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by Rodney O. Lain

Should OS X Be Dumbed Down?
December 15th, 2000

A while back, I mentioned that I lurk on a few mailing lists that discuss things related to OS X. Lately, one list has been abuzz with discussion concerning whether or not our favorite Aquafied OS should be, well, dumbed down so as not to confuse the Mac-loving idiots among us.

Yes, I know that this type of statement is offensive to Mac users everywhere? But, that's exactly what the detractors mean, even if they didn't use those exact words.

Should OS X be dumbed down? And if so, how? How much? Most importantly, why?

It goes without saying that the OS X we've all been perusing is a beta. The finished product may or may not look exactly like what we've been using. But it should also be said that, regardless of how much the OS can be tweaked over time, the version that first ships will do a lot towards growing -- or not growing -- the platform.

So, even for OSs, first impressions count much.

If I may wax interpretively for a second, let me say that methinks this fear of OS X turning off the installed base -- and "destroying" everything about the Mac that, well, makes a Mac a Mac" pretty much sums up what many "anti-Aquas" have been expressing ever since September (the month the public beta was released).

In light of what many are ostensibly fighting to protect, what is the Macintosh? For many, it is the "computer for the rest of us." For the longest, I've believed that myself. But, just tonight, I've wondered if Apple has moved away from that notion and just forgot to tell us. Or, maybe, we just never paid attention.

Follow me. When was the last time that you heard Apple opine and extol the virtues of bringing computers to the level of the proletariat? It's been a while, hasn't it?

Now, when was the last time that you heard of Apple giving Mac training to silver-spooned Valley Girls and Boys? Pretty recently, no? My point is that Apple is in the business to make -- arguably -- the best computers in the world and to make money along the way (I wonder if I put those two things in the wrong order?).

Who says that the best computers in the world have to be idiot-proof?

The original line of Macintosh computers -- those made from 1984 to, say, 1997) -- were and still are machines that set the standard. But it is the Mac OS that makes a Mac a Mac. And things change. The simplicity was needed during the early years of the Computing Age. But, we are now in a post-Computing Age, by which I mean that the computer is a common-use appliance nowadays. That will be even more true in the next few years.

That means that the computer needs to take on a level of complexity that would never have been accepted by the masses of old (circa 1984). Sure there are the technophobes among us, but don't you agree that those people won't be able to find a job or be able to function in the world of tomorrow without being computer savvy?

This is the world for which OS X is being created. At least, I hope that is what Apple is planning for. I want to make my point in a manner that is as artless as I can possibly make it. My point is this: for those of us who are pining for the "good ole days" of System 7 or even Mac OS 8, get over it.

But this I am certain of: I haven't seen people this excited about the Mac OS in a long time. I speak as a Mac sales person and as an IS professional who deals with corporate IT managers every day. OS X is causing waves. OS X is the Mac's future. The future is now. And if I remember my enthymeme's, that means that OS X is now.

Wipe your nose and dry your eye. And let's hope that Apple knows what they are doing.

Your comments are welcomed.

Rodney O. Lain is a junior manager at a major corporation. He enjoys public speaking, mentoring minority college students, and helping community multicultural-awareness efforts. He also "preaches the Gospel" at a Minneapolis Micro Center -- he's the bald black guy. Rodney "drives" a G4 Cube and a PowerBook G3. After enjoying a popular run at Mac, "iBrotha" was axed, to readers' dismay. Back by popular demand, it now runs exclusively at Mac Observer every other Friday, replacing "Rodney's Soapbox."

[Editor's Note: Rodney O.Lain passed away in June, 2002.]

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