OS X Is Bringing Macs & Mac Users Just A Little Bit Of R-E-S-P-E-C-T

What you want, you ainit gon get it.
What you need, you wonit admit it.

Aretha Franklin, "Respect"

Itis felt good to be a Mac user for the last year. Maybe itis always felt good to be a Mac user, and only now have I noticed it. By "felt good," I mean that I havenit experienced lately that involuntary, inward twinge that I used to get whenever I commented in mixed company that I own a Mac and actually like using it.

Go back a few years -- to, oh, I donit know, 1997 -- and you may have also heard similar comments right after you said "I have a Mac" or "I like Macs":

"Isnit Apple going out of business?" Twinge.

"Hasnit Apple gone out of business?" Twinge.

"I heard Bill Gates owns Apple now." Twinge.

"Youive got to be a lunatic to own a Mac." Twinge.

Okay, so I made up that last comment. No one ever called me a Mac lunatic. Well, I donit think so, anyway.

Regardless, Iim sure youive heard such comments, even if it wasnit your Mac fanaticism that elicited such responses; many times, all it took was a casual mention. I heard it a lot in the workplace, and not because I went about "evangelizing" the Mac. Instead, I heard it because I work in the field called I.T., and I deal daily with systems administrators and programmers at various companies, big and small. With those guys -- those I deal with, anyway -- conversations often turn to the computer gadgetry that we run at home. Iid mention that I have a wireless network at home, for example, and weid discuss it, and Iid mention that I like the way I can have my Cube and my PowerBook on the same iNet connection. Early on, you could have inserted any of the above responses about Apple, and your guess would have been spot on.

Nowadays, snappy remarks and greatly exaggerated comments about Appleis demise I hardly hear. Nowadays, it has finally sunk in that Apple isnit going anywhere, that Apple may be on to something with its role as the anti-Microsoft. Nowadays, I actually have pleasant conversations with I.T. people about Apple and Apple products.

Even when I was certain that I would get anti-Mac replies whenever I commented on my computing preference, I broached the topic anyway. Iive always been curious about what the other 95 percent thinks about our favorite platform. Many times, I wanted to hear their criticism, to see if theirs matched my concerns about things Macintosh. Some times theirs and mine were in accord; many times we were not, allowing me to learn from them and gain a, hopefully, more objective view of the Mac through their eyes. Most of the time, I found myself finding a kindred spirit in the person of a Linux/Unix proponent. OS X deserves much thanks for crossing our paths.

In my job, I am usually in contact with the tech people who have the power and authority to make tech-related decisions. Those people will obviously be the systems administrators or tech czars, which in turn, are Unix/Linux guys more often than not. Those guys have heard the OS X story, and they are impressed. This, you know. They are impressed, for it legitimizes their belief that Unix is a much-underrated OS in the eyes of the unwashed masses. They know that I use Macs. They know that Macs are moving towards a Unix base. They like Unix. Anyone who is a friend of Unix is a friend of theirs. Hence, I become their fast friend, two Unix ships passing each other in a stormy, Microsoftian sea.

Some people have a friend in Jesus, but it seems I have a friend in the Linux geeks.

I must admit that, in the beginning, I was a naysayer about OS X, in private. In public, I toed the line, but privately, I wondered about the lack of software and hardware. That was then. Now, I see OS X from a different perspective. For Apple to succeed, it will take more than positioning compelling hardware and software (this is important, however). I see now that Apple has to build the brand in the public eye as something more than a platform for the nonconformists. This was the Old Appleis strategy (see "Lemmings," "1984"). I see now that prior to OS X, it was Apple against the rest of the world. Today, there are non-Mac people in our corner, people like the aforementioned sys admins and Linux geeks, people who are actually rooting for us. This speaks volumes about the effect that OS X is having on the future and viability of Appleis platform. Which is a good thing, because I donit believe that Apple should be waiting for Microsoft to die and give them its market share.

Only now, am I seeing -- actually, I am seeing more clearly -- that OS X was a master stroke on Appleis part. I donit think that the full effect of OS Xis inclusion of Unix roots has been felt yet. Akin to a delayed fuse on a time bomb, the Unix world will continually embrace OS X as a bona fide Unix platform. God knows it will take a while longer for us Mac users to wrap our minds around the concept. Itill be a while before I am yapping about Cron and Grep with the rest of them, but I look forward to it.

If it hasnit happened already, there will soon grow a mutual respect between the Mac world and the Unix world, until one day there will no longer be a Mac world and a Unix world. Instead, there will be a Mac part of the Unix world and a Unix part of the Mac world -- they will be two sides of the same coin, instead of two separate coins, two separate forms of currency. With this newfound respect will come the wished-for things like applications and hardware, which I once believed were most important to OS Xis survival. I still believe that apps and hardware are important to Appleis survival, but I believe that growing beyond the five percent market share is an even more crucial task; I also believe that respect from the rest of the computing world is key to this growth.

This newfound respect that OS X hath wrought will prove to be more important than we are even now imagining.

"Rodney O. Lain, Mac Unix geek." It sounds weird right now, but you must admit that it has a nice ring to it. When Rodney isnit plumbing the depths of the CLI, he is writing his "iBrotha" column, as well as the occasional TMO editorial. He lives in Minnesota, where there are not just Linux penguins, but the real thing, along with several feet of snow to make them feel at home.