with Hancock and Amelio was not just on a whim. I think there was much more to it than that.”

Publishing users professed to be more interested in functionality than business news. Paul Dunkley, IS manager at New Zealand Magazines, which runs 72 Macs, admits that “as a PC person, I need a pretty good excuse to defend the Mac”. But it comes down to compatibility with output systems, he says. "The old reason — that the software was developed primarily for the Mac and then the PC — has reversed now, but output of files is still so much easier with a Mac."

“And if the luddites in the journalism industry had to use PCs, I don’t think I’d want this job. They can screw up the Mac really badly and it’ll still run okay. They’re quite bulletproof, really. I’d also have to say they don’t have the same tendency to hang on to memory, so they don’t have to be rebooted as often, and SCSI is a real bonus — being able to chain in scanners and that sort of thing.”

Darynie Jones, IT spokesperson at children’s publisher Wendy Pye, says her company will “definitely” be sticking with Macs for creative and editorial work, and adds that the company’s Internet presence was also created on Macs.

Web designer Dave Blyth says his company, Webdesign, will remain a Mac shop — but says he bought his second Mac clone last week, a Motorola Umax that “at $2200 with a 180MHz CPU, 16Mb RAM and a 15in monitor, was cheaper than the equivalent PC.”

Blyth says that, if anything, Amelio’s departure made him more confident about Apple, and that Motorola’s ability to deliver competitively-priced clones will be a bonus for the platform, as will MacOS 8, “so long as they get it out here quickly”.

Sallis says he is confident that Apple will pull through in some shape or form. “I don’t think they’re going to bite the dust, but they’ve certainly gone through a programme of reducing their product line, and a re-orientation towards becoming more software-oriented in a highly-focused market, rather than hardware-oriented.”

Venville, who has the second-largest Mac site in the southern hemisphere, with 2500 (behind Telstra with 6000) machines, says “the most important thing Apple must do is win back the support of the developer community. Without applications the platform goes nowhere. Should they split the hardware and software business? I don’t think it matters. I believe Apple should stay in the hardware business. It should also be actively supporting clone manufacturers.”

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