The Ultimate Mac: 10 Things that Could Make the iMac a PC Killer

2000 – When I am converting Windows users or introducing new users to the computer for the first time, there are a number of conceptual hurdles that it takes repeated instruction to get across. These include problems with getting a disk out of the computer, distinguishing between the Finder and the dialogs in Open and Save windows, and understanding the role of the Chooser and Apple menu.

What follows are my carefully considered proposals that Apple could use to simplify the transition for Windows-only users, make the learning curve for beginners even easier, and create a computer so new and revolutionary that even the iMac revolution would fade to a really low gamma factor by comparison.

Some of these items refer to Mac OS 9 as opposed to OS X. All I know of OS X is what I read in the (e)papers; I’m not about to risk my source of livelihood on a beta anything, so you’ll excuse me, I hope, if some of the references do not refer to the Public Beta. (As a matter of fact, I traditionally run one OS behind the current version for the sake of stability. Right now I’m using Mac OS 8.6, and I might consider a switch to OS 9 once OS X goes golden master….)

  1. Put a smart eject button on every drive. It is true that the Mac handles disks more intelligently than any Windows machine, because the Mac knows where the disk is at all times. You never get ABORT/RETRY/FAIL messages on a Mac.Trash, Mac System 1.0Yet for a beginner, dragging a disk icon and placing it in the Trash invariably gives pause. Am I deleting the contents of the disk?While OS 8.6 and 9 offer a true Disk Eject menu item, it still is not invoked by manipulating the disk icon itself. Why not make the disk (CD, DVD, or third-party floppy) actually respond to the disk eject button by issuing a command to the Finder to Eject? After all, hitting the power key initiates a Shut Down or Restart. If you then assume that the user wants to save and close any open files, and replace the dialog box that says, The disk cannot be put away because items are in use with Do you wish to close all the items in use and eject the disk?, then the Mac retains its advantage in disk handling while still being responsive to the person who wants to push a button to get the disk or CD out of the drive.
  1. Put an expansion bay in the side of the iMac that is compatible with PowerBook expansion bay components. You want a floppy in the machine? Pop the little door open and slide in a PowerBook floppy drive. You want to transfer your iMovie? Remove the FireWire drive and pop it in the iMac bay.This is such a powerful and obvious idea, I would say it would be worth redesigning the PowerBook expansion bay devices just to make them integrate into the iMac’s slot without disturbing the iMac’s form factor. It seems to me that it solves several problems simultaneously, especially the missing floppy problem. And it gives iMac owners an excuse to purchase a PowerBook! It also gives the PowerBook a distinguishing and valuable characteristic differentiating it from the iBook. Some third-party vendors ought to make a stand-alone USB expansion bay holder just to prove the concept.
  1. Make the Open and Save dialog boxes equivalent to the Finder. OS 9’s new Navigation tools in the Open and Save dialog boxes at least look like a list view when in use, so you don’t have to work quite so hard as you used to do to explain the difference between saving in an Open and Save dialog box vs. just moving a file within the Finder.I’m sure the new multi-view window system in OS X will have its proponents as well (even though its a rehash of the old Atari ST file handling system). However, for a new user it is a conceptual leap to see files organized by icons in one setting and by names in another when talking about the same file. The intelligent thing to do when opening or saving a file is to cause the entire Finder screen to become the file selector so you can point to a folder or file just like you always do when in the Finder! Perhaps the border could change to allow the user to know a file save or open is in progress. This should be done in OS X right now.
  1. Run a short iMovie competition where actual users’ iMovies are the advertisements you put on television. ‘Nuff said.
  1. Open iTools to older operating systems. Help us help you. We have to constantly improvise ways to make our non-networked classrooms able to transfer files between old and new platforms. We don’t throw out those old computers, Steve, we just shuffle ’em around.
  1. Make Mac OS 8.6 and below open source. If you don’t want it anymore, don’t hog it.
  1. Make your education discounts more significant. Right now, they’re a joke. Most models can be had cheaper from large-scale vendors. That’s why education sales are slipping . . . not because you shuffled the people around during the summer. Anyone making a large-scale bid wants, and deserves, some consideration.
  1. Make Microsoft Office a build-to-order option. If the machine is compatible out of the box, you’ll soothe a lot of nerves. But if you don’t like this option, do #2.
  1. Make AppleWorks work with everything. It should open and save in as many formats as you can license, even if it increases the cost of the package by $30 to $50. Lack of compatibility with kids bringing their work from home is my #1 problem as a teacher. Fortunately, I have MacLink Plus, but not everyone has it.

And if you can pull it off for say, a year while the PC peeps catch up, this is the PC-killer:

  1. Redesign the iMac with a touch-sensitive LCD screen and lose the mouse. If one button is better than two, and no buttons better than one, then no mouse is even better. The technology exists. People who see it will die to have it. If it works right, no one will ever use a mouse again. It will be radical, it will be controversial, and it is quintessentially Apple. It certainly would be . . . dare I say . . . Different.

Make these changes, Steve, and believe me . . . you will stand the computing world on its ear. Again.

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