Mac Scope

Being Ordinary in the Computing World

Stephen Van Esch - 2001.08.09

The fact that Apple is out of trouble is really, really old news. The profits have been rolling in fairly consistently and have put Apple solidly in the black and on the road to long-term financial stability.

The problem now, as always, is maintaining and increasing market share. Apple has made a valiant effort in this area, mining the Apple difference with their "Think Different" campaign. Apple and Mac users have always been different, and Apple's marketing strategy reflects this.

The problem is that in the new technological world, Apple's differences are slowly being blurred and, in some cases eliminated. The Mac OS is becoming just another operating system alongside Windows and Unix.

The great equalizer, the Internet, has a lot to do with this. As with roads, as long as your car doesn't exceed the lane width set by the standards authority and meets various government regulations, you're good to go.

Microsoft has also helped the cause by releasing Office suites that allow Windows Office users to deal with Mac Office users without even being aware of the difference. Compatibility is much less of an issue than it was some years ago. This, in turn, has alleviated some of the fears of new users.

All of this interoperability has made the OS and platform a much less important part of modern computing. Use what you want; everyone can more or less get along.

Because of this, the Mac is less special than it once was. Is this a good thing? There's no doubt that being singled out for special treatment in the media is both a good and bad thing. Apple had plenty of the bad before Job's return - and plenty of good after that.

Now, though, Apple seems to be blending into the landscape a little more. I'm not sure some hard core Mac fans can take the "ordinariness" that is creeping up on the Mac platform. The recent anger regarding the lack of a new technology or machines expressed at Macworld is likely a manifestation of this. Without new and fantastic looking products to prove they are different, some Mac lovers are at risk of losing a unique computing identity. This thought probably disturbs them.

Others, however, may look at the newfound "ordinariness" of the Mac as a blessing, if only because Mac users will no longer be treated like second-class computer users.

Of course, there is plenty more work to be done. While Macs may be integrating more and more into the mainstream, they still don't register on the radar of most computer users out there. Mac users are still treated like second-class citizens in many places (though that will no doubt change as OS X earns more users).

Eventually, though, a very real piece of a Mac lover's identity, their "unique" computing platform, will become less and less unique. How you handle this is up to you.

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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