APPLE POWER MAC MAKES SLOW, STEADY START

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Apple Computer is betting the company on Power Macintosh, but President-CEO Michael Spindler isn't putting all his chips on the table at once.

Mr. Spindler, the low-profile successor to celebrity CEO John Sculley, is behind a measured and disciplined product marketing strategy to put the power back in Mac. The one-time engineer is living up to his nickname: The Diesel.

"He's very pragmatic. He couldn't possibly care less [about] self-promotion or trying to hype Apple," said Michael Baldwin, senior VP-management supervisor at Ammirati & Puris, New York, and a former executive at Apple agency BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles. "His orientation is business at hand."

That means aiming Power Macintosh, the high-end Mac with the new PowerPC chip, at business with a targeted ad campaign.

The initial Power Mac media buy-The Wall Street Journal on March 14, computer titles beginning this week, business magazines next month-is by-the-numbers business marketing.

The approach is in stark contrast to the consumer media blitz-ABC's "NFL Monday Night Football," People-Apple employed last fall to introduce another business product, the much-ridiculed Newton personal communicator. Mr. Sculley, a Newton booster and ex-marketing ace at Pepsi-Cola Co., left Apple as that campaign unfolded.

"The package-goods marketers are gone from Apple," said Arthur Einstein, a New York agency consultant long involved with computer advertising. The Power Mac effort is "more businesslike, more business-to-business-like."

Media executives privately say they're surprised at the comparatively limited scope of the initial Power Mac ads. One print sales executive said Apple may spend well below $10 million on Power Mac in the U.S. in the first three months, compared with $20 million for a typical major technology introduction.

The Power Mac campaign will be phased in, with U.S. TV advertising starting sometime after April, said Michael Markman, Apple's director of advertising.

Mr. Markman compares the Power Mac media strategy to Apple's highly successful introduction of the PowerBook notebook computer in late 1991. Apple spent only $1 million in PowerBook's first three months, according to Competitive Media Reporting, then jumped that to $16 million in 1992.

Like PowerBook, Power Mac is sure to enjoy an initial sales surge to power-hungry Mac devotees. The company announced orders of 150,000 machines-out of a first-year goal of 1 million-on the first day.

Apple has other reasons to hold back on ads. Product shortages are common with personal computer introductions, and heavy promotion could exacerbate that. Little Power Mac software is yet available. And Apple is enjoying a free ride: Press reviews on Power Mac's performance are as positive as Newton's were negative. Apple has fielded an aggressive public relations effort.

Apple also will limit early Power Mac ads because the company doesn't want to kill demand for old Macs. Old models will account for about three-fourths of sales this year. Apple will shift its entire line over several years to the speedy PowerPC chip, developed by Apple, IBM Corp. and Motorola to combat Intel Corp.

Apple's measured PowerPC effort contrasts with Intel, which is famous for pulling the PC market ahead by focusing its ads on up-and-coming chips-ad-induced obsolescence.

Apple could unleash its major Power Mac ad blitz late this year when Microsoft Corp. introduces "Chicago," the code name for an all-new version of the Windows operating system for Intel-based PCs, speculated Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Research International, a San Jose, Calif., market researcher. "That's when the [Power Mac] advertising better be there," Mr. Bajarin said.

Mr. Spindler's strategy is to "fit in" and "stand out" by creating superior products compatible with what the majority use.

A decade ago, Apple pitched Mac against IBM. Back then, Apple ignored issues like operating systems and chips, and simply promoted Macintosh. But competition now forces Apple to talk tech. And Apple and IBM are business partners, allied against but still bound to the Microsoft/Intel duopoly. Power Macs feature a PowerPC logo, an IBM trademark.

Two years ago, Apple refocused on Mac vs. Windows. Now Power Mac can run Windows, though at a somewhat slow speed.

Both Apple and Intel are running ads comparing PowerPC and Intel's Pentium. Yet just last month, Apple introduced a Mac with an old 486 Intel chip, not Pentium.

Buyers have good reason to be confused: Just what is a Mac doing with Intel inside or Windows on the screen?

The Macintosh brand has lost its identity.

But in the booming PC market, old Macs are selling at record levels. With the well-priced, potent Power Mac, Apple hopes to boost its 10% world market share.

"Apple is on a path that at least seems calculated to preserve the status quo," said David Coursey, editor of P.C. Letter.

"But it's a path that has upside potential, which they haven't had in a while," Mr. Coursey said. "So who's to complain about that?"

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