Color Enhancements To OS Will Open New Mac II Markets

Abigail Christopher
Macintosh News

September 26, 1988

San Jose, Calif. -- Apple Computer Inc. will release in January additional color capabilities for the Macintosh operating system that will open up the Mac II to as-yet untapped markets such as industrial design, high-end graphic arts and pre-press and commercial video production.

Third-party hardware vendors such as SuperMac Technologies, TrueVision and RasterOps, working closely with Apple, are developing add-in color video boards that take advantage of larger on-screen palettes that the new system software will support. A Mac II configured with one of these color add-in boards would allow users to run very sophisticated 3D graphics, paint and design programs.

But until Apple releases to users the next revision of its system software-called QuickDraw 32- opportunities for Mac II in areas such as high-end publishing and video remain limited. The Mac OS currently supports only 8-bit color or the simultaneous display of 256 colors, which is too limited a range for the development of professional-quality computer images. But the color capabilities packed into Apple's next system software release for the Mac should eliminate those feelings of inadequacy by supporting an onscreen palette of 16.7 million colors.

That kind of color support is required for the add-in boards, peripherals and software used to produce high-resolution, professional-quality 4-color slick publications, advertising and promotional materials, and video and slide presentations.

The new features offered by QuickDraw 32, which includes 24-bit color functionality and 8 empty bits in an alpha channel, are of critical strategic importance to Apple as it continues to push the Macintosh more deeply into various business applications because the 24-bit color technology makes the Mac II more competitive in the low-end workstation, where Sun Microsystems and Apollo Computer already offer color graphics workstations with 24-bit color capability.

Those new opportunities, however, won't come easily. Or cheaply.

And while there's no question that the new color technology will create lucrative sales opportunities for sophisticated Macintosh resellers and integrators, the next generation of color add-in boards, peripherals and software tools that support QuickDraw 32 will also place more technical demands on those resellers.

The opportunities stemming from emerging 24-bit color technologies won't come easily. Or cheaply.

"It's critical that dealers understand about color technology," said Jeff Dalton, president of Eastern Computer Graphics, a New York City dealer specializing in PC and Macintosh graphics systems.

"Theoretically, the Mac provides ease of use, ease of learning and configuration," said Dalton. "And it was automatic when all you had to do was add PageMaker and a LaserWriter to your Mac for desktop publishing.

"The problem that dealers are going to have is {recommending} when and why to use 8-bit, 16-bit and 24-bit color. You need to know the differences between the various color boards, when and how they are used," added Dalton.

In addition, resellers will need to be schooled and offer training and support in the various applications and peripherals that take advantage of 24-bit color. "The initial investment for graphics and multimedia Mac resellers ranges from $100,000 to $300,000 for demo equipment, education, technical staff and training," said Stacey Reineccius, president of Julian Systems, a Macintosh VAR and hardware manufacturer in Concord, Calif.

A graphics system configured around a Mac II with a high-resolution color monitor, 24-bit color board, 4M bytes of memory, an 80M-byte hard disk, 3D graphics, animation, paint and publishing software, a color scanner and a slidemaker would have a list price of more than $30,000. Until recently, Mac resellers rarely sold systems priced above $10,000 or perhaps $15,000.

"Twenty-four bit color {QuickDraw 32} will force dealers to support higher-end applications and peripherals," said Robert Ozankan, an account executive at InfoTech, a New York-based Apple/IBM dealer.

For those resellers capable of offering such support, the rewards could be considerable, according to Cathleen Asch, co-founder and director of finance and operations at TrueVision, which makes 32-bit color boards for the Macintosh II and the PC. "Apple VARs and resellers have been looking for specific solutions to package," Asch said. "Once the {QuickDraw 32} software is available, the deep and fertile markets for color on the Mac will explode {in areas like} color desktop publishing, advertising design and video."

The new color capabilities of QuickDraw will open up these new markets, but because of the sophisticated nature of such applications, resellers will have to qualify to sell 24-bit color hardware and software. For example, SuperMac Technologies recently established more stringent technical qualifications for its dealer channel.

"We have a video system that costs $6,000, almost the cost of a new car, and we feel that we have to have a good channel that's better trained and experienced in areas like graphic arts and video," said Dan Kohn, marketing manager for SuperMac's 24-bit color board.

"The channel has to understand the significance of the new color features Apple is adding {with QuickDraw 32}," Kohn added.

Copyright 1988 CMP Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.