Sink Or Swim . . .

John Dvorak recently wrote an article suggesting that Apple was going to switch to Windows.

I suspect he may end up being right, but for all the wrong reasons.

Apple will not switch over to Windows within, say, the next year for one simple reason: if they do, Steve Jobs will die, and he’s has a lot to live for these days. 🙂

If the Mac fans don’t kill him, the Mac developers trying to port their applications over will.

What Will Happen

Ever since Jobs came back to Apple, the Mac has become more and more like a PC. Even before the switch to Intel, most parts of a Mac had become off-the-shelf PC components with a Mac driver. “Innovations” in the Second Age of Jobs were usually making an available and up-and-coming PC component standard before the mainstream PC OEMs did (and often it was trailing-edge technology).

The shift to Intel means that effectively ALL of a Mac is a PC. The only remaining serious distinguishing point is MacOS X (and that’s been more-or-less the case anyway for at least the last five years).

Now we have Macs that are capable of running Windows (all Apple would have to do today is write a 30K program to let its EFI boot off a BIOS, and they’ll probably not even need to do that for Vista). This makes Macs the only machines that can run both Windows and MacOS X.

If you have a machine that can do both, it would be utterly stupid to jump from A to B before seeing how well you do selling a machine that can do A and B.

And this will be what Apple will eventually do. First, it will “allow” dual-boot systems and measure how many pioneers, especially pioneers who would never otherwise touch a Mac, buy systems.

If that works well enough, then Apple will start offering official dual-boot machines as an option, most likely with something rather better than Virtual PC that will let you run Windows in MacOS X.

Again, they’ll measure the response. If sales don’t increase dramatically, Apple can stop offering them. If sales do increase dramatically, and all those dual-boot machines end up converting most of the new buyers to MacOS X, so much the better for the MacOS X world, and Apple will stay bi-OSual.

If Mac sales in a few years are dominated by newcomers who just use the machines as designer Windows boxes, and they start clamoring for Windows-only boxes, then Apple will start giving it to them. If the sales figures at that time indicate that there’s a lot more Windows for Mac users than MacOS for Mac users, then the handwriting will be on the wall for MacOS X, and it will be gently phased out.

There’s a lot of “ifs” there, but it’s the only sane approach to the matter, a lot better than just jumping into the unknown. Let Windows and MacOS compete against each other, and see which (if either) wins out. It’s a win-win situation for Apple; there is no rational downside.

What Apple is likely to do is in a lot of ways similar to what AMD has largely done the last few years: transitioning to a new buyer base while gently squeezing out the old.

Of course, AMD has been moving upmarket, while Apple would be doing the opposite, but in both cases, the end effect is to stop being dependent on the old core market because it wasn’t sufficient. For AMD, the problem was the core yielded too little money, for Apple, the problem is too few customers.

The PCPeasants Are Coming, The PCPeasants Are Coming!!

About two years ago, we had an article called “How I PC’d an Apple G5, in which someone put an Athlon XP system into a G5 case (well, initially, the story was gutting a G5 machine and putting in an Athlon XP system.

This got Mac users very upset.

Well, what Andy did as a prank in 2004, Apple did for real in 2006.

Now it’s now only a matter of time before the PC peasants start coming.

And if enough of them come, they’ll be the ones who decide if MacOS X lives or die, not you, Macster.

If you think Jobs won’t allow it, uhhh, who do you think made the decision that made this now possible? Who started shifting to PC parts in 1997/1998? Who wanted to go to Intel five years ago (and put his money where his mouth was by keeping an x86 version of OS X on the backburner all those years)? Who had absolutely no problem coming up with Windows versions of QuickTime and iTunes?

I mean, really, how many iPods do you think Apple would have sold if iTunes were a MacOS program? Don’t you think the success of the bi-OSual iPod might influence Mr. Jobs’ thinking a tad?

For once, don’t listen to what the man says, look at what he does. Do you really think he’s going to pass on an obvious marketing opportunity and advantage without giving it a shot?

What grounds do you have to object, Macster? You won’t have to buy Windows when this happens. Nothing will be forced on you then, and if MacOS X is so wonderful that it will convert most newcomers, nothing will ever be forced on you.

Your little X-world will only be endangered if hordes of PCpeasants give Apple a shot and the brutes find that MacOS X isn’t so special, only if MacOS X sinks rather than swims against Windows in their eyes.

And that’s the real problem for a lot of you (not all, or even most, but a big chunk of Macsters), isn’t it? If you buy a Mac to feel special, to feel elite, that’s not going to be the case any more, will it, not with all that riffraff joining your little club?

And if the peasants do take over the estate, and give Jobs a lot more money than you ever did, you become superfluous to Apple, don’t you, and can be gently phased out, just like the MacOS9/PPCers. Where else are you going to go? That hardly makes you feel special, elite or important, now does it?

Even if MacOS X survives, even thrives, there will still always be plenty of riffraff using your machines to run their barbaric OS, and dirtying up the place. You probably hate that just as much.

The core problem isn’t with Apple, but you. You see, the Mac as a piece of computer hardware hasn’t been special for a long time (outside of some better industrial design). It’s been getting closer and closer to a PC the last number of years, now it is a PC. The last bastion of perceived superiority is the OS, and soon it, too, will be put to the test by lots of people with a Windows background.

But even if most find MacOS X better, the root problem is no computer makes you special, or elite, and anything else like that, no more so than buying Häagen-Dazs over the store brand ice cream. If you like Häagen-Dazs better, fine. I wouldn’t even argue with you about Häagen-Dazs being better. But to think you’re a better person because you eat Häagen-Dazs, well, that’s a delusion simply because most people could easily buy it, too, if they wished.

And delusions become no truer when you find a ghetto of other deluded people who’ll agree with you. It’s only when most people outside the ghetto agree that you’re special or elite that it holds weight.


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