Let's Hope Today's Mac User Survives The Survival Of Apple
January 28th, 2000

Almost three years ago, I wrote a piece called "What Shall We Do?" It dealt with the fact that Apple was coming back in a big way. This was while Gil Amelio was still firmly in charge of Apple. I had no idea what was coming in the next 15 months. In fact I was still way too tense about the Clone Wars which were actually just starting up. Damn, a lot has changed since then. Amelio: out. Jobs: In. Power Computing: Out. iMacs: In.

One of the things I talked about was John Carmack of id Software. I have been a fan of Mr. Carmack for some time. It was he that opened my eyes on some of the technical aspects of game programming on the Mac. I appreciate those that have something to teach me, and Mr. Carmack falls into that category. From that column:

The day is coming, the signs are apparent everywhere we look. Rhapsody [the original name for what became Mac OS X] is likely to be a big success. John Carmack (of id Software fame) offers a perfect example with his recent comments to the effect that he would "...give my Win32 machines the cold shoulder" if Apple would simply add support for OpenGL hardware acceleration, among other smaller things. Can you imagine the effect that one of the most popular gaming houses in the known universe would have on the rest of the development world if they were to switch development to Rhapsody? Where go the games, so go the kids and their parents (Are you listening to me Apple?).

A somewhat pretentious passage to be sure, but it looks like Apple did listen. :-) We now have OpenGL hardware accleration (due in large part to Mr. Carmack's efforts), and Mr. Carmack has said that he will be switching development to Mac OS X. I do expect that to have an impact on many game developers out there. In fact, I think that the recent relative proliferation of Mac games has been influenced by Mr. Carmack and id Software's announcement of simultaneous Mac/PC development for Quake 3: Arena. We have a bit more time before we see just how true this is, but in any event things have turned around.

Back to my old editorial, the main point I was trying to make was the question of what would become of the Mac culture if the Mac became successful. Truly successful. Mac-heads have been an oppressed lot for 15 years now. Make it 16 years. We have reveled in thinking differently since long before Apple started using the phrase Think Different. We have always been the ones who were smart enough to use the best solution rather than going with the lemmings over the mainstream Windows cliff. We have web sites dedicated to passing on information, news, rumors, help, tips, and all other manner of Mac-ness. The very thing we complained about, the lack of market share for our computing platform, acted as a cement to turn us into a community.

A community centered on a computing platform. It's amazing. It's a bit weird too when you look at it objectively. It's also very cool and I am proud to be a part of this community. But what happens when we are no longer the "few, the proud, the Mac users...,"as I put it in 1997. I quote myself:

If this scenario occurs, consumers are likely to start buying Macs. Lots of consumers. Droves of consumers. Ordinary consumers.

No longer will the Mac be the platform of "Artists and Desktop Publishers." You will be able to go to your classmate's house to print that term paper. Your office's network administrator won't fight to have those last three Macs thrown away. You won't be the only person on your street with an Apple sticker on all of your cars and on every window facing the street. Before you know it, sales clerks in retail stores will start knowing what the Finder is.

When everyone is in the "know," or in the category of people that don't care but at least picked the right computer, what happens to those of us who have been fighting the good fight for years? Will the Mac culture that we know survive this transition? I don't think so, and I honestly hope it does not do so. I don't want to be "that guy" who gets pissed that everyone else has clued into what he likes and resents the "intruders." I have been planning this column since MACWORLD, but an editorial that Applelinks wrote about perfectly illustrates this point. Michael Garofalo writes at an opinion site called ePinions:

Having used Macintoshes for many years, the iMac is the reason why I switched to PCs. The iMac was the catalyst for Apple’s comeback. For me, it was their demise. The iMac killed all that I loved with Apple. The iMac was the symbol of an ugly new era for Apple. It was the return of Steve Jobs. While the return of Jobs brought profitability to Apple, he did it with an expense to the past.

Grow up.

Breaking with the past is not all bad. The Apple of old was a surprisingly poorly run company. It is amazing that the company survived long enough for Mr. Jobs to come back and save it. It is amazing what Apple's customers have put up with. It is amazing how hard we have worked to use, keep, and spread our computing platform of choice. We shouldn't have to work so hard for something like that. I think it's worth working for, but we shouldn't have to do it. There will be lots of people who will resent the changes for which we are in store> Gee, I guess there are already people who are upset about it. That's ok. They'll get over it.

I think that change is in our future. I think that Apple will continue to win market share. I think that more and more ordinary consumers will buy Macs. I think the day will come when there are just as many people working on Macs who don't realize how much better their computing experience is as there are Windows users today who have no idea how much worse their own experiences are. When that day comes, being a Mac user will no longer be the "elite" concept we think it is today.

Please don't misunderstand me. I think the Mac is special. I think that it will likely always be special until a new paradigm comes to replace it. I think it very likely that it will continue to be the best platform for the things I want to do. I think it most probable that it will always be the easiest computer to use (until that next paradigm). All that said, when I go from being "that Mac fanatic" to being just another Mac user, I will be a happy customer. Though the war we have been fighting will be over, it will have been won. Isn't that what it's all about? Winning the war and spreading the Mac?

Your comments are welcomed.