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  • Mac Myths Just Won’t Go Away

    March 25th, 2010

    You'd think that, with Apple's incredible sales growth and product explosion in recent years, most of the lingering doubts about the success of the company would be history. Yet a few of the old myths still persist and, despite all the great press Apple receives in the mainstream media, there are still some misconceptions. Some might even come as a surprise to you.

    When recording an interview with John Martellaro, of The Mac Observer, for this week's episode of the tech radio show, he mentioned that lots of people don't realize, surprisingly enough, that Mac OS X is a Unix-based operating system. Their conception of Macs is rooted in the 1990s, when things got pretty bad, and they haven't caught up with the changes.

    But that takes us to all the other myths that arose then, which are still resurrected by people you'd think ought to know better.

    This is not to say that some of those myths had no core justification to them. I mean, there are still loads of people who used a Mac at one time, got disgusted with the operating system, the lack of a specific application or some other negative situation, and vowed to go to Windows then and there. They may have seen all those Apple ads about how great Macs are these days, but they are just ads, after all. You can't take those things seriously.

    I remember, for example, when a local dentist, a long-time Mac user, ditched the platform in the mid-1990s when the vertical market software he needed for his practice failed to work properly on his network of PowerPC-based Macs. I know I tried to help him, but almost every day a new problem arose. Finally, the company that developed the product told him that they were abandoning Macs and he had to switch to Windows. Since he had years of accumulated financial and patient records that he needed to access, he sold his Macs, migrated to Windows and never looked back. Now if I recall correctly, the publisher of that product has, in fact, since returned to the Mac platform. No, my friends, I haven't explored the situation in recent years and whether that dentist could or should become a Mac switcher and keep all his data and settings intact.

    That's the microcosm folks. There are loads of former Mac users that still harbor grudges against Apple for the loss of the software they needed for their business, bad service, or a host of other reasons that have nothing to do with the Mac of the 21st century. Maybe they know Mac OS X is Unix-based, maybe not. But that's just a geek term that means nothing to them. They have become accustomed to the peculiarities of Windows and don't want to have to deal with the devil they don't know.

    There is also the assumption, no doubt buttressed by Apple's consumer orientation, that the Mac is just not a serious work computer. It's great for managing your music library — although iTunes for Windows is near-identical — and certainly iLife helps with your photo album, personal site and other casual pursuits. But how can anyone believe that this "toy" is actually a serious work computer that you can use to run your business.

    The other day, I talked to a friend, a freelance writer, who has been using Windows for years. He writes in Word, uses Internet Explorer and Firefox for Web surfing, and whatever miserable email app Microsoft provides for his messages. Most of the time, things work all right, but he can't get Skype to run without quitting after a session or two. Yes, he uses the latest version, but there's clearly something amiss with his two-year-old Windows box, but he's not inclined to want to change setups that otherwise function for the sake of one broken app. That's understandable.

    I've mentioned Macs to him, and perhaps he used them at one time and wasn't impressed. I remind him that there's a Firefox and Word for the Mac, and who cares about Internet Explorer? Besides, Skype for the Mac is fairly reliable, most of the time already. But he still bears a bit of that prejudice about Macs not being serious work computers and I don't expect him to change. Well, not unless his Windows PC develops a real serious problem that stops his daily workflow in its tracks, and I don't wish anything negative upon him.

    This, however, raises the critical issue for Apple in encouraging Windows users to move — or return — to the Mac. It's all about first impressions. I complain frequently when Apple releases a new OS and there are serious bugs that need to be fixed after a few weeks. Releasing new hardware with defects is also a matter of serious concern. While my Late 2009 iMac has worked flawlessly, most of you know about the problems with screen flickering and that yellow discoloration that afflicted an unknown number of users. Yes, Apple has evidently fixed most of the problems, and even replaced computers one or more times to satisfy customers.

    How many of those iMac owners were Windows users getting their first exposure to a Mac? And, of those, how many encountered a serious hardware or software defect and decided to return to Windows? That lost customer may not give Apple another chance, and, in addition to continuing to dispell myths about the Mac, I hope Apple will work harder to make sure new products are as reliable as possible. Certainly they'll get another chance with the iPad. Let's see how that works out for them.



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    8 Responses to “Mac Myths Just Won’t Go Away”

    1. dfs says:

      When you talk about your dentist friend, Gene, I can’t help of thinking of all those people who had valuable data stored on Hypercard. Then one day they woke up to find that Apple had ditched Hypercard and it wouldn’t work on modern Macs. Yeah, I know there’s a third-party product called SuperCard which you can use instead, it runs fine on Intel Macs, but how many foks know this? There must be plenty of people harboring a large grudge against Apple for, as they perceive it, having lured them into entrusting data to this Apple product and then, giving them a royal screwing.

    2. Lawrence Rhodes says:

      As dfs says, HyperCard it a true tragedy. Apple has nothing to replace it. I suppose porting HyperCard to OS X would have been difficult, but by cutting their legacy support efforts here they sure cut a lot of throats.

      I do think Apple could improve their reputation for supporting customers' data by investing in more import filters for old document formats. I'm thinking particularly of Pages support for word processor file formats like MacWrite I, II, and Pro and WriteNow, for which Apple had direct responsibility. Pages does import AppleWorks 6, but more import filters (a one-time expense since the old formats are static and relatively simple) would be a great convenience for users with years of documents. AppleWorks 5 came with dozens of import filters.

      Another example is Apple's uneven support for its native Classic graphic format, PICT. Quartz contains a very good PICT to PDF conversion function, but this hasn't been accessible in Preview since 10.1.x. TextEdit uses this, but Preview renders PICTs only as pixellated bitmaps and scales them incorrectly at that. And in Snow Leopard, neither will handle PICTs unless you run them in 32-bit mode. Over the past two decades Mac users have created billions of PICTs and the translation code already exists -- why make them Just Not Work? At least provide a decent PICT to PDF conversion capability in Preview.

    3. dfs says:

      “I suppose porting HyperCard to OS X would have been difficult” Not being a programmer, I have no idea how easy difficult this port would have been, but the existence of SuperCard (which I still use all the time to access and add to data originally stored on Hypercard) goes to show that the job would not have been impossible. No, Apple’s decision to discontinue Hypercard must have been made for some reason of corporate policy, not a merely technical one. And, i. m. h. o., it is the worst policy decision Apple has made since Steve came back. Not only was it a bad choice in its own right, it also raises the question of what other things Apple is currently encouraging us to rely on that it might likewise kill off in the future. And (as best as I can recall) Apple did nothing to alert Hypercard users to the existence of SuperCard or maybe help them out a bit in its purchase (it’s not inexpensive). I myself just stumbled across it, I have no idea how many other Hypercard users happened to do the same. So this decision was particularly bad because it damaged the relation of trust between Apple and its custome

    4. [...] Why the microcosm and the macrocosm sometimes align in the Mac world.  Interesting point of view from Mr. [...]

    5. brock says:

      The older I get, the less I care about these kinds of things. So what if someone harbors these thoughts. Ignorance? Habit? Meh.

      I like using Macs and don't get bothered by others habits. C'est la vie.

    6. javaholic says:

      At times perception can be a hard thing to change. Despite Apples high profile, it might be hard to understand why people still don’t have a better perception of what Apple is about these days. But the reality is there’s a tonne of folk across the world that uses a computer daily, but know little about them in general and really don’t understand or care about them – as long as they turn on. “Unix? What’s that?” Even through casual conversation I still get people telling me “oh, well if you’re a designer, of course you’d be using a Mac. They’re mainly for graphics”. Other highlights included people who have no idea who Steve Jobs is, but naturally know who Bill Gates is. Those that think Microsoft own Apple. Didn’t realise the Mac ran Office, and the classic “well, Macs look cool but are more expensive.” There’s a good chance that if these same people decide to purchase an iPad, then they won’t understand why a large chunk of web content won’t render like it does on their computer.

    7. Joe says:

      Well, from experience with others who own Apple products, it's more about emotion and fulfilling needs that you can't really quantify. I call them "needy" people. They "need" to feel like they belong, so they buy Apple products along with their friends. They "need" to feel like they are up-to-date, so they buy everything new that Apple puts on the market. They "need" to do this and "need" that in order to feel validated...as if they matter.

      While I have used Apple products before, not by choice of course, I'm no impressed by anything they have produced than I am some of the other products produced around the world. Therefore, I have no incentive to salivate over their products. So far, I've gotten great service from other brands and have no plans to invest in anything Apple. Unless I reach a point of low self-esteem and low self-worth and just "need" to walk off the Apple cliff. :)

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @Joe, Yes folks, it takes all kinds. :)

      Peace,
      Gene

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