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The Macintosh Performa series was Apple Computer's consumer product family of Apple Macintosh personal computers sold through department stores and mass-market retailers from 1992 until 1997, when it was superseded by the Power Macintosh 5x00 series. The Performa series was not a new line of computers, but simply renamed models from Apple's regular line of computers — such as Quadra, Centris, LC, and Power Macintosh — sold by authorized Apple resellers. The initial series of models consisted of the Performa 200, based on the Macintosh Classic II, the Performa 400, based on the Macintosh LC II, and the Performa 600, based on the Macintosh IIvx.
With a strong education market share throughout the 1990s, Apple wanted to push its computers into the home, with the idea that a child would experience the same Macintosh computer both in the home and at school, and later grow to use Macintosh computers at work.
Before the existence of the Apple Store, Apple sold computers through authorized resellers, either brick and mortar or mail order. A typical reseller sold Macintosh computers to professionals, who purchased high-level applications and required performance and expansion capabilities. Consumers, however, purchased computers based on the best value, and weren't as concerned about expansion or performance. Apple wanted to sell their computers through department store chains (such as Sears), but this would conflict with existing authorized reseller agreements, in which a geographic area had only one reseller.
To prevent these conflicts, Apple split the Macintosh line into professional and consumer models. The professional line included the Classic, LC, Centris, Quadra, and Power Macintosh lines, and continued to be sold as-is (e.g., no consumer software bundles or limited features). The consumer line included computers similar to the professional line labeled "Performa".
The Performa line was marketed differently from the professional line. To satisfy consumer-level budgets, the computers were sold bundled with home and small business applications. Most models were also bundled with a keyboard, mouse, an external modem and either a dot-29 or dot-39 pitch shadow mask CRT monitor (professional models were sold à la carte with keyboard and mouse bundles chosen by the dealer or sold separately; monitors sold with higher end Macintosh models used Trinitron tubes based on aperture grille technology.). Software bundles usually included ClarisWorks, Quicken, a calendar/contact manager such as Touchbase and Datebook Pro, America Online, Apple's At Ease child-safe interface, educational software such as American Heritage Dictionary, The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, TIME Almanac (on models equipped with a CD-ROM drive), Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, or Mario Teaches Typing, and a selection of games such as Spectre Challenger, Diamonds, and Monopoly, all pre-installed over a slightly customized version of the Macintosh System software, denoted by a P in the version number (e.g., System 7.1P5).
Although the Performa models resembled their professional counterpart on the system software and hardware level, certain features were tweaked or removed. The Performa 600, for example, lacked the level-2 cache of the Macintosh IIvx it was based on. The Performa versions of the System software also introduced some features that were later included in main-stream system releases, most notably the Launcher. System 7.5 ended the separate Performa releases.
The Performa marketing strategy failed for a number of reasons. The large number of models was intended to accommodate retailers, who could advertise that they could beat their competitors' price on equivalent models while at the same time ensuring that they didn't carry the same models as their competitors, but this also created consumer confusion. To help consumers choose between the options available to them, Apple created "The Martinettis Bring Home a Computer", a thirty-minute infomercial about a fictional family that purchases a Performa computer.
Another factor was that people working at mass-market retail stores lacked the specialized training Apple offered to its dealers. The Performa display models were often poorly taken care of; the demo computers crashed, the self-running demo reels not running or the display models not even powered on. Consumers who may have been purchasing their first computer were steered away from the Performas because they 'weren't compatible'. Apple tried to address the training issue by hiring their own sales people to aid the store sales staff, most of them recruited from Macintosh user groups. Despite this, however, many returned Performa computers could not be serviced properly because the stores were not authorized Apple service centers.
However, most experts attributed the failure to retailers favoring the Microsoft Windows line, especially after the introduction of Windows 95. Computers running Windows were generally cheaper, and encouraged by manufacturer spiffs, advertising co-ops, and other promotion programs. In addition, many stores preferred to sell their own branded white box PCs.
The significant number of nearly identical models across its multiple hardware lines caused Apple to rethink its marketing strategy. The company shrank it considerably, eliminating the entire Performa line in the late 1990s, along with many of the professional models in favor of a "four box" strategy comprising a professional desktop (Blue and White G3), professional laptop (PowerBook), consumer desktop (iMac) and consumer laptop (iBook). When Apple sold its computers through CompUSA retail outlets in the late 1990s, it insisted on a "Store within a store" concept, with Apple and related products displayed and sold in a physically separate location by specialized employees (currently done at select Best Buy stores).
Critics of the Performa line, including some Mac users, argued the Performas were generally underpowered relative to higher-end Mac models. Some critics cited the large and confusing array of different Performa models, some differentiated only by the hard drive size or the software bundle (such as the Performa 475 and 476). The Performa 5200 was named by LowEndMac as the worst Macintosh ever made, owing to the severely cut-down hardware designs introduced during Michael Spindler's tenure as Apple CEO.
|Performa system||Equivalent Macintosh system
(with RAM/HDA/VRAM configuration)
|Performa 200||Macintosh Classic II, 4/80||August 19, 1992|
|Performa 250||Macintosh Color Classic||February 10, 1993|
|Performa 275||Macintosh Color Classic II||October 1, 1993|
|Performa 400||Macintosh LC II, 4/80/512||August 15, 1992|
|Performa 405||Macintosh LC II, 4/80/256, modem, .39 RGB||April 15, 1993|
|Performa 430||Macintosh LC II, 4/120/512, modem, .39 RGB||April 15, 1993|
|Performa 450||Macintosh LC III, 4/120/512, modem, .29 RGB||April 15, 1993|
|Performa 410||Macintosh LC II, 4/80/512, modem, .39 RGB||October 21, 1993|
|Performa 460||Macintosh LC III, 33 MHz, 4/80/512, modem, .39 RGB||October 21, 1993|
|Performa 466, 467||Macintosh LC III, 33 MHz, 4/160/512, modem, .29 RGB||October 21, 1993|
|Performa 475||Macintosh LC 475, 4/160/512, modem, .29 RGB||October 21, 1993|
|Performa 476||Macintosh LC 475, 4/230/512, modem, .29 RGB||October 21, 1993|
|Performa 550, 560||Macintosh LC 520, 5/160/768, modem, CD, Trinitron||October 21, 1993|
|Performa 575||Macintosh LC 575, 5/250/1 MB, modem, CD, Trinitron||April 26, 1994|
|Performa 577||Macintosh LC 575, 5/320/1 MB, modem, CD, Trinitron||April 26, 1994|
|Performa 578||Macintosh LC 575, 8/320/1 MB, modem, CD, Trinitron||April 26, 1994|
|Performa 580CD||Macintosh LC 580||April 1, 1995|
|Performa 600||Macintosh IIvx w/out RAM cache, 4/160/512, FPU socket||September 15, 1992|
|Performa 600CD||Macintosh IIvx w/out RAM cache, 5/160/1, CD300i, FPU socket||September 15, 1992|
|Performa 63XCD*||Macintosh LC 630, Macintosh Quadra 630, w/CD300i||July 1, 1994|
|Performa 640 DOS Compatible||Macintosh LC 630 DOS Compatible||May 1, 1995|
|Performa 52XX*||Power Macintosh 5200 LC||April 3, 1995|
|Performa 53XX*||Power Macintosh 5300||August 28, 1995|
|Performa 61XX*||Power Macintosh 6100||March 14, 1994|
|Performa 62XX/63X0*||Power Macintosh 6200, Power Macintosh 6300||May 28, 1995|
|Performa 6360||Power Macintosh 6300/160||October 17, 1996|
|Performa 64X0*||Power Macintosh 6400||August 7, 1996|
|Performa 6500||Power Macintosh 6500||February 17, 1997|
* X Denotes multiple variant of the same model (i.e. Performa 630CD and Performa 638CD).
- "The Roots of Apple's Retail Stores".
During the mid-90s, Mac users were prone to dealing with poorly trained and ill-maintained Mac sections in big box computer and electronics stores. These environments did not foster customer loyalty, nor did they help differentiate the Mac user-experience from Windows.
- "Before there were Apple Stores".
- Schorr, Joseph (1994). Macworld Macintosh Secrets. IDG Books. p. 156. ISBN 1-56884-025-X.
- Kelby, Scott (2002). Macintosh...The Naked Truth. New Riders. p. 96. ISBN 0-7357-1284-0.
- "The Roots of Apple's Retail Stores".
- Performa 5200: a Road Apple (LowEndMac)
- Performa and Power Mac x200 Issues (LowEndMac)
- Apple Service Guide, Macintosh Computers Volume III, July 1994, pp21
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Macintosh Performa.|
- List of Performa and equivalent models
- Mac Performa flat top 475 (LC 475)
- Mactracker - information on every Mac, Mac clone, and Apple products.