I wish I could be as sanguine about Apple's long-term prospects as Robert Paul Leitao is in his recent perspective piece on Apple as a "new company": "Apples, Kids, and Attitude" (ATPM 4.04).
Mr. Leitao makes the point that Apple will prosper if it can hold on to its core market while slowly expanding into new markets. He assumes (hopes?) that with great new hardware and an exciting new OS on the horizon, that Apple is on its way back.
If reason and facts were all that decided the issue, he would undoubtedly be right. Sadly, they are not. I am a long-time educator at a school which has been Mac-only for 15 years. Starting this year, we will be migrating to Windows, eventually becoming either(at best) a dual-platform school or (at worst) a Windows-only school within a few years. All around me I see other schools doing the same thing.
Why is this happening when the future of Apple products looks so bright? It is happening because all these wonderful changes are five years too late. Apple has marginalized itself to 5% of the new computer market or less. Schools, previously one of the most dependable and loyal segments of Apple's market--from the university and research level on down to the primary schools and kindergartens--have started their steady and inexorable migration to Windows. Teachers and students know that Macs are cheaper overall, easier to use, more reliable, easier to maintain, etc. But they do not make the financial decisions about computer purchases--boards of education, superintendents, ISM's, and principals make these decisions. And all of them are succumbing to parental and business pressure to join the Wintel bandwagon. It takes courage to buck this trend in the face of this unrelenting pressure--and courage is not too commonly associated with educators or bureaucrats.
Without the schools, I'm afraid, Apple cannot maintain itself as a major computer hardware innovator. What will happen with Rhapsody, I think(and fear) is that Apple will offer the world an attractive alternative to Windows 95(98...2000?) and there might be a sizable exodus to Rhapsody for Intel machine users. But Apple hardware will die an inexorable death. In the end, Microsoft will probably end up cooperating somehow with Apple/Rhapsody and make Rhapsody the universal OS of the future.
The chip technology being developed today by IBM/Motorola will eventually find its way to Intel-makers. Apple will continue to make and sell hardware, only to a much smaller niche than at present--mostly to high-end content creators. But its days as a mainstream manufacturer of CPU's for the masses are coming to an end. I say that with real regret; I love my Mac. But the analogies with Beta vs. VHS are apt. In the end, it didn't matter who had the better technology. All that mattered was that a
single standard prevailed so that we could all have the convenience of choosing any video in the store without any doubts about its playability. So it will be with computers and software.
The future will look nothing like the present. You can count on that. Neither Apple nor Microsoft will be recognizable in its present form ten years from now.
David D. Huston
Or Maybe Not...
God bless you. Your article will be printed a great many times, forwarded to a great many Wintel fans, and shown to a great many Apple Doomsday prophets.
You hit the bullseye. All the latest good stuff, compressed into one coherent, flowing article.
Looking Up, After All?
Some time ago the editor of ATPM invited my response to the generalized statement that the Mac had survived the worst and was about to enjoy an upturn in public esteem.
I replied negatively. But today I read in the computer supplement of the Independent, a serious London (and national) newspaper:
In her column about the Internet, Eva Pascoe (who had never in the past even mentioned Apple) discusses a projected tie up between Microsoft and British Telecom (BT). She winds up with the following:
If I were writing a spec for a home computer I would look for a company that has a home consumer and education-oriented culture, a history of understanding personal technology, that has experience in Mum-proof interface design, that understands the need to make things easy and fun, but also compatible across any file format and any platform people might come up with in the future.
Well there is a company like that. If you want something complex to be made simple, you don't call a plumber (BT) and you don't go to your accountant (Microsoft), but seek someone who has helped you before and made those awful DOS systems go away. Apple holds all the keys to the puzzle, from its recent success with QuickTime as the new multimedia standard, to years of visionary hardware developments. The success of its eMate demonstrated that there is still a great talent lurking around Apple's corridors. Let's stop wasting time and send that spec where consumers are likely to be understood and where our stupidity is met with kindness of design and not error messages.
Too Many Opinions
I have been getting your magazine for some time and noticed a continual increase in the number of opinion columns. It has gotten out of hand. Frankly, I don't care about your opinions. At least not five of them! Get it down to a single column. Draw straws to see who does it each month. Put these folks to work on ferreting out help in actually using a Mac.
Thanks for your opinion. <g> Seriously, though, we try to keep a good balance. We are working on finding someone to write a regular "tips" column.
We'd love to hear your thoughts about our publication. We always welcome your comments, criticisms, suggestions, and praise at <email@example.com>. Or, if you have an opinion or announcement about the Macintosh platform in general, that's ok too.