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Hardware Supply

Apple Notes By Martin Russ
Published October 1995

Martin Russ explains how he discovered the curious truth behind Apple hardware supply, and explains the meaning of 'spamming'...

It always happens the same way. You need something in a hurry, and everything conspires to make it impossible. Well, this month I had an urgent need for a piece of Apple equipment, and so I contacted my usual supplier, who was unable to meet my admittedly tight timescales — mainly because his supplier promised and then reneged at almost the last minute. This left me with a near‑panic situation: I could get one in a couple of weeks if I could wait — but I needed it now! So then, I started ringing around the other Apple suppliers that I have bought the odd piece of hardware or software from in the past. Still no luck — in fact, the very helpful person at Computer Warehouse said that no‑one would have any of the desired item in stock. I even considered trying to hire one: about £200 per week, and an extra week's rental if you exceed a week even by one day! Not an overly attractive rate for something costing only a few times that amount if you could buy one, and too much like throwing money away. With major gloom and despondency lurking on the horizon, I threw caution to the winds and did something which I have never ever done before...

I rang my local Apple dealer. You know, the people who Apple send you to if you ever make any enquiries: "Do you know who your nearest dealer is, sir?". So, with my heart in my mouth, a very embarrassed Apple Notes writer rang his local supplier and asked them about the 'impossible to obtain Apple goodie'. The extremely helpful man said that he would need to ring me back and confirm, but he did believe that they had just received a large shipment. With cynicism still to the fore, I didn't expect him to ring back a mere two minutes later — but he did, with confirmation that they had what I was after, and would prepare it for collection the following day.

Okay, so you're expecting a serious price hike over the mail order specialists, aren't you? Nope, the price he quoted was a mere 212 pence over the standard price I had been offered by most of the mail order people, who vaguely promised delivery in a couple of weeks, and for a delivery charge of up to a tenner (with the sole exception of my usual suppliers, whose price was the best I was offered anywhere, who had the best selection of cables, and who knew what they were talking about!). There was no delivery charge either, since I was able to collect, so I may have even saved some money.

The moral of this lengthy tale is that you may well be tempted to save money by buying mail order, but don't always dismiss your local Apple dealer. He may well be able to get you out of a very deep and nasty hole.

Although they couldn't help me this time, you might like to try my usual preferred supplier, ExMicro (tel: 0115 945 5121). They are excellent for cables, second‑hand Macs, advice, modems and so on.

How It Works: Apple Hardware Supply

All that ringing around has taught me a valuable lesson: No‑one seems to stock any quantity of Apple hardware. One mail order dealer put it like this: "Apple have a habit of changing prices suddenly — usually downwards. So if you have any stock, it is instantly worth less. Almost everyone keeps only very limited stocks, and orders everything in to re‑ship to the end customer. Also, new models tend to be announced several months in advance, and so any existing models are devalued, because most customers want the latest, even if it won't be available for some time."

Based on this, it seems that it will be difficult to get any Apple hardware quickly, since there is at least a day's delay whilst the wholesaler sends it to the dealer, who then sends it on to the customer. Conversely, it also shows the way to get a bargain. Wait until a product is looking old and tired (about six months after launch these days!), and wait for the announcement of its replacement. Then quickly ring to secure one of the last units from the wholesaler — it should be available at a bargain price, because it is just about to become virtually unsaleable. Replacement models frequently only have minor incremental improvements in performance or specifications, and in fact one dealer let slip that the Apple hardware I was trying to locate was about to be replaced by another model featuring a built‑in device which would be of no use to me! In these circumstances, you can get a bargain with no loss in performance.

On The Net

Although not specifically Apple‑oriented, there seems to be a big 'spamming' war looming. One particular person has been seriously upsetting a large number of people by sending long email messages to all the mailing lists he can find. This technique is called 'spamming', and it usually involves an email message which has nothing to do with the topic of the mailing list. This particular individual has annoyed people before, with a message which offered girlfriends in Russia. This time, the message contained detailed instructions on how to spam the largest number of people for the least effort, and even offered a service to do this for you!

The first spam prompted many lists to go 'subscriber‑only', which means that you had to register with the list owners in order to post messages to it. The second spam gave all sorts of pointers to ways around the restrictions which the mailing lists were using to try and stop the spammer. This was rapidly followed by some interesting follow‑up email which described some ways to get back at the spammer: clogging up his telephone line so that he could not use his modem; informing his service provider so that he would be denied access (most Internet service providers do not like spammers, because they give the service a bad reputation); and a few other more nefarious ones as well.

I suspect that as the Internet attracts even more people and becomes more commercial, spamming may prove to be just the start of something much worse — advertising mail‑shots. For example, all it needs is a large record company to set up an Internet site, and then splatter email which advertises their new releases to everyone who ever looks at a mailing list.

The Internet is an exciting and often lawless place. I'm afraid to say that I get the same buzz from it that I used to get as a teenager, rushing down to the front of the stage at concerts and going ever so slightly wild. Anyone remember Camel, Tangerine Dream, Alex Harvey, Colloseum II, Renaissance...?

Apple News In Brief

• Apple's MPEG Media card is due out about now, according to latest reports. It should suit LC‑type PDS slots (mind you, an MPEG card has been 'due soon' since before Christmas 1994).

• Apple sold just over one million Macs in the second quarter of 1995, according to market analysts Dataquest. This confirms their position as the third largest seller of computers in the world (after Compaq and IBM). Apple's 20% growth in sales (compared to the same quarter last year) sounds good, but other PC sellers are growing faster. The third and fourth quarter of 1995 should start to reflect the effect of Windows 95 — will Microsoft and Intel finally take over the world?

EXPO '95
• The 1995 Apple Expo is being held from the 8th to the 11th of November 1995, at Olympia, London. It's a good chance to see lots of new hardware and software, surf the Net for free, explore multimedia, ask questions, attend free seminars, pay lots of money for drinks and food, and collect lots of plastic bags and information sheets. You might even see a glimpse of a Mac clone or two... You can also play the usual 'find a stand with a music or MIDI bias' game: last year I found two. Children under 16 will only be admitted (a maximum of two per accompanying adult) on Saturday the 11th, but they apparently get in free. You need to pre‑register before October the 16th to avoid a £10 on‑the‑door charge: phone (0181) 984 7711.

• With Apple's apparently inexorable movement towards PCI and away from NuBus, it is interesting to note that the Power Computer Power Mac clones will have NuBus slots, and that future models are likely to have a mix of PCI and NuBus. Given that the prices of some Power Computer models are significantly lower in the States than Apple equivalents, you might be disappointed to learn that they will probably be rebadged for European sales, and a badge‑adder may well add in their own profit, which could raise the prices. Could this be the start of a new 'grey import' boom, where US machines somehow find their way into the UK?

Apple On‑Line

eWorld is Apple's own on‑line service that provides e‑mail and information resources. It's a sort of Internet microcosm just for Apple users — but it offers access to the full Internet too. For a look at eWorld, try: