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I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why Macs are more popular now

Last May I attended the mesh conference in Toronto, where Jay Goldman pointed out that of the large number of laptops in the audience, around 90% were Macs. He also remarked that it had been the same at the Toronto BarCamp held the preceding weekend, while at an Ottawa BarCamp he’d attended it was only around 10% Macs.

The Ottawa figure is easy to understand: most computer technology people in Ottawa (not telecom people) get most / all / a lot of their business from the federal government, and being “compatible” with the feds is good for business. The federal government is a Windows shop.

Most people who use Windows are looking for compatibility not with the Canadian federal government, but with desktop applications they might want to install and run, most of which are available for Windows but often not Mac OS.

What do Web 2.0 people need to be compatible with? Mostly the Web, of course. Yes, some desktop apps are needed (like a browser!) but such necessities tend to be available for both Windows and Mac OS (not always from the same vendors). So Web-oriented people have the freedom to use either Windows or Mac OS, or GNU/Linux for that matter. And their #1 choice is the Macintosh.

(There are additional reasons for most people to prefer Windows: they need people who can help them out when they have computer problems, and most of those people are familiar with Windows and not Mac OS. Also, Windows machines are priced lower than equivalent Macs. Neither of these is an issue for the Web 2.0 elites.)

As more people become Web-based and not OS-based, there is the potential for a large shift in popularity from Windows to Mac OS. Particularly now that buying a new Windows machine means getting the excessively-featured (as usual for Microsoft) Windows Vista. I may make the switch myself when I get my next laptop.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Jay Goldman said...

Rohan -

This "old" post just popped up in my newsreader so I thought I'd comment: I agree with everything you said except for the price of Macs. Equivalently configured Macs and PCs cost exactly the same amount, though the Macs used to be more. We do the comparison on a regular basis.

But yes - I think the base of your argument is true. The web doesn't require a specific OS and almost all of the really compelling apps being built are either being built on Firefox or are designed to be compatible with it from Day One. Apple's switch to Intel CPUs and the availability of products like Parallels Workstation means I can run Windows on my Mac when I need to, which is basically only to test sites in InternetExplorer, so even when I need compatibility with desktop apps, I'm covered.

Great post!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 10:31:00 AM EST  
Blogger Rohan Jayasekera said...

Jay, thanks for your comment. I knew that the price gap had narrowed, but wasn’t aware that it had gone to zero.

If only Apple would make a laptop that had a ThinkPad-style pointing stick, something I find far superior to the usual trackpad, that would clinch the deal for me.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 2:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger Pedahzur said...

Great points. I added some more of my own in my reply on my blog. Posting as a comment since Blogger doesn't do trackbacks. :)

Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 1:45:00 AM EST  
Blogger Rohan Jayasekera said...

pedahzur, actually Blogger did create a trackback to your post (below). But I don't know how reliable its trackback mechanism is. In any case, thanks for the comment!

Friday, March 2, 2007 at 7:07:00 PM EST  
Blogger mrg said...

Don't know if anyone wants to hear this or not, but if you do simple google on "macbook linux" you find a very popular combination.

I did that search recently when my colleagues were (once again) needling me to get a new laptop -- only because apps are so flabby these days that my lowly P3 700 can bare surf the web (which is another whole rant for another day) -- it's a move I've been avoiding because I am scared to death of trusting any hardware with a Microsoft logo on the case, just too many broken dreams, it's now an operant conditioning thing, I see warped quad-colour panes, and my backside hurts.

So there I was, avoiding the question, and one of them says, "Why don't you get a macbook?" and before I reflexed back with "I'm way too old to learn another OS" I did that little google dance, and lo ... y'know .. it looks real promising it do ...

Saturday, March 3, 2007 at 4:50:00 PM EST  
Blogger Rohan Jayasekera said...

Gary (MrG), that’s very interesting: so quite a few people want GNU/Linux even on a machine that comes with the heavily BSD based Mac OS X. Clearly they don’t just want a Unix-like operating system; they want GNU/Linux specifically, and the MacBook is just a hardware vehicle for it.

Some of my Unix-loving friends are very happy with Mac OS X itself and feel no need to install anything else. They just treat it as Unix whenever they need to.

Sunday, March 4, 2007 at 1:03:00 AM EST  
Blogger mrG said...

Aye, but you see? The issue is far more important than simply unix vs mac vs gatesware. My news monitors are telling me more and more everyday people are discovering the very real economic and technical advantages to owning their own software. MacOS is still a proprietary BSD derivative, vendor locked at every available turn, and which is then flushed out with nearly 100% proprietary tools, and that, for some folks, isn't just philosophy or dogma, it is a true crippling of the utility, the security and the future of their digital works. Some people like to control their own destiny, even if only abstractly.

With Linux, or real BSD or any of the other free operating systems and tools, it isn't all about cost, it is about the freedom and it is also about humanity and community values, values which were mainstream givens in the computing industry prior to that landmark paper by Bill Gates outlining how to turn a grand human achievement into nothing more than swag you can sell. As Confucius very aptly put it, "The superior man knows what is right; the inferior man knows what will sell."

And there's another economic computing reality: Had all the programmers simply thrown up their hands in surrender to the corporate monopolizing of their critical software systems, had they all just given up and said, "It is better to just use software that works today" the world today would not have Firefox, we would not have OpenOffice, or Apache ... or Bind, or any of a thousand bits of software that today's surrenderers now rest their business plans. The absense of this software would mean economic ruin, and were Bind proprietary, can you imagine that? One company who owns the technology for finding network addresses? Truly frightening.

Fortunately there were and continue to be those with the vision and foresight to realize how the best way to ensure the continuing humanity and science of Computer Science is to defend our community commons, so they stay the ground, and work hard on the better future for all, even in the face of open hostility, dismissal and derision from the many, many, many, many nay-sayers :)

Sunday, March 4, 2007 at 10:44:00 AM EST  
Anonymous j_king said...

Sorry for posting on an old post.

I'm right on the dime with mrg.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 at 5:04:00 PM EDT  

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