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Apple Tech at Macworld NY 2002
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Bringing People to the Platform

Jobs began the keynote by responding to criticisms from Microsoft that the adoption of Mac OS X is slow. Apple estimates that there are 2.5 million Mac OS X users and predicts that there will be 5 million by the end of the year. Jobs reported that 77 percent of the people who have bought new Macs since it shipped with Mac OS X as the default OS have kept Mac OS X as the default OS. He said that 20 percent of the install base is now running Mac OS X and that this constitutes the fastest transition in history. Jobs proudly concluded that not only is this faster than anything that Apple has done, it is also a faster adoption rate than anything Microsoft has done.

So far Apple has targeted the traditional Mac users at one end and the Unix hard-core users at the other end. They have reached out to the education market and to creative professionals. With the recent "Switch" promotion, Apple is trying to attract Windows users who are frustrated with various aspects of that platform. Apple estimates that about 1.7 million people have visited Apple's Switch site and that about 1 million of them are running Windows when they visit.

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Now comes the tricky part. The cycle of life for a platform is this: To attract users you need developers creating cool applications. To attract the developers to create the cool applications you need enough users to target. Apple can't afford to worry either group in this early stage of Mac OS X. With the $129 price tag for Jaguar, Apple is punishing the customers who switched to Mac OS X first. They risk angering their hard-core early adopters. Even if they don't anger these people, Apple should make it easy for the 2.5 million existing customers to come to Jaguar. Apple can't move developers to take advantage of Ink or Rendezvous if a high percentage of the customers don't run the version of the OS that supports these technologies.

But shouldn't Apple get paid for all of their hard work? Sure. I would pay for Jaguar. Switchers will get the new OS for free when they buy the new hardware. Classic Mac owners will get their version of Jaguar free when they upgrade their old Macs to machines that can run this version of the OS. The only ones that will be paying are those who supported Apple through this change from Mac OS 9. As Apple ties more of its applications to .mac they can see revenues from users who actually take advantage of these applications. Apple is now trying to realize revenues from hardware sales, Internet services, and the operating system. By relaxing the pricing on the current release of the OS, they may increase revenue on the other two.

My Mom

Mom said, "I just paid $1,300 for a new iMac in April that came with Mac OS X in it. I'm not going to spend another $100.00 for something I don't need." As a developer, this worries me. I love developing in Java for the Mac because I know that everyone has Java 1.3.1 preinstalled. As soon as you have a significant number of people not upgrading to Jaguar, I have to worry about which version of Java is running on the Mac OS X Mac, just like my friends who target Windows boxes. I asked mom if she would upgrade if Apple only charged $19.00 for the disks. "I guess so," she said, "as long as it's really easy and nothing breaks."

In the next month, I hope Apple hears the many like my mom who won't upgrade. Apple needs to do three things: attract more people to the platform (the other 95 percent targeted by the Switch campaign and by the attention to the included developer tools), convert existing Mac users running Mac OS 9 and below to Mac OS X users, and get existing Mac OS X users to upgrade to Jaguar.

When my mother got her new iMac in April I bought her a copy of the Pogue Press best-selling book Mac OS X: The Missing Manual. It's helped her better understand Mac OS X. Next month I'm sending Steve Jobs a copy of the not-yet-released book "My Mom: The Missing Manual".

Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.

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