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Looking back: The PC assault on Apple's pro markets

In January 1998, several PC vendors at the Macworld Expo launched souped-up Windows systems aimed squarely at the Mac content creation market. The vendors expected to take advantage of slumping Mac sales and a worried community and spark a wave of Mac pro switchers.
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Written by David Morgenstern on

In January 1998, several PC vendors at the Macworld Expo launched souped-up Windows systems aimed squarely at the Mac content creation market. The vendors expected to take advantage of slumping Mac sales and a worried community to spark a wave of Mac pro switchers.

On the same week, Apple sent out a press release saying its user base was 70 million (22 million Macs, each used by 3.2 users). Everyone inside and outside the Mac industry knew this was a sorry joke.

In the December 15, 1997 issue of MacWEEK, stories pointed to Apple's 10-K annual report just filed, where the company said that its sales would likely keep sliding. The slump was due to "continued customer concerns regarding the company's strategic direction, financial condition and future prospects, and the viability of the Macintosh platform, and to competitive pressures in the marketplace."

My story "PC makers plotting Mac expo offensive" was on the front page of that issue. It looked towards the Macworld Expo San Francisco due in January. Unlike this year's "late" Macworld Expo next week, the show in 1998 started this week, right on the heels of the new year.

At the show, Intergraph Computer Systems and Digital Equipment Corp. launched Windows NT systems on the Mac's home turf. The systems were mostly aimed at Mac professional print design and prepress customers and also digital video editing.

The vendors put a smiling face on the subject. Intergraph had trademarked the term "MacFriendly" for a new series of ExtremeZ systems and said it was seeking the "best out-of-the-box experience of any NT vendor." This meant that the Intergraph machines would play well on AppleTalk networks. And the company pledged to work on integration solutions.

"We say 'integrate' rather than 'migrate,' " [Jim] Lambert said [then the executive director of Intergraph's publishing and prepress division]. "The Mac won't ever be out the publishing market. Prepress shops will never be 100 percent anything."

Of course, the faithful Mac users didn't care much for the migration message. The Mac users also didn't want the integration message, but sometimes that was being taken out their hands by IT management.

DEC called its line the CreationStudio, which came with either a Pentium II or Alpha processor. The machines would come bundled with Quark XPress and 3D apps (Quark had said it would port XPress to the Alpha in the fall).

Remember that Adobe Systems had made Windows versions of PhotoShop and Illustrator available in 1993 and 1995, respectively. The familiar content creation titles were out by then on multiple platforms.

"It's not just a question of productivity," a DEC executive said at the time. Right. Of course, he was pointing to a new Mac-oriented support organization for the new content customers.

For Mac users it was a question of productivity. They were more productive on the Mac.

Still, many content creators went over to Windows and others started their careers on Windows.

In the next couple of years, other vendors joined the pack aiming for the content creation market. But the plans mostly were a bust. The content creation Windows customers didn't act like Mac users.

Vendors discovered to their dismay that PC creators bought commodity systems — just like the rest of the PC market — and didn't want the way more expensive machines that were aimed specifically at the market.

Now, a decade later, content creation is on the mind of many more computer users than professionals. And guess what? They continue to find that the Mac is better than Windows for content.

Here's a December blog post of Greg Reinacker, the CTO of NewsGator Technologies. He just joined the switcher generation.

It all started with Windows Vista, actually. As a Windows guy, I was all excited when it was released, and installed it on my work laptop as soon as I could. Hmm…didn’t seem to get much faster, and I didn’t have a cool enough video card to run Aero, but hey, it was shiny and new. And the power management worked way better than XP ever did.

But then I got home, shrink-wrapped copies of Vista Ultimate in hand, and contemplated upgrading my home machine (which was running XP). This machine was the one I use for my photography, and it’s running Lightroom, Photoshop, and some other apps. Vista wasn’t such an obvious choice here ...

Some things never change, even over the span of a decade. Content creation will be a big deal at this month's Macworld Expo. And no doubt, so will Windows. But this year, the topic of Windows will be in the context of virtualization running on a Mac.

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