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14.002 14. The Computer Wars Chronicles: ISSUE 79/ Home Again


This article is from the Apple II Csa2 FAQ, by Jeff Hurlburt with numerous contributions by others.

14.002 14. The Computer Wars Chronicles: ISSUE 79/ Home Again


     Last fall the lone remaining advertiser-supported Apple II-only monthly
announced the intention to "include Mac coverage". At the time, there seemed
little reason for comment. Unlike, say, a TI-99 bulletin board I've called, a
computer magazine can not be content with discussions of summer vacations and
fishing trips. If a publication can't find enough II products 'action' to pay
the bills, it has to find something else to talk about.


     My reason for mentioning the II-to-Mac shift now is that inCider's move is
symptomatic of maneuvering we must expect and be wary of in the post-Computer
Wars I world. Regular viewers of the weekly PBS computer-stuff show "Computer
Chronicles" have already heard the new 'party line'. Basically, it goes like
this: "For years the home computing market has been in the doldrums. Recently,
however, Apple and IBM have re-discovered the individual user! They are coming
to the rescue with powerful, low-priced products like the Mac LC and PS/1."

     Okay, so what is the pay-off in being "re-discovered"? First, the PS/1: It
is a compact, attractive, AT-compatible '286 machine which requires an optional
box to accommodate standard PC/AT peripheral cards. At $2000 for the basic
color version, PS/1 is priced near the limit of what most home buyers seem to
be willing to 'go for' in an initial purchase. It is also priced above faster
'386 no-name (a.k.a. "grud") AT's with more RAM and larger hard disks and far
above equivalent grud '286 systems.

     Mac LC is an attractive, compact, Mac-compatible 68020 machine which, with
the addition of a low-cost IIe card, can run IIe software. At, roughly, $3000
for the basic color version it is priced far beyond the typical home buyer's
initial investment limit. However, as inCider noted in it's "Meet the Mac LC"
face-off with an equivalent hard disk II system, the IIgs can end up costing as
much as the base 'LC plus IIe card (assuming the IIgs purchaser makes a series
of remarkably poor buying decisions).

Same-price grud competition includes a new crop of much faster '486 AT's with
more RAM and much larger hard disks.

     It was, I believe, Abraham Lincoln who once observed: "You can
     re-discover some of the people all of the time and all of the
     people some of the time... " At least "'Chronicles" avoided
     references to the "little people" and "unwashed masses"; but the
     meaning is clear enough. Technological trickle-down has proved
     out, we have been noticed by the big name manufacturers! The
     "doldrums", of course, refers to THEIR home markets--
     understandable, when you consider that no major manufacturer has
     paid any real attention to home users for the last five
     years. THE home market has been flourishing since 1989, when home
     buyers began to snap up no-name VGA+AdLib PC/ AT's like they were
     going out of style.

     They were (going out of style). First came the '286 wave; and
     now, as of spring '91, higher speed '386 systems are selling for
     well below $2000. A good barometer of what's hot (and what's not)
     is the computer advertising in your newspaper's Sunday "Business"
     section. This, typically, is where all computer stuff
     advertisements (with prices!) appear. I checked ours; and,
     believe it or not, in five or six pages plastered with computer
     ads, neither the PS/1 nor the Mac LC were listed. The word
     "Apple" did not appear even once! (Yes; I have, in the past,
     found an 'LC ad. Prices were NOT listed.)

     Today's home programmer/ game-player/ composer/ author/
     educator... is learning to shop for speed, power, and
     upgradability (i.e. slots!) regardless of brand name. Any
     suggestion that he or she is willing to settle for PS/2-1's, "Low
     Cost" Macs, or other sub-business-class machines is not merely
     off-target, it is the reverse of the actual situation. Typical
     office applications have little need for quality sound, large
     color palettes, or exceptional speed-- all areas under continual
     pressure from designers of entertainment products. The home
     computer MUST be a relatively 'hot', versatile performer; and,
     there are all sorts of reasons why the home purchaser, in
     particular, aims for the 'most machine' he or she can reasonably

     First, of course, he or she is buyer AND user. Shopping for five or ten
word processor/office machines someone else will use is one thing; buying the
one YOU and family members will be using is quite another matter. Other home
user motivators include an interest in a wide range of steadily more demanding
software, peer pressure, and concern that younger family members truly have
'the power to be their best'.

     In the same broadcast, "'Chronicles" notes that home markets are becoming
more attractive because "business markets are becoming saturated". Again, we
are dealing with THEIR business markets. One can expect to sell just so many
$4000-$6000 name brand units when more powerful machines are available at half
the price. Eventually, buyers for oil corporations, universities, etc. were
bound to wise-up. (Does anyone still blow $49.95 on a box of ten For-Sure-
Certified diskettes?)

     I do not doubt that IBM, Commodore, Apple, Compaq, etc. WANT to sell piles
of machinery to home users. I do doubt that any of them knows what this market
looks like. If the big guys and their media placidly presume home computists to
be both less demanding AND less informed, it does not augur well for their home
market showdown with the gruds.


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