I sat down last night with my receipts and computed I have spent on Apple hardware since 2002. The total includes the costs of personal computers for both me and my wife and PowerMac systems I bought for my “homemade-not-doing-much-with-it” video business. It came to an amazing $21,000. If I include software costs (which includes buying Mac versions of Adobe products, several versions of Office, and pro video applications like Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro), the total is probably closer to $28,000. (I’m curious now to know what my exact total investment in today’s Mac platform is, so I may take the time over the next week to compile the software costs.) My point here is that our investment in the current Mac platform is substantial, less than a lot of businesses’ but a lot more than the average bear’s.
We started out with 800 Mhz and 700 Mhz G4 flat panel iMacs and bought a dual 1 Ghz PowerMac for the video business (and paying $4K for that Mac and monitor, the only Mac purchase I regret—my upper limit is $2K or so for any one system today). Maybe a year later, I got a great deal on a dual 1.25 GHz G4 and replaced my dual 1 Ghz PowerMac with that, giving my 700 iMac away to a family member and using the dual 1 GHz PowerMac as my personal machine and a backup video editor. We bought two 20 inch Apple Cinema Displays to go with the PowerMacs, retiring the 17 inch Apple Studio LCD (ADC) that came with the dual 1 GHz machine. Later, I bought myself an 800 Ghz G3 iBook to use at home and at work and bought my wife a 700 GHz G3 iBook on sale at MicroCenter for use at her university. When the G5’s came out, I bought my wife a 17 inch 1.8 Ghz G5 iMac and then myself a 20 inch (when MicroCenter sold them at 10% off—couldn’t resist!). A few months later, I replaced my iBook with a 1 GHz PowerBook and a year later replaced it with 1.5 GHz machine, while my wife took my hand-me-down PowerBook. This year, I replaced the dual 1.25 Ghz G4 PowerMac with a dual 2 Ghz G5 PowerMac. What happened to the machines we replaced? Rather than sell them, we made a choice to trickle them down throughout the family. Lots of family members are now on the Mac. It’s been a great platform. So far.
The risk with Apple’s move to Intel is huge. A lot of the reaction from the Mac community I’ve seen on the web is negative, though there is a good mix of positive commentary, too. I think it’s too early to tell what it really means. Frankly, I’m feeling sad, even though I know this could turn out to be a good thing. I’m feeling this way because, no matter how one tries to explain it away, the Mac lost some of its differentiation yesterday. Jobs’ attempt to rally the troops to the cause by declaring “the heart and soul of the Mac is its operating system” is as much marketing as it is truth (or untruth); it is the Mac’s hardware design as well as its operating system that make the package the most attractive.
This move is about market share and ego. Jobs has stated he wanted to take back computing from Gates; and with this move, he is positioning the platform to do so. He’s using video, movies, and music as his springboard to do it; and there is as good a chance he will succeed as not. And Jobs is obviously miffed that IBM made him look bad. The danger here is that he has overestimated the loyalty and patience of his current user base to withstand the rigors of this, for it is unlikely the transition will occur as painlessly as he tried to make it seem yesterday. As good as it is, it’s already being reported that Rhapsody does not run any applications with Altivec, and it drops into a G3 emulation mode when confronted with it. That’s a huge performance hit if you’re running Photoshop. And even Apple’s developer documentation is admitting that applications using Altivec may be harder to port. Good-bye to the idea of changing “a few lines of code”. It is also fairly apparent that initially Apple will be using 32 bit processors in its systems, not 64. This is obviously a step backwards. Will current Windows users flock to the Mac in enough numbers to replace the current Mac users Apple’s going to lose? Stay tuned!
Even if Apple is successful with this, it will ultimately face the same types of woes Microsoft is already dealing with. At some point, Apple’s “lock out” of OS X (ensuring it runs only on Apple hardware) will be challenged as monopolistic. That technological barrier will be bypassed in short order by hackers; and Apple will find itself facing, fairly or unfairly, a public outcry concerning its lack of hardware support, even if it never had any intention of supporting the hardware in question in the first place. Too, as market share increases, OS X will have to work harder to fend off the inevitable onslaught of hackers who are pissed that Apple hasn’t made OS X to run on everything; and they’ll release their share of viruses to make a point. In the end, the Mac community may find that the Mac is not that different from Windows after all. Once either developers and/or end users realize that, it’s all over for the Apple platform.
Me, I’m keeping my G5 systems for while. I may even be one of the few who do a little upgrading to ensure I can run on what I’ve got until Apple is beyond this transition. I had been thinking about upgrading my Adobe applications to CS2, but I see no reason to do that now. Neither will I consider any upgrades to Final Cut Pro or DVD Studio Pro. In short, I’m not going to upgrade any major application until the “universal” PPC/Intel ports are complete and applications cover both territories. I’ll use what I have, and sit back and watch how all this goes.