The Mac Factor – Hardly any Software?

Hardly any Software?

It happened again the other day. Someone, who should know better, suggested to me that the Macintosh might be a viable hardware alternative, but “there is almost no software available for the Mac.” I understand the misconception. If you walk into a computer store in your local mall or browse the shelves at CompUSA, you might arrive at the same erroneous conclusion.

Take your local computer store loaded with PC software. First, some of the Windows software appeals to only very specific markets. For example, genealogy software or French cooking software may be interesting to a very small group of buyers, but is a real stretch for everyone else. If you glance around the PC shelves, you’ll find there’s a lot of this stuff available. Second, the shelves are packed with ‘shoot-um-up’ or arcade type games that lose their luster very quickly. A third software shelf-hog is the repetitious software upgrade. For example, you may find a Windows 98 upgrade, a Windows NT upgrade, and soon a Windows 2000 upgrade for a whole variety of products. Woe be unto him that buys the wrong one!

The overall impression given by shelf after shelf of glossy boxes is that there’s lots of Windows software out there and you’d be crazy to buy a non-Windows computer. If you observe closely, you will see the occasional iMac owner walking around these stores glancing almost furtively at each box looking in vain for the Mac OS compatible logo.

SoftPC and Virtual PC

Though much of the PC software either caters to a very limited audience, amounts to junk, or cries out for a consumer upgrade, there is, of course, some really good Windows-based software out there. Quicken 99 Deluxe, for example, offers features not found in the Macintosh Quicken 98 version and there’s little doubt that Office 2000 leapfrogs over Office 98 for the Mac.

The good news is that you can run the vast majority of PC software on the Macintosh right now by installing Connectix’s Virtual PC or Insignia Solution’s SoftPC. Though the speed of these emulators was disappointing in the past, on a 233 Mhz iMac (or faster) most productivity or special purpose software runs quite well. Graphics intensive entertainment software may still experience a few problems, but most of the new games are now being developed for both the PC and the Mac.

Thus, a Macintosh with a PC emulator installed will support both PC software and Macintosh software and let you move between environments with the mere click of a mouse. The Macintosh is the ONLY platform capable of running both Mac and Windows-based software!

The Mac Factor

The impressive success of the iMacs and the Blue G3’s and Apple’s elaboration of a system software plan have encouraged developers once again to support the Macintosh platform. That’s good news for the whole software industry because innovation inevitably happens first on the Mac and is eventually ported to the Windows kludge. A short list of major applications first developed on the Mac represents the vast majority of software used on the PC even today. Programs like Excel, PageMaker, FileMaker, PowerPoint, Word, Illustrator, Director, Freehand, QuarkXpress, and Premier were all fine-tuned on the Macintosh long before they became available on the PC. It’s somewhat ironic that the only major piece of software that didn’t evolve on the Macintosh is the Windows operating system, and it has experienced a few teething pains.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

The question then arises: If you can’t find Mac specific software in your local mall, then where can you find it? In my experience, the web offers the cheapest software buying experience on the market. Avoiding the overhead associated with renting space in a local mall or downtown store and staffing it with knowledgeable salespersons, the major mail order houses have all staked out territory on the web. Places like MacMall, MacConnection, MacWarehouse, and the MacZone can fulfill most of your software requirements, while at the same time keeping you up-to-date with new software releases. It’s also less confusing than browsing through the myriad titles at your local store and wondering if the package you’re looking at is the latest release, or has just been sitting on the shelves for several months.

Finally, if you can’t find what you need at one of the mail order houses, Apple has its own product finder up on its Internet site. A recent MacCentral iMac tip suggests you check this site out <> if you need a commercial product. For shareware or freeware, the same tip suggests you try <>. I find the Apple product finder useful though it would be nice to see some recommended retail prices along with the product information. I also noted that the Apple website seemed to generate a number of Internet errors, though a little persistence overcame these obstacles.

‘Simply Powerful Software’

I recently indexed my hard drive with System 8.6’s Sherlock and so now I can search for text strings within files. This is, of course, an invaluable utility for me as I can find out immediately what, if anything, I’ve written about various topics. This contrasts with Windows 98’s ‘Find’ facility which is equivalent to System 7’s ‘Find File.’

A search for any document that contains the word ‘Claris,’ for example, reminded me that Apple’s former software spin-off once sported a full stable of useful products including MacWrite Professional (a slick word processor), MacDraw Professional (a useful object-oriented drawing program), Resolve (a competent spreadsheet), FileMaker Professional (simply the best flat file system on the market), ClarisWorks (by far the best integrated package on the market), Claris HomePage (a fine web authoring tool), and Claris eMailer (an easy but powerful email program.) Some of this software was dropped because Claris evidently felt it was unprofitable to pursue. Some may have been terminated because they overlapped in function with ClarisWorks. Other programs were discontinued for more nebulous reasons.

Apple consolidated the Claris line, dissolved the company in favor of FileMaker, Inc., and changed the name of ClarisWorks to AppleWorks. FileMaker, Inc. markets FileMaker Pro and Claris HomePage along with related add-ons and utilities, while AppleWorks has been kept in the Apple stable. It’s a shame that Apple felt it necessary to rename ClarisWorks for two reasons. First, the new name automatically associates the program with its Apple II predecessor and though it was a successful Apple II product, it was also vastly under-powered in comparison to its Mac cousin. Second, adding ‘Apple’ to the name will do nothing to help the program penetrate the low end of the PC market where AppleWork’s advantages are so sorely needed.

My point here is that Apple has developed some very competitive software and it deserves to be marketed with the same gusto and enthusiasm as Apple’s hardware. The Claris slogan “simply powerful software” is as valid today as it was when Claris was the only division of Apple making money.


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