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Yes, Windows is Dumb: The Mac reality

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Excerpted from
Yes, Windows Is Dumb
Easy Ways to Master Your PC
Copyright © 1997, Al Fasoldt


Time for Mac fans to get a life

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1996-1997, Al Fasoldt

A Mac enthusiast has posted what he calls "common misconceptions" about the Macintosh on the Internet's World Wide Web. Unfortunately, the misconceptions are his own.

I'll respond as briefly as I can to the misstatements and misunderstandings in the article, "Life in the Mac Lane," by Scott Kelby. I must point out at the beginning that two of his points are accurate (that Mac software is easier to buy through mail order than from regular retailers and that software developers are still coming up with Mac programs).

The rest need addressing.

Claim: "Macs are the most compatible computers on Earth." Compatible with what?

Kelby tries to explain that Macs can run PC and Windows emulation software, and you can even set up (or buy) a Mac with PC hardware inside. This is not satisfactory for most users. Emulation software sops up the Mac's native power, so you end up with either a fast Mac that turns itself into a middling PC, or a middling Mac that turns itself into a slowpoke PC. PC add-on hardware for Macs is expensive; you might as well buy a PC if you really need what a PC can do. With new PCs selling for less than $1,000, a hardware device that allows a Mac to work like a PC would have to be really inexpensive.

Claim: "Apple is one of the top three computer companies in the world and has a market share most Fortune 500 companies would kill for." This reminds me of the ad placed by Eros magazine in the 1960s that said, "Playboy, Penthouse and Eros have 32 million subscribers combined." Eros, of course, had only a few thousand subscribers. (And the magazine disappeared soon afterward.) Apple is, indeed, a big and respected company, and it's one of the top five computer companies in the world. But its market share has been going in only one direction, and Fortune 500 executives know that trends are more important than anything else when you are losing money.

Claim: Feature for feature, Macs "cost only a couple of bucks more" than PCs. On the surface, this kind of statement seems true. Mac prices have plunged lately. But so have PC prices, so PCs are still cheaper than Macs. The real point, it seems, is that Macs come with more standard features, and this is true-but only up to a point. The features that most buyers want in a personal computer now come on nearly all PCs, so if you do a reality check, Macs come out behind.

Let me explain. Even though Macs come with built-in networking, the average buyer doesn't care. (I used to be amazed when Mac owners I've met were surprise when I told them they could hook one Mac up to another one just by stringing a wire, but I'm older and wiser now; most users don't network their computers at home, and so built-in networking doesn't matter to them.) What does matter is a fast CD-ROM (cheaper on PCs than Macs), a blazingly fast video display (much cheaper on PCs than on Macs), very fast and cheap hard disks (cheaper on PCs than Macs), inexpensive keyboards and mice (try pricing Mac keyboards and Mac mice—what does Apple think Mac users are besides chumps?) and highly flexible audio systems (far more choice and far less expense on a PC).

Claim: While the Mac is known for its graphics capabilities, "the Mac rules in other areas," too. Guess what? Every major graphics program originally written for the Mac is available in a much more powerful 32-bit Windows version (for Windows 95 and/or Windows NT). The Mac's awkward way of handling multitasking (called cooperative multitasking) can't cope with the kinds of demands that this preemptive-tasking 32-bit Windows software puts on a computer—which is why Apple users around the world are clamoring for a new operating system—and a good Windows 95 or Windows NT graphics workstation is cheaper than a good Mac graphics workstation, also.

As for those "other areas" where the Mac rules, if that were true, Mac sales and the Mac's market share would not have fallen so fast and so far. Mac fans may have a hard time believing what I am about to say (perhaps because they've been sheltered too long), but there is no area in personal or office computing in which the Mac is inherently superior. Macs are wonderful computers in many ways, but insisting that there is still some indefinable magic in a Mac in the era of 32-bit Windows is nothing more than a mistake in semantics. There is no magic any longer. There is just an outmoded operating system and an incompatible piece of hardware.

Claim: It's very unlikely that Apple could go out of business. Keep saying that, Apple fans. If hopes had wings, Apple users would fly. The truth, of course, is a sad tale of mismanagement at Apple that may (or may not be) corrected by now. The idea that good companies cannot possibly go out of business is naive. Good companies fall prey to market forces just like bad companies do, and good companies are even more likely to be destroyed by bad management than bad companies are.

If we all believe Apple must survive and prosper, we're spreading a lot of warmth and fuzzy feelings, and that's wonderful. Just peachy. It's terrible economics, but sometimes fuzzy feelings count more, right?

Wrong. Apple has no guaranteed ticket to salvation. It may not make it. I hope it does. But if there is one thing Mac fans can do to help Apple survive, it's to face the facts. Turn away from the propaganda, Mac mavens. The wind's blowing in another direction. Wishing and hoping won't make the gusts go away.

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