Acccording to third-party sources close to Apple and its
Interim CEO, Steve Jobs, "Apple has been rebuilt in order to be sold." The
story, as told by these close Apple confidants, rings true, even if Apple won't
The story goes something like this:
* Apple could choose to remain a successful niche computer manufacturer for
the forseeable future in the 7 percent market range, thanks to the success of
the iMac, G3s, and PowerBooks. But as long as the company has neither the
inclination (which means as long as Steve Jobs is not interested), nor the
resources to try to sell its wares to corporate accounts, it simply can't grow to
a point where it can effectively compete with the Windows cartel down the
road. So, what does Jobs do?
* Jobs fixes the cash flow and product proliferation problems. He axes staff
and managers to cut payroll and overhead (and clean out the dead wood). He
focuses the company's limited resources on just a few products, executing
them well, marketing them to beat the band, and pricing them competitvely.
He fixes operations by moving to a Dell model of zero inventory tolerance.
And he reestablishes the company's brand identity with his masterstroke --
the Think Different campaign.
* In short, Jobs saves the company. But saves it for what? Since he does not
try to sell computers to the enterprise, and focuses instead on the consumer,
and to lesser extents on education and content creation, he can't grow his
niche beyond the market caps for those markets.
* Enter the Walt Disney Company, or some other entertainment giant such as
Time-Warner or Viacom. Since Jobs wants Apple to become the Sony of
consumer computing (something even Sony can't do by itself), he sells the
company to one of the entertainment giants, thus welding Apple's brand
awareness, product design acumen, and technological savvy to a nearly
endless source of entertainment content. Call it the MickeyMac or the
TimeMac or the ViaMac, if you will, but it's going to happen.
At least that's what those persistent, well-informed, and highly reliable
sources keep telling me. Remember where you heard it first.
The B.S. test
Does this scenario hold up to a basic B.S. analysis? Actually, it does. With its
QuickTime 4.0 technology, its upcoming Mac OS X, as well as with its G3/G4
Altivec multimedia extensions that will turn the next generation of Macs into
true multimedia blockbusters (can you say digital video and MP3 audio?),
plus a well-crafted technology alliance with Sony (the PlayStation 2, by the
way, will blow you way with its graphics performance -- how does 60 million
polygons a second grab you?) and its prowess at 3D, Apple could be the first
computer company to really build a cheap crossover computer/game
console/Web access box. An access box that would pump 3D digital video
and sound like a bat out of hell.
But to work, those images and sounds have to be compelling and well-known.
Enter Disney and Mickey Mouse or Time-Warner and Bugs Bunny. As Bill
Gates knows from his acquisitions, you have to have the content as well as
the means to distribute it if you want to win in the next century.
Of course, there are many crash and burn opportunities for an Apple buyout
by an entertainment giant. But it sures beats being a 7 percent solution the
rest of Apple's life. I can't imagine Steve Jobs settling for that.
-- "Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer." - RIP DeForest Kelley http://eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,4899,00.html