台北Computex展中的iMac現象

參考用1999年舊文。本文是當年我為MacWEEK雜誌所寫的台北Computex電腦展系列報導文章之一;原文為英文(附在最後),並同時在ZDnet日文版刊出。

當您走進台北Computex大展的會場,很可能會有的第一印象是:到處都是接USB的周邊設備、到處都是半透明外殼的東西。

根據大展的主辦單位表示,台北Computex Taipei是世界第三大的電腦展,僅次於位在美國拉斯維加斯的Comdex,以及德國漢諾瓦的CeBIT兩大展覽。對於台灣的電腦產業來說,這是一個向來自全世界的買主展現低成本、新款式周邊設備和電腦附件的最好機會。

而對於來自世界各地的買主來說,台北Computex大展則是挑選未來一年用來在市場上競爭所需要的「裝備」。而從今年大展中廠商展示的產品來看,這些買主所能買到的許多「武器盔甲」除了色彩鮮豔之外,可能還會有點……透明。

會場中除了有許多媒體和廠商力捧像是Pentium III或超薄筆記型電腦之類的新貨色之外,其實台北Computex並不是廠商展示「未來」高科技發明的地方。因為台灣是一個出口導向的市場,而Computex是一個外銷導向的展覽,所以能在這個展廠上大放異彩的產品,都是市場有需要、而且能夠以經濟規模生產的產品,而不像在某些電腦展中,我們可以看到一些以「概念機」形式出現,而不一定要能大量接單的產品。

所以,您可以在Computex會場看到許多掃描機、USB集線器、滑鼠、低價位磁碟陣列之類的產品,但是可能就沒有虛擬實境、需要用液態氫冷卻的超級個人電腦之類這麼創新的東西──連像蘋果的新款藍白Power Mac G3這種程度的「創新」,在會場上都很難見到。

不過,您倒是可以看到許多iMac在會場中扮演著「配角」的角色。許多會場中的iMac上並沒有執行任何軟體,只是用來襯托廠商想要銷售、名字前面掛個「i」字、同樣是五顏六色半透明的周邊產品。

對全世界的iMac使用者來說,會場中的這種「iMac現象」其實是件好事。因為連奉「經濟規模」為圭臬的台灣廠商都已經紛紛投入為iMac製作周邊產品的行列,表示其中的商機還算不可等閒視之(反正做出來的USB周邊設備多半也是「Windows 98相容」)。所以,在這個展覽結束之後,我們很快就可以在世界各地看到iMac的主人們興高采烈的為愛機採購各種來自台灣的小配件。

但是對於還沒有買iMac的人、或是對iMac不是很熟悉的國外買主來說,會場的這個「iMac現象」對於蘋果的形象卻可能有負面的影響。某些標榜「iMac」風格的周邊產品其實並沒有趕上蘋果賦予iMac本身的精巧材質和設計,只要是透明的、有六種顏色的產品,不管是品質粗糙、還是八竿子打不著關係,只要名字冠上個「i」字頭就儼然算是「iMac家族」的成員。

但是一旦被問到攤位上的iMac「這部是什麼電腦,看起來不錯」,攤位人員的回答經常是「不太清楚耶,反正是蘋果的電腦,外殼很漂亮……,可以用來做什麼?不知道,但是好像不能跑Windows。」對於許多看展覽的人來說,也許iMac的優點就只有顏色漂亮而已。

誠然蘋果可能沒辦法幫iMac的「i」字頭申請專利,也沒辦法把它所用的六種顏色申請專利,但是氾濫在市場上模仿iMac設計的產品,卻可能會讓蘋果的潛在用戶提早對iMac和Power Mac G3的外觀特色感到厭煩。對於「外行人」來說,iMac的形象甚至可能會變得只是像「附件很多」的玩具。

從這次展覽看來,其實iMac已經受到本地市場相當大的注意,而且無論在設計界、電腦周邊產業界、教育市場,都已經可以說掀起了一種「iMac現象」。但是蘋果可能需要在這股風潮裡面多投入一點注意力,讓許多人在這個市場中的努力不要「畫虎不成反類犬」,反而抹煞了蘋果費盡心思所創造出來的設計和成果。

總之,我們希望蘋果能夠善加利用由台灣(或是其他電腦周邊出口市場)的周邊廠商所共同創造出來的「iMac現象」,並且針對這些地區設計一些不一樣的宣傳形式或標語,而非不論市場形態和特性、內容一律相同的「一體成形」行銷策略;以充分利用這股「周邊拱主機」的力量,以提高蘋果的形象和品牌認知。
別忘了,台灣已經是個「玩具王國」。


iMac-mania in Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan — Everything is translucent, and everything connects to a Universal Serial Bus port — that’s the first impression anyone would get walking into Computex Taipei ’99 this week.

According to show organizers, Computex Taipei is one of the world’s three largest computer trade shows — next to only Las Vegas’ Comdex and CeBIT in Hanover, Germany. For the computer industry in Taiwan, this is the showcase for demonstrating how they can feed the world with low-cost and creative peripherals and accessories.

For companies from the rest of the world, Computex Taipei is the place to decide what sort of gear they’ll need to compete. Judging from the offerings at this year’s show, users are destined to wield something colorful and somewhat, er, transparent.

Aside from the hoopla surrounding the latest Pentium III, super-slim PC notebooks, you won’t see too much new stuff making its debut at Computex Taipei. Since this is an export-oriented trade show in an export-oriented country, everything is driven by volume and market needs, not by strictly technical innovations.

As a result, goods such as scanners, USB hubs, mice and disk arrays are abundant, but you won’t see new VR software or liquid hydrogen-cooled computers — not even computers as innovative as the blue Power Mac G3s. On the other hand, you will spot a plethora of iMacs playing supporting roles throughout the show.

Many of them aren’t actually running an application; instead, the point is to demonstrate how the “iSomething” on sale at the booth matches the consumer system’s color and style.

This iMac-mania is a good sign for Mac users worldwide. Even volume-driven Taiwanese merchants are eyeing the iMac as a viable business opportunity and are willing to make something for iMac users (as long as that USB hub also has a “Windows 98-compatible” sticker on the bottom). We will be seeing these gadgets in Mac dealers everywhere quite soon after the show.

But for potential iMac users — including non iMac-savvy foreign buyers — a number of the third-party wares on display here may take some luster off of Apple’s carefully orchestrated marketing efforts. Many of the iMac-style peripherals don’t bear Apple’s vaunted craftsmanship and used the “i” prefix to imply their relationship with the iMac. The typical “I don’t know what this baby can do; I just make iSomething for it” response from booth reps may cause some attendees to wonder if the iMac’s beauty is just skin-deep.

True, Apple can’t patent the “i” prefix or the iMac’s colorful design, but the overuse of Apple’s groundbreaking design by other manufacturers could cast a shadow on the iMac as well as the new Power Mac G3 line. It could even give some users the impression that the iMac is just another colorful radio flyer outfitted with lots of toys.

iMac is indeed a phenomenon, even in the PC-dominant Chinese market. But it’s reasonable to keep a close eye on whether the device’s public image is straying from where Apple wants it to be.

We’d like to see Apple take steps in Asia to exploit the iMac phenomenon, which has after all been built up by peripheral makers. Hopefully, the company can further propel awareness of the system’s power here, but that will take more than ambiguous, one-size-fits-all posters and slogans.
Remember, Taiwan is already a toy kingdom.

Originally published on Macweek, June 4, 1999
By Fred Jame, editor in chief, Macworld Magazine/Chinese Edition

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