Apple, Mac OS and the future of personal computing

Windows sucks.

This is perhaps a foregone conclusion when considering operating system options or solutions. So where do we turn to? Of course there is FOSS (or free and open-source software). But it can be argued that open-source operating systems such as Linux may still not be the best option for an end-user desktop solution because not everyone is a geek. And it would take an enthusiast some time, effort, and commitment to successfully maintain and smoothly run a system entirely on Linux and FOSS. What more for a regular Juan dela Cruz who can’t tell a pixel from a megabyte?

However, the fact that Microsoft’s family of operating systems is plagued by numerous vulnerabilities and weaknesses would nonetheless compel a regular Juan dela Cruz to be, or at least attempt to be, an expert on security. The slew of malware plaguing the wired and unwired world would simply mean that it’s bad housekeeping not to protect your system against malware threats. It’s important to be familiar with working that oh-so-important set of antivirus and anti-spyware software because the moment you establish a connection to the world-at-large, you’re vulnerable to attacks.

And it doesn’t stop there. By being vulnerable to attacks, your system may also end up being source of the attacks itself, once infected. This is how smart malware has become.

So again, we ask. Where do we turn to?

I’d say save yourself the headache and go get a Mac.

Yes, a Mac–one of those beautiful, shiny machines from the fruit company we all love so much: Apple.

You get virtually no viruses nor spyware (maybe it’s because the MacOS‘s user base is too small to be worth targetting by malware authors?). You get a powerful, rock-solid UNIX-based operating system without the fuss of maintaining Linux–you don’t have to be an expert. In short, you get something that gets the job done without giving you a headache. Oh, and don’t forget the coolness factor!

Alas, but a Mac’s so expensive, compared to their PC brethren, you say. True. The cheapest brand new Apple computer, the Mac Mini, retails locally for about PhP 40,000.00 just for the CPU. That’s about twice the price of a decent complete Pentium-4 based clone desktop set.

So what’s all this crap about the Macintosh being the best alternative if the Pinoy computing public would most likely be unable to afford a Mac?

It’s about timing!

Yes, the average computer-buying Filipino could probably not afford a Mac today. But recent developments in the industry would probably mean a Mac-based system can be affordable in the next couple of years, after all.

It was talk of the town a few of months back when Apple made the announcement at the Worldwide Developer Conference that it would shift from the PowerPC architecture to Intel-based processors. Apple admitted that it had been secretly developing an Intel port of its acclaimed OS X after all (yes, since time immemorial). The company will sell Intel-based Macs by third quarter of 2006 starting with the entry-level machines (the Mac Minis) and eventually working up to the more powerful ones.

It shook the industry like nothing had ever shaken it before. It’s like saying the Earth will start rotating clockwise starting tomorrow.

What’s important with this announcement is that it opens up the possibility that the company might consider selling the Mac OS as a solution independent of Apple hardware, or in other words, you may be able to install Mac OS on your existing generic Intel-based grey box.

What an exciting possibility! I can see your eyes widen in anticipation.

But wait–a problem may be posed by the fact that Apple was firm and categorical in stating (also during the WWDC) that it will not consider developing and selling the Mac OS for use with non-Apple hardware. After all, Apple is primarily a hardware company.

I wouldn’t worry about this. Yes, Apple is saying this now. But precedents in the IT industry will tell that they may actually be likely to deviate from this paradigm in the future. After all, didn’t Microsoft’s Bill Gates say something about not needing more than 640KB of RAM? And after all, wasn’t Apple’s own Steve Jobs stubborn in holding out against having more than one mouse button?

Look now: Microsoft’s operating systems and suite of office applications are probably the most memory-hungry apps around. And Apple’s new Mighty Mouse doesn’t only have two clickers, but even a scroller and squeezer!

Gee whiz, I’d say this is certainly a fickle-minded industry, if you ask me. But that’s good in a sense, because there will always be the possibility that Apple will decide to sell Mac OS as a separate solution for non-Apple hardware owners. However distant, this possibility is always welcome in my book.

And IMHO, if this becomes a reality, it will reshape our entire computing experience. Mac OS may, after all, be the Windows-killer we’ve been looking for.

CPU Temp

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  • I have used Windows Vista and so far, it’s waaay better than XP. But I have been using OSX for quite a while now (though I’m using a PC right now at work). I just read somewhere else that the next release of the powerbooks will only be 300MHZ faster, but with the newer versions after that, they will go way faster because of the Intel Chips. So for those who are still waiting to get their powerbooks, I’d rather wait for the Intel ones which is two releases from now.

  • Actually, Apple did not want to go into the “Megahertz wars” before, since the PowerPC architecture was indeed superior to the intel Pentiums with higher MHz ratings. They get better performance at lower clock speeds (because of a very large cache and a very efficient way of processing the flow of data.

    However, I think the recent shift towards dual-core Intel processors, and the low-power and cool Pentium Ms is one of the advantages Apple will get on the technical side.

    That’s right–better wait. You can expect thinner powerbooks with longer battery life. And they will be a lot cooler on the lap, too. Or at the very least, you can wait for the Intel-based units to come out; PowerPC-based machines will likely have a price-drop.

  • BTW, congrats for being able to try out Vista. Too bad it no longer has much of the highly acclaimed features publicized when it was still called “longhorn”. WinFS, anyone?

  • If Apple sells OS X unbundled, it’ll just end up in “Greenhills.” How would Apple earn if people don’t buy their hardware?

  • I hope with the processor change, the price drops a bit 🙂 Mac is really great and I planning not to upgrade my PC but buy a mac mini instead. 🙂

  • Fleeb

    #4

    If their software will end up in Green Hills, more and more people would be trying it and later getting a large ‘user base’. Just like the console wars, companies subsidized their consoles during launch to get a large user base, but during that time, well of course they get negative gains.

    The average Juan do not want to switch OS that simple you know, they were even trying to look for “Drive C” in Linux. That’s another factor to consider, transition.

  • Eventually, we might even see something similar to ‘Apple Genuine Advantage’ to come out and curb Mac piracy. Ok, maybe something a lot smarter than that.

    I’m still hoping the Linux side of things will get their stuff going for desktop Windows users to try out their OS, since I don’t think actually paying for legal OS/software is natural to us.

  • @Migs,

    We see pirated copies of WinXP and other Windows versions all the time. But that didn’t stop Microsoft from being the multi-billion dollar business it is now.

    Let’s say Apple sells their OS as OEM, with branded computers, such as Dell and HP. They’d probably make a killing out of that.

    Yes, Pinoys are not into buying software, much less the OS, if the pirated versions are available for free. But if the OS is bundled as OEM, and the cost is imputed in the hardware’s SRP, then that would be a good deal if it were Mac OS X instead of Windows you get, ain’t it?

    @Fleeb,

    Yes, it’s not that simple to switch to another OS. But that made me think: Windows is, after all, supposed to be more complicated to operate than MacOS, isn’t it? And while majority of the computing world is still Windows-centric (with the immense popularity Windows gained over the past few decades), we’re now moving towards the internet as the more prevalent computing environment. And that makes it easier to switch across OSes.

  • I agree with you J Angelo. Microsoft, Apple and other companies don’t make a bulk of money on single sales, they make more money with bulk deals with huge corporations and universities around the world… they make money by selling the software bundle, lisencing, and bulk hardware deals with all of these huge clients that regularly upgrade software and yearly (like my university), or more frequently than that.

  • bit

    I don’t mean to be self-righteous, but I believe that immediately dismissing Windows as a viable OS for the average Juan dela Cruz is a hasty conclusion. I’ve never been known to be a Microsoft supporter, but I’ve never been one to take sides in this particular battle. (Although I’m still crossing my fingers for HaikuOS.)

    Microsoft undoubtedly made a very usable OS, and I mean usable in terms of GUI, with no considerations for security. I would contend that it’s practically just as usable as MacOS. Perhaps if you were to show a caveman a PC and a Mac, he’d probably be more comfortable on a Mac quicker, but the fact is that there are barely any cavemen left in the world, and Microsoft owns most of the PC world (which would also make them the prime target of black hats and the like). In my mind, FOSS OSs have a lot to learn from Microsoft.

    I would agree though that currently, with all factors considered, the MacOS is a very strong contender for the title of “Best OS”. It’s usable, it’s secure, and since it’s built on Unix, geek-friendly. It’s only real downside is its price.

    It is highly doubtful that we’d ever see the MacOS like we see Windows today. You can buy Windows and install it on any x86 computer; it even comes OEM on many many pre-built computers, but I can guarantee that Steve Jobs will never be willing to lose the kind of control he has over what the Apple user uses now. If he were to release MacOS as a stand-alone OS, he simply wouldn’t have control over what quality of hardware people would put it on.

    If Apple would suddently open the market to Macintosh clones (like it did in the early 90s), Mr. Jobs would likely make computer companies to make sure that their branded computers with pre-installed MacOS was up to snuff with Apple’s standards – which would obviously still make Apple-related products expensive.

    As long as Apple is making good money and Steve Jobs is in charge, I wouldn’t count on seeing truly cheap Macs any time soon.