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  • Can We Talk About the Mac Again?

    April 28th, 2010

    For reasons that have little to do with what Apple is actually doing, they’ve managed to dominate the headlines in recent days, mostly because of that brouhaha over that loss and eventual recovery of a prototype of the next generation iPhone. But that, of course, has little to do with Apple’s existing products and services. Indeed, it’s quite possible that the final form factor of the next iPhone and its internal workings will be quite different from the one widely splattered over the net in recent days. And, no, I don’t think Steve Jobs would alter the design out of spite.

    However, there’s plenty of real Apple news to talk about, such as the recent MacBook Pro refresh and what may be announced during the WWDC in June. That’s where Apple is expected to unleash the next iPhone along with the announcement of the final shipping date. Sure, the media will be closely examining the spec sheets to see how closely they match that infamous prototype. There’s also the possibility that you’ll get an early look at Mac OS 10.7, although that is debatable I suppose.

    But remember that Apple provided preliminary details for Snow Leopard well over a year before it was released, just to prepare developers. Assuming that 10.7 doesn’t arrive until late summer or fall 2011, which would be a fairly sensible timeframe, that doesn’t stop them from delivering a technology preview this year, so developers know what to expect, and you can discover more features for Microsoft to imitate in their next version of Windows.

    When it comes to the hardware, it doesn’t seem as if Apple is yet poised to do anything drastic in terms of changing product form factors. Even the hot selling iMac doesn’t look that much different from its predecessors, and that includes the imposing 27-inch model.

    The WWDC is likely to bring a long-awaited update to the Mac Pro lineup, but there’s little or no indication that it will look any different from the current models, even as the internal parts are updated with the latest Intel chips. And, no, I don’t expect to suddenly see AMD chips on new Mac workstations, despite those published reports of a possible deal. If it happens, you might see AMD processors in, say, a Mac mini to provide a cheaper road to a performance boost. But whether AMD equals, matches, or exceeds Intel is a matter for the PC magazines that benchmark those things. Most computers are sufficiently fast these days.

    Indeed, if you look through the entire history of the Mac in the aftermath of the Intel transition, you won’t see serious alterations in how the actual products look. The tapered construction of the latest and greatest Mac portables is, at best, a minor change over the previous models. You can, for example, take a Titanium PowerBook G4, place it next to the Early 2010 MacBook Pro and see a direct family resemblance between the former to the latter. On the other hand, that may be a good thing, because it delivers a consistent look from model to model, in the same fashion that you can compare a vintage Mercedes-Benz to a 2010 model and know they came from the same company.

    Beyond the expected Mac Pro upgrade, you probably won’t see much if anything new when it comes to Mac hardware until the fall, when the MacBook and iMac will probably get refreshes to reflect the latest and greatest Intel hardware — or perhaps a mixture of some AMD parts.

    Some suggest that Apple might choose to design their own processors for Macs, but it appears that their acquisitions of chip design establishments are focused towards the mobile platform, which will likely provide the lion’s share of the company’s income in the years to come.

    However, I do not expect Apple to slow development of new Macs, since they are still the “hub of your digital lifestyle.” That remains true even though the majority of iPad, iPhone and iPod owners actually use Windows. You can’t argue with the sale of roughly three million Macs each quarter, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to see that figure grow to four million by the end of the year. Apple’s computer sales continue to beat the PC market by a fair margin, even if some of Microsoft’s shills want you to believe that Windows 7 upgrades are moving at a faster clip. That’s why Microsoft’s stock has remained relatively flat for years, whereas anyone who invested in Apple during the bad days would see a huge profit from even a modest investment.

    Indeed, were I not a tech writer, I would have made that investment way back when, and would now be sitting pretty and preparing for a lucrative retirement. Then again, writing these columns and hosting two radio shows is much more fun, even if it’s not as profitable.

    In any case, I expect you’ll see loads of neat stuff in forthcoming Macs and the Mac OS. But the days of revolutionary changes are probably gone, at least for now.



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    19 Responses to “Can We Talk About the Mac Again?”

    1. hmurchison says:

      I like Snow Leopard. I liked Leopard and frankly when I thought about 10.7 I said to myself “Apple’s going to have to do something really good for 10.7”. Apple priced Snow Leopard at the no brainer price of $29. Anyone with an Intel Mac would be almost foolish to upgrade unless they had legacy app support issues. Even then I heard some Mac users vacillate over whether they should buy Snow Leopard or not.

      If Apple were to announce 10.7 right now as a Developer Preview it would drum up excitement but it would also confuse the iPhone 4.0 message as well. Not good when Apple’s trying to hit the afterburners and pull ahead of RIM and keep Android at bay.

      The Mac is vital to Apple’s strategy but just not right now. I think they will end up doing a special preview of 10.7 early next year and provide a Developer Beta. I’m guessing plans would be for a summer ship time before “Back to School” season.

      More time for the OS X team to develop just means an improved product that’s closer to being ready to ship next year.

    2. Andrew says:

      I like the Mercedes analogy. I currently own my Third Mercedes-Benz, and while I never got to experience a classic model, my current C300 is very obviously a Mercedes-Benz from any angle one might look. Its also an amazingly good (insanely great?) car to drive every day.

      I see my MacBook Pro the same way. I bought the new i7 15″ with high-res anti-glare screen and absolutely love the fact that it is almost identical in use to every MacBook Pro and PowerBook G4 that came before. I used to have a 15″ PowerBook G5 1.5 GHz (aluminum, scrolling trackpad) and find it absolutely wonderful that there is so little difference between them. Yes, the new model is enough faster and longer-running that the two seem eons apart, but the actual user experience is almost identical.

      That is what makes Apple great. Yes, there is the joy of a new computer with all sort of surprise and delight features, but there is also that comfortable familiarity of using a piece of hardware so long that it becomes second nature. Mercedes is the same way. Their control layout is unusual, especially the turn signal lever, but once you are used to it, nothing else will do.

      I have no worries about Apple dropping the attention they give to the Mac. The current MacBook Pro and Snow Leopard (only 8-months-old, hardly upgrade time) are so good, it is clear that the company takes their evolution very seriously.

    3. DaveD says:

      It is good to see Apple taking the time updating Mac OS X. The 10.6.3 was a massive update. The number of issues were a lot less when compared to previous updates. Apple seemed to have spent more time in the beta stage improving the quality.

      Apple has done the hard work of laying the foundation with Snow Leopard. I’m not that concerned about 10.7 now. However, I like to see more developers moving their products to 64-bit, utilizing Grand Central Dispatch and Open CL.

      It is a joy to use all my Macs. I appreciate the beauty of its minimalistic design and the number of improvements made over time. It is good to see consistency in the overall look of the Macs. When the switchover from PowerPC to Intel began, it was like that Apple was saying to not worry, it is still a Mac.

      My crystal ball tells me that Apple still expects the Mac growth to come from the “halo effect.” The iPods, iPhones, and the new kid on the block, the iPads are the baits to lure Windows users to the Apple Retail stores.

    4. Keyword says:

      A note about past laptop design – have you noticed that when an Apple laptop appears on screen or in an ad layout, it is most often a silver-keyed G4 powerbook? I don’t think it’s an accident. The black keys on the MacBook Pros are ugly: like wearing black socks with Bermuda shorts. They look to me as though the stock keyboards from the supplier had black keys so that’s what they went with. (Yes, I know Apple probably has reams of well thought out reasons for making the switch. They’re still ugly)

      • John says:

        @Keyword,

        I haven’t noticed this but I doubt it is intentional. More likely the photographers are just using their own laptops. I don’t know exactly when the black keys came in, but I have an Intel based 17″ MBP with silver keys that was purchased June of 2006.

    5. Dave Barnes says:

      @Keyword,
      Interesting comment.
      My daughter (24-years old) just switched (yesterday) from a black MacBook to a new 13.3-inch MacBook Pro.
      Her only comment was: The black keys are ugly, I want silver keys.
      Her mother said: Write an email to Steve.

    6. Louis Wheeler says:

      I dislike “Change for Changes” sake; new is not necessarily improved. Nor do I like the idea of planned obsolescence.

      If you pursue excellence long enough, then you will get very close to perfection. Any change in form should be the result of functional changes. The iPad is different because it takes advantage of having no mouse or keyboard. It elevates ease of use to a new high for people who dislike or fear a computer’s complexity; It becomes a clipboard which changes when you touch icons. Everybody knows how to use a clipboard, so what is there to be afraid of?

      The iPad is hot now. There is nothing wrong with emphasizing the iPad at WWDC. The Mac is not becoming a Red Headed stepchild; it is in the doldrums now, for procedural reasons. We have to get through a transition and that takes time. There will be reasons to crow about the Mac later.

      The next big thing for the Mac is the effects of 64 bit code. The awards for Mac applications should be after the majority of apps have been converted, not now.

      Snow Leopard’s market share has been growing at just under 5% a month which means that Snow Leopard is now between 35 to 40% of the market. It should hit 80 to 90% between December and February. The Apps converted to 64 bit code should roughly parallel this market share.

      Eventually, Apple will be booting into the 64 bit kernel, by default. What happens then? People will wake up to what has already been talked about. 64 bit apps on your Mac should run at between 50 to 200% faster than the 32 bit code. Applications using Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL will be even faster than that.

      Apple has good reasons for not talking about its plans. Back in June of last year, Apple was talking about the security enhancements in Snow Leopard. It got shot down in the Press because ASLR, DEP and the sand boxing of applications, plugins and processes doesn’t occur until the 64 bit kernel is enabled. The closer we get to upgrading to the 64 bit kernel, the more we should start hearing about the implications.The 64 bit kernel will enable technologies which Apple has barely hinted at. I expect a series of surprises, but it is too soon to know what Apple has planned.

      • Roberto Avanzi says:

        @Louis Wheeler, Louis, 64-bit apps in general do NOT rund 50 to 200% faster than 32-bit code. In fact, in some cases recompiling most apps as 64-bit apps will just make them slower – because addresses will take up 64 bits instead of 32 bits and all pointers will be automatically double in size. Since most pointers have to be stored themselves in memory, here’s that the memory traffic increases and the application will become slower. A kernel with a good VM subsystem (like OS X) will happily map 32-bit address spaces to the memory available in a 64-bit machine. Hence, in some cases it is better to leave some apps as 32-bit. Do you need a 64-bit text editor? (I mean, if you need to edit single text files that are over 4 Gb?)

        Computationally intensive tasks will benefit from being recompiled. But, in most cases, this will also require a *rewrite* of the computational code itself. I have observed even sixfold performance increases in my own code. Finally, you may have code that needs to access to more than 4Gb in one block. Some databases, some graphic apps. For these 64-bit will be important regardless of the performance benefit (which will be most likely there for the graphic apps, not necessarily for the database).

        Roberto

        • Louis Wheeler says:

          @Roberto Avanzi,

          The sources I have say differently, Roberto.

          Under normal conditions you would be correct, since retrieving 64 bit code from RAM or disk is more costly than 32 bit. The advantage of upgrading to the 64 bit kernel is that the Intel Core 2 Duo processors have extra registers which cannot be utilized by the 32 bit OS. Using them can speed things up sufficiently to offset that loss. I’ve heard that increase expressed as low as 25% all the way up to 500%, so I took a middle range.

          Of course, my sources and I could be wrong; Real world events are often less than projected. But, I’m guessing that the difference will be noticeable. This is especially so when GCD and OpenCL are enabled in apps.

          It is true that some apps will remain in 32 bit code and often in the Carbon API’s for some time. Eventually, they will go to 64 bit code for simplicity. This especially so, when the Carbon API’s are deleted in about five years.

          “Computationally intensive tasks will benefit from being recompiled. But, in most cases, this will also require a *rewrite* of the computational code itself.”

          That is where XCode 3.1 comes in. It writes a FAT file with both 32 and 64 bit code, so that the processor can choose the most effective. But streamlining your code when you change formats is always a good idea.

          ” Finally, you may have code that needs to access to more than 4Gb in one block….For these 64-bit will be important regardless of the performance benefit (which will be most likely there for the graphic apps, not necessarily for the database).”

          I will agree that HFS+ Journaling is getting a trifle old. There are more advanced disks systems. Apple seems to have dumped Sun’s ZFS file system, I have no Idea of Apple’s plans. Perhaps, Apple is waiting for the B-TreeFS to mature a bit more. It looks rather promising, but I make no decisions for Apple.

          I’m not expecting magic out of Apple. But, I merely wanted to say that changes are coming which could give the Macintosh some reason for celebration. How much is still a mystery.

          • Richard says:

            @Louis Wheeler,

            I see a need for Apple (and others for that matter) to focus more on the efficient utilization of multi-core processors. We are in the beginning of the many-core processor era. Intel’s Single Chip Cloud (SCC) computing initiative shows what the “next generation” of processors may look like. The 24 tile/48 core processor is aimed at data centers, but it does not take much imagination to see that the concept is the future (presuming that the technical niceties are resolved). The small thermal envelope of the SCC vs. its computational capability looks rather amazing. Even at the low power end, the NVidia Tegra 2 System on Chip (SoC) illustrates the ability to distribute tasks to specialized cores, all of which is made possible by the smaller process manufacturing capability now available.

            “Under the hood” OS changes like this may be a bit of a difficult sale because many users do not perceive a need for such additional computing power, but we are at pretty much of a bottleneck of what can be done in terms of current processor speeds & such with existing materials. There will always be improvements in the interface or the occasional new feature to add to an OS, but it does appear, to me at least, that OS X has matured fairly well in terms of what the user sees. Through the first several iterations OS X’s improvements were sufficiently obvious that it was a “no brainer” to upgrade the OS. I wonder if many customers will see things that way in the future, particularly when the improvements involved will require new hardware.

            Grand Central Dispatch (GCD) is a very good start, but there is more work to be done by all involved. IMO Apple have a lot of “evangelism” to do in order to get the software vendors “on board”. GCD will need to take over the assignment of tasks to different cores when the application is not really optimized for many core hardware.

            Steve is reportedly concerned about the iPad cannibalizing MacBook Pro (and even Mac Pro) sales. I wonder whether the sales data is from a representative group or a group which was not a potential customer base for those products in the first place. People I have spoken with about netbooks are generally purchasing them in addition to a fully capable notebook because it is small and light, requiring little thought about whether to drag it along during the day to meetings or when traveling on vacation. They seem well aware of the lesser capability of the device, but are much happier carrying a kilo, give or take, rather than six pounds of laptop, charger, mouse and such. (Even the small MacBook Pro weighs in at roughly 4 1/2 pounds plus the extras.) We should not overlooks the potential sales of iPads to Windows users either. For the most part, these people are comparing a netbook (or now iPad) to a BlackBerry or iPhone. The improve legibility of documents & such is fairly obvious. If nothing else, entering text for email is easier because of the large “keyboard” on the screen, but there is a need for a small, light and portable keyboard to allow touch typing which is reasonable with a 92% keyboard commonly used on netbooks…accessory manufacturers have a real opportunity here. I do think that Apple should have released the iPad with folders, but that capability is supposedly coming soon. My greatest personal issue with the iPhone/iPad is Flash…I sure do hope that the HTML5 movement accelerates.

            Although I believe it fair to say that Apple is now a “consumer electronics” company rather than a “computer company”, I agree that good things are coming.

            Cheers!

            • Louis Wheeler says:

              @Richard,

              This discussion is premature since Apple isn’t giving us much guidance. We will learn more of the implications as the roll out to the 64 bit kernel comes closer. It will take a while for GCD and OpenCL apps to have an impact. These changes will catch many pundits by surprise: when did Apple get so fast!

              Meanwhile, Apple has other things to concern itself with. Apple has taken the position previously on the iPod that it would rather cannibalize itself than let others do it. As good as the iPad is, it not capable of REAL or COMPLEX computing needs. The main intent of the iPad is in extending the computer to people who never had one before. But, the iiPad is so new, that we don’t know what it is capable of.

              Apple’s niche markets in Graphic and Design are safe from it while the Education market will have a mixed impact. The iPad is a content consumption device, so Apple’s content creation systems are safe. Apple holds the upper end of the consumer market, but It is unclear where this and the Small to Medium Business Markets will fall out.

              The Web is rapidly moving toward H.264; Utilization went from 31% to 64% in the last year.

              • Richard says:

                @Louis Wheeler,

                Louis,

                Your comment about Apple preferring to cannibalize its own products than have someone else do it reminds me of a comment Bill Gates made in an unguarded moment talking about the unlicensed copies of Windows on the Pacific rim. He wanted to be first in every market segment.

                I don’t know whether the discussion of the OS is premature or not. It is certainly speculative until such time as Apple choose to enlighten us. Nevertheless, I see that hardware developments will require OS (and software) developments to take advantage of its capabilities. I do believe “under the hood” OS changes are what the next major improvement in computing will depend upon.

                “When did Apple get so fast?” It got faster when it moved to the Intel platform because of the support that Intel has provided on the basics (motherboards & so on) which freed Apple resources to focus on the parts of the equation that actually make the product “an Apple”.

                I believe we are in agreement that both the iPad and netbook are light duty devices which are likely to be used either by people who had nothing in the past or in addition to a “real computer”. A recent presentation I attended (not an Apple, Inc. event) proposed the iPad as an eBook platform for the education market which would be quite interesting as it would free the “book” market from the costs and inflexibility of a printed paper product. It could be updated much more frequently and links to “more information” could be included, keeping the basic text more compact and focused all the while providing a greater volume of information when desired. (The speaker also commented about the weight reductions on students’ backs compared to carrying 10 or 20 pounds of books for the day.)

                The market which at which netbooks and the iPad are aimed is rapidly evolving as the purchasers define the roles expected of them. Consuming information rather than creating it is the rather obvious use, whether it be reading books, browsing the web, or viewing video. “Light duty” document/email creation is still something that, I believe, needs attention. Both Intel and M$ have imposed severe restrictions on the netbooks, fearing that they will cannibalize other sales (it seems everyone is concerned about the uncertainty of this new market segment). Some suggest the two are actually trying to kill the market segment, but they stand to lose a presence in the market if they fight it too hard as there are other tablets using non-Intel and non-M$ products coming to market which will seek to meet the purchasers’ needs.

                I see the iPad and netbook as needing to be capable of doing some very light image editing to send pix by email either when on vacation or, potentially, when businesses are using them to submit images documenting damage claims and such. An iPhoto light, if you will. Serious image editing will continue to require a much more robust hardware platform. No surprise at all.

                With the release of 64-bit Photoshop CS5, I expect the migration from the Mac Pro to the Windows platform by photography professionals will be staunched, if not reversed. It is an essential software release to re-establish parity for the Mac platform in my view…and none too soon.

                H.264 is superior to prior codecs. Period. Unfortunately, some of the cable companies (TWC, for example) are using an undisclosed codec with their HD programming which is much less than it should be, resulting in a jerking/stuttering effect when objects are moving, even slow moving objects such as people walking.

                Apple will need to decide whether they want to compete in the small to medium size business market. If they do they shall need to offer hardware configurations meet the customers needs. Apple have enjoyed significant success in the higher education market. I believe a fair portion of that success has been generated by customer service.

                Richard

    7. Webomatica says:

      Looking at the iMac and MacBook designs, which IMHO are nearly perfect, it’s really hard to think how they could be improved – the iMac is essentially a monitor on a stand, and the MacBook is a monitor with a keyboard. All Apple can do is go further with thinner, lighter, faster.

    8. Louis Wheeler says:

      Another trend is coming, Webomatica. It is sparked by the Atom computer-on-a-chip. I’ve been watching this possibility come closer, every year, for five years.

      What happens when the Atom processor gets as powerful than the current i7 chips while remaining as cheap? Moore’s law suggests that this will happen within five to ten years. What will keep these chips from being placed in everything? Nothing if they are just a few bucks.

      This means that a computer, which used to have an endless series of dumb peripherals controlled by a central processor, will increasingly have stand alone devices which must work with each other.

      The iMac is, thus, demoted into being a computerized monitor and you may have several in every room. The iPad becomes a control device for a decentralized computer spread out through out your home or office. You will have computerized SOHO servers and internet routers, backups, keyboards, drawing pads, wireless printers, etc.

      If you think that the Operating System will be going away under such a condition, then you are delusional. If you have dozens to hundreds of devices which must intercommunicate, then you have a choice between order and chaos. The Operating System which gives you the best performance wins. I believe that will be Mac OSX.

      The form must change because the technology will improve and stand alone devices, mostly run by Linux, will perform services for your computer.

      I’m betting that Apple is planning on how to capitalize on this transformation. The iPad is your control device for running a large local area network of computers. The simplicity of the IPad keeps people from freaking out when the computer decentralizes. Apple will make sure that you can plug it in and it just works.

    9. Louis Wheeler says:

      Richard said:
      “I don’t know whether the discussion of the OS is premature or not. ”

      Let’s just say that I’ve been accused of being premature.

      Let me give an example. The 64 bit kernel will improve security with ASLR, DEP and the Sand boxing of most applications, processes and plugins. This is a huge security gain for an OS which is not under serious attack. Why did Apple think it necessary?

      This caused me to imagine that Apple was going to nail down one of its major security flaws; the installer DVD. Snow Leopard’s installer DVD changed its procedure: it now loads itself on the disk, presumably in protected space, before it starts to talk to you. I imagined that it would eventually start making people prove that they had authorization to change or install the software. Wouldn’t that be a boon to small businesses who lose their notebook computers? You wouldn’t be able to simply reinstall the OS to crack the system. There are a number of other implications which I could see, but could I convince any one of that? No. So, let’s wait a little longer.

      “When did Apple get so fast?” It got faster when it moved to the Intel platform because of the support that Intel has provided on the basics (motherboards & so on) which freed Apple resources to focus on the parts of the equation that actually make the product “an Apple”.

      Apple has been slowly been putting its ducks in a row since 1997. Even when it crowed about its improvements the Technical Press would not believe it. So, those improvements have to be rubbed in their faces. And it will come out of the blue.

      ” A recent presentation I attended (not an Apple, Inc. event) proposed the iPad as an eBook platform for the education market which would be quite interesting as it would free the “book” market from the costs and inflexibility of a printed paper product. ”

      What is the problem with schools or teachers creating their own textbooks? University professors in Europe used to do that only a century ago. There is more than enough “Public Domain information” which could be brought up to date. This is specially true of the basics; Kindergarden through Eighth grade. Or what about supplemental material which may be dated but valid and useful. The McGuffey reader is quite good for those schools who no longer bother to teach history. They could assigned as reading practice material.

      “The market which at which netbooks and the iPad are aimed is rapidly evolving as the purchasers define the roles expected of them.”

      I see this as the process of making computers ever easier to use. Computers were perfectly awful in the beginning. They demanded care and expertise which was impossibly high above the norm. No wonder that only governments and businesses could use them. Now, the only people who don’t have a computer have personalities which cause them to hate or fear them. But, these people still have needs which could be satisfied, but only if a computer conformed to their personalities. The iPad does that for many of the 27% of Americans who don’t own a computer.

      “I see the iPad and netbook as needing to be capable of doing some very light image editing to send pix by email either when on vacation or, potentially, when businesses are using them to submit images documenting damage claims and such. An iPhoto light, if you will.”

      That is what the App store will provide. The easy Apps have been taken; Apps will be created which will be similar to the Photoshop of ten years ago. The Cocoa API’s already have much of the functionality built in.

      “With the release of 64-bit Photoshop CS5, I expect the migration from the Mac Pro to the Windows platform by photography professionals will be staunched, if not reversed. It is an essential software release to re-establish parity for the Mac platform in my view…and none too soon.”

      You have more faith in Adobe that I do. They have been neglecting Apple for a decade.

      “H.264 is superior to prior codecs. Period. Unfortunately, some of the cable companies (TWC, for example) are using an undisclosed codec with their HD programming which is much less than it should be, resulting in a jerking/stuttering effect when objects are moving, even slow moving objects such as people walking.”

      The web is moving to H.264; internet speeds are increasing. Those cable companies better watch out; they could find themselves bypassed.

      “Apple will need to decide whether they want to compete in the small to medium size business market. ”

      Apple is already involved in SMB, but it is proceeding carefully. There are some trends at work here. The first is that SMB companies are becoming more flexible; they are allowing employees to choose the computer they want to use. Thus, the SMB market is becoming a part of the upper end consumer market which Apple owns. Then, Apple has been extending its Enterprise software so that SMB companies can use Exchange and Outlook to communicate with the government or big business. The reason this is happening is that a computer is becoming a personal item; fewer people every year will put up with taking whatever dreck that the IT department is pushing. What computer you get becomes part of your employment package.

      “If they do they shall need to offer hardware configurations meet the customers needs. ”

      If 64 bit applications with GCD and OpenCL are two to five times faster on the same hardware as Windows apps, then the hardware will be taking the back seat.

      “Apple have enjoyed significant success in the higher education market. I believe a fair portion of that success has been generated by customer service.”

      Macs don’t break as often as Windows computers do, because Windows computers often have inferior quality parts. Paying more upfront means savings later. Gartner Corp says that the parts and labor to maintain a Mac for four years cost only a third of that of a PC. Macs are easier for the user to service, so you don’t need an IT department. Small business owners report that when they converted their offices to Macs, the employees became 20% more efficient. These are huge cost savings in a poor economy.

    10. Richard says:

      Louis,

      It is not that I have more faith in Adobe than anyone else, it is just that Photoshop CS5 (and the rest of the suite) is an essential application, without which the Mac Platform would have suffered even more than it already has. The only other alternative would have been for Apple or someone else to come up with an alternative and all the myriad plug-ins & etc on very short notice.

      The 64-bit OS is essential for the migration to more powerful hardware (and greater quantities of RAM to keep pace with 64-bit Win 7 for heavy computational tasks and things like Photoshop being run in the professional environment. It is just a matter of productivity…which led a number of professional photographers to migrate to the Widows platform even though they would just as soon not have done so. This is not to minimize the enhanced security options, but I think, although I am not privy to Apple’s thinking, that security was not the driving force behind the change. (Just remember that, had IBM chosen the 8086 chip instead of the 8088 chip for the original IBM PC we would have been at this point quite some time ago…and would have saved some gymnastics along the way with techniques to address RAM with earlier systems.

      Life cycle cost is a useful analytical tool for acquisitions other than computer equipment. When universities have factored in training and support costs, Apple products have competed quite handily. I suspect that your argument may understate the benefits of an easy-to-use system in the “emerging economies”. A stable system can make the difference between a useful tool and an expensive paper weight in such circumstances. I recall an instance where a couple was purchasing a PC laptop some years ago to go into the Amazon jungle on some project or other and went to some lengths to purchase a Widows OS that did not require online authorization/re-authorization because they were going to be a very long way away from an internet connection. Contrast that with a photojournalist who went with the troops during the first Gulf War. He took his camera gear, Powerbook and install discs for the OS, communications applications and Photoshop “just in case”. Personally, I would have hauled a spare HD and battery as well, but he made it through the campaign with that gear and a satellite phone to transmit images to the paper back home. When he got back he wrote an nice article about how everything “just worked” even when subjected to the harsh conditions he encountered in the desert. So I guess you might coin a phrase, when you absolutely, positively need it to work…don’t buy a cheap PC. 🙂

      Cheers

    11. Louis Wheeler says:

      You were absolutely correct back in 1998, but I doubt that Apple is now dependent on anyone for its survival — not even Photoshop CS5.

      In ’98, Steve Jobs tried to get Adobe and Microsoft to rewrite their applications in the Cocoa API’s in Rhapsody. Both said no, so Apple was forced to spend two years developing the Carbon API’s to get them to migrate their apps to an object oriented, multi-user Unix based OS. Ten years passed with little change for Adobe’s spaghetti code. Adobe tried to coerce Apple into extending the Carbon API’s into 64 bit, but Apple said no for five years before Adobe’s management believed them.

      This year, Adobe has migrated three of its apps in CS5 to 64 bit code, but it will take another two years for the rest. Naturally, Adobe has blamed Apple for its delays in upgrading to 64 bit. Adobe has not been shy in pledging its allegiance to Microsoft. I don’t expect Adobe to leave the Mac market, but it continues to give the Mac short shrift. If this process continues long enough, then a competitor to Photoshop will arise. If it take full advantage of Apple’s technologies, it will blow Photoshop away.

      Regarding Microsoft, I believe it is a fundamentally flawed disk system. Its security issues are better in Windows Seven but not cured. Windows security problems cannot be fixed, because it is a stand alone disk system which was not designed handle the rigors of the internet. Its flaws will catch up with it.

      The next five years are going to be difficult for the computer market: a technological sea change is coming. The processor will get very, very cheap. We would not recognize, today, the computer we will buy in five years. The computer will fragment into many parts and spread out. It will do more for us, but it will place great demand on the Operating System; its back will be to the wall. I expect that Apple will survive the test, but I am unsure that Microsoft Windows will.

      • Richard says:

        @Louis Wheeler,

        Louis,

        I don’t think I said that Apple would not survive without CS5, but it is still an important application suite, Photoshop in particular. Apple is better off with CS5 than without it in my view. I say this despite the growing body of information which suggests that Steve is engaged in a course of action to dispose of Adobe. I suspect he has dreams of a day when the door at Adobe is closed for the last time.

        I have spoken with a person who had access to the source code for Windows and all he could say within the bounds of the restrictions imposed is that it “looked like an explosion in a spaghetti factory”. The flaws in Windows are probably too numerous to count. While Win 7 is undoubtedly an improvement over Vista, it has not changed the basic structure that is a large part of the problem. Perhaps M$ will eventually gaze deep into the crystal ball and realize that they should have made a clean break with the past some time ago and quit worrying about backward compatibility of apps from the DOS era and such. They could do worse than to emulate Apple and put a GUI on something else…Solaris is probably still for sale.

        Yes the next five years will see changes we can only begin to imagine today. If “the cloud” becomes predominant, M$ could easily become the odd man out. If applications remain on the (local) computer, a more robust (and secure) OS than M$ has to offer at the present will be needed. Not only that, but Windows has bits and pieces of data scattered everywhere. Just why it is essential to cling to the registry which includes things such as your internet browsing history is a wonder to me.

    12. Louis Wheeler says:

      How necessary is Photoshop to Apple? I think that it is important, but not crucial. It is certainly not important enough to allow Adobe to push Apple around. Apple is flexing its muscles and seems prepared to withstand whatever punishment Adobe’s management intends to throw at it.

      I don’t know what Steve Jobs intends. My reading of their controversy isn’t personal, although Adobe has had a long history of abusive actions. Flash is rather poor software on the Mac; Apple would like to replace Flash with HTML5 and H.264, but that is some years away. That, in itself, has nothing to do with Adobe’s other software.

      Regarding Microsoft, Window Seven’s history is problematic. First, there was Longhorn which failed after five years of development and six billion dollars spent. Microsoft had to start over again with a clean copy of Windows Server 2003. WS2003 is an updated version of Windows NT with all its structural flaws. Vista was rushed to market after a year and half; no wonder it was a pig. Seven is a cleaned up version of Vista.

      I understand that Microsoft has plans to jack up Win7 and put new foundations under it. I don’r see how they can succeed at that.

      “Perhaps M$ will eventually gaze deep into the crystal ball and realize that they should have made a clean break with the past some time ago and quit worrying about backward compatibility of apps from the DOS era and such.”

      Can Microsoft make a clean break? One thing to remember is how much trouble Apple had in doing that with Mac OSX. Apple bought a perfectly good and proven multi-user OS in NeXTstep. Apple failed to get its developers to climb on board, so it had to go down the Carbon API detour. I don’t see any good multi-user OS’s available for Microsoft to buy up. They haven’t shown much capability in rolling their own.

      It seems to me that the “cloud” is less important than “computing everywhere.” Almost everything you can imagine will have a computer in it; even kid’s underwear will have them. This is because “all in one computers” will be dirt cheap as will memory. You could have fifty devices around your home or office which is part of your local area network. The sum of those parts is your computer. How do you get them to work together harmoniously? Most of them will be Linux devices, but you need an interface which we humans will respond to. I think Apple will do that job better than Microsoft.

      The Chrome OS is going to hit Microsoft very hard. How? The cloud is part of it, but I don’t expect that businesses will ever feel comfortable storing their data off site in the cloud. 60% of the Windows market share is on old computers running Windows XP; economic conditions say that companies are unlikely to change that soon. Perhaps as many as half of those old computers would need to be replaced.

      What if Chrome OS is placed on those computers, instead? And FOSS gets WINE to work on Chrome so the companies can run their old software? That is a winning situation for businesses, but it is bad for Microsoft. Eventually, those computers would be replaced, not with Wintel computers, but with stand alone computing devices which run the old software. IT departments will put up with slow performance if it doesn’t break their work flows.

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