Other than citing solid systems sales figures for the fourth quarter of 1999, hardware got short shrift from Steve Jobs, Apple's now-permanent CEO, as he instead opened the Macworld Expo recently by detailing the company's new Internet focus.
Indeed, Jobs referred to Apple as an Internet company in his talk to an audience of cheering Apple enthusiasts, and reeled off a list of online-based services, a partnership with Internet service provider EarthLink Network, as well as unveiling the MacOS 10, with a shiny new user interface called Aqua.
On the hardware front Apple sold 1.35 million Macs last quarter - more than any in any one quarter in Apple's entire history, noted Jobs.
Apple iBook portable sales are also doing extremely well, and currently have an 11 per cent market share in the US.
Among the more interesting numbers cited were the number of `Wintel switchers', as Jobs called them, users who left the Windows PC/Intel platform to use Apple products. According to Apple figures, 17 per cent of all iMac sales came from former Wintel users, while 14 per cent of all iBook sales came from the same customer base.
Mac OS X is in its first beta, said Jobs, and will go into second beta in the next few months and ship as an upgrade in June or July. Apple systems shipping with the new OS will be available in January 2001.
Yet Jobs spent most of the two-hour plus presentation on new online services. `Now is the time to move beyond just the box. I am going to talk about extending things, and unveil our Internet strategy.'
The Internet strategy appears centred around additional services, with Apple intending to leverage ownership of Apple's latest products to differentiate itself from the competition with only users of Mac OS 9.0 and above able to use the new services.
`We own the client OS. We can take unfair advantage of owning the client OS. We can create a new class of Internet services called iTools, created exclusively for Mac users,' Jobs told the audience.
At its apple.com Web site the company will add a tab bar on top of the site with iTools as well as two other additional services: iReview, and iCards. The iTools service comprises three separate services.
The new iDisk service appeared to meet with the loudest audience approval. iDisk will give users 20MB of free storage on Apple's network. Once installed, users can create folders and place text, graphics, and video inside the folders. Users will also be allowed to have a `public folder' with which to share files with other users.
The other two iTools services include KidSafe and Mac.com for e-mail. Mac.com is a free e-mail client for Mac users and KidSafe is an Internet monitoring tool.
Other new tabs at apple.com are iReview, which will offer reviews of Web sites that are user-based as well as by Apple, and iCards, an Internet-based greeting-card creation service. A fourth service is HomePage, a personal Web site for users hosted by Apple.
Finally, Apple will partner with EarthLink, an ISP with 3.5 million subscribers. EarthLink will become the default ISP when the next version of the OS ships and, according to Jobs, Apple will profit by getting a piece of every new ISP subscription from an Apple user.
As part of the partnership, Apple is investing $US200 million in EarthLink, getting a seat on the board in return.
Apple's other investment, $US12.5 million in Akamai, a company that facilitates Internet video streaming, turned a $US1 billion profit when that company went public. `We made more profits off video streaming than any other company in the world,' Jobs joked.
At the end of his talk, Jobs once again referred to Apple as an Internet company rather than a hardware manufacturer. `We believe Apple will be one of the 10 most profitable Internet companies in the next 10 years.' he said.
The availability of these products and services in Australia is yet to be determined, according to an Apple spokesperson.