You may not know this, but the Mac is finished. Kaput. Done for. That revelation was tossed my way this morning along with news that web browsers are done. Feature complete.
Ditto for word processors, spreadsheets, and Mac OS X. How could you have missed that news? Well, it’s not so much news as it is the opinion of yet another tech guru.
Goodbye To All Those Old Things
Just because someone says the Mac is dead, Windows is dead, browsers are dead, doesn’t make it so, right? If Dave Winer, yes that Dave Winer, tech guru extraordinaire, says it’s so, maybe we should at least listen.
The premise of Dave’s latest rant is Mozilla’s new Firefox 5 browser, introduced just months after version 4.
The problem, as Dave sees it, and I tend to agree, is that all the new Firefox features don’t mean much because Firefox is dead. Feature complete.
What? Dead? It’s brand new. We’re anxiously awaiting Mac OS X Lion and all the iPhone and iPad-like features and that’s done, too. How so?
No one can think of anything to add that anyone wants, because there are no more features to add. Sadly, this happens to product categories. It happened with word processors twenty years ago. Spreadsheets, around the same time. Windows was done when XP shipped. Mac OS, yeah it’s done too.
What’s going on? WIndows being finished I can understand and appreciate. But how can the almost-ready-to-be-released Mac OS X Lion be dead before it growls on my Mac?
The Life and Death of Product Life Cycles
It all has to do with product life cycles. Products age. Products are replaced by competition. Products (as we know them) are replaced by new features. Products may not be used any more because something better comes along.
Put another way, change happens. But not equally, and not all at once. Dave postulates that the Mac OS is done because most of the new features in recent years don’t get used (by Dave).
I haven’t used any of the new features. And by “new” I mean features introduced in the last eight years or so. Software products have lifecycles. They reach a point where all they need is maintenence. Make sure it runs on new hardware. Fix security issues as they arise. Optimize.
That got me to thinking. What do I use from Mac OS X Snow Leopard that I didn’t use on, say, Panther of a half dozen years ago? I use Safari, Mail, iCal, Address Book, and… wait for it… other than a few buckets of new apps, not much has changed.
Those functions, those features, all wrapped up in the product we call Mac OS X, are pretty much the same now as they were a few years ago. Flash still crashes Safari. Mail still gets lost. Whatever browser window I have open is what I use to view the world wide web.
Dave also grumbled about Mozilla not wanting to support Firefox 3.6, since version 5 is out and a replacement for version 4, thereby holding older browser users “security hostage.”
There’s some truth in that, too. Apple doesn’t support Mac OS X Tiger anymore. Soon, OS X Leopard will fall to the wayside. Upgrade or else, is the Apple mantra. And this time it’s for real.
If you want Mac OS X Lion, and who doesn’t (besides Dave Winer), then you’ll need to have an Intel Mac (goodbye, PowerPC Macs; we hardly knew ye), and you’ll need to be running the latest version of Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Mac App Store to get it.
So, owners of older, soon-to-be-unsupported products (like Firefox 3.6, or Mac OS X, or even Windows) are left out in the cold, to become victims of the No Security Updates for You™ Syndrome. Surely someone else noticed, right?
And where is the industry press? Why isn’t TechCrunch all over this? Walt Mossberg? Are you guys all on summer vacation? Too busy to fend for the users? I don’t really care if Mozilla wants to commit Osborne-like suicide, but I do care that millions of Firefox users who won’t be upgrading to Firefox 4 anytime soon are going to be exposed to all kinds of nasty s@#$.
The reality is this. Things change. It’s the ongoing dynamic of life and death, the circle of life. While much of what we do on the Mac today may be similar to what we did on the Mac five or 10 years ago, the Mac has changed for the better; improved immensely. Compare a MacBook Air to a clamshell iBarbie iBook of just a decade ago.
After using an iPad for nearly a year I’m convinced that much of what we today call computing will be tablet-based in the post-PC era of the future. The Mac won’t go away, but it may be relegated to tasks more specific to the power and screen size that it can provide over the handheld devices that are all the rage today.
Is the Windows-based PC, or the Mac-based personal computer finished and feature complete? I’m not about to toss out my Mac, but it’s beginning to look that way.