ISSUE 470: The high-tech office- Oct
Apple's graphics and printing niche is secure
as long as the Mac stays ahead of its rivals
For years, while Apple's Macintosh was
more or less (rightly or wrongly) ignored by most businesses, it
emerged as the computing platform of choice among most graphics,
publishing and printing professionals. Even in otherwise PC-dominated
workplaces, those employees mostly continue to work on Macs.
Still, even with Apple's renewed confidence following
brisk sales of its consumer iMac model, there are fears that this
profitable high-end market may slip to the enemy -- in this case,
machines running Micro-
soft's Windows NT.
Apple has not done a good job in the server market,
cause NT Server works well with Mac clients it's coming into many
Mac-using businesses. As a result, there's a fear that once Mac shops
and departments adopt NT as a server platform, Microsoft will somehow
creep onto individual desktops as well, replacing Macs.
I don't think this is likely any time soon. Sun's
Unix systems are also popular servers, but this doesn't mean that many
Mac shops are replacing their Macs with Sun workstations. The MacOS
remains better than NT for graphics for many reasons:
* Colour Management. Apple provides
operating-system-level colour management, ColorSync, ensuring that what
users see on screen is what they print. As well, there are fewer
hardware options for the Mac, resulting in tighter standards. NT 5.0
promises system-level colour management -- but it won't be here any
* PostScript. While there's a new NT PostScript driver
available from Adobe, the current driver is error-prone and
* Fonts. NT has lacked a version of Adobe Type Manager
until recently, forcing users to switch to TrueType fonts. Microsoft is
working with Adobe on OpenType -- a new standard combining TrueType and
Adobe PostScript Type 1 support -- but there will still be problems
with some popular applications, such as QuarkXPress.
* AppleScript. Macs include a relatively simple
scripting language that can be used to automate repetitive actions.
Nothing equivalent currently exists in NT. Win98 includes a Windows
Scripting feature, which may be included in NT 5.0, but it would
require rewriting existing, Mac-based solutions. Visual Basic is
popular on PCs, and more powerful, but has a much steeper learning
curve than AppleScript and, again, would require throwing out existing
Another fear is that Mac developers are switching
teams. Graphics and publishing giants such as Quark and Adobe
have made announcements of increased activity on the Windows side of
the force. Adobe for the first time announced that Windows sales
represented a majority of its income.
But the truth is more complex. Adobe's Windows sales
increase comes primarily from nonprofessional PC users. The Mac
graphics market seems to be holding steady -- and so does Adobe's
commitment to developing for it. Similarly, while Quark announced that
"it plans to adopt Microsoft technologies for future platforms," this
is referring to a server-based Quark Digital Media System. Content
creation programs such as QuarkXPress will continue to be developed for
the Mac -- in fact, the company's press release was prefaced with a
discussion of its on- going support for that platform.
Some fear that Microsoft will simply buy the graphics
soft spends US$3 billion a year on sales and marketing, while Apple
spends about half that. As well, Microsoft's money is in addition to
spending by PC hardware companies.
However, marketing money has the biggest impact on
emerging markets. In contrast, the graphics and publishing industry is
well-established. In a recent TrendWatch survey of the printing
industry, 40 per cent planned to buy new Macs within the next 12
months, while only 15 per cent planned new PC acquisitions.
The upcoming Microsoft NT 5.0 will be an improvement,
reducing the Mac lead with more stable PostScript drivers and Adobe
Type Manager, system-level colour management, and OpenType font
support. Apple is not standing still, however, with the upcoming
Rhapsody and OS X operating systems. Rhapsody may limit NT's move into
the server market (at least in traditional Mac shops), while promises
of improved stability with OS X may reduce any lingering
at-tractiveness of NT as a desktop solution for graphics end users.
>From training schools through working designers,
service bureaus and printing houses, the industry has an ongoing
investment in the Mac platform. It's not going to change easily or
Apple shouldn't rest on its laurels, however. High-end
users have been complaining that the company is focusing on consumer
products, while taking more profitable high-end users for granted.
There are currently no models in Apple's lineup with more than a few
PCI expansion slots, for example. Graphics and printing professionals
are hoping that their continued loyalty to Apple will not prove