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Feb 96 Publishers Page
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:2
Column Tag:Publisher’s Page

Publisher’s Page

By Neil Ticktin, Publisher

[Scott’s taking a much needed break this month from his Viewpoint column - he’ll be back next month with more insight and comments on our industry.]

The Psyche of “Real” Computer Users

I recently attended Comdex, and now, besides wondering why I took the time to go to the show, I find myself making some interesting observations about the computer industry - and more importantly, the psyche of computer users.

Late this past summer, the Fed’s favorite target of anti-trust investigations released Win95. And with all the hype, even the most stout of heart in the Macintosh industry had to wonder: “Can the Macintosh survive?”

I don’t think that most of us believed that Win95 could kill the Mac OS (especially with Win95 sales projections dropping nearly 50%), but a lot of us were looking for the deeper reasons as to why we felt that way. For over a decade, Mac users have have had an easy answer to this question - other systems simply lacked anything resembling a real user interface. And even though, as the bumper sticker says, “Win95 = Mac ‘89”, many people still believe the perception that Microsoft wants them to - that Win95 is as good as a Mac. And while the Mac OS is still superior in many ways, it has become tougher to explain to Windows users why we use Macs - and why we won’t “just convert to using Windows.”

As Win95 shipped, I recall actually hypothesizing: “What would it be like if the Mac and Apple ceased to exist, and I was forced into using Windows?” My conclusion was that I would likely reduce the number of things that I used a computer for - I would turn to PDAs whenever I could. Why? Simply because I don’t enjoy using Windows and I would want to minimize my exposure to it. Would you want to spend more or less time with a “friend” you didn’t like?

I also concluded that FDR’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is quite applicable at this time to the Mac side of our industry.

Back to my Comdex thoughts

Walking around Macworld, I see lots of animated faces - people are excited about cool technologies, and are even irritated when they don’t see enough cool things. And we know why - Macintosh users have bonded with their machines. It’s more than seeing neat things done on the computer - they’ve integrated the machine so completely into their thoughts, that their Macs have become partners, not just tools.

PC users, in general, are different. While there are a great many exceptions, the “bond quotient” per computer is far higher on the Mac side of the industry. As I looked around Comdex, the faces of all the people were so serious looking. They appeared bored and overwhelmed. I don’t remember seeing a single excited face (except for when they were watching the mimes at the front door).

I also took note that Comdex was a lot less about technology and what computers could do for you, and a lot more about marketing, flash, and sales tactics. Sometimes, we forget how different the Macintosh and Windows worlds are. For example, we know of one company that used their highly successful Windows product marketing approach in the Macintosh market - only to have it fail so miserably, it may have been better to do nothing. Food for thought.

But what does this mean, Neil?

The bottom line is this. In general, Windows users don’t view their computers in the same way a Mac user views a Macintosh. Mac users have so bonded to their machines that they almost go out of their way to find new ways to use the computer. Mac users like their machines - Windows users think of their computer as a box they use. And until Microsoft figures how to create this kind of relationship between PC and user, the Macintosh is still the superior user interface and product. By the way: I don’t expect that Windows users will “get” this argument - if they did, they’d use the Macintosh.

Save Cyberdog!

Apple has been working on a set of Internet tools based on OpenDoc. While this product will probably end up named something like “OpenDoc Internet Client”, its code/commonly known name is Cyberdog, which comes from a New Yorker cartoon showing two dogs at a terminal, where one dog looks at the other and says “On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog.”

Unfortunately, there seem to be some trademark issues for the use of the Cyberdog name. It also may be the case that Cyberdog isn’t as “professional” a name as the corporate types may want. But, do Mac users want professional? or do Mac users want cool, fun computers?

Want to do your part to save the “Cyberdog” name? You can. Send e-mail to We’re going to compile the comments and pass them onto Apple, so even if your message is short and sweet, your vote will be counted.


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