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Dec 98 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 14 (1998)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Dec 98 Viewpoint

by Nicholas C. "nick.c" DeMello, editor@mactech.com

It's been a good year for Apple.

Last year was a hard one. In the second half of 1997, Apple focused on Apple, they made the hard choices, they did a lot of necessary house cleaning, and made a lot of necessary sacrifices. This year, Apple focused on Macintosh users, found out what their customers really wanted and they gave it to them. Apple put out two solid and successful system releases (pretty much on schedule). They introduced two innovative and well received new products (the G3 PowerBook and the iMac), and turned out four solid quarters of profitability. This was the turn around year, where Apple worked hard and put down the foundation for a revitalized Macintosh platform.

So, how do you end of a year like 1998? You throw a great big party.

In less than four weeks, over 70,000 raving, rabid Mac lovers are going to converge on the Moscone center in San Francisco, California to celebrate the Macintosh. If you haven't been to Macworld before, this is the year to start - Mac lovers have a lot to celebrate.

Macworld is a party, a chance to revel with other Mac lovers. But, it's also an opportunity. It's the best chance of the year to find out what people are creating for the Macintosh and how end users are receiving it. It's a chance to explore the software that is growing in, and on the revitalized Mac platform.

At Macworld, marketers and Macintosh end users collide on an unparalleled scale. Each day, the show floor will look like the New York Stock Exchange. Thousands of people will be rushing from one booth to the next, trying to collect and distribute as much information as possible before the bell rings. Conversations will be fast and focused, and slips of business card shaped paper will be passed back and forth (usually with a quick note sketched on the back, to remind us of the conversation details). Each night, the bars and hotel rooms of the city will be packed with people discussing new product releases, negotiating future opportunities, exchanging contacts, and speculating on future directions of the products and the platform.

I didn't mention anything about building the software, did I?

Well, Macworld isn't really about development, it is about what happens after the software leaves our hands. That doesn't mean you and I get the week off though. As a developer, you need to be at Macworld to listen to your end users, to make sure that the solutions you're offering are the ones your users want. You need to make sure that you "get it".

Stand near the guy marketing your software and listen to how he sells it - watch which pitches hit home with the users (those are the features that were worth building into your app). Listen to the comments of the customers (the good, and especially the bad). Listen to what is said about your competitor's products, listen to what is said about completely unrelated products. This information about how your products are positioned, about what people think of them, about what people want, is priceless. No where else are you likely to get the quantity, and quality of feedback that is available at Macworld.

Apple, of course, will have the largest section at Macworld. At the last Macworld, the AppleScript section was a hit, it should be a good place to find out what end users are doing with AppleScript (and think about how your applications can offer alternatives or cooperative solutions to their problems). It's always interesting to hear how Apple describes fundamental technologies, like MRJ and QuickTime, to end users. Most importantly, make sure you visit the OS section to hear what features of the new Mac OS end users are most impressed with (those are the features that you want to support in your next release).

Look for the Developer Central pavilion. Developer Central is a special interest section of Macworld, focused on Macintosh developers and developer products. This is your chance to offer that same priceless feedback to the folks who make the tools you rely on every day. Start building a list now of quirks, bugs, and new features you want to talk to Metrowerks or Mathemaesthtics about. Developer Central is also a place to see what new development tools are being released and talk with the authors of these programs to get real time feedback on how these tools can accelerate your development cycle.

Steve Jobs will be delivering the Macworld keynote speech on Tuesday, January 5, at 9:00 a.m. No doubt Jobs will remind us about the Apple successes of 1998. He'll talk about Mac OS 8.5 adoption and iMac sales, but more importantly, he'll talk about 1999 and what Apple's plans are for the new year. I don't know what those plans will be, but, if 1997 was the year Apple focused on Apple, if 1998 was the year Apple concentrated on the Macintosh user, I expect 1999 to be a year that will be especially important to the Macintosh developer.

MacTech will be at the center of Developer Central, be sure to stop by and talk to us. We're very interested in hearing what you liked, and didn't like about MacTech in 1998, what articles you want to see in 1999, or just what you thought about this year's keynote speech. See you there!

 
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