Mac News Review

Woz Calls Original Mac a Failure, Apple Killed the PC, Why Steve Jobs Died, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.12.09

Mac notebook and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Products & Services

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Steve Wozniak: The Original Macintosh Was a Failure

Macworld UK's Ben Camm-Jones reports that Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, speaking on Sunday MIDDAY (see below), a program run on India's NDTV network, conceded that the Apple III had been a failure - something that few would dispute - but also said that the Macintosh had been a failure too.

"The Apple III was a failure, the Lisa was a failure, and the [original] Macintosh was a failure. It was only by modifying the Macintosh hugely and over time that we made it a good computer," Wozniak is quoted saying.

Publisher's note: I consider the Macintosh 128K pretty much a proof-of-concept machine, because it really didn't have enough memory to do much. Steve Jobs unveiled the original Macintosh using a custom machine with 512 KB of memory, and the Macintosh 512K (a.k.a. Fat Mac) was the first model with enough memory to be fairly useful. Despite that, Mac sales fell like a rock in 1985. It took the Mac Plus, introduced in January 1986, to really turn things around for the Macintosh, adding a high-speed SCSI port for hard drives along with a full 1 GB of memory - expandable to 4 GB when higher capacity chips became available. dk

Interview with Steve Wozniak

Sunday MIDDAY's Sachin Kalbag recently interviewed "the other Steve" - Steve Wozniak, Apple's cofounder and the designer of the earliest Apple computers.

"Steve Wozniak, supreme geek of the 1970s and the maker of the Apple II computer which brought about a worldwide computer revolution, was in Bangalore [India] on Saturday to speak to a bunch of young entrepreneurs and achievers of the Young Presidents Organisation who wanted to hear the story of the most-loved technology brand in the world - Apple.

"Wozniak co-founded Apple Computer (now Apple, Inc.) in April 1976 along with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne. Both Apple I - the company's first product - and the hugely successful Apple II (arguably the world's first fully-loaded personal computer) were designed by Wozniak, making him - and not Jobs - the darling of geeks around the world.

"Jobs may have created the Apple brand, but it was Wozniak's initial work on the company's first two products that made Apple a multi-million dollar company within a year of its founding. Now 61 years old, Wozniak is still an Apple employee with a minimum pay and goes around the world representing the company - giving speeches and mentoring young engineers."

Publisher's note: Perhaps the most significant factor in the success of the Apple II wasn't the computer itself but the fact that it was the first home computer (as we called them back then) with a relatively affordable 5-1/4" floppy drive. Until then, floppy drive controllers were expensive, and most floppy drives were of the 8" variety, and most home computers used cassette tape for storage and a TV set as a monitor. Floppies were much faster and easier to work with than tapes, giving Apple a real leg up on the competition. dk

Refurbished Mac Buying Guide

Macworld's Joel Mathis says that if you're on a budget and need a new computer, but you're an Apple fan and even with limited cash you'd rather not buy an inexpensive Windows-based PC, the solution is easy: Buy a refurbished Mac.

Mathis notes that the Apple Online Store has a section where you can buy refurbished Macs, as well as refurbished iPads, iPods, and other Apple products. (The refurbs are listed under the Special Deals section of the left column of the online store.), with the Mac selection running the gamut from laptop computers to Mac minis to iMacs with giant 27" monitors. Some of the machines are preowned, while others were returned to the company because of technical defects. But all of them share two characteristics in common: They've been buffed, restored, and repackaged to meet Apple's exacting standards. And they're cheaper than buying new, yet carry the exact same warranty and AppleCare eligibility as new Macs.

Mathis notes that before resale, Apple cleans the machine, replaces any defective or substandard parts, reinstalls software that originally shipped with the unit, tests the Mac for quality-control issues, then repackages it with fresh cables and a users manual. The company even stamps the machine with a new serial number. Arguably, an ACR unit is more thoroughly vetted for issues and defects than a new one is, and meet's the company's Finished Goods testing procedures which means that it should be up to the same technical standards as the exact same unit purchased brand-new.

The last two Mac systems your editor has purchased have been Apple Certified Refurbished machines, and both arrived cosmetically indistinguishable from new and have been flawless performers (the newest one now being nearly three years old). Likewise for two Certified Refurbished iPods.

Likewise, the last three "new" Macs your publisher has purchased (all of them eMacs) have also been Apple Certified Refurbished machines, and they were just like new when they arrived. I would not hesitate to buy another Apple Certified Refurb.

You can find prices on refurbs in our various deal trackers, which we try to update at least once a month.

Should We Stop Classifying the iPad as a PC?

Have we started?

Tech.pinions contributor Patrick Moorhead is critical of market research firm Canalys' decision to break from the analyst pack and include touchscreen tablets in its PC sales metrics, a revision that has put Apple is on track to become leading global PC vendor, given the phenomenal success of the iPad. Moorhead says the reclassification got him thinking about what a PC is and how wide this definition goes.

Moorhead emphasizes that he's not debating whether, at least for some users, a tablet can perform tasks they would otherwise be doing with a laptop or desktop PC, but rather industry classification of the device. He proposes some multipoint criteria to help qualify PC-ness.

Editor's note: In my estimation, tablets like the iPad meet all of Moorhead's criteria. I think Canalys is on the right track in including tablets as PC sales and will become even more right as time passes. I addressed this topic at some length in a column on MacPrices earlier this week, iPad And Me; Will Tablets Ever Be A Satisfactory Laptop Substitute? cm

Publisher's note: I would go so far as to classify any smartphone that can run apps as a personal computer, albeit a very small one. What's more personal than a computer you can put in your pocket? However, the industry likes to have clear-cut categories, and just as the early Apple, Tandy, and Commodore home computers created a new category (home computers or microcomputers - in contrast to mainframes and minicomputers - and later personal computers), the iPad is creating a new category that is neither a smartphone nor a conventional PC. In time, the industry will come to some consensus as to whether the tablet belongs in the PC category or is really a different kind of device. My leaning is toward the different kind of device, as tablets do not run desktop operating systems or software, are generally not designed to work with keyboard and mouse input, and sometimes don't even have USB or flash card slots. Time will tell. dk

The Personal Computer Is Dead: Apple Killed It

Writing for Technology Review, Jonathan Zittrain says the PC is dead, with rising popularity of mobile, lightweight, cloud-centric devices not merely representing a change in form factor. Rather, he says we're witnessing an unprecedented shift of power from end users and software developers to operating system vendors - and even those who keep using PCs are being swept along.

Zittrain considers these developments to be a little for the better, and much for the worse. Your editor agrees.

Mr. Zittrain is a professor of law and computer science at Harvard University, and author of The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, in which he forecast the transformation from product to service, noting that for decades PC users enjoyed a simple way for people to create software and share or sell it to others.

He notes that people bought general-purpose PCs that came with operating systems that took care of the basics. Anyone could write and run software for an operating system, and up popped an endless assortment of application software.

Zittrain recalls the Microsoft antitrust litigation of the 1990s but observes that when the iPhone came out in 2007, its design was far more restrictive than Windows had ever been, with no outside code at all allowed on the iPhone and all the included software Apple's as well. Then, in 2008, Apple announced a software development kit for the iPhone, under which third-party developers would be welcome to write software for the iPhone, pretty much as they'd done for Windows and Mac OS, but with the epic exception that users could install software on a phone only if it was offered through Apple's iPhone App Store, with 30% of its price siphoned off to Apple.

And now the contagion is spreading to PC space with the the Mac App Store. Developers can't duplicate functionality already on offer in the Store and can't license their work as free software, because those license terms conflict with Apple's. Zittrain notes that even at the height of Windows' market dominance, Microsoft never had a role in determining what software would and would not run on its machines.

This also has allowed censorship to gain traction. Zittrain cites the case Exodus International releasing an app that, among other things, inveighed against homosexuality, which opponents were successful in petitioning Apple to remove. He suggests questioning those who supported the anti-Exodus petition: "Would you also favor a petition demanding that Apple prevent iPhone and iPad users from getting to Exodus' website on Safari?" noting that if not, what's different?

The upshot is that today's developers are writing code predicated on not just consumer acceptance, but also vendor acceptance, and he contends that both software developers and users should demand more, warning that if we allow ourselves to be lulled into satisfaction with walled gardens, we'll miss out on innovations to which the gardeners object, while setting ourselves up for censorship of code and content.

Zittrain vs. Apple: What About the User Experience?

Tech.pinions' Steve Wildstrom comments that Harvard Law School Prof. Jonathan Zittrain (see above) doesn't like the iPhone or the iPad, or much of anything about the modern app economy, noting that Zittrain bemoans the loss of a golden age of software openness, when anyone could write and run software for an operating system, and up popped an endless assortment of spreadsheets, word processors, instant messengers, Web browsers, email, and games. In the dystopian future Zittrain sees, an unprecedented shift of power from end users and software developers to operating system vendors means the Apples, Googles, and Microsofts of the world will control what you can do with your PCs, phones, and tablets - and we'll all be the worse for it.

While Wildstrom acknowledges that Zittrain is a very smart and witty guy, he thinks the professor is missing something very important: user experience, which Wildstrom characterizes as "horrible" back in Zittrain's glory days of computing freedom, observing that the many millions of people who have bought iPhones and iPads have chosen to cede to Apple the right to to choose what software their devices can run in exchange for a superior user experience.

Editor's note: That's obviously what's happening, although some of us would dispute that the user experience in the iOS walled garden is in fact qualitatively better, at least for content producers and other power users. cm

Publisher's note: We've had third-party software since the days of the Apple II, and user experience has always been a big factor in which apps were successful and which ones failed. The down side is that open platforms also allow for the creation of computer viruses and other malware, a problem that predates personal computing.

The Creeper virus ran on DEC PDP-10 computers in 1971 and distributed itself over Arpanet, the predecessor to the Internet. The first PC virus arrived a decade later when the Elk Cloner virus came to the Apple II in 1981, infecting the boot sector of floppy disks. The first virus for IBM compatibles arrived five years later, the Brain virus, which infected the boot sector of DOS disks. As for the Mac, only about 70 viruses for the Classic Mac OS ever made it into the wild, and OS X viruses are virtually unknown, while there are well over 100,000 malwares aimed at Windows. Openness has its risks, but I think they tend to be outweighed by having a platform anyone can write for. dk

Intel CEO: Windows 8 to Enjoy a Huge Advantage

Cnet's Larry Dignan comments that to say Intel CEO Paul Otellini is upbeat about the prospects for Microsoft's Windows 8 may be a bit of an understatement. In fact, Otellini said Windows 8 is one of the best things that's ever happened to Intel.

Speaking at a Credit Suisse technology conference, Otellini said:

"We are very excited about Windows 8. I think it's one of the best things that's ever happened to our company. And it's a very good operating system, not just for PCs, but we think also will allow tablets to really get a legitimacy into mainstream computing, particularly in enterprises that they don't have today."

Otellini cites Microsoft new Metro touch interface, noting that there will be a button that basically takes you back to the classic Windows experience - ergo: one operating system with two different GUIs not running on virtual machines, creating a huge and unique advantage for Windows 8 because it will be able to take advantage of legacy software as well as all the drivers for mice and printers and every other USB device in the world, including getting photos off your camera and onto a tablet.

Publisher's note: Microsoft controls over 90% of the PC market (tablets excluded), while Intel controls 80% of the PC market and 100% of the Mac market. The interesting thing about Windows 8, which Intel's Otellini raves about, is that it will also run on ARM processors, which power almost all smartphones and tablets - and which Intel does not produce. Intel sold its Xscale ARM processor line to Marvell in 2006, although it does retain an ARM license, so it could get back into the ARM business if it wanted to. ARM-based laptops and servers are rumored for 2012, which would either dilute Intel's overall market share or give Intel a reason to reenter the ARM market. dk

Intel Core 'Ivy Bridge' Desktop CPU Launch Expected in Q2 2012

XBit Labs' Anton Shilov reports that Intel has notified partners about coming release of next-generation "Ivy Bridge" processors in Q2 2012 - pushed back from a formerly projected March-April timeframe.

Intel Desktop Platform Roadmap

He says reasons for the delay in releasing the world's first desktop microprocessors made using 22nm transistors are unclear but speculates that perhaps the company wants to ensure no internal competition between existing "Sandy Bridge" 2000 and future "Ivy Bridge" 3000 chips, or possibly ramp up of brand new CPUs is taking longer than expected.

He also notes that the initial Ivy Bridge family will not include Core i3-series chips and will consist solely of Core i7 and Core i5 silicon, with an inexpensive Core i3 version coming later in Q2 2011.

Shilov says Ivy Bridge will generally inherit Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, but with a significant array of improvements that will boost its performance in general applications by around 20% compared to Core i "Sandy Bridge" chips, as well as a new graphics core with DirectX 11 and OpenCL 1.1 support, 30% higher performance compared to the predecessor, and a new video processor and display controllers, plus PCI Express 3.0 x16 interconnection and a PCIe 2.0 x4 controller as well as a number of power management innovations.

Publisher's note: Expect a new wave of desktop Macs when Ivy Bridge ships. Maybe we'll see the first Mac Pro update since July 2010! dk

How to Install Ubuntu Using VMware Fusion

MacInstruct's Matthew Cone says:

"Everyone is talking about Ubuntu, the popular open-source operating system that's easy to install and use. Trying out this Linux distribution on your Mac is easy. With an application called VMware Fusion, you can create a 'computer within a computer' and run Ubuntu in a virtual machine on your Mac.

"Here's how to install Ubuntu 11.10 in OS X using VMware Fusion...."

Why Steve Jobs Died

The MacDougall Newsletter says:

"Steve Jobs gave tacit permission and encouragement for me to write this newsletter article about the medical and nutritional aspects of his life when he commissioned his biographer to tell a true account. 'I wanted my kids to know about me.' 'Also, when I got sick, I realized other people would write about me if I died, and they wouldn't know anything. They'd get it all wrong. So I wanted to make sure someone heard what I had to say.' Jobs would have been pleased to hear my challenging second opinions about his pancreatic cancer and his diet, because my thoughts are in agreement with what he intuitively and factually knew to be correct. Hopefully, my account will bring some peace of mind to his family and friends after his untimely death."

Based on growth rate calculations for pancreatic neuro-endocrine (islet cell) tumors, Dr. MacDougall surmises that Jobs' cancer may have begun in his mid-20s, about the same time Apple was getting started, and speculates that lead and other carcinogens from computers caused the cancer.

Editor's note: I have no idea whether this doctor's non-mainstream theories hold any water, so to speak, but they are fascinating for anyone interested in the etiology of cancer. cm

Products & Services

Belkin Conserve Power Switch Banishes Vampire Power Draw

PR: Many of the electronics and appliances around your home use electricity even when they're not in use - wasting energy and driving up your electric bill. The so-called "vampire power" phenomenon.

Belkin Conserve Power SwitchIn a typical American household, there are up to 40 devices drawing constant power at a given time - even when they're not in use. This can average up to $100 per year in unnecessary energy costs, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Belkin's Conserve Power Switch™ completely shuts off power - including standby power - to your electronics and appliances with the flip of a switch, to help you save energy.

Like Unplugging - Without Unplugging

Belkin Conserve Power SwitchWith the touch of a switch, the power shuts off. The Conserve Power Switch itself uses no power when not in operation, so standby power is eliminated.

The Conserve Power Switch can be used with mobile phones, MP3 players, Bluetooth devices and digital cameras, curling irons, clothes irons, electric grills, coffee makers and lighting, fans, and space heaters to save energy and make your home safer and eliminate standby power when charging.

Designed for standard US three-prong power outlets, the Conserve Power Switch's slim design won't obstruct an unused outlet when plugged in. Two Conserve Power Switches easily fit next to each other in one standard outlet and can work simultaneously.

Conserve Power Switch Features

  • Draws zero power when off
  • Reduces clutter of unplugged devices
  • 1-Year Limited Warranty


Publisher's note: It's a shame that more AC adapters don't switch to zero draw when not in use (the one for my old Palm Centro does that), but that's the reality. There's nothing automatic about Belkin's new switch, but the size and shape are what set it apart. This is simply a power plug with a switch that you have to flip, but it's less ugly than leaving a power cord or AC adapter unplugged on the floor or counter. (If your coffee maker has a clock, don't use it with one of these. It will lose track of the time, which means it won't be able to start automatically so you can wake up to a fresh pot in the morning. Other than that, good suggestions from Belkin.) dk

G-Technology by Hitachi Strengthens Brand Presence in Canada

G-Technology by HitachiPR: G-Technology by Hitachi has announced that D&H Canada, one of North America's leading technology distributors, is now authorized to distribute Hitachi GST's full line of premium G-Technology external storage solutions. D&H Canada will offer and promote the award-winning G-Technology brand, including the G-SPEED, G-RAID and G-DRIVE product families, to its strong channel customer network of leading retailers, resellers and solution providers throughout the region.

G-Technology drives are engineered specifically to meet the needs of the content creation and Apple Mac communities, including heavy users of multimedia content, Final Cut Pro digital audio/video specialists and other pre/post production professionals. From rugged portable drives to ultra-fast, multi-drive RAID storage, G-Technology's USB, FireWire, eSATA, and SAS storage solutions support virtually all levels of A/V production and can be found in post-production facilities worldwide.

G-Technology by Hitachi products"The Mac and content creation market is growing fast in Canada, driven by the rising popularity of Apple products as well as the increased storage demands driven by digital photography, HD video, online music and the Internet," says Ian Andes, vice president of G-Technology sales, Hitachi GST Branded Business. "Our partnership with D&H Canada is designed to extend the value of the brand, increase consumer awareness in the region and to better meet the demand for top-quality external storage solutions that feature superior performance, functionality, usability, reliability and industrial design. We look forward to a long relationship with D&H."

"G-Technology has a strong brand and leading reputation in the Mac and creative community, and there's growing demand for their products in Canada. We are thrilled to have them as part of our product lineup. D&H is actively offering G-Technology's storage solutions to our national partners right in time for the holiday shopping season," says Greg Tobin, general manager, D&H Canada. "We look forward to working together with G-Technology by Hitachi and growing our businesses within the Mac community."

Also see Charles W. Moore's review of the G-Drive Professional External Hard Drive.

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