"You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
-- Yogi Berra
One morning, after I had written a glowing review of Photoshop 6 for Web Review, I found a note on my desk stating, Love and kisses from your biggest fan -- signed Adobe. This wasn't the first time I'd been teased about my enthusiasm for a technology. And certainly it won't be the last.
A few weeks ago I received an email from an O'Reilly reader who took issue with the enthusiasm I expressed for Mac OS X 10.2 in my newsletter. I receive lots of mail from Mac readers -- negative and positive -- but I want to use this note as an example of a problem that I see fermenting in the Apple customer base right now, and one that I want to address today in this article.
As I see it, the Mac community (of which I'm a member) has become too distracted by OS 9 vs. OS X debates, upgrade pricing, and related issues. These distractions have fragmented the community and undermined overall support for the platform -- and at a time when unification is more important than indignation.
Mac OS X has been on the shelves for over a year. Apple has been working at breakneck speed to produce a viable (and amazing, IMHO) operating system. Application vendors have bent over backwards to produce great software to run on OS X. And yet, only 20 percent of existing Mac users have upgraded, or at least partitioned their drives and installed Mac OS X as part of a dual-boot system. (I recommended this approach back in May of 2001 with the Disaster-Free Upgrade to Mac OS X series.)
So yes, I'm going out on a limb here. But some trees are worth climbing. If you're already preparing your retort, you might want to read Harry's note first. He may have beat you to it:
You have managed to raise the art of "fawning" to new heights of subtlety and sophistication!
Obsequious? Sycophantic? Not at all. This is "spin" of the highest order.
Did the bitter news about Apple planning to charge for Jaguar escape you? Bitter, that is, for those of use who have paid and put up with an OS since its beta release that only recently came close to being tolerable.
Bitter because this is a rotten way to say thank you for having helped them along the way with our goodwill and patience.
Dish out some reality, Derrick. Sugar-coating everything is going to rot your teeth :-)
Oh Harry, I hate to break it to you, but I was actually just warming up.
"The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting."
-- Gloria Leonard
There are two things I'm going to "spin" today. First, the rate of adoption of Mac OS X. Second, O'Reilly's Mac OS X Conference in late September that will help you get your Mac credentials after making the move to OS X.
You may recall the flap with Microsoft complaining about Apple's OS X marketing efforts, right as Macworld NY was getting underway. MS was upset that they had only sold 300,000+ copies of Office X instead of the 750,000 licenses they had predicted in their business plan. Of course, they didn't seem to factor into the equation that the price of Office was too stinking high.
Apple admits that only 20 percent of their customers have upgraded to Mac OS X, but estimates that number doubling before too long. In the meantime, they're pressing forward with a new version of OS X, Jaguar, which I personally think is so impressive that I'm willing to say so before it's even released.
I realize that it's too embarrassing for Apple to run a Switch campaign for its existing customer base. But maybe they should reconsider it. Steve Jobs was gracious when he said that a 20 percent conversion after a year is impressive. I think it's terrible. I would have thought that after 17 months of Mac OS X sitting on the shelves, after the release of Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Studio MX, Maya, OnmiWeb, Palm Desktop, Virtual PC, AOL, Microsoft Office, BBEdit, Fetch, QuickTime, FileMaker, FinalCut Pro, and all the iApps (that are bundled free with the OS), we'd have at least 50 percent of the community running Mac OS X on at least one partition of one of their computers.
If you would have told me a year ago that we would have an OS as good as 10.1, plus all of these vital applications, and only a 20 percent conversion rate, I would have told you that you just don't know the Mac community.
And soon, we'll have Jaguar. I've been using a beta version of 10.2 since WWDC, and I can tell you it's solid. It feels better than anything else out there running on any other hardware. It behaves properly, looks great, and does what it is supposed to do. Maybe those generic assertions aren't very persuasive for an audience of power users and developers. So, at the risk of dampening this lively monologue, here are a few technical highlights included in the next version of Mac OS X.
"If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use? Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?"
-- Seymour Cray (1925-1996), father of supercomputing
Fast Finder: Yes, there will be spring-loaded folders (who says Apple doesn't listen ;) ), but the real news is that the Jaguar Finder has been rewritten, and it's sweet.
Mail.app: This is probably the real reason that Microsoft is ticked off; Mail.app in Jaguar is better than Entourage. It's more stable, has much better junk mail filters, and it integrates with Apple's online services.
Rendezvous: Apple's branding for Zero Configuration Networking is the most exciting networking thing I've seen since AirPort.
Integration of FreeBSD 4.4 and GCC 3.1 into Darwin: This is real Unix, and it just got better with Jaguar.
Common UNIX Print System (CUPS) for print sharing: Uses Internet Printing Protocol to manage print jobs and queues, but supports other protocols too, including SMB.
Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP): Apple wrote their own PPTP implementation that includes IPsec. Macs can now easily access secure Windows servers. And it's built right in the OS.
Lightweight Directory Access Protocol 3.0 (LDAP): Jaguar includes LDAP 3.0, which is an upgrade from 10.1's LDAP 2.0
Quartz Extreme: Uses OpenGL to improve graphic performance. If you have a new Mac, it really improves performance.
Address Book: Becomes your core database for contact management that can be used throughout Jaguar and by any Jaguar-savvy application. At last, one address database that works with all of your applications.
QuickTime 6: Incorporates Mpeg 4 and AAC audio for state-of-the-art multimedia. Have you seen the Mpeg 4 demo?
I've left Sherlock 3 off of the list, because I'm still upset about the whole Watson thing. And for the life of me, I don't understand why they're wasting time with Inkwell -- Steve can barely bring himself to mention it during the keynotes. iChat is OK, I guess, but I sure wouldn't put it on my highlight list. But outside of those things, there isn't much fooling around in this upcoming version of the operating system. It is as solid as the Titanium resting on your lap.
Even the best estimates put Apple's market share at 5 percent. Cutting that small slice of the pie again between Mac OS 9 and OS X users really dilutes Apple's ability to innovate and remain profitable. Plus, it's difficult to motivate struggling developers to write applications for such a small market.
Apple is going to sink or swim with Mac OS X. You're going to have to upgrade sooner or later, so why not do it now? The sooner the Mac community unites under one OS, the faster Apple can move forward, lower prices, and innovate more.
"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is."
-- Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut
O'Reilly & Associates is putting together a conference that is the first Apple-approved technical gathering focused on Mac OS X. The conference begins on Sept. 30 in Santa Clara, CA. -- just five weeks after the Jaguar release.
Guess what the focus is?
The conference will feature not one, not two, not even five, but ten Apple Computer engineers and staff uncovering the detailed secrets of Mac OS X, including the new stuff in Jaguar. Plus, Sal Soghoian is leading a tutorial on AppleScript, and Jordan Hubbard is keynoting. Session titles by Apple insiders include:
But there's more, much more. Conference sessions include just about every aspect of Mac OS X computing, from Apache to iPhoto, Cocoa to Perl, MySQL to my iPod.
You could struggle to learn the intricacies of Mac OS X on your own over the course of several months, or you can come spend four days with Tim O'Reilly, David Pogue, James Gosling, Jordan Hubbard, Wilfredo Sanchez Vega, and dozens of other Mac OS X experts, and get your credentials right on the spot.
O'Reilly is doing this because they are the best equipped to pull it off, and crazy enough to even attempt this in a stinking economy.
"Opportunities multiply as they are seized."
-- Sun Tzu
There are a number of discounts available for the Mac OS X conference. The first one you should be aware of is the Early Bird special that ends on August 9. (That's real soon!) Be sure to review the other discounts provided to Apple Developer Connection members, fulltime students, academic instructors, and employees of the Federal Government. All of these are listed on the registration page.
After all this, you might be wondering how I responded to Harry's thoughtful letter. I told him that my enthusiasm is based on my experience with Jaguar. And I concluded with, "Gotta tell you -- that's just the way I feel."
All I'm really saying here is: "Let's stop pussyfooting around and move forward with this platform." If you know you're going to upgrade from OS 9 "someday," consider today. Create a special Jaguar partition and experiment with the OS. This is a venture worth the risk. If you already have 10.1, go to 10.2. When application developers see the bulk of the Mac audience move to the latest version of OS X, good things will happen for the entire community.
And finally, I hope to see you in Santa Clara on September 30. If you can make it, please stop me in the hallway and say hello. I'd like to meet you.
Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit www.thedigitalstory.com.
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