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Summary:

The rhetorical question du jour on the Mac Web seems to be whether the traditional Mac advantage is eroding due to increased reliance on “the Cloud,” or not. Are online applications and utilities, such as the impressive suite of free functionality marshaled by Google, making the […]

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The rhetorical question du jour on the Mac Web seems to be whether the traditional Mac advantage is eroding due to increased reliance on “the Cloud,” or not. Are online applications and utilities, such as the impressive suite of free functionality marshaled by Google, making the rationale for owning a Mac instead of some bore bare-bones Web access device obsolete?

After all, that’s at least the theoretical argument (aside from low-ball pricing) for the PC mini-note or netbook phenomenon, and it’s certainly resonating with some. Recently, blogger and Mac veteran Mike Doyle announced that he is “dumping Apple” after 15 years as a Mac-user, saying he’s finally lost patience with what he calls Steve Jobs’ “you’ll use your computer the way we tell you to use your computer method of customer relations.”

A Thorough Purge

Mike is doing a thorough purge, switching to Gmail and Google Calendar in place of Apple’s Mail and iCal applications, allowing that Google’s Web apps are not only more robust than Apple’s desktop counterparts, but happily free.

Formerly an avowed staunch Apple evangelist, he’s now become an incisive critic of Apple under the regime of Mr. Jobs, particularly what he perceives as an overall marketing strategy concentrating primarily on attracting PC converts — ie. dumbed-down to accommodate a lower common denominator class of user, with a bundled suite of closely interlinked but relatively mediocre “iLife” programs that meet the basic needs and tastes of average, non power users, but not much more.

Mike is fed up with Apple routinely and superciliously releasing software and system updates that break popular third-party applications and add-ons, expecting Mac-users to just suck it up.

“As good as Mac OS X?”

Doyle’s frustration led him to do an audit of Apple software he actually uses anymore, and didn’t come up with much, noting that Google and other open source, third-party applications’ ease of use has drawn him more and more into the cloud. He’s dumped Safari for Firefox and NetNewsWire, replaced Apple Pages and MS Word with Google Docs for word processing, disabled the Dock in favor of DragThing, and migrated his library of 15,000 photos out of iPhoto and into Picasa.

He still uses iTunes, but that’s about it, so he no longer perceives a compelling argument for continuing to use a Mac, especially with the release of Windows 7, observing that when perennial Wall Street Journal Mac fanboy Walt Mossberg called Win7 “as good as Mac OS X” that pretty much sealed the deal for him. He’s commencing a gradual switch to Windows 7, first running it in a virtual machine on his MacBook, and says his next computer will be a PC.

Now, this all makes considerable rational sense, and a lot of it resonates with my own ruminations these days. One difference however, is that having been a consummate Mac (although not necessarily Apple) fanboy for 17 years now, I’ve never been really smitten by Apple-branded software, other than the sublime Mac OS itself, since very early on. The last non-system Apple application I was really a cheerleader for was HyperCard, and Mr. Jobs pulled the plug on that about a dozen years ago.

From the early days I used Word, then other third-party apps, for word processing and text-crunching. I bought, and tried to like MacWrite 2, but soon gave up on it, and I always found ClarisWorks/AppleWorks a disappointing jack of all trades and master of none. I’m not a fan of Pages either, and soon gave up on it after giving it a fair shake.

Ditto for iPhoto. I’m a fan of Adobe’s Photoshop Elements, which since version 6 has come bundled with Adobe’s Bridge CS3 or 4 photo browsing, organization, and management application, which is a much more satisfactory solution than iPhoto (albeit more costly).

Chrome Already My Favorite Browser

I use Safari some, but it’s probably my fifth or sixth favorite OS X Web Browser. Google’s Chrome has already vaulted to the top of my browser hit parade.

I don’t use iCal or the Apple Address Book either. I’ve been more and more drawn to Gmail for most of my email — both web-based and using Thunderbird/Eudora 8 as POP 3 client software. I’ve tried using OS X Mail over the years, but it never clicked with me.

Obviously, what I find compelling about the Mac is not Apple’s iLife software suite, so what is it?

Short answer: the Mac OS and the hardware, plus addiction to certain Mac-only software applications.

Windows 7 a Game-Changer?

Windows 7 is consensually acclaimed as a major improvement over the benighted Vista, but with due respect to the esteemed Mr. Mossberg, I still prefer many aspects of the Mac OS — for example AppleScript, which makes my life easier and saves me a ton of time.

There are some enticing Windows PC boxes, but I haven’t encountered anything on the WinPC side hardware-wise that measures up to the sublime elegance of my aluminum unibody MacBook.

The combination of Mac-only Tex Edit Plus ($15) and its close integration with AppleScripting has allowed me to create a tool that is perfectly suited to my work needs, and I can’t imagine trying to get along without it — just one example of several I could cite.

Elegance Counts for a Lot

The key element for me is, I think, elegance, which the Mac has in many nuances, and the Windows PC orbit simply doesn’t. Steve Jobs once observed, “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And what that means is — I don’t mean it in a small way I mean it in a big way. In a sense that they, they don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their products.” Jobs can be insufferable, but he’s often right, and on that point I think he nailed it.

The cloud? I’m partly in it, and maybe someday I’ll be fully in it, but I don’t perceive it as having what it takes to displace my Macs anytime soon. Elegance still counts.

  1. On your concluding premise I’m in complete agreement- however, unlike the examples you cite, coming to the Mac just five years ago, I have aggressively and happily adopted a number of Mac applications, including Pages (technical papers and conference papers), Keynote (obviously, THE Powerpoint substitute but also a narrated movie generator), MathMagic, Papers, Jouralr, Hit List, Aperture, Curio, Fuzzmeasure, RAW Developer, Audiofile Wave Editor, Pure Vinyl, Eazy Draw, and SOHO Notes. As someone that works anywhere from the office, a customer conference room, a friends home in another state, and in an aircraft cabin at 35,000 feet, relying on the cloud or cloud based applications and data is a complete non-starter except for synchronization of desktops and laptops- for which my Mobile Me account works well.

    So, many needs leading to varied perspectives and solutions.

    What’s sad is that my former laptop vendor of choice, HP, is stumbling around so much that the pinnacle of their current achievement is the new “Envy” series, which mainly displays their envy of Apple, and inability to develop a comparable product.

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  2. Jeez – why couldnt he just install on bootcamp or use Parallels/VMWare and shut up? Best of both worlds.

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  3. I too love Tex Edit Plus, but unfortunately it’s a dead end right now: it relies on the WASTE text engine which hasn’t been updated in years, so Tex Edit Plus will be stuck as a PowerPC app seemingly for good. I wish it could get a total rewrite to work off of a more modern engine.

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    1. I think it is coming back with a rewrite. Dunno exactly where I heard it.

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  4. I think the strategy these days should be to use cross-platform apps (Firefox, Chrome, …) & web apps (Gmail, Flickr, …), whenever possible. Then, you are less tied to a particular OS. If you like the Mac, fine. If you want a Windows or Ubuntu machine, fine. And, if one day you find you primarily use web apps, then even a ChromeOS machine will work for you.

    The further from lock-in you are, the more choices you will have.

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    1. I use Google Reader, Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts. All of whicha are accesible from a browser and all of which sync back to my Mac into NetNewsWire, Mail.app, iCal, and AddressBook. My data is in the Google cloud and my Mac at the same time. Why chose either or when I can have both?

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  5. Security continues to be a question I believe that stops most people from adopting a cloud only workflow. There isn’t any technical reason that people need for a desktop anymore. Performance? You can have plenty of that with caching and proper programming design.

    Don’t you think that the rise of virtualization such as Citrix and remote desktop solutions has shown that people are taking baby steps toward trusting the cloud? I am not sure if this is a helpful or unhelpful thing. I personally have my data in both the cloud and locally. Yes there is always the lack of privacy, but honestly storing locally isn’t that private either. Ask anyone who has had a home invasion.

    Open source is great from a cost standpoint of course, but the real challenge is that people have an ease of use and comfortable feeling with technology. I can’t see data being stored in the cloud safely until some kind of PKI or biometric infrastructure is developed and tested and has gone years without being cracked. Then I think the days of local computing are numbered.

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  6. [...] the Cloud Won’t Seduce Me From My Mac, At Least Not Yet Thoughtful post here.  I responded to [...]

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  7. I’m not sure I totally want to be in a Google only world. It already seams like this is the case. We need variety and choice. I don’t want to be using Google OS, GMail, Google Search Engine, Google Phone, Google Browser, Google Office Docs etc. It would be like Microsoft all over again.

    However, I do admit, I moved my iCrazee Mac Blog from iWeb to Blogger and I have to say that was the best decision I made as I’m blogging more and fiddling less with technology.

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    1. It’s not a Google only world. You have free choices in search, Bing, Yahoo etc al., email – Live, Yahoo – browsers – Safar, Firefox, IE, Opera – documents, Zoho, Buzzword etc.

      Or you can pay for all these services.

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    2. Blogger was bought by Google and then left to languish for years. Blogger is now all but abandoned. Plus, the Blogger templates look totally antiquated… like they came out of the 1950’s. And just like the rest of Google’s apps, there is no human tech support to contact if you ever need it. Check out wordpress.com instead of blogger… you won’t regret it. The people at wordpress are ACTIVELY involved and are ACTIVELY making improvements on a daily basis. And their templates? Absolutely gorgeous.

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  8. Everyone’s needs for computing power differ, and whether the cloud works for you or not, or you need portability or you have huge amounts of data to massage, choose what works for you. Windows, Mac or Linux can work for you, provided the software is there that does what you need. As mentioned, security of the cloud is a question some have, I know I do, and I prefer to keep my data closer to me. Your mileage may vary of course and choose what you want to use but don’t criticize me for what I choose to use, whether program, OS or specific hardware.

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  9. Having all my data on the cloud would give me the creeps. I do like to use gmail for some things, Youtube is great, too, the free stuff they offer.

    But gmail isn’t anywhere near as good as Apple’s Mail program, and will never be my primary account. Youtube (I am into the music lessons) pale in comparison to Garageband (literally impossible to do on a ‘cloud’) the Artist lessons are great though there are only a few so far.

    Nothing lets you put up a photo or movie web site of your own easier than MobileMe.

    Chrome is a major dissapointment. Safari is much better, and also free.

    It will be some years (at least) before anyone can replicate a real OS via the cloud.

    Google docs is nice for small file collaboration, not much else. Word is horrible, but about the only real choice MSFT hasn’t killed off. I hope Apple puts a lot of work into Pages. It shows promise, just needs a few more features. Google docs really can’t do that much, though the collaboration is really nice for small spreadsheets, etc…

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  10. Windows 7 is superb. I have been amongst the most vocal of MS critics through the years, but even I can’t fault 7. It’s a winner. Best, CST

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