The Kiss of Death

a radio commentary broadcast nationally and, via satellite, internationally on Marketplace,
July 16,1997
(c)1997 by Fred Flaxman

HOST: Multinational high-tech corporations spend millions of dollars on market research before they come out with an important new product. How wasteful when all they need to do is to make a single telephone call - to our commentator, Fred Flaxman! And all they need to ask Fred is one question: Will he buy their proposed product? If he answers "yes," they should know right then and there to drop the idea. Fred's endorsement of a new technology is the kiss of death for the product.

FLAXMAN: When I was 12, stereo records first came out on the market. I was sure they would fail to find buyers. After all seeing in three dimensions is crucial... but why does depth perception matter when it comes to sound? Who cares whether the trumpet is on the right or the left? So, I didn't purchase a single stereo recording.

At about the same time a new camera was introduced to the market called the Stereo Realist. It took double slides which you looked at through a hand-held viewer. The full-color image appeared to be truly three-dimensional.

I begged for and received a Stereo Realist for my 13th birthday. After all, I reasoned, stereo was as important to vision as it was unimportant to sound. I still think I was correct, but I have to explain to people today what a Stereo Realist is -- or was.

Years later I was the first on my block to own a Betamax videocassette recorder. VHS machines were available, too, but their picture quality wasn't as good and the Beta videocassettes were smaller. I still have my Beta, along with a bunch of Beta cassettes of great moments from public TV begathons of the early 1980s. But I was forced to purchase a VHS machine if I wanted to view any cassettes from a video rental store. The moment I purchased a Beta VCR, Sony should have known to discontinue the product in the U.S.

Now Apple Computers is in trouble. Though they didn't know it, they were from the moment I purchased a Mac Plus rather than an IBM personal computer. I went with Macintosh because it was a much better system for those of us who are not computer scientists and who don't like to memorize codes.

Mac, in my view, is still superior to IBM and its clones. Apple's user interface still beats "Windows" hands-down.

I still have my Mac Plus, and I also have a Macintosh Quadra 605. But I'm afraid if I upgrade to a Power Mac, the company will go under.

Maybe I should write to the CEO of Apple Computers and offer -- for a reasonable sum of, let's say, one million dollars -- to replace my Macs with new IBM clones. That could solve my financial problems -- and theirs -- simultaneously.

This is Fred Flaxman for Marketplace.

HOST: Fred Flaxman is a writer and broadcast producer. He comes to us from Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon.