Re: Apple’s twisted upgrade route

Observers from inside and outside ComputerUser speak their piece.

Editor’s note:

Last week I wrote a piece of flame bait from the perspective of dozens of administrators I had talked to who are skittish about upgrading an entire production environment to OS X. Most of the information for the piece was provided by our IT person, who faces that challenge and has responded with a conservative plan. My piece contained some factual errors that I wanted to correct in this column. The information I received from a tipster turned out to be very old. So, whereas I claimed that there was no native OS X software for Palm, Macromedia, and PowerOn software, those companies have long since provided such software. In fact, one reader claims the OS X Palm software is better than Palm software for any other platform. In my haste, I did not check the date of the information. As another reader said, I should be flogged for this. Commence flogging.

Garth Gillespie, regular columnist and the architect of the ComputerUser site, replied to my remarks correcting the factual errors and presenting arguments similar to those below. So I asked him to write a guest column that delineates the finer points of his argument. I also received a lot of flames and some very well reasoned letters to the editor in response to the column. I provide the best letter by reader Nicholas Sorensen; you’ll find it at after Garth’s guest column.

“OS X is the future. The sooner the Mac community realizes it, the sooner they can move up.” — reader response

I am not a devout Mac person. I find it somewhat ironic that I am writing the counterpoint to last week’s Relevents column by James Mathewson, quotes from which are sprinkled throughout this column. As the former IT director of Computer Currents (acquired by ComputerUser in 2000), part of my job duties consisted of supporting the large number of Macs used to publish the magazine. From corrupt fonts to battling extensions to hard-drive fragmentation issues, I am well aware of the Mac OS’s shortcomings and its strengths. In my consulting role for several companies, I have been involved in many OS X migrations. Personally, I have been using OS X for close to a year now in a beige G3 upgraded to a G4/500, though I still use a Windows 2000 PC as my primary desktop.

“Our company will buy no new Macs in 2003 because many applications are not ready for OS X”

James’ column tapped into much of the myth and misinformation being distributed throughout the media. There is much user apprehension when it comes to upgrading to OS X: Will certain applications still work? Will I need to buy more memory? Will I lose all my data? Will I be able to access my old documents? Do I need to learn Unix?! The answers are: in Classic, most of them; probably; no; yes; and no, respectively. Major applications are quite ready and are available for OS X — Palm Desktop, Office v.X, Dreamweaver MX, FileMaker, Quicken, BBEdit, GoLive, Freehand, PhotoShop, and Illustrator, just to name a few, are all available.

“Most of the people … wondered why Apple was rushing the upgrade.”

I don’t feel Apple is rushing the upgrade. In fact, I agree with Microsoft and other pundits who feel Apple is not pushing OS X hard enough, as it is now two years since the initial release. Apple’s hardware limitation in 2003, by which new Macs can’t boot into OS 9, is a good start. To not buy new Macs in 2003 because of this limitation is to miss out on what promises to be truly wonderful new hardware.

One hardware aspect Apple has not addressed in its current “Switch” campaign is the perception of slower hardware versus the Intel/AMD competition. The general public doesn’t understand the difference between Motorola’s RISC and Intel’s CISC CPUs. Apple has been trying desperately to dispel the ‘Megahertz Myth’ with little success. It is hard to sell a 2GHz Apple versus a 4GHz Intel-based machine. And despite the Megahertz Myth, AMD and Intel-based hardware are trouncing Apple hardware in arenas that Apple pioneered.

“We will buy no new Macs next year, period.”

This is probably the worst reaction to Apple’s decision not to have OS 9 boot on 2003 hardware, and not just because of real or imaginary difficulties running Classic under OS X. Next year’s Mac desktops will contain IBM’s new Power4 chip, which, unlike the current crop of G4 CPUs, will not hamper system throughput from RAM or the system bus. Throw in serial ATA technology, faster bus, and CPU speeds of around 4GHz, and you have machines that can compete with Intel-based machines when comparing the stickers. To condemn a Mac environment to older, slower machines is one way to achieve a self-fulfilling prophecy of “OS X doesn’t work for us.”

“But what should they do about their graphics department that runs on Quark?”

This is the $64,000 question. Many people belittle this aspect of the OS X migration, but the fact remains that most publishing houses (magazines, books, newspapers) rely on Quark putting the volume to bed. In addition, they have years of archived Quark materials that do not get thrown away lightly. Quark has its Mac user base over a barrel. Upgrade pricing is not as aggressive as the competition nor do they offer multi-user discounts. New releases are often late and delivered with as many new bugs as old ones that have been finally fixed. Let’s recall the myriad of problems introduced with Quark 4.0. The delay in releasing an OS X version of Quark has severely impeded many publishing houses’ OS X migration plans. Yet Quark seems to have its own bizarre view of the future, and it is one that leaves its commitment to Apple in doubt. In a shocking piece from MacDailyNews, brought to our attention by John Konopka, Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi recently told a Quark-convened executive summary in New York that “the Macintosh platform is shrinking,” and that “publishing is dying.” He suggested that anyone dissatisfied with Quark’s Mac commitment should “switch to something else.” Ebrahimi has always been regarded as something of a loose cannon, but these remarks underscore the seriousness of the question posited above this paragraph. If Quark’s commitment to the Mac platform is lessening, then this would be an excellent time for Adobe to fix all that is wrong with InDesign and get in the game. Adobe’s offer of InDesign for free with any new Mac is a good start. As another reader opines, “Quark is obsolete and expensive, not a good combination.”

Yet for now, Quark 5 does run well in Classic mode, and does not require machines to be booted into OS 9. One reader points out that Quark 4.1 runs in Classic under OS X with the free XTension Classic Draw XT (FAT) solving a screen redraw problem. This same reader, who obviously has not upgraded to Quark 5, plans to switch to Adobe InDesign three to five years from now. Not a bad plan.

Aside from the Quark dilemma, OS X runs just about everything else extremely well. The Unix underpinnings deliver a very solid OS that works better in multiplatform environments than ever before, without much of the third-party software previously required. Graphic, video, or audio production all benefit from the increased amount of memory OS X can handle. In short, OS X is more than ready for primetime. If you have been putting off your migration to OS X, don’t delay any longer.

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A reader weighs in:

1) Quark should be castigated for the delay, NOT Apple. How is it that XPress is the last major application to be ported to OS X? What were they thinking to release version 5 as an OS 9 only product? I think it shows unparalleled greed at continued contempt for the platform that made that program in the first place! What are they smoking? I wonder if Fred Ebrahimi is in bed with Bill Gates. I suggest, if you haven’t already, that you read about the CEO’s latest rant. Seems like Fred’s response to your column would be to chuck all the Macs and buy XP machines.

This intransigence by Quark is infuriating. I can’t see how it deserves any loyalty whatsoever. If Quark neglects OS X, Adobe wins. Quark will be dead (on the Mac platform) within two years, completely dead in three on any platform. You ought to investigate an InDesign solution. The program has improved immensely from 1.5 to version 2.

2) After paring down the extensions (Conflict Catcher 9 was very useful in this regard) and creating a Mac OS X-only set, I’ve found that Classic is just as stable as OS 9. In fact, it’s a bit more convenient. (I think many people who complain about Classic instability haven’t done this.) Rather than completely rebooting, I only have to restart the Classic environment when things go south.

3) Many people have complained about the decision to have all new Macs boot into OS X only after the first of the year. I think it makes sense. Without it, users might be tempted to run OS 9 indefinitely, even on the new Macs they buy. Apple has to say, at some point, “We won’t support OS 9 any longer.” When would be appropriate in your view? You’re already saying that OS X is the best client operating system out there. Why wait?

Sure, some, like your IT director, will be annoyed at what they perceive as a forced switch. It’s not. Just run your legacy equipment for a year. The truth is Apple can’t afford either to support OS 9 indefinitely, or to have the majority of its user base continue to use the legacy OS for years to come.

Fact is, this looming deadline won’t really impact most users immediately. People have either already upgraded or will wait until their old OS 9 machine dies. If you have to get an old OS 9 machine to replace once that dies next until year I’m sure you’ll find a good deal. It might actually make sense for your organization to wait until 2004. Perhaps by then you’ll see some Pro Macs with the IBM 970 inside. Worth the wait, in my book. Bottom line: It might hurt Apple short-term, but makes sense long-term.

Sincerely,

Nicholas

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