Netbooks:  Apple chose wisely

  • Posted: 21 October 2009 02:14 AM

    I read this piece by Joe Wilcox that was more of a ‘let’s get some hits’ than it was educational.

    http://www.betanews.com/joewilcox/article/Apple-declares-war-on-the-entire-PC-industry/1256063102

    In the comment section below was the copied piece by someone named Orangesauce that I felt others might find interesting.  Wherever you are orangesauce I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write it.  I hope you’ll visit us from time to time.

    orangesauce Oct 20, 2009 - 10:35 PM
    I’ve read most of the comments at the point that I posted this, but have a bit of a different perspective I’ll add because it seems that, even though there is a fairly large amount of kool aid on both sides of the table, it seems like the perspective might be appreciated.

    In the early 1990’s, I worked at Apple on the operating system team, when it was moving to PowerPC. That chip smoked anything Intel had at the time (today’s biggest supercomputers all use the IBM POWER architecture, and embedded applications flock to PowerPC for demanding uses), but Apple’s OS was really a turd back then. No really, it was an embedded application running on top of a processor. This was Windows 3.1 grade stuff.

    Until OS-X came on the scene, the best Apple could provide people was something akin to a hotrod Windows 95. It wasn’t because they weren’t working on it, but there was a combination of “not invented here” and a fatal lack of recognition of Moore’s Law that led to an entirely new operating system being developed internally, until Apple and NeXT merged and brought some sanity back into the picture.

    But it took a few more years for that to get sorted out.

    This is really key because there are a lot of comments to this article that are talking about OS-X as if it has some kind of anachronistic UI that should be reviled. A few commenters pointed out that they like the simplicity because “it just works”, and I would have to agree. I don’t have too many spare brain cells or hours to waste these days, so it fits my priorities.

    Cash, on the other hand, is an issue, and a few people have pointed out that the TCO on Mac, including the actual support costs paid to Apple v. Microsoft to get a working client terminal running against Exchange are far lower on OS-X than they are on Win. That makes huge sense for enterprise deployments, but not necessarily for “me and you”. A few others have pointed out that the hobbyists out there will want to tinker, spending days on upgrading components like people used to do with stereo systems in the middle of the last century.

    And before anyone accuses me of having more time than money, I’ll tell you straight up that I have built multiple hackintosh computers… white box computers that run OS-X. Both for personal consumption, mind you, and it doesn’t take too much longer than building an equivalent Win machine.

    But it is a lot of time. It’s sad to say, but with inflation, time is becoming ever more valuable, and unless you are going for a PhD in system administration (har), learning how to tune today’s hardware and get it “just right” is a waste of time, which is a waste of money.

    That money—drum roll—is the money that I would argue most Mac people don’t mind spending for a very highly tuned experience out of the box.

    I admit my guilt with hackintosh partly because my last machine is a “hackbook nano”, a MSI U100 running OS-X. I built it a few weeks ago with the prayer that today’s machines was going to include a quad-core laptop, and I didn’t want to be sitting on my 17” Macbook Pro while the prices fell out of the clouds. But I gotta tell yas, this thing sucks rocks through straws. The single core Atom is really trying it’s mightiest to please, but the reality is Apple did exactly the right thing by not shipping one of these. Worse, I miss a lot of things like the multitouch trackpad, the backlit keyboard, and being able to simply close the lid to put it to sleep, not worrying that the battery might be dead later in the day because I did that.

    But *why* I put OS-X on a netbook, besides the previous explanation, is worth sharing as well. It’s simple: Developers and advanced users that know UNIX shell cannot live in a DOS box. Linux is an answer around that, but it’s impossible to run production-quality applications such as Adobe Photoshop on Linux. OS-X is the common denominator.

    Finally, if I sound like a fanboy, let it be known that I swore off Mac when NT 4.0 came out, and I stuck with that lineage of operating systems for what must have been ten years. I didn’t hate it, but when I got my first Mac after all those years, it was a G5 tower running Tiger (10.4) and it was like a breath of fresh air.

    It seemed simple-minded, but I quit fighting the computer to get work done and I’ve owned two Macbook Pros, a Mac Mini and a Mac Pro since then. I don’t mind giving Apple my money because they give it back to me in spades with the time they save me, and the reality is that the machines are valuable enough to sell on eBay at the end of my time with them that I don’t even end up paying a premium to use them.

    But make no mistake: This netbook experience has been like eating cold cereal and white bread for days. It’s awful, and if that’s the kind of experience that people are getting used to, I suspect people are going to switch in magnitudes that few can currently comprehend. We live in interesting times!

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    Posted: 21 October 2009 04:39 AM #1

    Seems like a very well thought-out post.  Me personally, I was a fan of the old Mac OS through 9.2…even with its flaws it was more usable than Windows, and I had roughly equivalent experience using both platforms.

    Also, who needs a netbook when you can laugh all the way to the bank with a high-margin $600 pocket computer that you sell 25-30 million a year of, and rising, and can’t meet demand for (oh, and despite how much people love it, they’ll trade up to another $500-600 version in 2 years or less for the foreseeable future)?

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