Since its beginnings, the Mac has been discounted—saddled with the claim that theres a lack of native software when compared to the X86 PC platform.
Now, Apple and a growing number of virtualization vendors are pitching Windows compatibility solutions to the Mac masses. The rub? Most Mac users wont need any of these Windows programs.
Still, the choices for running Windows on the Mac keep expanding. Apple and virtualization vendors keep refining their different approaches.
According to the company, the update includes performance optimizations; compatibility with the forthcoming OS X v10.5, called “Leopard,” and Windows Vista; and support for a wider range of USB devices.
Theres an interesting feature called the “virtual disk cache policy option,” which lets users determine which OS will have its performance optimized. If Windows needs more resources, you can let it have it.
Meanwhile, Apple on Sept. 15 released Boot Camp 1.1.1, an update to its dual-boot solution for its Intel Mac models.
The maintenance update provides compatibility with the new Mac Pro workstations and improves support with various devices integrated in Mac hardware, like Webcams.
But when we get down to it, are these Windows solutions what Mac owners really want to get their work done? Obviously not.
Mac users want to run native Mac software rather than Windows programs. Duh! Of course, OS X software is the most compatible, uses the standard interface gestures and is the most understandable for Mac users. (This concept has been hard for hard-core PC fans to understand. Why dont Mac owners just get with the rest of the industry and run Windows on a PC, they say.)
And running Boot Camp or Parallels means that users have to purchase and load Windows on their machines. This isnt a terrible burden, but it isnt close to the Mac experience.
At the same time, Mac users have long been on the defensive against the charge of the platform having fewer programs.
Despite objections from the Mac camp, the reality is there are fewer programs for the Mac. This was true when PC owners were running DOS, and it hasnt changed when the world moved to Windows.
For example, I have been told that theres no good Mac software for dog breeders. I can believe this.
And theres no true equivalent for Microsoft Exchange.
So, its understandable if distasteful for Mac users to run a Windows program, when theres no real Mac alternative.
While grumbling over this market reality and counting the numbers of apps, Mac fans also claim that market forces weed out the also-rans leaving the platform with choices of quality rather than choices of quantity.
Perhaps its unkind to point out that “quality” in this case means that the software runs on a Mac.
Yet, when I researched a rather vertical niche segment the other day, I found that the Mac software field isnt such a wasteland.
Instead, there were plenty of choices for free and commercial software. The real problem came down to the difficulty in finding the Mac versions.
I looked at diabetes software for LifeSpans OneTouch Ultra blood glucose monitoring device.
The Ultra is a cute little meter that can store 150 readings in its memory. The device also provides a proprietary interface on the bottom that users can connect to a PC with either a serial or USB cable and download the information.
However, LifeSpan doesnt offer a Mac version of its diabetes management software. According to its Web site, the company has no plans to support OS X.
Heading out on the Web, I looked to see what features other programs might offer. I found a number of sites with long lists, with the Mac apps often stuck in the “Other” category, along with PalmOS titles. Some sites put the titles in alphabetical order, which made searching by platform sometimes difficult.
Of course, there were more Windows titles than Mac titles, but not eight or nine times as one might expect, given the relative market numbers. And most of the products were bare-bones record keepers without even a charting capability.
There were a good number of titles that offered more in the way of charts and nutrition information. On the Mac side theres Paul Nesfields Diabetes Logbook X (free); CalorieKings Nutrition and Exercise Manager for Mac OS X ($45) and TothePoint Softwares Type2Tracker ($15).
Of the ones that support input from a glucose meter, many are tied to a single device. There are many of these reader devices on the market, each with its own proprietary interface and file format.
Given my criteria, most of the programs that I was presented with were out of the running whether I was on a Mac or Windows machine.
So much for the greater selection for Windows users.
Mac Apps Hiding
Each provides tools for managing and charting information as well as storing data on remote servers in case of an emergency. And they both support automated input from the glucose readers.
HealthEngage Diabetes 3.8 is packed with information about nutrition and lets users generate shopping lists from meal plans that can be downloaded to your iPod. The cost is $59.99 for a single user license; support for Palm or PocketPC devices is an additional $10.
The Body Journal 1.5 targets all your personal health data as well as diabetes. Its also trying to build virtual support groups for its users in online forums.
I found the developers section responsive to customer questions. The software costs $49.99, which includes one year of the Web record access.
The software can handle the records for up to 10 people; however, the Web access for additional people is $30 for the first “card” and then $5 for each additional record.
Both of these solutions are offered to Mac and Windows platforms. These vendors see the advantage of connecting with almost all customers in the market, not just the vast majority of customers.
In my search I found a disturbing posting. One device provider said Mac users could use Boot Camp for its Windows software. That would be its level of support for the Mac—in other words, none.
Countering that was the word from blogger, author and developer Chris Adamson that headhunters were looking for Cocoa developers to write new Mac applications.
“A small data point, but a really good sign that Mac OS X is really making headway in terms of mindshare, since getting a call means that there are businesses out there that want to write new Mac applications (or at least port to the Mac, which still means new apps for us),” he wrote.
Chris is right, this is good news.
But the biggest problem that I encountered in my search for Mac software was the task of finding these products. I spent hours clicking through page after page and trying to decipher features.
Apple was little help. The two diabetes products mentioned on the site are Diabetes Logbook X and Type2Tracker. And these listings were buried.
Apple must get out in front of boosting its platform to a wider group of vertical segments.
It cant rely on download sites or general Web resources to suffice, or rely on small developers to have the marketing resources to create any buzz.
The information that is presented to potential Mac customers may be out of date and present the Mac in a bad light.
In addition, Apple needs to make sure that ISVs and OEM device developers are getting the help on Mac drivers for devices.
Its all well and good for Apple to point to the increasing number of Mac developers—the company must be more aggressive in seeding developers for software thats missing from the Mac portfolio and funding the code.
Boot Camp may be a necessary evil, but it sends a mixed message to the market. Apple needs to get behind OS X developers with marketing resources to make it easy to find the stuff.