While Apple fights to nab Windows switchers with a series of marketing blitzes, it is also trying dilligently to lure reluctant Mac OS 9 veterans to Mac OS X. The following is an assessment (based on hundreds of reader submissions) of why millions of users are sticking with Mac OS 9, and what Apple needs to do to make Mac OS X a "must-have" platform.
Many users feel more comfortable troubleshooting a Mac OS 9 system, and who can argue? Mac OS X has been a public product for only 3 years.
That said, there is a tendency to exaggerate Mac OS X pitfalls based purely on a lack of familiarity. Tales of the "grey screen of death," starting from scratch with a fresh installations, and losing entire volumes inexplicably have scared a lot of users into steering clear of Mac OS X, but issues this severe have equally devastating counterparts in Mac OS 9.
Hopping back over the fence, claims of Mac OS X's stability superiority over Mac OS 9 are also blown out of proportion.
If you have a clean, lean and well-oiled Mac OS 9 installation with all of the latest third-party application patches, system failures can become very scarce.
Reader Quote: "My knowledge of UNIX is limited. My 15 years of experience with the classic Mac OS, however, is vast, and I understand Mac OS 9."
While it is perhaps a bit unfair to compare maintenance release frequency between Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X, the six relatively rapid revisions to Mac OS X 10.2 have each caused a set of crippling problems for different segments of the Mac community. The arguably broader customization options in Mac OS X, combined with a likewise arguably greater lack of understanding by the user base, have been root causes.
The most significant bane of Mac OS X's acceptance has no doubt been the publishing industry. Mac OS 9 has served many a service bureau and graphics house with years of powerful production. Thousands of dollars invested in legacy hardware and software make switchers reluctant.
Reader Quote: "Printing in Mac OS X10.2.6 is weak at best. I have to install each and every printer I want to use just as if I am in Windows, most PPD features are not supported as they are in OS 9. When I print, I am forced to use Page Setup to choose my printer configuration, and then go to Print where the options become available again. Mac OS X is too Windows-like for my taste in this regard. One setup over-rides the other and I don't get output as expected with double checking everything multiple times."
Many users simply cannot afford to replace their systems, which run extremely well and efficiently under Mac OS 9.2. And the sizeable cost of some Mac OS X application flavors ? QuarkXpress 6.0 carries a US$900 tag ? is also intimidating. So, for most users, upgrading to Mac OS X has been a significantly more expensive than the marketed $129 price tag.
Reader Quote: "Well, we're in a corporate (media/press) environment with numerous machines running Mac OS 9. Upgrading even a few applications on such a large scale (500 in my specific area) would be costly. We could continue to run the old version of Quark in Classic but there's some redraw issues and there's a few customizable Quark XTensions to consider."
Reader Quote: "I have been desperate to get on Mac OS X, but I am hindered by economics. I work for the State of California, and my request for software upgrades this year was denied. My current computer is going on 3.5 years now. This fall I am planning to request a new machine, which would force the transition to OS X, but with the State budget the way it is I'm not holding my breath. At home I am still using a (modestly upgraded) PowerTower Pro, which cannot run OS X. I have been talking about a new computer for the last four years, but the money just isn't there."
Reader Quote: "I'm 72 years old and on a limited income: all my software is OS 9 compatible; and I don't have the time (or ability) to learn another OS. Besides, OS 9.2.2 works well for me. Artist"
The interface performance of Mac OS X's Finder, improving by leaps and bounds in Panther, still cannot match the lightning-quick reflexes of a well-kept Mac OS 9 installation running on the latest compatible hardware.
Reader Quote: "Speed! I'm running G4 500 DP, running mostly Photoshop 7.0.1 and other digital capturing software. Under Mac OS X, there's a definite lag in the interface, which slows things down and is most irritating. Things like using the cloning tool, brushes etc., have a "pause" or slight delay between mouse clicks and response. Under OS 9, it's instant."
Resource requirements can also be significantly lower with a standard Mac OS X installation, a definite consideration for those looking for a full system that can be stored on smaller removable media.
Reader Quote: "My OS 9 iMac, with FileMaker, BBedit, Smile, Fetch, AppleWorks, etc. can be backed up onto a single CD. The hard drive has 790 MB of data in 7,000 files. My Mac OS X 10.2.6 G4, with a similar complement of applications, contains over 45,000 files and 1,300 MB of data. It has support for languages I don't use, printers I don't own, modems I don't have, etc. Bloated beast! I use a 1.3 GB magneto-optical drive for backup -- I wouldn't consider backing up onto CDs."
Resentment of Apple's forcing the switch
Many users simply resent what they see as Apple forceful prodding into a new environment. Some readers point out that while Wintel hardware has a shorter life-span than Mac hardware on many fronts, Microsoft still actively supports and develops for a number of operating systems simultaneously: Windows 95, 98, ME, Platinum, XP, etc
Reader Quote: "I'm unhappy that Apple is now preventing its computers from even being able to boot into OS 9. Jobs and Apple may think they're doing us a favor by forcing us to switch, but I don't like the idea of having my arm twisted."
What will make readers switch
Mac OS X is apparently still waiting for its "killer app" that will make OS 9 fence sitters upgrade in droves. Apple's tasty iApps, which are only being actively developed for Mac OS X, may be part of that strategy:
Reader Quote: "I edit videos for fun, and I like the look of iDVD 3 and other OSX-only software, such as Soap. I may have to bite the bullet."
Panther, at least, answers many prayers for interface niceties. Better open/save dialog boxes, something other than the obtrusive column view, and other throwbacks to Mac OS 9 are garnering Classic Mac users' attention.
Also, the delivery of Exchange support in the latest version of Microsoft's Entourage will allow a number of corporate-based Mac OS 9 boxes to make the switch.
Apps Getting Worse?
Killer apps aside, many readers complain that some applications are actually getting worse in their Mac OS X revisions, thanks to quick and dirty development cycles, combined with a lack of true expertise with Cocoa and Carbon at some software companies.
Reader Quote: "My main tool of choice is Adobe Illustrator. I have yet to hear or read anything complimentary about Illustrator under OSX. Words like ?slow' and ?pig' and even ?buggy' seem to prevail. True, this probably has nothing to do with Mac OS X, but do I really want to upgrade just so I can suffer with a slow, buggy app?"
Inertia, or "It's all I need"
Perhaps most important to the sluggish transition is inertia. Users can do what they need to do just fine in OS 9 - as they see it - and hence have no compelling urge to upgrade. They don't want to have their daily routine disrupted by what they see as a non-essential hassle.
Reader Quote: "Office98 does all I need and more so far as document generation and editing goes. Graphic Converter, PrintToPDF, MacGSView, LabView, Netscape7.02, and a few other thingies get everything done I could want. A USB card connects me to a brand-new Canon printer (among other things). So why should I switch -- especially when I'd need to buy a new Mac just to support Mac OS X?"
Thoughtful readers are evaluating the upgrade to determine whether it adds necessary functionality. Actual workflow and overall performance improvements, rather than flashy interface effects and solid OS underpinnings are driving the decision to stay put.
Missing Applications/Functionality/driversHere is a partial list of the applications and system components once available in Mac OS 9 that have seem to have no viable counterparts in Mac OS X:
- UMAX Astra 2200: Drivers lacking
- Adobe Streamline. Reader Quote "We have been forced to set up 1 (and only 1) OS 9 workstation running Adobe Streamline alone. Since there is no OS X equivalent, we are forced to do this until either Adobe releases Streamline for OS X or they bundle that feature into a future release of Illustrator."
- Finale, a music notation program, is the main one. A Mac OS X version is scheduled for release this summer.
- AutoPage XT (priced at just under US$1000 for a single workstation -- starts at $7,500 for a house license) still is only compatible with QuarkXpress 4.0 ? a Mac OS 9 only product.
- SCSI support Reader Quote: "I run a Ultra UL2 SCSI RAID with Seagate Cheetah drives for my scratch disk. Under 9, I'm able to partition it with SoftRAID, and get incredible speed and dependability. Under X with XRAID, the thing slows down to a crawl, and I can't partition it as well. I'll acknowledge that it's hard to bench test drives under Mac OS X, but time testing the SCSI XRAID along with the internal ATA drives, the latter beats the pants off SCSI RAID under X, which doesn't make sense."
- Apple LaserWriter LS (QuickDraw, serial) is supported under Mac OS 9 but not under OS X.
- In Control is an outliner with column) for time management and conceptual text analysis. Reader Quote "Nothing adequate in OS X -- including Omni Outliner which I have but rarely use."
- Motu's digital performer music production software. The Mac OS X release does not yet support third party audio plug-ins.
- Mac OS X does not support Apple's Audio-Visual Personality Card for the beige G3, requiring a reboot into OS 9 if it is to be used for importing audio or video, or for exporting video.
- Can't locate a print driver for an Epson dot matrix printer, there are still people in this world who need to print multi-part forms.
- Fittingly Sew and Dress Shop. Reader Quote: "The Windows versions have been upgraded, but the Mac versions haven't changed in 5 years or more. These programs let me enter measurements and print out patterns that fit (for sewing)."
- Emagic's Audiowerk 2 PCI card will not work with CoreAudio in OSX without distortion.
- Reader Quote: I will probably keep a Mac OS 9 machine around for a long time, for many Photoshop 6 plug-ins that I own from smaller vendors who may never update their plug-ins to work under Mac OS X."
- Specialized Software: barcode printing; legacy minicomputers with Classic Mac OS gateway software;
- Reader Quote: "For years I've been working in a few small, fast applications. I program engineering simulations, mostly of ammonia-water mixtures for which there has only recently been an accurate equation of state. I have a lot of code in True Basic"
- Then there are drawing programs. I don't do bitmaps, and Illustrator is relatively inconvenient and expensive. What's more, the OS X environment has a ways to go before PDF, admittedly a superior format, becomes as universal and convenient as PICT. Not all applications even allow you to place a PDF image, and very few will let you take it apart and edit it, as all QuickDraw drawing programs would (well, AppleWorks 6 has a bug which often prevents this... but 5 worked).
- Epson roll paper printing. While Epson is finally rolling out OS X drivers that support borderless printing, they have yet to release OS X native versions of their bundled applications (Epson Film Factory) that allow continuous printing of multiple images, without gaps, on roll paper
- National Instruments (NI) LabVIEW. Although the firm has just released LabVIEW 7 express, native to OS-X, it does not have any PCI-bus GPIB driver support or PCMCIA GPIB driver support. In other words you can't use your existing PCI or PCIMCIA hardware.
- Reader Quote: "I'm a photographer with both a Sony (UPD 50) and a Kodak (8660) Thermal Dye Sublimation printers. Neither of these two companies has updated their drivers to work with OS X. Kodak a few months ago suggested they might be revisiting the issue. It's bizarre as the 8660 is the currently shipping machine and has been for about 3 years. This is the midrange model and both offerings in the higher and lower cost have Mac OS X drivers"
- Reader Quote: "Macromedia's application, Fontographer, will not run on OS X and I can never leave that tool behind me. Never. If you're in the graphic design or advertising and printing businesses, you need Fontographer. Its the only way I know of to correctly repair, revise and revamp a font and then generate the matching printer and bitmapped fonts to exactly the point size(s) that you need. This all happened at the touch of a couple of buttons. Even produces perfect Windows fonts from a Mac for those unfortunate clients that insist on using PCs in their offices."
- The Acrobat plug-in, PitStop Professional by Enfocus, is not yet available for Mac OS X.