January 15, 2008

The Eight Types of MacWorld Watchers

It's MacWorld Expo time again. Though the Steve Jobs keynote is less than an hour long, we've already seen the debut of wireless network storage via Airport Extreme, the introduction of movie rentals from iTunes, and an SDK for the iPhone. Not bad. But while we're out here, there are hundreds in San Francisco sitting on every word. Here's how you can identify them...

1) The True Believers

These are the best-known people, those who revere all things Apple and Mac, and are ready to buy just about anything Steve Jobs announces, even if it's as lame as iPod Socks.

2) The Mac Rumors Psychos

This group is made of a subterranean group, who always expects announcements so ridiculous that its impossible to satisfy them. As they spin themselves into a froth shortly before any major press event, their wild predictions (a sub-zero gravity desktop, telepathic interfaces, etc.) are so nutty that even Apple's ground-breaking announcements frustrate them. Every keynote is the "worst keynote ever".

3) Ye Olde Macolytes

Believe it or not, this group will tell you they have been using the Mac since the mid-1980s, and they have yet to see a good reason to upgrade to Mac OS X. They like the features of Mac OS 9. They like their Apple LaserWriters. And they love Quark. Yet, for some reason, they go to the show. Go figure.

4) The Corporate Spies

As Steve Jobs speaks, technology leaders from Silicon Valley and beyond are looking to see where the industry is going, and how they can best copy Cupertino. While Microsoft is famous for this, more and more companies are watching Jobs' presentation style, and wishing they could command the same kind of respect and awe.

5) The Windows Bigots

While they'll be watching with the same intensity as The True Believers, this group is a grumpy lot. They know they made the right decision when they went with Redmond, and they know the Mac is just a toy anyway. Besides, whatever Apple comes out with, Microsoft will get close enough to in a few months.

6) The Secret Mac Wannabes

A quieter lot, this is the potential user base for Mac switchers. Watching each new application on the Mac and the iPhone fills them with frustration and jealousy. They look down at their Dell or HP, and start doing the math in their heads as to how quickly they can trade up to a real computer.

7) The Bloggers and Rumormongers

For more than a decade, there has been a cottage industry of Apple rumor sites, guessing Cupertino's every move. Now, with blogs being so simple to start, everybody thinks they have an Apple audience, and there are dozens and dozens of live keynote sites. (The best are still MacRumors and Engadget)

8) The Curious iPod/iPhone Owner

Millions of iPod and iPhone owners have likely never owned Macs. But they love their gadgets. Now addicted to the Apple look and feel, industrial design and simplified software, they want to see if the Mac is a good option for them as well.

They're out there. Maybe you're one of them. And surely, you know some of the people who fit this mold. Just watch TechMeme and TechCrunch and MacRumors and AppleInsider and Engadget and Digg and Gizmodo for the after-effects as each of these groups clash and try to have a civilized discussion. It usually doesn't work.