If you want to be perfectly honest, the much-anticipated (ultra-hyped?) launch of Apple’s new operating system, Leopard, has been a mixed success – perhaps a 6 or 7 out of 10.
For all the excitement about 300 features (Time Machine, blah, blah, blah), Leopard is not a mind-blower. It’s a solid upgrade, which has already seen a major bug fix less a month after its release.
What has been most interesting about Leopard is the perception among Apple users that it should be wonderful, it should be completely bug-free, and it should blow Microsoft’s Vista out of the water. After all, this is Apple we’re talking about – the plucky under-dog that has persevered through its dedication to design and function, and, of course, the brilliance of Steve Jobs.
The reality, however, Leopard isn’t perfect but no one should expect perfection when you’re talking about a complex operating system. It’s software, not a chocolate cake.
But – and this is a big but – the Apple/Mac market has changed dramatically in recent years. It’s no longer just a relatively small group of rabid (avid?) Mac users who were more than willing to give Apple the benefit of the doubt because it was trying to be better and push the envelope. If things went wrong, the Mac Nation not only carried on but happily pitched in to help.
Today, the Mac community is different. The success of the iPod, iMac and MacBook have pushed Apple into the mainstream. People who would never consider having a Mac now carry on about them during cocktail parties. I mean, my parents have a MacBook, an iMac and an iPod.
The mainstream is good for Apple’s revenue, profits and a higher stock price but it’s demanding. When you’re a mainstream product or service, it just has to work. The mainstream is intolerant of mistakes, screw-ups and flaws.
This explains why the problems with Leopard have started to gain so much attention, including the bug fix. A few years ago, it wouldn’t have garnered that much attention. The Mac Nation might have just rolled with the punches and carried because, at the end of the day, the Mac was better.
This is going to be a major challenge for Apple. While it’s become super-cool and hip, the consumer landscape is different. As much as Apple can rely on cool design, the iPod, Steve Jobs, great marketing and a culture of innovation, the mainstream can be an awfully demanding taskmaster.
(Hat tip to friend and fellow mesh organizer Stuart MacDonald, who articulated this theory about Apple during our initial mesh ’08 organizing meeting)
More: Poor Robert Scoble’s having Mac woes. Sounds like Jeff Jarvis’ Dell Hell rant. As well, Rob Hyndman has some thoughts about the reaction to a recent post he did on problems installing Leopard. It says a lot about the Mac Nation or, at least, some of them.
Update: Mr. Scoble’s got a new hobby-horse: Apple. The guy sure has a knack of how put himself into the middle of the conversation/spotlight.
Update II: Seth Godin has a post (Dec. 14, 2007) looking at how the growing popularity of MacBooks could be a “problem” because:
When your entire culture is organized about being the other, the outsider, the insurgent, the one that’s better than the masses… (like Starbucks, btw), what do you do when you are the masses? It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem.