Brand X: Just Be Different

(c) 1998 Andrew C. Stone. All Rights Reserved

In the late sixties and seventies, one of the main tenets and aspirations of the American youth culture could be epitomized by Ram Dass's phrase Be Here Now (Perceive reality directly). In counterpoint to this attempt to be less materialistic and more conscious, the domination of the multinational corporation and the colonization of humans as "consumers" reigned supreme in the eighties. This can be best summed up with the Nike slogan, Just Do It (Don't think, just be impulsive and consume). Apple Computer, some alchemical combination of these two forces, now offers the masses, Think Different (Perceive reality directly, but continue to be impulsive and buy our computers).

The natural and logical continuation of this line of thinking is Just Be Different. The situation remains the same as the one the Beats, the Hippies and the Punks faced - if everyone is being different, aren't they actually being the same? Therefore, for the continuation of our species, I propose a more modest slogan: Just Think.

So what does this have to do with Mac OS X, Server? It may come to you as no surprise that the hard working programmers who have spent the last decade developing cool applications for this "new" operating system are a bit miffed at the positioning of Mac OS X "Server" as just a server. Dimes to doughnuts, Mr. Jobs is running Mac OS X Server as his desktop.

I applaud Apple's focus on shipping product - vapor does those quarterly earnings reports no good whatsoever, but the deprecation of Rhapsody to some back room server closet will also fail to boost those earnings. So, damn the torpedoes, let's just go ahead and think differently.

Large amounts of research have been invested in finding out that $99 is about the price people will pay for software that is new, useful and different. If it's more, the temptation to pirate becomes too great. This theory has been amply corroborated by Borland and other software vendors. Recently, I had a dream that two industry pundits were discussing the question "What is the price that users would actually pay to try a new operating system like Mac OS X"? The delphic answer was "Why NOTHING, of course!". I awoke thinking that there just might be some truth in this.

You can neither impress Wall Street nor pay for TV ads with NOTHING, of course, but you can do something much more powerful: build mindshare where none existed before. The Cadillac/Color TV model of marketing (sell your product at a very high cost so only the rich movers and shakers can afford it, thus creating some status around it, and thus encouraging the masses to acquire it) is dead, the Netscape/Pusher model (first one free) rules!

My different thought is that Apple should start selling Mac OS X Server for $99 and the Yellow Box for Windows for cost (approximately $10/copy now, and perhaps free when Mac OS X ships a year from now). Since you need a G3 desktop/server to run Mac OS X Server, hardware sales will burgeon. When Windows users start to taste the power and elegance of the Yellow Box, they will want to feast on the real food - Mac OS X running on Apple hardware. To Apple Computer, Inc., I say, Think Volume!