Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Snow Leopard won’t change Apple’s spots

(By Philip Carnelley, 25 Aug 09, 10.00) There's great excitement in the Mac user community today as Apple has announced that its much-anticipated new Mac OS release – with the sexy name of Snow Leopard – will be this Friday, 28th. Let me declare an interest – I have used Macs, on and off, since the 1980s. But even so, I don’t think it’s particularly significant. The new features are improvements, for sure: for example, it's a bit faster, and smaller; it has 64-bit support, and MS Exchange compatibility. But they aren’t things to make Windows users switch to the Mac. What has of course given Apple a major boost is the halo effect of the iPods and iPhones, which have brought it in front of a much wider audience. It’s said half of recent Mac buyers never had one before – so the user base is growing. Yet let’s remember that Macs account for at best 8% of PC sales in the US, and about half that worldwide.

he major problem for Apple is inertia. Most people who buy a computer today already have one – and it’s Windows. Despite all the praise for the Mac’s user interface, you still need to learn it. It is not ‘intuitively obvious’ any more than Windows. To help overcome switching problems, there is a product called ‘Parallels’ which allows you to run Windows software on a Mac. It’s widely used because there are a significant number of programs that only work on a PC – and people want them. Parallels isn’t a reason to buy a Mac. Surely no-one would buy a Mac – considerably more than the equivalent Dell, Compaq etc – to run Windows software. It does lower a barrier. But I note that Parallels comes with two hours of video to explain to people who already know how to use Windows how to use a Mac, and the differences between Macs and Windows. Need I say more?

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