This article is from the Apple II Csa2 FAQ, by Jeff Hurlburt with numerous contributions by others.
Spring has long since sprung and my predicted "significant IIgs upgrade" has yet to materialize. The problem, according to Western Design Center's Bill Mensch, is not available hardware--- 65816's have been tested above 12 Mhz and the '832 will soon be ready for prototyping--- the problem, he says, is that Apple is not particularly interested in an upgrade, or, even, in preserving the II series! Unbelievable? Not at all. Neither Commodore nor IBM were willing to upgrade their lower priced lower profit lines; if Apple lets the II stagnate into obsolescence, it will be following a well-worn trail. Elimination of the II line would free the company of any remaining hacker/experimenter influence, cure a chronic case of microprocessor schizophrenia (65xxx vs. 68xxx), and release resources currently devoted to II series development, production, and marketing. Finally, speculation aside, one has only to look at what the company has done--- or, more precisely, NOT done--- to support its IIgs... NEED: Traditionally, upgrades are forced by the competition. By fall of last year, it was clear that lower prices for VGA resolution IBM clones posed a serious threat. The II series would be in serious trouble, I reasoned, if Big Green did not soon introduce a MAJOR IIgs upgrade. The bare bones requirement has to be something around 8 MHz speed, with a mod to access display memory at current "fast" speed, AND access to 640 x 480 16-color graphics. More sound RAM, a second display block, better disk I/O, and a multi-color TEXT mode would be nice; but, obviously, without speed and graphics parity, the IIgs isn't even in the ball game. Such demands are not, as some like to claim, merely a product of users losing out in 'my computer is better than yours' contests. For many applications, it is now possible to define something like speed and resolution 'absolutes': there is such a thing as "not fast enough" or "not enough detail", whatever the competition is doing. Today, no super-res word processor or desktop publisher runs "fast enough" on the IIgs-- the user is always conscious of trading away speed for "power"--; nor can the user obtain anything like an accurate on-screen view of many fonts. "WYSIWYG" just isn't possible with only 200 lines of vertical resolution. Similar considerations apply with respect to many utility, scientific, and entertainment applications. The worry is that continued incompatibility with VGA-developed 'control panels', windowing setups, and artwork will slow the release of IIgs versions; and that, increasingly, speed may become a disqualifier. No one, in short, is talking about 'gilding the lily'; the focus is upon such mundane concerns as decent 'productivity applications' comfort levels and continued access to new products. Now, as you read this, it is summer; IIgs sales are on a double-digit slide, and, assuming there is no last minute upgrade announcement, the II line IS in serious trouble. Just how serious became obvious to me when a fellow IIgs devotee, Baywoof (a.k.a. "the Boardbasher"), confessed that he was dumping his Apple and moving to an IBM. He figures that, for the price he can still get for his IIgs stuff, he can buy a complete VGA color '386 clone system. I've seen his numbers; and, at worst, the difference is probably less than three or four hundred dollars!-- this for a three or four times speed increase, twice the hard disk storage, faster floppy access, lower peripherals prices, easier upgrades, larger software base, and much better graphics. (BUT, he will, for now, have to give up IIgs-quality sound. Ha!) Anyone still inclined to accept the pomp and glitz of Apple group festivals at face value need only peruse a recent "Computer Shopper". With luck, somewhere in a few hundred pages of IBM clone ads and product reviews, you will find Don Lancaster holding forth in the the three or four pages of what qualifies as the "Apple" section. "Wait!", you cry, "what about the 'New II in '89' promised at last winter's 'Fest? or reports of a plug-in upgrade?" So far, the only evidence of a "New II" is yet another addition to the malingering IIc series and some talk of a "New IIgs" with in-ROM operating system smarts and on-board MIDI. As for Apple's plug-in upgrade, this is rumored to be a bridge board to partial Mac compatibility. That is, for a few hundred dollars, you may soon be able to turn your IIgs into a Mac Jr.! (Gosh, wasn't it just a few months ago that IBM carried off a Fortune Worst Marketing Blunder of the Decade Award for its PC Jr.?) We have, long ago, passed the point where it makes any sense to talk about maintaining II series dominance in software markets. And, since schools must select computers with an eye to what students will use at home, Apple's much- touted education base is about to 'turn blue' as well. The question now is: how much of the current base of users and creative talent can be held while someone (Applied Engineering, Comlog, Laser, ?) puts together a significant, reasonably priced upgrade?