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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Apple's Switch Ad Frightens It Networking Guru
September 23rd, 2002

David Kearns is a networking consultant who provides advice to clients, and helps other people write books on networking. For instance, he has co-writing status on Peter Norton's Complete Guide to Networking. If you are wondering what scares a person who provides consultation services in Silicon Valley, take a look at an editorial he penned for NetworkWorldFusion called "Can an Apple a day really keep the IT expert away?"

In that piece, he specifically states that a world where people can run their networks without an expert is "scary." What prompted that thought is the lawyer featured in Apple's Switch ad who chose Macs for her 12-computer law firm because she didn't want to need an IT person. From the editorial:

[...]

But there's one that's actually scary.

Theresa McPherson tells us she is a lawyer who started her own firm but didn't want the instability of PCs, so chose Macs for her office. She also didn't like the IT department at her old firm. They would talk to her in words that were "too technical" for her to understand. She just wanted to be able to run the computers by herself. She's proud that her Macs are networked and she doesn't need an IT department. I wonder what she'd say if I made an ad for the Nolo self-help law site (www.nolo.com) saying that lawyers spoke in a jargon I couldn't understand, I just want to do it all myself?

Macs do have a place in the world. So do people who work on their own cars, computers or lawsuits. But the people doing the work themselves better thoroughly understand what they're doing because something will go wrong. You will, eventually, need an expert. And I would love to be the consultant McPherson has to call in when her network has a problem!

Mac networks do sometimes have problems, and there are people in the market place who make their living working on Mac networks (from my experience, many of them have to supplement their income by working on Windows). The fact is, however, that most companies that work on Macs simply do not have or need a full-time IT person, and that if they do need an expert, the problem is *solved* in short order. Welcome to the world of Macintosh, Mr. Kearns.

That's what I think Mr. Kearns truly finds scary, though he may not realize it. Networking *shouldn't* require a Ph.D., and it *should* be simple enough that people can handle it themselves. Can you imagine how skimpy The Complete Guide To Mac Networking would be? If it was written, most of what would be there would be having your Macs interact with other platforms, specifically Windows. It's hard to make your living as a Networking consultant like that, and my guess is that we will see more people like Mr. Kearns who feel threatened by the Mac platform coming out of the woodwork.

What I found even more entertaining was Mr. Kearns' approach to digital cameras and plug-and-play. When recounting Janie Porche's Switch commercial ("I saved Christmas."), he pokes fun at her comments about her dad spending Christmas Day downloading drivers for Windows. His defense wasn't that those drivers shouldn't need to be downloaded, but that her father must have a slow modem:

There's Janie Porche, the young woman who saved Christmas. It seems her poor dad needed to spend hours downloading drivers for his new digital camera (evidently her dad is still connected to the 'Net at 300 baud).

That says a lot to me. What says even more to me was his thoughts on the way plug-and-play works. Janie Porche talks about how she simply had to connect her camera to her Mac, and it just worked, but Mr. Kearns implies there was something conveniently left out of the commercial:

Porche just "put a cord" between the camera and her PowerBook, and it automatically downloaded all the pictures. Imagine that - I wonder which brand of camera THAT was!

I'll offer Mr. Kearns a hint: it wasn't an Apple branded camera. For those keeping score at home, Apple doesn't make their own digital cameras, and hasn't even made a digital Web cam for several years.

Think about the implications of Mr. Kearns comments. In his (seemingly non-Mac) experience, the solution to needing to download drivers for everything is to get a faster connection, and the only way that new-fangled digital camera might work without hassle is if it is something tricky, like an Apple branded digital camera. Most of you reading this know that it just doesn't have to be that way, and that's because we use Macs. As another Switcher said in one of Apple's commercials: "It just works."

You can read the full editorial from Mr. Kearns at the NetworkWorldFusion Web site. For more amusement, you may want to see Mr. Kearns' responses to those responding to him via article comments.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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