2003: The Year of the PowerBook

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Date: Wednesday, January 8th, 2003, 00:00
Category: Archive

PowerBook G4 17-inchApple surprised the world yesterday with the announcement of not one but two new PowerBooks. The pessimists are quick to criticize Apple for not announcing new desktop Macintoshes (Power Mac, iMac, eMac) at a time when existing models are considered to be slow and expensive. Apple is putting all of its hardware eggs in the PowerBook basket, at least for the time being, instead of focusing on other areas of the product line. Click “Read More” for the complete story.


PowerBook G4 17-inchApple surprised the world yesterday with the announcement of not one but two new PowerBooks. The pessimists are quick to criticize Apple for not announcing new desktop Macintoshes (Power Mac, iMac, eMac) at a time when existing models are considered to be slow and expensive. Apple is putting all of its hardware eggs in the PowerBook basket, at least for the time being, instead of focusing on other areas of the product line.

Apple even announced the new 17 and 12-inch PowerBooks despite having just announced new iBook and PowerBook models less than eight weeks ago. This was a calculated risk as Apple certainly had to have considered the backlash from users that just purchased the “latest and greatest” models. Apple has never released a product upgrade, speed bump, or whatever you want to call it, so fast. So what is the rationale?

Having just purchased a GigaBook a month ago I am struggling with this issue myself. Apple has apparently decided to bet on the PowerBook moving forward and must feel – more than ever – that the PowerBook is truly a desktop replacement. Couple that with historically higher margins on portables and the picture is becoming a little clearer.

My theory is that the decision to rev the PowerBooks simply comes down to money. Apple makes more money on PowerBooks (even more than iBooks) and PowerBooks sell well. And don’t forget the sex factor, the PowerBook G4 is still undeniably sexy. People fall in love with it. People do crazy things when they are in love – like spend US$3300 on a piece of hardware. Apple knows this.

Has Apple given up the war on the desktop? After constantly getting beat up on price, market share and clock speed, Apple may have decided that the blood, sweat and tears shed developing new hardware is better spent on something people will actually like. Consider this: no matter what speed or configuration of desktop Macs Apple could have released yesterday, the announcement would have been followed shortly by a parade of nay-sayers calling the machines too slow, too expensive and too late.

Not so with PowerBooks. PowerBooks have a romance to them, they’re personal and people are definitely more passionate about them. Desktop Macs get shut down on Friday night, PowerBooks get tucked away in a sexy bag only to re-surface later in the evening a party planner, photo album or even a mobile DJ rig. Have you ever tried taking your Power Mac to bed with you?

Apple’s decision to focus on PowerBooks this time around is probably as simple as trying to sell product that people actually want. Not that people don’t want desktops, but announcing fast new PowerBooks with sexy features like illuminated keyboards, Firewire 800 and 802.11g wireless networking will make people seriously consider the value of a desktop Mac when such a powerful (and did I mention sexy) alternative exists. To the joy of their accountants.

After all, most people would not be so quick to covet one of the new PowerBooks if a speedy (and more inexpensive) desktop alternative existed. Looks like it will be the year of the PowerBook indeed.

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