The Waiting Game

A normal day at work has me on one or two computers, a PowerMac and a PC, effortlessly porting work from one OS into another. A “normal” day at work rarely occurs, however. Even with the recent Java release for the Mac, I still find that many web plug-ins don’t work as well or at all on my PowerMac.

Take the case of the Real Audio Encoder version 2.01. Since the Powermac has multimedia capabilities built in, I decided it would be easier to use it to capture audio off a CD. With the help of Kaboom!, and the Mac’s own audio player, I did so. Then I took the resulting .wav files and encoded them with the Real Audio Encoder. Real Audio is an amazing tool. You can shrink a 200K .wav files down to about 8 or 9K. The files sound like mono FM, sure, but they download quick, and they take a bunch less room on already overcrowded web servers. So the upshot of this is–when I tried to listen to the clips over the web, the information came across garbled. Sounded sort of like a guy gargling and playing a steel guitar. A quick call to Progressive Networks (The Home Of Real Audio) gave me the solution. Somewhere in the encoding process, something had gone wrong.

“Thanks. I sort of figured that.” said I.

So all the files were basically shot. Progressive Networks tech also had something rather telling to say; “It seems odd, but we do all of our engineering on the Mac, and then we port it over!” Yet the PC version comes to market first. In fact the new beta encoder, which includes real time audio encoding from live and CD sources has been out for almost two months. And the Mac version? Came out only this week. Why does a company that uses Mac’s to invent and refine their technology so obviously put the Mac user so low on their priority list?

Of course this is only an example of an industry wide mind set. Consider this: the new beta for MacJava was put out by Netscape this week as well, some four months after the beta version for the PC.

Don’t even make me go into the AOL interface differences between the two.

Basically, the history of Mac related internet software has been one of take the bait (AOL) or wait(Netscape, Java, et al.).

Maybe it has to do with the Mac user base. Mac use is heavy in the artistic and educational field, right? Yes, but this is a poor excuse at best. With the work place unraveling into “zones” and “telecommuting”, with schools probably not far behind, that sort of thinking just doesn’t apply anymore.

Then maybe it has to do with the way Apple has positioned itself toward the Internet? If you visit the Microsoft Home page, you can tell that the main thrust of the company is going towards the net itself. Almost daily, web-related changes and announcements appear on the site.

And the Apple site? A recent visit found it last updated in July.

Sites like this one can really help with spreading the word before it’s too late. Because with the recent upheavals at Apple, it may be a while before they get their house fully in order. They will, of course, rise again. There should be no question about that. A twelve billion dollar company can sometimes use a bit of shaking up, thank you very much… But in this new Amelio-led era, Apple must seriously shift from the intranet to the internet. It’s really not such a big jump when you think about it. HyperCard stacks are the forbearer of hypertext transfers. The new regime must firmly place the idea of the net into the minds and pocketbooks of consumers and businesses alike.

Mac users are a dedicated lot. But they must also know that a two month gap in technology is unacceptable. Apple and its users must push toward the new cyber-frontiers. Or CHRP will have you using your Mac as a PC. Getting away from a PC is why I use a Mac in the first place.

So maybe if Mac users put up the hue and cry, the industry lag in Mac beta and alpha products might be pushed a little higher on priority lists in the corporate paradigm. Because emerging technology doesn’t wait, and a Mac user shouldn’t have to wait to use them, either.

Brian Harniman lives in Rockland County, NY. He works as a marketing
director/creative director/all around good guy for The Entertainment Connection. He has an English Springer Spaniel named Alison. Brian can be reached at

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