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 The kind of great graphics pipeline that Macs had early on have been superceded by the PC world for a long time.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.