17 January 2006

More on Macs

I was going to blog about the death of feminism, and then I noticed a few comments in response to my Macworld posting (and I think readers have seen enough rage from me in the past 24 hours - if not, see earlier post, below). So here's a bullet-pointy follow-up.

  • Dan comments on the iPod-as-gateway-drug effect. Yes, I think this is just what Jobs wants to have happen. The idea, extended, is that with Macs running the same hardware as PC's – and soon with the capacity to run PC programs either within OS X or in a simple emulation program (and at full speed) – there will be much greater enticement for switchers. PC users can keep their games and any other essential windows software, but they can also have iTunes and iPhoto, and iMovie, etc. PC users who love how iPod and iTunes 'just work' will have the chance to discover the very same phenomenon in the rest of their 'digital life'. They can also have the Mac design. Will it be as cheap as a Dell? No. But it won't be much more expensive. Early analysis (even by non Mac-folks) suggest that the Intel iMac hardware specs would cost you about the same amount of money in a PC.
  • Ruth worries about the loss of Apple's smallest notebook. There's good news and bad news here. Good news: the rumoured widescreen iBook will be much faster, have much more screen real estate, will be thinner, and might even be a higher lighter than your rightly beloved 12" Powerbook. I plan to grab one of these new iBooks as soon as I can (best guess is summer time). Bad news: a true subnotebook is not likely to appear. To get a machine under 4 pounds you have to take something out, and then you have to deal with docking solutions, port extenders, external optical drives, etc. Steve feels strongly that these things take away from the Mac experience.
  • For Tarn, I only have bad news: the Mac tablet is unlikely to surface any time soon.
  • And finally, the sageman references the rage among the Mac faithful that Apple is charging full price for iLife 06. Yes, we are accustomed to upgrade pricing in the software world, so this move disconcerts. However, it's crucial to keep in mind that iLife only costs $79 ($59 with edu discount). $79 is significantly cheaper than the upgrade price of most software packages. Even better, for $99 you can get a family pack that provides 5 licenses (i.e. convert Rick to the Mac and your per person price drops significantly). Plus iLife is free on new Macs. At any rate, at either the $59 or the $99 price, I'd say buy iLife now. The new photocasting feature is probably worth the upgrade. Early reviews suggest that the iLife upgrade was extensive and impressive (much more so than the iWork update, which didn't do much).
I've already purchased iWork 06. It's probably worth it just for the comments feature in Pages and the ability to do Endnotes. It has one glaring issue for academics: it can't do continuous footnotes. This means that if you have a really long footnote, it will lead to an awkward page break (with blank space at the bottom of the page that precedes the long footnote). Other than that, though, it's what a word processor ought to be. It gives you fast, beautifully rendered text, and it finally makes it clear to me what 'styles' were supposed to be about (I now use them). Thus, even at this stage it's a great alternative to Word. Of course, since the world is still M$ dominated, you have to export your Pages document to Word (works flawlessly unless you have an amazingly complicated document full of tables and/or graphics) or PDF before sending it to people. But Pages opens Word docs (see parenthetical note above) perfectly fine, and even the comments features are inter-operable with Word, i.e. make comments in Pages and the ycome up as comments in Word, and vice versa. Some folks will probably prefer to continue using Word rather than learn a new word processor (an act that really is akin to learning a new language - I find Pages utterly intuitive, but I've still got some hours invested in learning it) and have to deal with importing/exporting. If you long to be free of Word, however, then the liberation is worth the effort to attain it.

As for iLife, I don't use iMovie and iDVD, but they were cool when I played with them (and made the one essential DVD - the Buffy musical). iPhoto, on the other hand, is essential, iWeb sounds great, and the integration with .Mac (while a bit microsofty in some respects) really does make the whole thing work great. I now open Excel once in a while, and I use Camino occasionally for surfing (it gives you a word processor-like interface in Blogger that just isn't there with Safari - anyone know why?) and other than that I run only Apple software. And all of the Apple software is 'universal' (read: works natively on the new Intel chips).


dan said...

I was using Opera for a while, and had to abandon it when both Gmail and the Blogger admin failed. If I remember correctly, I didn't have the full functioning of the "word processor-like interface" that you mention fails in Safari. I assumed this was due to it being strictly adherent to web standards, although I use Firefox and don't have the same problem. I think Opera and Safari are a lot alike, and I think they're both pretty strict on standards, so that's still my guess.

Transient Gadfly said...

1) I suspect that the reason the WYSIWYG editor doesn't show up with Safari is that it's purposefully blocked because blogger either hasn't tested it with Safari, or it just doesn't recognize Safari's User Agent string. I suspect it would work just fine, it's just Safari users are a relatively small population of their user base, so they probably just don't display it rather than worry about supporting it.

2) While I'm not sure that the Intel chip will have any particular impact on the ability to run WinOS programs on a Mac (there are a couple of layers of abstraction between a computer's chip instruction set and its operating system, such that there's no major OS revision that goes along with this announcement), any barriers to broad Mac adoption were already largely imaginary anyway. What Mac has done here is build itself a springboard using the brand awareness that intel already built (I don't own a tv and I can identify the intel theme in one note). I think more than anything else, that's what's going on here.

3) That has to be the most capitalist, business-centric thing I have ever said. I have to go take a shower now.

Transient Gadfly said...

P.S. this makes it sound like Rosetta (which is doing the work of translating betwixt chipset architecture and OS platform, a.k.a the level of abstraction I mention above) is actually part of the OS. That might be just the way they present it to the world on apple.com, but also any of my conclusions about running WinOS programs on Macs may in fact be wrong.

Sam said...

A. Yes, the capitalismo was scary there.

B. Rosetta is doing a sort of on-the-fly encoding of PowerPC apps so that they will run on Intel. So Rosetta won't let you run WinOS apps on MacTel; it lets you run PPC apps on MacTel. That's why Rosetta is different from a solution - one that does not yet exist - to running Windows apps on MacTel machines. One way to do this is through a sort of emulation (like Rosetta, like Virtual PC, etc.) And I'm sure someone will write such a program so that we can eventual run Windows apps, through emulation, right next to OS X apps, all within OS X.

However, the key thing, and what I was getting at, is, the that motherboard in the new Intel iMac is an off-the-shelf Intel motherboard. It's all PC hardware, the entire architecture. The only thing stopping windows from booting right now is that it's such a new motherboard architecture that it uses EFI (the replacement for BIOS) and Windows XP doesn't support EFT - though Vista (used to be Longhorn when they announced it as the next OS, like EIGHT years ago) will. All the techies have said (and I'm taking their word on this) that it won't be long until someone has a version of Vista or XP that will just boot straight from the Mactel hardware, skipping OS X all together.

Sam said...

By the way, the real-world tests of Rosetta say that it's a pretty amazing piece of software. Microsoft Office, which is still coded for PPC (not a Universal binary), runs just dandy on the MacTel machines. Even Photoshop runs OK, though a bit slowly (of course).