Apple's very special 56K modem

When Apple launched its bevy of sleek new toys in Australia this week, the last thing on the vendor's mind would have been the signal that a 56K modem in its new wireless toy would send to the world a message about the state of connectivity in Australia.

For decades Apple has been a company that delights the creative community with design innovation (as opposed to invention) as competitors shake their heads and mutter "nice idea, but people just won't get it".

Apple has some bold directional statements - the launch of the G3 exterminated the floppy drive. Many argued it was too far too soon, yet Apple went forward, undeterred. This week saw the release of the smallest and the largest Apple PowerBooks ever. It was all creatures great and small with a tiny 12" G4 (which fits comfortably down trousers or into mid-sized Cellini) and a considerably larger 17".

There's a light-sensitive backlit keyboard, an innovation Apple says customers demanded.

And the introduction of the cross-compatible 802.11g(2) Airport Extreme base stations - punching out 54Mbits/sec with omnidirectional and [uni] directional extension antennas should really be a cause for celebration by user and vendor alike.

Yet through no fault of its own, the truly extreme part of Apple's new wireless toy is the alarming disparity between what its product is capable of and the moribund state of broadband take-up.

Apple says local users demanded a 56K modem in the base station. The comparative speed retardation between 56K and 54 megabits nauseates, the same feeling people get when they see broadband prices from Australia's two dominant telcos. For consumers, it's a no-brainer between Pay TV or broadband, let alone both.

Enterprises are hurting too. Anyone hoping to cut costs and drive profit by offering consumer customers Web self-service, shopping and financial services runs the gauntlet of stripping out features, choice and functionality or losing sales as pages struggle down a 56K line. But that's only one issue. This bottleneck sees ever greater numbers of employees performing as many personal online transactions in the workplace as they possibly can, sucking up enterprise time and bandwidth as they go. Once again, Apple has illuminated the path to the future. So call your provider today... and give them heaps. Your enterprise is already paying.

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