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  • The Mac User’s Dilemma: Saying “I Told You So”!

    October 10th, 2007

    Years ago, Mac users had to feel like outsiders. We were a bunch of eccentrics who had money to burn, and chose to spend it on an overpriced, underpowered computer that was just too pretty to take seriously. In those days, even using a mouse was a certain sign of insanity.

    It didn’t help that most computer stores didn’t have Macs, and getting software was a hit or miss proposition unless you checked the mail order catalogs.

    But we all knew that Macs were the cream of the crop when it came to personal computers, and pitied all those DOS and Windows users who had to labor in a painful environment, oblivious to the joys of having things “just work.”

    Of course, Macs never just worked, although they came mighty close from time to time. The basic setup process was almost joyful compared to getting something up and running on the PC. When problems occurred, they usually were solvable without calling in an IT department to get you out of hot water.

    When Apple went through its mid-life crisis in the 1990s, you read that the company was beleaguered, only you didn’t believe a word of it. After all, the Mac OS was upgraded regularly, even if the changes were mostly cosmetic, and there was always a new Mac to rave about. How could Apple possibly do wrong?

    I didn’t realize until after Steve Jobs took the reins of the company he co-founded just how bad things were, but it didn’t matter anymore. From here on, it was onward and upward, and I was perfectly content with that chip on my shoulder, confident that my choice of a computer was right and the majority of PC users out there were sadly misinformed. Soon they would realize just how misinformed.

    As Mac sales began to soar, way ahead of the average growth in the PC industry, most of you had to feel vindicated that you were right all along. More and more Windows were getting the message that they’ve been had by Microsoft, and it was time to ditch that horrible platform, come up for air, and embrace a computer that really empowers you to get some work done.

    In all this, however, the comments I see here and on other blogs and message boards shows a few unfortunate tendencies on the part of some Mac users to wear their preferences on both sleeves. If a fellow Mac person dares to criticize something that Apple or a third party is doing, they must be Windows users in disguise, or just people trolling for an argument.

    Now some of that might be true. A few of the comments posted here appear to come from people who are just making up stories, or coming to outrageous conclusions simply to get attention. They deliver a nonsensical attack on an Apple product, then explain why Windows might be the way and the truth, or just threaten to switch to the PC at the earliest opportunity, because Apple has somehow deserted them.

    Without commenting specifically on any individual post, I have to remind you that Apple is, like Microsoft, a profit-making multinational corporation that exists primarily to make a profit, provide gainful employment for its employees, and big gains for its stockholders. If that happens to coincide with your desire to have a cool product that does lots of great things with elegance, so be it.

    In fact, I’ve little doubt that Steve Jobs still has a bit of that counter-culture belief buried in his subconscious somewhere, where he does want to change the world in some fashion. If that happens to coincide with selling more product at the same time, of course, so be it.

    As far as loyal Mac users are concerned, you really don’t want to be classified as “fanboys” or “fangirls” or “fanpeople,” or whatever. It’s not a case of always Apple, right or wrong. This is not a political or cultural movement, but a company that builds retail products.

    That means that you have to expect Apple to do stupid things, just as regular people do stupid things. Indeed, let’s not forget the Cube, that tiny, underpowered, overpriced Mac that I suggested belonged in a museum when it first came out. Actually, I was just paraphrasing a comment from an old Indiana Jones movie, but I did find that model a visual delight, but something less than practical. That feeling was reinforced whenever my wife tried to clean it with a dust cloth and, as her hand passed over the touch-sensitive power button, it would suddenly turn on by mistake.

    I recall when Jobs heatedly denied rumors that it would be discontinued during a press briefing, which merely confirms my feeling that the Cube was, in part, a personal indulgence, and he had difficulty coming to the grips that it had not been near as successful as he hoped. Well, CEOs with his record of success are entitled to an occasional indulgence, and I’m not talking about that personal jet plane either.

    By the way, the Cube was officially discontinued just a few weeks later. Jobs finally had to accept reality.

    The key here is that you might feel resentful if Apple is criticized, whether that criticism is on the mark, or all or mostly incorrect. But you really shouldn’t take it as a personal affront, however much you love your Macs, iPods and the iPhone. In the end, people have all sorts of preferences, and, right or wrong, they are entitled to buy what they want, even if you disagree strongly with their decisions.

    Just be happy that Apple is no longer condemned to the dustbin of failed companies, and appears likely to live long and prosper and continue to shake up the technology world.



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    8 Responses to “The Mac User’s Dilemma: Saying “I Told You So”!”

    1. Dana Sutton says:

      People always write about the Cube as if it were a disaster of Edsel-like proportions. Funny thing, I have one good friend who still happily uses and loves her Cube (well, she also clings to her ancient Triumph Spitfire), and I bet that there are plenty of diehard enthusiasts out there who share her point of view. If you compare a personal computer so simple and elegant in its design that it relied on simple convection for its cooling with Rube Goldberg monstrosities that required nine fans and eventually liquid cooling (which has been known to leak its extremely corrosive fluid all over the motherboard) and which could give you a hernia if you weren’t careful about how you lifted them, exactly what Mac model should we look back on with laughter? I can’t imagine the G-5 ever winning hearts and becoming a collector’s item.

    2. People always write about the Cube as if it were a disaster of Edsel-like proportions. Funny thing, I have one good friend who still happily uses and loves her Cube (well, she also clings to her ancient Triumph Spitfire), and I bet that there are plenty of diehard enthusiasts out there who share her point of view. If you compare a personal computer so simple and elegant in its design that it relied on simple convection for its cooling with Rube Goldberg monstrosities that required nine fans and eventually liquid cooling (which has been known to leak its extremely corrosive fluid all over the motherboard) and which could give you a hernia if you weren’t careful about how you lifted them, exactly what Mac model should we look back on with laughter? I can’t imagine the G-5 ever winning hearts and becoming a collector’s item.

      It’s a great, if flawed, design. If Apple sold it for $500 less from the get-go, and made a few minor changes with the product, sales and history might have been kinder.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. Karl says:

      The cube was what it was. It didn’t sell well… high price, under powered, whatever the reason. My question is what did Apple learn by creating it? The design was great and flawed. But the convection cooling was cool. The style worked well as an appliance.

      It seems that Apple wants the computer to become a toaster, a can opener, a stereo. Basically something that every person wants/needs that the average person can use. I think the cube was a step in that direction but the timing is off. Imagine in the near future when you’re at a friend’s wedding and instead of giving them a toaster… it’s a Mac!

    4. Jim Sheppard says:

      As to convection cooling, the 128K Mac, the 512K Mac, and the Mac Plus were all convection cooled. Steve has a long and storied dislike for fans. The quietness of these machines was much touted by us early Mac fans as ‘proof’ of the superiority of our platform of choice. I think I’m dating my self. Sorry.

    5. Jeff says:

      It’s interesting that even Apple’s failures become collectible. I’ve got a shelf full of working Classics, SE’s, and the original 128K mac, plus the original iMac, and I can’t imagine anyone holding onto 80’s and 90’s era PC’s for long.

    6. William Timberman says:

      I loved my Cube; in fact, I’m still using the 15-inch flat panel monitor that came with it — and cost a thousand smackers in 2000 — although it’s now hooked up to a dual G5.

      The Cube was by no means underpowered for my purposes, and it was essentially trouble-free, although the original Radeon video card did fail after a couple of years, and the upgrade had a defective fan. After that — Cubes being derided and discontinued and all — the only place to find parts was on eBay, and I finally gave up.

      Convection cooling was wonderful, in other words, until you had to pay the price. Still, it was worth it. At work, I remember, I had a Gateway Pentium box that sounded like an old Kirby vacuum cleaner when it was running. When the office was quiet, it damned near drove me crazy. Different strokes for different folks I guess, but I thought, and still think, that the Cube was ahead of its time.

    7. Brett says:

      The Cube was controversial but not Apple’s worst blunder. The $8000 20th Anniversery Mac and the hideous Blue Dalmation & Flower Power iMacs easily make better examples.

      The cube had several good things going for it and a few things (mainly the high cost) against it.

      Good:
      Stunning appearance
      state-of-the-art CPU (for it’s day)
      Ease of access to internals
      Convection cooled
      Provision for optional internal fan (mounting holes and power socket)
      Upgradable graphics board
      Upgradable CPU daughterboard
      Upgradable hard disc
      optional Airport card
      multiple RAM sockets

      Bad:
      Initial high cost due to fancy enclosure and misguided attempt to appeal to the status-conscious.
      Touch power switch (bad location and unnecessary gimmick)
      Inconvienient connector access (at bottom rather than rear)
      Exotic, difficult-to-manufacture encloure (the mold-line fiasco)
      Spherical speakers with outboard amplifier (went rolling and had cable management issues)
      Honkin’ huge external power supply.

      I lament the fact that after the Cube’s failure, Apple decided not to persue a less expensive, more pedestrian, but *equally upgradeable* midline Mac. The Mac mini just doesn’t cut it.

    8. Louis Wheeler says:

      Gene, I don’t think anyone will dispute that Apple makes mistakes. Much of the dissension between Apple and Wintel fans is that Apple has a different marketing plan from Wintel. It has only a few markets that it caters to and lets the others go by the wayside. Apple doesn’t try to be all things to all people. Apple doesn’t care about market share statistics, since most of that is bogus. It would be interesting to know what percentage Apple holds of the Markets that it sells into, but it isn’t crucial. Apple is in no danger of going out of business or losing customers. Quite the opposite.

      As a long time Apple user, I’ve felt the ignorance on the Wintel side is enormous. And the arguments never seems to change even when Apple rectifies them. The “one button” mouse argument is a good example. There is so little difference between the Mac and Wintel now. Prices for comparable name brand equipment is a wash. We Mac users have less hardware and configurations to choose from, but that keeps us away from so much junk. The same thing goes for software. One of the defining characteristic is that we Mac users desire both beauty and utility.

      But, it all comes down to the Mac OS; you either agree that the OS is better or you don’t. If it doesn’t compensate for less flexibility the case styles and internal configuration, then there is no argument. If you can tolerate Windows for long, you have my sympathy. Of course, saying that Mac OSX is superior to Windows is supposed to be arrogant, snobbish and cultish. But, what if it is also true?

      Apple is moving toward something new. If people like it, usually, the Wintel side copies it. There are some hardware caused, paradigm shifting, events on the horizon. Most of the reasons which gave Microsoft such an advantage are becoming of lesser importance. The old FUD is dying. It’s anyone’s guess what the future will bring. But, I suspect that Apple will weather the coming storm because it has a modern OS and Apple updates frequently. Interesting times are ahead.

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