Deals folding in on themselves?

I am an Apple fan boy. My first computer was an Apple ][, upgraded to a ][ + and ][ e. I did stray for a while when NEC released the first lap tops. But came back to Apple when Mr. Jobs returned. I had the 20th Anniversary Mac, Wallstreet Powerbook, The Cube, the Mine and others. Warts and all. I read the rumor sites too much and on a cold late night in New York found myself wandering into the flagship store. So it is no surprise that this fan boy with the sadly misdirected life purchased the Macbook Air as soon as the store re opened after the Macworld announcement. I excitedly loaded and reloaded the home page until the buy button was available . . . and I got in. It made me happy as a consumer, but as a shareholder?

The computer has yet to arrive, but I am sure it will be everything I hoped for. Part of the reality distortion field is the ability to cause us mortals to ignore the flaws and reconfigure our usage patterns to the dictates of Mr. Jobs. One USB port, no ethernet, who cares. I'll buy hubs and adapters and carry a very heavy bag next to my very light computer. No extra battery? No big deal, a submarket will quickly emerge in companies who have supplemental batteries that are only slightly more expensive than regular batteries. My side bag will have enough room for those. Right next to the adapters. If you think this is a rationalization, you are not a fan. If you are complaining about the shortcomings, you don't deserve one. You just don't get it.

However, looking at the Air from the perspective of a shareholder, I do have a concern. It is not the design, or the potential limitations of what could be a niche market. The mature Mr. Jobs has shown that he can identify a mistake and react quickly. The Cube was "put on ice" when sales were slow and was nothing more than a hiccup. My concern surrounds a throw away statement which went out to reviewers like USA Today and others across the web. When asked why it does not have the 3g option built into competitive sub notebooks Apple explained that it did not want to tie its customers into long term contractors with mobile carriers. Not wanting to lock in with carriers? There was no hesitation to doing this with with the iPhone. Why the hesitation now?

It looks like the full statement should be we did not want to set force customers to tie up with carriers other than AT&T. We did not want to run the service through AT&T as part of an iPhone business option because they are not ready with 3G. They may be close to ready, but the iPhone is not 3G. In any event, that silly little AT&T commitment got in the way. Because we at Apple chose to go exclusive with one product line, and all of our product lines have overlapping functionalities, our options, and your options as a customer, are limited to the services offered by that carrier.

I just have to wonder how big the impact of this and other individual product deals are going to have on the company as the product lines become more integrated.


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