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Rotten Apples?

Apple CF: Mac Observer Article and the original blog article. See below the cut for my take.
So... what do I think about all of this? Well, I think that Sobotta hit the nail square on the head. Put simply, Apple is making no attempt to be taken seriously in the tech sector. They've made great inroads, but this is IN SPIRE OF their marketing practices, and not because of it. I put forth a question to the UNIX heads reading this: You're writing a launchd plist to do something cool -- maybe you want to update your dynamic DNS whenever your machine wakes from sleep, or you want to automatically synchronize files to your iPod when you plug it in. Whatever you're doing, it isn't working and you're too drunk or stoned to figure out the man page. Where do you go for help:
  • IRC
  • Usenet
  • Some random non-apple mailing list
  • The Apple discussion forums(how many of you knew this existed?)
  • The Apple OS X homepage
I bet nobody picks the Apple OS X homepage - why? Because it's a very nice four-color glossy about how uber OS X is. There's even a whole sub-page about the UNIX underpinnings of OS X (PDF Here (snarfed from the Apple site)) but rather than covering the cool shit you can do it skims over the meaty stuff (launchd gets mentioned in one paragraph which tells you what it is, what it's supposed to do, but nothing useful about how to make stuff happen). In this same vein, I've never seen a TECHNICAL Apple booth - their convention presence tends to be "fluffy" at best, concentrating on the things that you can find out about in any Apple store - iLife, .Mac, and the iPod family of products. In order to be taken seriously in a corporate setting, Apple needs to leverage the technical merits of their products, particularly now when their systems are using Intel processors, which means you can Run your WindowsSoftware on your Mac (have I been obnoxious enough with pointing out all the myriad options? Oh yeah don't forget VMWare's beta too). Apple should be falling over themselves to get these companies into their booths at corporate, government and educational shows. They should FLAUNT the virtualization tools (QEMU (Q), VMWare, Parallels) and the WINE-Derivatives like CrossOver. I don't expect Apple to flog the Open-Source tools that directly compete with their universe (eg. OpenOffice, which IMHO kicks iWork's ass - so much so that they get a donation every year) By not aggressively pushing their platform advantages, Apple is essentially shooting themselves squarely in the foot. I know of no companies that wouldn't love to get rid of the administrative overhead of a Windows network (OS X on an Intel iMac with CrossOver will play nice with Exchange/MS Office/Outlook, and avoids the Windows license requirement, the AV Requirement, etc.). Taking into account the fact that you can make OS X play nice with Active Directory (in fact I just did one such integration at work), the transition from an MS-Based network to an Apple-OS X network can be almost completely seamless. Apple is also missing the boat on the educational market, one of its original strong points. Comparatively, a Dell Laptop with all the trimmings is a bit more expensive than the highest-end MacBook Pro (though with a somewhat nicer video card - 512M of VRAM is something the MBP should really offer (at least as a BTO option)), BUT most students are showing up to school with a brand-spankin-new Smell-Brand computer. Why? Two reasons: First, my price comparison is based on the Dell XPS series vs. the MacBook pro. Compare the Dell Inspiron with the vanilla (or chocolate) MacBook, and the Dell is a winner on price (a high-end Inspiron starts out at the low-end MacBook's price point). Apple can probably compete here, but as a stockholder I vote nay. Apple makes a (VERY) healthy margin on their hardware, and I believe that they should continue to do so (though it would be REALLY sweet if they could get the MacBook family prices down by $100 across the board (back in line with the old iBook/PowerBook pricing). There is a VERY significant psychological value to having your entry-level notebook cost $999 - $999 feels less painful than $1099) Second, Apple doesn't push where it should. CS, EE, Mathematics and the Hard Sciences (Chemistry, Biology, Physics) are IDEAL places for Macs (Did you know that NASA's research divisions are heavily Mac-Leaning? Check out this site). Apple could do very well here -- Mathematica runs natively on Intel Macs, and can take advantage of XGrid for distributed crunching on the REALLY HARD stuff; OS X is essentially a UNIX system with the full suite of utilities (network toys, compilers, interpreters) to make it useful in a UNIX-geared CS curriculum, and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of Bio/Chem/Physics apps for UNIX that compile and run perfectly well in OS X (and can probably be hacked on by some enterprising individuals to use XGrid). Unfortunately, Apple stays to its perceived strengths (photo-video production and art departments), which stifles its growth. As I said earlier, Apple succeeds in these fields not because of its marketing but in spite of it. Apple DOES have some marketing geared toward these fields(Did anyone know THIS existed?) and it's up-to-date, but it's almost as content-free as the stuff I mention above (and until recently it wasn't even linked from the main Mac@Work page). Hopefully this is a sign that Apple is starting to take these potentially large markets more seriously, and maybe they will start taking steps toward connecting the technical people at Apple with the technical people in their userbase.


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