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Apple to ape Sony PC product strategy

Macs to be made more easy to connect to and use consumer electronics kit

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Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs yesterday reiterated his plans to strengthen the company's brand image by following the example of Sony. Jobs' comments appeared in interview with Japanese business newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun. His specific interest in Sony centres on the way it has offered PC products that are not only well-designed from an aesthetic standpoint, but can be easily integrated with consumer electronics products. Apple has been pushing this idea itself of late, most obviously with its switch from SCSI as a peripheral interface to FireWire (aka IEEE 1394). Last year, the company bought video editing software from Macromedia. It renamed the product Final Cut and has been working on it ever since. Many Mac users wondered what the heck Apple was up to, since it was perceived Final Cut would compete with Adobe's popular professional video editing tool, Premiere. Now we know: just as Sony bundles video editing software with its consumer oriented Vaio notebooks, Apple will apparently do the same with its own consumer machines, the forthcoming P1 portable and probably the next revision of the iMac, due this summer. Certainly if Apple is to push FireWire into the consumer computing space, providing users with software to encourage them to make use of it will be essential. Apple clearly sees considerable consumer opportunities for FireWire. Almost all other PC vendors see 1394 solely as a high-end connectivity system -- in the consumer space, they believe, USB is sufficient. That argument ignores the fact that the most common use of FireWire right now is in digital camcorders, and Apple clearly wants to make the most of that market before anyone else can. Jobs' use of Sony as an example of well-designed computing products is particularly ironic, since Sony gained much of its notebook expertise from Apple itself. Apple's PowerBook 100, part of the company's first, award-winning and arguably market-defining, notebook line, was co-developed with and manufactured by Sony. It's worth noting, too, that the two best-selling computers in the Japan over the last six months were the iMac and the Vaio line, though the latter sold rather better than the former (see iMac, Vaio drive record Japanese PC sales). The Japanese giant was also one of three or four companies most frequently suggested as a buyer for Apple. It was certainly the most popular candidate for an Apple takeover. Maybe Jobs' interest in the company suggests it still is... ®

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