Why the Cloud Won’t Seduce Me From My Mac, At Least Not Yet


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.



“The cloud” is really getting hyped these days, but I don’t believe cloud computing will be able to replace desktop computing anytime soon. No amount of Flash and/or JS could ever replicate apps like Photoshop or the entire iLife suite. In its current form, “the cloud” is a new name for technology that’s been around but has been put to new use. Is storing data on a remote server *that* revolutionary? We’ve been doing it for years. It’s what’s happening on the client side that’s changing how we use remote storage (in conjunction with server-side processing), so there will always be a need for a physical computer. Security is also a huge issue, especially for businesses. Even with the most stringent security precautions, it would only take one ill-intentioned employee or misplaced HDD for a company’s sensitive information to be compromised. How can a business be sure that failed HDDs containing their information are physically destroyed and don’t make it into the wrong hands? Take browser incompatibility and network strain (especially with ISPs putting limits on users’ bandwidth consumption) into consideration and you can see why “cloud computing” won’t be ready for prime time in the near future.


I just had to laugh at reading this Mike chap saying he’s a “power user” and then listing the things that he used. Sorry, but wanting your photos in a hierarchical folder format doesn’t make one a power user.

For my part, I wouldn’t dream of switching to Windows having finally found the OS that delivers the promise of Unix goodness with a decent UI. I still frequently rejoice at the flexibility it gives me and I am utterly bemused why this Mike chap is throwing the baby out with the bath water: you don’t like Mail and iPhoto etc … great, don’t use ’em!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve my share of gripes with Apple. However, I constantly weigh and balance those and for now it keeps coming down on the Apple side. Reading Mike’s post, he didn’t express one single issue which would make Windows the better choice, only what would make other apps that run on OS X anyway better for him … it’s heavily laden melodramatic overreaction imo.

Charles W. Moore

Hi Skeptic;

I would include all those excellent Mac OS qualities you list under the “elegance” canopy collectively.

Michael Logue, I agree with you too. Speaking as one who has only had home/office access to broadband for three months after 12 years on slow (26,400 bps on good days) dialup. I empathize, and your points are well-taken.



I use an iMac day to day for it’s style, reliability and ease of use. When it’s time to work I login to http://www.cloudnine.org – it delivers the applications I need for business to me no matter what computer I happen to be using – Windows, Linux, Mac or even my smartphone.

Ultimately the cloud makes sense, even if you are a self-professed geek. A well managed enterprise IT infrastructure will always run rings around a home setup in terms of speed, reliability and security – not to mention costing less!

A good Cloud provider allows allows you to adopt a hybrid approach – I can use the Apple Mail client in 10.6 instead / alongside Outlook 2007 if I wish – giving me all of the benefits of the Cloud model of computing + choice of desktop applications, desktop OS and the ability to work offline (if in a limited fashion).

The Skeptic

You use a Mac only for the elegance? Wow… that is damning a product with faint praise!

I use OS X because it helps me to be more productive for day to day activities than I am with any version of any other operating system (including Windows 7).

Using Windows, often it is a struggle to do a basic job that is easy in OS X.

For example:

o Move/Copy files with Drag and Drop that works consistently esp with Spring Loaded folders
o Quick access to files and applications (Stacks – no equivalent in Windows)
o Quicklook – saving enormous time with emailed attachements (especially)
o Automator – making it easy to automate repetitive tasks
o Services – So powerful and easy to share data between apps
o Built in, flexible, search tools (W7 search is terrible in comparison to Command-F in the Finder!).
o Mail/iCal thrash Outlook
o One version of the OS that does everything I need including built in Active Directory and Exchange Support (my Mac works anywhere).
o UNIX security no need to run CPU intensive anti virus etc.

Windows 7 is pretty at some levels, has gained part of the Dock functionality, and has an interesting feature in the form of “Libraries”.

Google stuff is useful, portable and accessible anywhere. However, without a network connection, you are stuffed. Functionality is limited.

Michael Logue

Ah, todays buzz word: cloud computing. Back in the day it was time sharing, then thin client computing. It goes by many names, but it boils down to who controls data (some of it yours). The powers that be have always been against personal computers. They want control. Ever dealt with IT?

For those who choose to live in the cloud, I merely mention the sidekick fiasco.

As an addenda I might ask, who has had not had a problem when gmail has gone down, or mobileme self destructs, or the cell phone towers are out, or a widespread power outage takes everything down. What about a serious earthquake in California which destroys acres of server farms. Or your data is stored in Bangladesh and a revolution breaks out. Or you happen to live or be in an area that offers only dialup. Yes there are such places, I live in one. Cloud computing has its advantages, but as an adjunct, not the whole solution.

A last word. You mean you would rather trust Google?


Dump Mail.app for Gmail and iCal for Google Calendar? Nice. But I am using all four and have best of both worlds — my data available anywhere from the cloud & Mac apps elegance at home on my computer…

IMAP, CalDAV, BusySync, Address Book syncing with iPhone and Gmail… When I was reading that article by Doyle, I was wondering whether he has already heard about the possibility to use Google for searching information on the internet…

For me, it’s mainly about the whole OS X philosophy of the desktop. What if all apps I use were available for Windows? Wouldn’t even think about switching.


Interesting article and an interesting example of the guy who switched to the cloud.

This cloud debate reminds me of when Citrix was introduced around the world and everything ran on the servers. I cannot remember a single user telling me they were happier than when they had a desktop. The people pushing this into life was the IT-department and business line budget owners.

In the consumer space you have to offer something very attractive, and I think the first carrot is going to be price. This alone will attract many users, but it will never turn the entire industry around.

I think heavy processing will be done by all the casual users that capture video, store it, manipulate it, send it to friends and family, etc. Entertainment purchased will also continue to grow exponentially and demand extreme expansion of bandwidth (across boarders and continents).

The processing power alone will be a challenge for the cloud.

So I can understand the guy that does e-mail, web surfing, and some text processing is happy with current cloud services. But even he keeps entertainment on his own computer.

As everything goes digital, what will we do with our stuff? Music can be repurchased as formats change, but what about family photos, important documents and so forth. Now all of these required pieces of life can be digital. Assume the father in the family has the music, movies, uses the digital camera, pays bills/holds receipts, holds deeds, etc. in the future (future?? :-) ). The father keeps all of this in the cloud but suddenly passes in his late 40s and the children are still under 18. Can they take over his account, the credit card he pays with, transfer the content according to the will to their own accounts? I don’t know, but there are so many sides of such issues that must be handled for the cloud to be a viable long-term service to the broad public.

The cloud has several obstacles to overcome:
-Cost savings (preferably without advertisement)
-Compelling services
-Processing power
-Bandwidth and coverage for access
-Ownership of stored content
-Service guarantees and viability of hosting services and communication companies
-Cross boarder agreements between countries (usually bilateral) including privacy laws, treatment of digital rights management (take US vs Norway)

I am not opposed to it, but have seen to many technologies, services, etc. with great hope and potential wither away for practical reasons.

YouTube has for a couple of years taken more internet bandwidth that the entire internet required in 2001. Take number of uploaders vs number of connected computer users and realize the power we will need. The biggest winner is going to be Intel:-)


John Boyce

Sounds like Mike is just having a bad year. Any day someone thinks there is *ever* going to be the perfect company to align themselves with and all will be wonderful… Well, it’s just not going to happen. Sorry. Have fun with Windows 7 and all the junk that comes with Windows. I have worked for 25 years, daily, in mixed Unix, Windows and MAC environments. The MAC has always been the most stable and easiest to use and maintain. Just because Mike has a personal preference issue and some philosophical internal conflict with Apple won’t get me to switch anytime soon. No thanks, I’ve seen the enemy and it isn’t Apple.

Gerald Shields

I hate to break it to some of ya’ll, but here goes:

1. Firewire is great, but USB is ubiquitous and Apple as well as any PC maker wants to save money and let’s face it, there’s no enough firewire users to justify keeping it on the less expensive laptops.
2. Windows 7 isn’t really all that. Arguably, it’s the best version of Windows to come out in years and I got two laptops with Windows 7, but to say its better than Mac OS X? Nonsense. My MacBook just works while I had lots of trouble installing the 64-bit version of Window 7 Professional.
3. If you folks think that Google Docs is in any way better than Microsoft Office or even iWork, then you are on some serious sense-altering drug. Google Docs gives you a basic, nearly bare bones word processor, presentation and spreadsheet program. That’s it. If you need, say, to set up a Bibliography on a college report or to do some snazzy animations on your business presentation? Forget it. It’s either Office or iWork folks.
4. Net-books? I got one and the only reason I do is because its lighter in my backpack with my textbooks! The minute I didn’t have to lug some of my textbooks during finals, it was back to my trusty, with a bigger screen and keyboard MacBook! Do I think Apple should make a Net-book? Perhaps, but they would have to come up a better alternative to those small keyboards!

Thank You for listening.

Charles W. Moore

blargh wrote:

“Purely out of curiousity, why don’t you like Safari?”

I don’t hate Safari. It’s a pretty good browser. It just doesn’t give me any particular reason to use it instead of the more interesting alternatives.

I’ve always thought Safari’s user interface appearance was as dull and boring as cold dishwater, while Chrome’s is cleaner and more appealing (IMHO – just a matter of aesthetic taste). I love Chrome’s speed — not just loading pages, but the right-now responsiveness of the UI. Opera I love because of it’s competitive speed, its stability, and cool features like the zoom menu right on the window margin. The Mozillas have their various virtues, such as Firefox’s excellent and widely supported plugin architecture, iCab is feature-rich like Opera but not as fast, Stainless has simple elegance, speed, responsiveness, and a nifty mini-thumbnail Bookmarks bar, Cruz lets you run three Web pages parallel to each other.



I’ve been on Macs since 1992 and Amiga before that since 1984. To me buying a Windows system would be like voting Republican, I just don’t think I could do it. But I do get the point about Apple being more and more controlling recently.

Personally, I use Gmail, Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, FileMakerPro, Firefox, Word, Excel, Keynote all day – every day. I tried Mail a few times but it never stuck, I love Gmail.

I’m surprised to see that no comments here have mentioned the Adobe Air platform and I’m also surprised at how little software is running on it. I use a keyword research tool called Market Samurai that runs on Adobe Air and it’s excellent. I’d love to see more apps developed on it. The apps are platform independent.


POP3? you use a POP3 account? LOL Are you sure you are not a windows user?? Break that chain around your leg and set up an IMAP bro…

Charles W. Moore

Damien wrote:

“I’m curious what 5 other browsers you choose ahead of Safari. Hyperbolic much?”

Not hyperbole. As Josh noted, I’m a browser junkie, and I typically have three and sometimes four up and running (Spaces in OS X 10.5 and up is great for this, but I use the hide command when running in OS 10.4).

Which three or four get used also depends partly on what machine I’m using. On my Intel Mac running Leopard, Chrome and Opera are always going, along with one of the Mozilla menagerie — Firefox, Camino, or SeaMonkey the most likely. I right now have Camino 2.0.1 on the go. Also more likely than Safari to get called off the bench are Stainless or iCab, which like Chrome are WebKit -based. I also would probably go to Cruz (Webkit-based as well) in preference before Safari 4.

On the two hotrodded Pismo PowerBooks I still have in production service running OS 10.4.11, Chrome isn’t supported, nor is Stainless, so it’s Opera as number one, either Netscape Navigator 9, Camino, or SeaMonkey as number two, and for number 3 either iCab or, yes — Safari 4, which for some reason I find I’m happier with in its Tiger version than the Leopard build.


Charles W. Moore

Hi j c:

Re: Tex Edit Plus; I’ve been corresponding off and on with TE+ developer Tom Bender for years, and in fact there are a feature or two in Tex Edit Plus that I had a hand in, notably, the Script Tools palette, and the Command>Option>, keystroke shortcut for inserting the current date.

I’m happy to relay that Tom recently (last week) tells me that since Piovanelli dropped development of the WASTE text engine recently, he is gearing up to recode the whole Tex-Edit Plus app into Cocoa. He notes that getting the app running in Cocoa is not such a big deal, but getting the app running well enough not to break the myriad of existing scripts is going to take a while.

So keep the faith and stay tuned. TE+ has a future, and by my lights it’s still working great for me at version 4.9.9.


Salaryman Ryan

Cloud computing is indeed quite handy but I like the other posters above are not comfortable putting sensitive and private information of my personal life or company to storage in some anonymous server in Google’s headquarters. Besides, there are still a lot of stuff Google docs can do that Pages or Word can. Such as complex document layouts and sleek keynote presentations.

As for a cloud OS in the future, I’m pretty sure this will be a hard off future because as long as people game, edit media and use heavy apps that needs a lot of computing power then there will always be a need for a beefy local desktop/laptop.


I can truly sympathize with Mike Doyle. I love the mac OS and I realistically prefer mac hardware after a lot of grief with windows boxes.

However I resent the feeling that Apple is telling users that they can forget about matte screens, firewire 400,and a great many things eliminated from Mobile me because Father Steve knows best.

I love Safari but use fire fox since I cannot get the back button to work in safari. I, too use gmail and google calendar which are free and in the case of the calendar works better for me

Right now you can buy any number of windows boxes with blu-ray burners.I can buy any number of smart phones without being at the mercy of ATT.

Bikalpa Paudel

Ultimately it does boil down to one’s needs and workflow.

I adore my Mac but I am as much a PC user. That said, I really love to have Ubuntu or something similar running too.

With all these platforms intermingled into a mesh, I need some sort of synchronization and meshing done. Part of it is done via local networks and cross-platform apps. The other part is helped by cloud applications like GMail, Google Calendar, etc.

Jose A. Mari-Mutt

I am perfectly happy with my MacBook Air, iPhoto, iWeb and MobileMe. I have absolutely no reason for going back to PCs.

Josh Pigford

You don’t know Charles. He uses and has tried a LOT of browsers. Seriously. I’d say he’s our resident “I’ve tried every browser on the planet” guru.


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…

Reginald W

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.


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.


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.

Scott Rose

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.


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.


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.


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?

j c

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.


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


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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