Blaspheming The Mac

Steven Den Beste has another of his great essays on today’s Cold War: Mac versus PC. His conclusions aren’t very pretty for the Apple faithful.

The observation that Macintosh users are almost cult-like in behavior is true from my experiences with the Mac faithful. There’s almost a fetishization of the Macintosh by true believers, an almost religious reverence for all things Apple. To outsiders, even those who are geeks themselves, it seems just a bit odd.

Now I will grant that I like the look of OS X. If there were a contest for the most beautiful UI, it would win hands down. However, it’s a speed and useability nightmare. As Den Beste notes, the UI bogs down the already overtaxed Mac CPU to a point where simple tasks become difficult. Because the Mac marketshare is so small, the kind of driver optimizations that Nvidia makes for Windows XP, accelerating the GUI bells and whistles in hardware rather than pushing it off the the CPU. This is one of those things where clock speed and memory bandwidth matter. The Mac simply has lost is design edge. The kind of great graphics pipeline that Macs had early on have been superceded by the PC world for a long time.

Now, if I were Apple’s CEO, I’d abandon the traditional strategy that Mac has used since its creation. Dump the Mac as a computer system in its own right. Cut a deal with AMD, and dump the Motorola chip. Port OS X to Intel hardware, and start marketing it to PC users. (This would technically be fairly easy to do thanks to OS X’s UNIX-based core, which is already available for x86 machines.) Pay off driver manufacturers to write specially optimized drivers that accelerate all OS X’s bells and whistles. Market the hell out of the new product, cut deals with any PC manufacturer around to pre-load it on as many machines as possible.

Apple had a solid reason for making their own hardware when PCs were relatively primitive, especially in terms of video. Now that fast AGP, DDR RAM, and other features are common in the PC world, there’s no reason to hold on to the old Mac architecture. PC hardware is light-years ahead of Mac architecture, and Apple needs to admit it, Mac faithful be damned.

This is another example where market forces produce better results. Apple has jelously guarded the Mac architecture while PC specs are open to all. Macs can’t compete because there’s no outside innovation. Just like those contries that practice economic protectionism and restrict trade, Apple is lagging behind. It’s time for Apple to face the future, and start being the kind of dynamic company it once was. In other words, they should take their own advice and start thinking different.

5 thoughts on “Blaspheming The Mac

  1. Well, there were Mac clones in the 90’s that were becoming cheaper and more powerful than Apple’s own hardware, and of course were improving in a competitive environment.

    But, of course, Apple couldn’t let go of that hardware market, so Jobs revoked all the clone licenses when he came back to the company, ending any chance of a real Mac technological resurgence.

    Which is fine by me, as I’ve always been a PC guy. Ironically, I hate the software part of the company that most Mac guys promote, but I think the hardware, although expensive and generally behind the curve technologically, is reliable, easy to upgrade, and of high quality.

    The high point of Mac hardware technology was during the mid-90’s era of the clones, when, I think I can honestly say, Mac hardware was superior to the contemporary PC’s (although far pricier).

    If BeOS would have taken off on an open platform PPC, I just might of made the switch. Instead, the stagnation of the Mac OS (coupled with the vehemence of Mac cultists and stagnating hardware technology) made me shun the platform.

  2. Yup, it’s too bad BeOS didn’t take off… macs made great BeBoxes. Man, look at the new hardware… the cubes were awsome, and the new iMacs have great style to them- a considerable step beyond the iSores of yesteryear.

    Despite the fact that I’m a loyal PC man these days, I say- long live the Mac. Keep thinking different, keep being a thorn in the side of M$, and keep making cool products. Maybe I’ll come back some day.

    Then again, maybe not.

  3. I have worked with, and on, Macs but I am a PC guy, from the desktop to the server. I don’t get excited by the sexy cool stuff Apple does because I can do it all on a PC anyway. I don’t want MS to be the only company out there making an operating system, and if Apple were real competition for them it’d be great.

    But they aren’t, not really. They’re just a fringe market for MS. And Linux is good, but it’s fragmented and anarchic so it really is not going to keep MS on it’s toes untill it achieves greater penetration (or unless Red Hat gets big).

    But there are two things I like about the Windows OS: one is that there’s generally three or four or five ways to do anything, and it’s easy to tweak under the hood. Although that’s always been true with Linux, and with the BSD underpinnings of OSX it’s probably becoming true for Mac – once you get a handle on Unix, anyway).

    The other reason is that I can, and do, build computers running Windows. I can’t do that with the Mac.

  4. Old news– All I hear is old news.

    Macs have 4x AGP, DDR-SDRAM in the X-serve ( and this will be placed in professional models soon) and most of the other features of the X86 world. The only proprietary items left in a Mac is the PowerPC chip and the North-South chips, and they cost less than Intel’s. So, there just isn’t that much difference between a mac and a X86 machine. A Dell computer comparable to the 800 Mhz iMac costs about $300 more. This use of common PC parts has been good and bad; prices have fallen, but so have mean times to failure. Mac’s hardware failure rates are only a little better than Dell’s.

    I don’t buy the idea that Mac’s are outside of innovation, light years behind ithe PC world or that Apple is doomed. The X86 market is very wide; only a tiny percentage is bleeding edge technology these days as most companies cut price (and quality) to survive. Macs are not bleeding edge, because Mac users are fussy. Is it fair to take what you think is best in X86 equipment and compare it to mac’s without any considerations of cost or reliability? No Mac user will think so.

    What’s wrong with you people? If you don’t like Macs that’s your privilege– don’t buy one. There are differences in customer taste– and in product strategy. What have you got against diversity? You do your thing and let Mac users do ours. How do we effect you? Do we have better machines than you? Yes– for some things. Do you have better machines than we? Yes– for some things. Time (and the market) will only tell if Apple’s business strategies will increase its market share. With the changes Apple is progressively making (which you obviously can’t see) I think it has a shot. Microsoft and the X86 makers may not be pleasing their customer base as much as you think. People might be ready for a change. We’ll see.

    Besides, there is still that sixty percent of Americans who don’t use computers now– the part not geeks or in business. Someone is going to have to bring them into the fold. Seems like a good market. One that X86 machines might not fit.

  5. Mac VS. Pc …I don’t know why you guys even bother to argue about it. I personally think it just makes sense to use both. I have XP and OSX. Hell, I even have one computer running Linux…stay away from it! lol…annnyways. Im done.

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