DéjàMac > Museum > Evangelism > Why my Mac is like a Studebaker

[from MacWEEK]
September 23, 1998

'Why my Mac is like a Studebaker'

By Roger Ebert
Yahoo! Internet Life

I always wanted a Studebaker. As a teenager, the one I had my eye on was the 1957 Golden Hawk, the fastest sports car in America -- faster than a T-Bird or a Corvette, and sexier, with its tail fins and Mercedes-style grille.

Now I sit here at my Macintosh, and I wonder if there is a pattern.

I've always had a stubborn compulsion to avoid the popular choice and pick what I think is the best. It might be easier to go with the flow, to cave in, to vote with the majority. But I cannot. I want the faster, sleeker model. I've heard Mac users described as smug, and that's fine with me: Macs give me much to be smug about.

This is not the time, however, for yet another rerun of the tiresome, ancient argument about the Mac OS vs. Windows. It's more of a column about the trials of a Mac user on the Internet.

Early in my romance with Studebakers, I tried to persuade my dad to buy one of the 1952 models designed by Raymond Loewy -- the low, streamlined beauties with the air scoop in the front. "There aren't enough Studebaker dealers," my dad said. "It's hard to get them serviced or find parts." So we bought an early 1950s Plymouth, so square and boxy it looked like a cartoon car for Mickey Mouse. The Loewy-designed Studebaker went on to become the first car placed on display at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian. But they still make Plymouths.

Is there a lesson here? As a Mac user I have the easiest, sexiest and fastest computer anywhere near its price range. But can I get parts?

Here's an example. Not long ago I got an e-mail from Audible Inc. The folks there make an intriguing new device called the Audible MobilePlayer, and they offered to send me one for review. I jumped at the chance. This is a killer app. You visit their Web site, browse through thousands of audio books and programs, and download what you want for a fee that's lower than what you'd pay for the same material on audiocassette. Then, using the MobilePlayer, you can listen to the book through headphones, your computer speaker, the tape deck of your car, or even an FM radio.

When the MobilePlayer arrived, I unpacked it eagerly. I am a convert to audio books, and this product sounded fabulous to me: I'd get wider selection, instant availability and lower prices. There wasn't a downside. Except for one, I discovered: Audible's system doesn't work on the Macintosh.

"Why not?" I asked Andy Huffman, president and CEO of the company, in Wayne, N.J. Well, he said, they're a start-up with a lot of things on their minds -- getting the system to work with various browsers, getting the rights to the software, designing and manufacturing the MobilePlayer hardware -- so they decided to concentrate on the PC world.

I suggested that, as a group, Mac users might offer a higher percentage of potential customers than PC users. Yes, he said, 50 percent of "creative professionals" use the Mac, and it owns a big share of the home and educational market. But it's a case of first things first.

"You can use an emulation program like Virtual PC to use our programs with the Mac," he said. "And Sun is porting our product to Java, which will make it Mac-compatible. We haven't announced it yet, but we'll be available to Mac users by next year. ..."

All of which was consoling, but in the meantime here I am with a beautiful MobilePlayer on my hands and no computer on which to use it. (Yes, I could use Virtual PC, but it's the principle of the thing.)

I can give other examples of online joys denied to the Mac user. The new CompuServe 4.0 software, for example, isn't available for us yet. Alexa, the browser companion that suggests related Web sites, is up and running on Windows but still in testing for Macs. Disney's Blast for Kids became available for the Mac only with the introduction of the new iMac model. And so on.

Actually, Apple's iMac may help to improve the situation. With its built-in 56-Kbps modem, Huffman agrees, it's a good platform for the high-speed downloads Audible's books require. And with its easy Net connectivity, it's likely to increase Mac's current share of 20 percent to 25 percent of active Web users, especially among users defeated by their Windows struggles. I hope so, anyway.

Oh, I finally bought a 1957 Studebaker. Got it in 1989. My dad was wrong. You could still find parts.

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