imnuts' Blog
Random stuff from my mind…

Why Leopard (and Possibly Macs) will Fail

Well, at least in part. I watched the WWDC 2006 Keynote today as there was nothing else to do at work, plus I wanted to see the Mac crash. Needless to say, while it does look quite impressive, I don’t really see it doing quite as well as they would probably like. They showed all the users there all these wonderful statistics, pictures and demos, but if one would stop and think about everything that was shown, you may realize the same things. One thing that I do have to admit though, it looks like Leopard will be quite impressive.

First, let me point out that I use a Mac, although not primarily. I mainly use Windows Vista and FreeBSD, although mainly Vista. I’m expecting that this will probably receive a ton of Mac fanatic comments and how I’m wrong and everything. It’s expected and I’ve learned that anyone that puts up any comment against Mac will likely receive this. The same basic thing goes for those that are Windows fanatics or Linux fanatics, it’s just something that is sort of expected. It’s not that Leopard or Macs in and of themselves are bad, just that everything about them is meant to look like it’s the best thing to happen to the electronics/computer world ever, and even the smallest things are blown out of proportion.

With that out of the way, lets get on with the reasons why Apple is going to have a bunch of short-comings with Leopard. First thing that is going to hurt it is that it’s going to show up after Vista arrives. Even if it is going to be better, I don’t know yet, it is still going to be behind by a few months, maybe more. Time is always a factor, and the sooner you can release something, the better off you are going to be. This holds true for nearly everything. The world is full of impulse buyers that want the latest and greatest when the get an upgrade. Many people will be upgrading their computers, and with the promise of a new operating system being closer for Windows over Mac, that is going to help Microsoft.

The next thing that I feel is going to hurt them, at least in the long run is the big new program featured in Leopard, Time Machine. Constant backups are great, we’d all love to have them, and Time Machine is a great idea. I’d love to be able to run the program myself, or something similar. Now what is wrong with Time Machine? Well, as we all know, backups take space, lots of space. So, lets say that I’m using my Mac that has Leopard on it for video or movie editting. I have a camera with a DV tape and a few hours of video that I need to edit. Well, to import that, it’s going to take quite a lot of space. I work on my project and in the process of that, the system does one of the auto-backups that are performed via Time Machine. I finish my project and delete all the junk I don’t want, but those files stay in the Time Machine and can be restored. Now, where are all of these gigabytes of backups going? They have to be stored locally to be effective and quick. So, that means that I’ve deleted a project that is several gigabytes to save space, but it isn’t actually gone, it’s still there. Even if the backups under-go extreme compression, to remain lossless, you aren’t going to compress something like a digital video project all that much, possibly 10% at best, saving 1-2GBs overall, depending on project size. So, where is this going, well, you’ve likely deleted more than just that project, or changed more than that. So hundreds of gigabytes of data are being backed up somewhere on your computer over time. Eventually, sooner over later most likely, you’re going to run out of space, and poof, your backups are gone as you need storage for a new CD or something similar. Basically, it’s a great idea in principle, but you’re going to need a terabyte of storage or more to make this work effectively, and have things spanned in some sort of RAID to keep performance up. If I attempted to keep track of all the changes that occur on my Windows system on a day to day basis, I would need at least 100GB of free storage to account for that since I last installed Windows Vista, and that was about a week ago. Think of how quickly all of this would build up for someone and then you’ll realize how much storage this will need and how it isn’t going to work and ultimately fail to live up to the expectations.

The next thing I see failing in some way is iChat. While I don’t personally like the program, the new “camera” feature that is in it isn’t something all that special. Windows Live Messenger, AIM, and Yahoo! all support this currently as far as I know. What is going to cause this to fail is the fact that it isn’t bandwidth friendly. While a lot of people are on broadband, a lot of people aren’t. There is also the fact that upload speeds are miniscule compared to download speeds, and that is going to kill connections offering streaming video. The quality of the video in the WWDC keynote was amazing, but people need to realize that it was likely run over a 100mbit connection. If you tried to accomplish the same thing on a low-level broadband connection out in the backwoods where 1mbit speeds are still pricey, the quality is going to diminish greatly. Also, think of someone on dialup attempting to do this, or people that have bandwidth restrictions in place where you cannot upload or download more than a certain amount per month. Once again, it’s a great idea, although a little behind, but it’s going to fail until broadband is everywhere and high speed broadband is much more common, that being speeds in excess of T1 upload and download speeds, as upload is going to be very important here as well.

The operating system in general I see having a major problem as well. This won’t be a problem such as those mentioned above, but a different problem, mainly the EU. Microsoft has been heavily sanctioned in the past few years by the European Union for “not offering enough options” by integrating many of the tools commonly used by a normal desktop user for everything. Recently, it was for not releasing copyrighted code that makes Server 2003 more efficient than its competitors. You may be saying to yourself that they deserve this, or wondering what this has to do with Apple. Well, if Microsoft deserves all the restrictions put in place by the EU, so does Apple. Why? Well, lets see here… iLife is included with every Mac now, allowing you to do so much more than you can on a standard Windows installation. You can edit audio, create webpages in a GUI, listen to music, watch movies, edit video and create DVDs and so much more. You can’t do half of this on Windows XP or even Vista, let alone try to do this on the “N” editions that they are force to ship now. So, why hasn’t the EU come down on Apple yet? You have far fewer choices here in my opinion than you do on a Windows computer. You have a narrower software selection overall, so there are less choices in general. Now you may say that it’s easy to remove all those applications, well, you can do the same thing in Windows, or even choose another program in Windows, same as on a Mac, but that hasn’t changed anything. If Mac continues to become more popular, it is just a matter of time before the same restrictions come upon them. There is absolutely no reason to include all of those programs on a Mac, but they are there anyway and preventing the competition from getting on to Apple computers.

The hardware and pricing is also always going to be against Apple. In the past, you were paying a lot of money, but you were getting a very well built machine that had hardware like no other computer available. Granted, the systems were very pricey, but at least the cost was backed up with a very stable hardware platform. The only major problem with these older systems is that they are kind of hard to upgrade significantly and are basically going to stay the same throughout their lifetime. The hard drive is the only really easy thing to replace or upgrade. Memory and the graphics cards can be upgraded, but at a high cost, on top of the already expensive system. While memory isn’t going to be as pricey, you can still have issues with non-Apple RAM modules installed. While this may not happen, it easily can, and can cause a lot of issues. The new systems that are based on the Intel processors share the same higher price, although it is reduced from what it used to be. I do not know if they share the “hard to upgrade” part for hardware, but my guess would be that they do as they are still Apple systems. While the newer computers are cheaper and less likely to be upgraded, it is still an issue that the PC and Linux/Unix world of computers do not face. They are simple to upgrade just about anything that you want. The high price is also less justified in the newer Macintels. Where the old PPC based systems were nearly all custom parts that weren’t in anything else, the new Macs use many more off-the-shelf parts that are produced in bulk for several manufacturers out there, not just for Apple. So, while you’re still getting a really good system, the parts going into it cost less, are not quite the same quality (at least in my opinion), but you are still paying a significant amount for several of the systems available. Now, you may say that they are less expensive than a similar OEM system, but that isn’t true either. I’ve priced out Dell Latitudes that have equal or greater specifications than the MacBook and MacBook Pro, and the price was less on the Dell systems, but the Dell’s had better specifications on them. This was also looking at the Education prices at Apple and standard prices at Dell. While Dell may not have quite the same hardware quality, a 3 year Complete Care warranty covers basically everything that may go wrong so that you can get the system replaced if there is an issue. It is hard to get systems similar to the Mac Mini or the iMac, just due to their design, but you can get equivalent or better systems from Dell and other OEMs for less than their price as well. While you wouldn’t have the same space saving design or anything, you would have a better system that was easier to upgrade. I’m sure that the same can be said about the Mac Pro as well. Apple hardware is overpriced and will likely continue to be. Just look at the “Mighty Mouse” which costs $60 or so, but has less functionality than the Logitech MX1000 which is better, unless you’re left handed.

The other thing that is against them as far as pricing goes is that they never offer any big sales. Sure, if you’re a student, you can get a free iPod with a purchase, but what if you already have one? Your “special” has now become useless. While you could sell it and make a couple hundred dollars (depending on the model), it still isn’t the same as if you saved $300 on the system itself. Just think, you’ve likely purchased the system by putting it on a credit card. Unless you pay it off all at once, interest is going to build up. On a different system that had a special running where you save money on the purchase price over getting something like an iPod for free, that is money you’ll never have interest building up on, saving you even more in the long run. Dell and HP, along with other OEM PC manufacturers offer big sales consistently. This past summer, there was a deal at Dell that could have saved you more than 30% on the purchase price of their systems, depending on which you wanted. On a $2000 purchase, that is a significant amount of money that you’ll never have to worry about spending on a system. Apple has not offered any major sale of this sort to anyone that I’m aware of, ever. While they may not be a huge company, maybe spending a few less thousand on advertising and giving a big sale at some point would help out more. Their huge advertising campaign has been doing a lot for them lately, but just how long will it last with the problems users have been seeing with the new laptops, such as over heating and stained keyboards.

The last thing that they really need to adopt is multi-button mice on all computers. While they do have the Mighty Mouse, which is nothing special, they really need more than one button. Why? Well, you switched to Intel processors and developed Boot Camp which allows for Windows to be installed. I’ve seen several people running Windows in some way on their new Intel Macs, either through some sort of virtual machine or by dual-booting. The question is, if you have a laptop with Windows and want to take it somewhere and not take a mouse, how do you right click? While this is easy in Mac OS X, it’s really difficult in Windows. Plus, how do you right click if you have to hold on to your laptop while using it, even if you are in the Mac OS? There needs to be some easier way to right click. Get out of the stone age and put two buttons on the laptops. While it may be cool for some, it is really dumb to not have a second button when it is so useful in any operating system you may be running.

There are other things that are going against the Operating system and the computers themselves, even if they are some of the best systems out there. The operating system is great, but it does have issues, and they are only going to become more and more prominent as more and more people buy into the rediculous advertising campaign being run by Apple. The “Mac v. PC” ads that are on TV are completely stupid and shouldn’t be run at all. They don’t portray either system correctly, it’s just a simple little scheme to make the Mac look like the best thing in the computer world. How much software runs on a Mac? PC’s can do so much more than make a pie chart, have better hardware support, and the virus “problem” isn’t one if people just weren’t stupid. If Apple really wants to take down Microsoft and Vista, they have the creativity and capability of doing so, but their current strategy isn’t going to cut it. They need more compatibility and lower prices before they even begin to make a significant dent in market share.

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