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  • The End of the Bunker Mentality

    October 18th, 2006

    It’s taken 22 years, but being a Mac user no longer carries the baggage it used to carry. Back in the old days, when I went into an electronics store and asked about a Mac product, I was told that nobody uses those things, there’s no software for it, and wouldn’t I prefer a “real” computer?

    Understand that I didn’t argue with those people. It wasn’t worth it, so I just went elsewhere, or looked to a mail order source for the products I needed. But I silently smiled, because I knew I could do things other personal computer users couldn’t. Take the time I wanted to chat on a BBS with a colleague. I just launched my telecommunications software, and in those days I used an application called Microphone, for which I still have one of the developer’s T-shirts. My colleague, who bought a PC, said he had to create a “shell” to perform that function.

    Well, I waited and waited and he never seemed to be able to get it to work. Not to embarrass him, I decided not to bring up the subject. No sense rubbing a sore wound.

    This doesn’t mean I never used a PC. I had to remain conversant with that platform too, and I was able to navigate in DOS and later in the first primitive versions of Windows with reasonable flexibility. Sometimes it was fun to get involved in the down and dirty aspects of a computer’s operations, but I also had to get work done, so I returned to the Mac.

    When Apple really hit the skids in the mid-1990s, I persevered. I remember buying the Power Mac 9500, a beast of a computer, and enduring endless crashes from day one. They were far worse than I ever encountered previously, but an operating system update cured some of the worst ills. I even had one or two of those infamous Mac OS clones, from a company known as Power Computing.

    When Steve Jobs returned to Apple and started to pull the plug on cloning, I remember visiting Power Computing’s booth at a Macworld Expo. The company’s executives and helpers were all decked out in military fatigues, ready to fight back to preserve their right to build their cheap clones. But you don’t fight Jobs when he’s hopping mad about something, so they caved pretty quickly, and Apple bought them out. Along the line, they acquired Power’s advanced online sales system, and I gather some of this technology formed the basis of the online Apple store.

    Over the next few years, I felt that it was time to accept the fact that Apple’s products would be forever consigned to niche status, and I might as well not worry about it. So long as Macs remained productive tools for my work, I’d use them, and I’d move on to something better should it come along.

    I suppose I saw the first changes with the arrival of the iPod, only I couldn’t imagine that a little music player heralded the beginnings of the end of the Mac user’s bunker mentality, and the start of a brave new world where almost everyone takes Apple seriously.

    These days, the surveys show that Apple’s decision to move to Intel processors has had a far greater effect than making it possible to get faster, cooler-running processors in decent quantities. More and more people are seriously considering a Mac for their next computer purchase. I suppose those “Mac Versus PC” TV ads are helping to some degree. You even want to stop the TiVo as it fast forwards through a bunch of commercials to watch them a time or two. Amazing!

    Yes, the vast majority of personal computer purchases are for Windows products. But when I suggest a Mac to somebody, I’m no longer looked upon as a beady-eyed fanatic, well, at least less than usual. They actually take me seriously, and I don’t have to sound defensive as I deliver the proper talking points to cement my case.

    Some of these people even follow my suggestions and buy one, or two. Apple is claiming that some 50% of the people buying Macs at its retail outlets are switchers, and as those stores proliferate around the civilized world, it’s quite possible those numbers will grow.

    I write this in advance of Apple’s latest quarterly results, and I’ll write about them in my next commentary. But nothing about Apple’s newfound popularity will surprise me.



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