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AT LARGE: Worldwide waistline

AT LARGE: Worldwide waistline

Getting ready for the world of high-tech fashion, ARN's Matthew JC. Powell aborts his top hat, retires his white tie, and ignores his tails . . .

A fellow from Apple Computer was out here in Sydney last week, and he said a funny thing. Not funny "ha ha", but funny peculiar. Actually, he said a few things - many of them interesting - but one stuck in my hair. It happens from time to time and I keep intending to do something about it. The worst thing is when you go to the cinema and someone's stuck their gum on the back of the seat . . .

Anyway, he was talking about various Apple systems that the company has decided to make cross-platform - QuickTime, ColorSync and WebObjects, specifically. WebObjects is an interesting one, because it currently doesn't run on the Mac. Apple acquired WebObjects when it picked up NeXT last year, and currently it runs on Unix-based Intel boxes. "Making it cross-platform" here means making it run on Apple's own kit.

But that wasn't the funny one. Nor was it QuickTime, which has been cross-platform for ages, and Apple's just now making it possible for Windows folks to use the authoring stuff that Mac folks have had for ages. Of course, now the Mac folks have to pay to do the authoring they used to do for free, but that was already the subject of a rant and I shall complain no more in public.

No, the funny one was ColorSync - a product based mainly on technology which Apple licensed from Linotype. Microsoft has licensed the same technology from Linotype and intends incorporating it into Windows NT 5, but until then Apple has the edge for colour publishing on the desktop. And it intends to pump that advantage by producing a Windows version of ColorSync. Go figure.

When's the funny part?

The funny part was when he said that ColorSync was "the technology that will make e-commerce work". You could almost feel the collective "huh?" from the assembled journos. Financial transactions tend to take place as text, the colour of which is irrelevant. Why would colour play any role?

The Apple guy continued: "Customers are hesitant to shop on the Web because they can't be confident that the colour of the product they see is the same as what they will receive."

Uh-huh. OK, fine.

Here's a flash: not one of the Web sites I purchase things from regularly uses pictures on its site. If I want to buy a widescreen copy of Dune from the US because I can't get it in widescreen here, do I care what colour the box is? Not likely. If I want to buy a copy of Sean Lennon's latest CD, do I want to know what colour the cover is? No. I might like to hear it first. But basically, I have never known the colour of an item I have bought from the Web until it arrived.

She comes in colours

Wait, that's not entirely true. I lied to you. Amazon.com has pictures of its books on the site, so you can peruse and see how you like the cover art before laying down your dosh. But the perils of basing your purchases of books on the appearance of their binding are well covered by ancient cliches that I won't bother repeating for you, so my argument still holds.

The example the apple guy used was clothing. People want to coordinate their wardrobes, he said, and if they buy two items which look like they go together on the Web but don't match when they arrive, the customer is lost forever to Web commerce. They won't trust their screens again.

Time out. I buy a lot of stuff on the Web. I am a major consumer of the online economy. And I already don't trust the Web for clothes.

I buy basically black clothes and amusing T-shirts, generally with the Beatles on them. Inner-city bohemian type and all, I'm not too demanding, and the basic black rule makes it easy to coordinate.

One condition: they have to fit. I bought two pairs of jeans the other weekend, both of them black, but two different brands. Without revealing the exact circumference of my middle, suffice it to say the two pairs have vastly different waist measurements on them. But they both fit my not-quite svelte physique. I know this because I went into a tiny room with an unflattering mirror and tried them on.

If I'd bought two pairs of jeans on the Web and gone for the same size in two brands, I'd be an unhappy customer. I sit down for a living, and anything that made it difficult to do so would not make me happy.

All of this of course presages a time when 3D virtual reality models of ourselves, made to our precise measurements, can be dispatched to virtual malls to try on virtual jeans and report back on the comfort of the fit. I suspect I'll need more bandwidth.


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