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The Slippery Mac Slope

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 01/18/2006

I just bought an Averatec 3700 laptop, which is a 12” ultra-light that looks just like an iBook. I’m doing my typing right now at 8:00AM. This is great structure for the new year, and still early enough to be meaningful. Hopefully, I can discipline myself to make my journal entries (blog) every day. Only just a day after getting this laptop, typing on the keyboard is feeling very natural. The reviews generally praise this laptop, with the only flaws being an abnormally small right shift key, and the USB ports being too close on the right hand side under where a mouse would be held. Other than that, it’s generally praised as an iBook clone that is good looking and will turn heads. Mac people will be surprised at the missing Apple logo.

Speaking of which, the new Intel based Macs are due in February, and the laptop known as the MacBook. I actually considered waiting, but the old “software I know” argument won over. I’m a big user of VPN, Terminal Server, etc. I don’t want to even think about compatibility issues. I’ll eventually get a Mac, and I’m particularly excited about the slippery slope strategy they can now start to employ in marketing. You will be able now to just “give Mac a try” the way initiatives like KNOPPIX let you test drive Linux on your PC without any commitments or permanent software installs. Just now’s not the time. We’re actually in XP’s “sweet spot”, with it being very stable after 2 years of being hammered on and full software support. That doesn’t put me in a flattering spot on Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption curve, but it does make for a cheap and pain-free laptop experience. I’m particularly impressed with how well XP handles going into standby mode on a laptop, and how gracefully it recovers, preserving the wireless network connection. So far, I see that as the defining feature of XP over Windows 2000, which I’m coming from.

Yesterday, I saw a TV commercial about how Intel chips were being set free by now being in Macs. Clever. It had Intel employees in bunny suits moving around large silicon wafers. It wasn’t exactly the early Mac 1984 commercial, but you could feel that same spirit. There is less that is tangibly unique now about the Macintosh. It’s entertaining to think how the evolution of the Mac has brought everything about it increasingly mainstream, from an underlying Unix operating system, now to Intel processors. The Mac is essentially just a user interface shell that sits on top of Unix, the way Windows is (used to be?) a user interface shell that sits on top of DOS, plus very nice industrial design. You could almost say, the Macintosh is an alternative computing philosophy now, because the tangible differences are only just in software.

And those philosophical differences are much smaller than Mac people would probably like to admit. Windowing operating systems are windowing operating systems. I’ve been using Macs since even before having to purchase one as a Drexel student in 1988, and have been a Mac user on and off over the years ever since. My prediction is that since software developers like Adobe have a pain to support products like Creative Studio on two platforms, and PCs often become the priority because of installed base, that there may be some sort of attempt to make the same version run on both Macs and PCs now. Windows software is already being made to run on Linux, demonstrating that there are enough layers so that application just sit on top of the windowing gui, and not the underlying OS anymore. Imagine that same trick being applied to running PC software directly on the Mac. Slippery slope.