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Busman's Holiday
Why Can't Apple...
...thoughts while waiting out the OS 8.5 backorder

by Steve Wood
October 19, 1998



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Why can't Apple...put a more attractive price on their OS 8.5 upgrade?

Well, they did, but not for everyone. I was pleasantly surprised Saturday morning to find the Apple Store's Education for Individual's (K-12) price was $49 for the upgrade. The catch, of course, is that you must be "an employee of a public or private K-12 institution in the United States, a current school board member, or a PTA or PTO elected or appointed officer." Unfortunately, according to the Macintosh News Network, there is "a 2 week back-order delay on Mac OS 8.5" at Apple Ed.

All that said, I bit. Yeah, I know I kicked up quite a stink about Apple's $99 pricing of the upgrade in my last column, and I've just admitted to spending $49+tax+shipping for it. Even though when I get cut, I bleed MacOS, $99 was just too rich for my blood. Part of the reason is that the Apple upgrade is only the beginning of the upgrade expense. I hadn't had any reason to upgrade to Conflict Catcher 8 from version 4.1.1. So I had to also shell out $78.95 for it (Cyberian Outpost). There's supposed to be a $30 rebate involved. Then I signed up for Aladdin's StuffIt Deluxe 5.0 upgrade priced at $79.95. There will be a credit there for upgrading, also. I'd already shelled out $50 for an upgrade to Norton Utilities 4.0, anticipating the release of 8.5. So far, I'm in for a total of over $250. It certainly isn't just a $99 upgrade.

For those of you who don't think $99+ is what you want to pay, check out Deal-Mac's Mac OS 8.5 Buying Guide for places selling OS 8.5 for under $90!

I really expected to receive a thorough thrashing and flaming for some of my more provocative comments in Friday's column. Some of the less moderate expressions were:

This time Apple, apparently feeling secure with the iMac's tremendous success, decided to return to the Apple arrogance of old and require almost everyone to pay the full bill, regardless of previous OS purchases.
Apple even gives us a great straight line for not upgrading on their upgrade page:
"No need to dress up: you can purchase your copy of Mac OS 8.5 from The Apple Store anytime, day or night."
Wow! Why should we be the ones to dress up? Apple should have on a mask and be carrying a gun to ask $99 for this upgrade.

It turns out that for once in my life, I had my finger on many, but not all, of the Macintosh public's pulse. Reader comments flowed in, with grumbles about Apple's greedy pricing and with lots of comments, pro and con, on the upgrades features. A rough estimate is 3-1 thinking Apple is getting a little above themselves with this pricing.

I'm well aware that the bulk of sentiment in the Macintosh writing community is rah-rah OS 8.5. Not having seen the upgrade as yet, except as described and demoed here and there, I can't imagine plunking down $99 for it. I don't get paid to be a cheerleader for Apple, but to call them as I see them. Come to think of it, since I'm now posting to my personal website, I guess I'm not getting paid for anything I write. Hmm, must be doing it because I still think I have something of worth to say about a computer platform I value.

There have been some major dissenting opinions from some serious Mac columnists. Don Crabb absolutely thrashed Apple on the design flaws of Sherlock in a MacCentral column, although he had some nice things to say about it also. Henry Norr has a great "in depth analysis" of Sherlock for the Macintouch OS 8.5 Special Report, including its strengths and weaknesses. He also has some interesting things to say about just how revolutionary, or rather not, the Sherlock search engine is when compared to existing WinTel products.

I sat in for awhile Saturday night at The iMac.com's "OS 8.5 Launch Party." Webmaster and chat moderator Robert Aldridge had already installed the upgrade. His biggest piece of advice on just a few hours of use was to do a clean install when upgrading. Other participants, who had their copies installed already, seemed to like the new features, with one describing the screen redraws in a game as so fast as to practically give him whiplash!

If you're one of the lucky ones who already has the upgrade, drop me a note about how the installation went and your general impressions of the upgrade. If, you are like me and still waiting (for it to arrive or for the price to go down), there is now a ton of information on the upgrade on the net to keep you busy until it arrives (or the price goes down, which could be a verrry long wait :-(. You could start on Apple's upgrade page. Last week's column also listed some of the major Mac sites' 8.5 support, but here are some more that may prove helpful.

Bill Fox of MacsOnly has a listing of tips he hadn't seen elsewhere and a "Mini-Like" list of things that impress him with the upgrade. His Hands-On Mac OS 8.5 Page is the best step-by-step guide to upgrading that I've seen yet. (Thanks, Bill.)

Version Tracker's MacOS 8.5 Updates is a good page to use when upgrading to 8.5. It has links for all the needed updates and upgrades.

Ted Landau's MacFixIt ReportsTroubleshooting Mac OS 8.5 also has a great listing of installation tips and what breaks under 8.5.

Why can't Apple...ever have enough of a new product to supply demand?

I worked my way through college on the docks at a retail dairy. One of the guys I worked with used to comment every time we had a new product and ran out of it the first night: "If they started selling pickled turds, we'd run out the first night!" (Giant grin. MacTimes would never let me get away with using the word "turds!")

System 8.5 certainly isn't a pickled turd, but Apple seems to have the same problem as the milk company above. They've had forever to get this upgrade out. The October 17 release date is 2-3 months late from the every-six-month upgrade schedule Apple had once announced. Part of the giant success of System 8 was that it was finished and available on time. Now that the upgrade is finished, it's really not available through all channels, as noted above. There were also more than a few reports of Apple retailers without any copies of OS 8.5 to sell last weekend.

Why can't Apple...release Systems 7.1, 7.5, and 7.6?

That's right! Put them up on the web as free downloads! These are files that America's schools could really use. Apple regularly makes a big deal about their support of America's schools. This is something that is pretty much cost free to Apple and could give the Mac platform a much, much better name. Imagine a lab full of PowerMac 6100's and LC5200's running system 7.x. I don't have to imagine it. It's right next door to my classroom. Arrrrr.

Most older school Macs don't have the horsepower or the RAM to run Apple's latest and greatest OS. Systems people are really hesitant to upgrade these machines with paid upgrades. The jump from System 7.5 to 7.6.1 gives much greater system stability and better internet access through a later version of Open Transport. If it makes the Mac run better, then it has to be good publicity for Apple. Think about it. If you agree, don't just tell me, tell Apple.

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updated and reposted to the new MATH DITTOS 2 site 6/18/2000
©1998 Steven L. Wood