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The bottom of the barrel

New mouse, new keyboard, a range of renewed iMacs, multiprocessors. The MacWorld Expo has reserved as many new features as we had never seen before. A real series of fireworks whose conclusion was reserved for the grand finale of the Cube accompanied by the applause and howls of the keynote crowd and by the excitement of the public that invaded the stands. In the clamor of the first days, however, in the fanfare media and reactions were also played out of tune. Among these, for example, the stock market quotations that, contrary to expectations, went down instead of upward, reaching a low peak just yesterday when AAPL lost almost 10%. A challenge to the law of past years but also to the opinions of analysts who have largely upgraded the prices of the Cupertino company. Someone wanted to find the reason for this apparent contradiction in the generalized weakness of the technological sector, some others in the negative evaluations that IDC and Dataquest have expressed on the sector deemed incapable of repeating the performances of the past. General motives that have a relevance but to which, according to some and in our opinion with good reason, other specific factors must be added, referring only to Apple and its latest choices, which, on closer inspection, stuck the company of Apple in a dead end at the end of which a gap could only be opened by the release of new processors from Motorola and IBM. If you look at the bottom of the ads in New York it is easy to understand that all the products, from the new mouse to the Cube, are not the exasperation of the road of sophisticated design and other applied technology to the computer world. A path that had opened with the presentation of iMac and that had continued with iBooks, the G4s and the renewal of the iMacs without fans and with front-loading CDs. A refinement process that has led Apple even further into the computer industry with their own very specific personality which, coinciding with the return of companies like Compaq and Dell to beige computers, adds further depth to Apple's research and development sector. Unfortunately, for, design, style and advanced technology are not everything in the IT sector. Computers are also, and above all, Megahertz, graphic acceleration exasperated, computing power, in short, and on this front New York has said little, very little new. The Cube is nothing but a mid-range G4 in a new case whose processor first seen last August. The G4 multiprocessors are the same G4s in a different sauce, a palliative that will allow some retailers to spread a little smoke in front of some customers who wink at 1GHz Pentiums, but who prove the facts to be incapable to run applications (and an OS) faster not designed for this type of technical solution. From the iMacs the only real novelty, namely the G3 500 MHz processor for the first time seen on a motherboard coming out of Cupertino. But 50 MHz more since last October are nothing if you think that Intel and AMD have made their 400 MHz chips jump upwards in 10 months. As if this were not enough all the machines are now equipped with obsolete Ati Rage 128, an acceleration board that was released in January 1999, 18 months ago, and that today remains behind, and by far, all the competition on the market today. In short, if Apple is a leader in the design sector, MacWorld Expo said that not as much can be said in the field of processors and 3D. In this field the obsolescence of Apple hardware is also aggravated by numerous other factors, from the speed of the system bus to that of the Ram memories, which in turn are added to a situation that is already not very happy with regards to the solidity of the operating system. So it will soon become dramatically necessary to upgrade the machines too. Drama in the drama, this decision does not depend exclusively on Apple controlling virtually everything in its production chain, except for the implementation of new processors and 3D hardware. All this is well known to financial analysts who immediately realized that Apple has scraped the bottom of the barrel with the "snowflake" Cubes and iMacs of the MacWorld Expo and now plays on the razor's edge of the mood of consumers who might still turn their backs. The design can, by forgetting the hardware weakness, make up for the marketing of a machine but it is a short-term palliative. Everybody's hope that in Cupertino will be able to stay afloat clinging to his design sector for a few more months, until first ATI (and maybe Nvidia 3dfx), then IBM and then Motorola will not wake up from a more and more dozing dangerous.