By now the excitement from the Windows 3.0 announcement has died down. In the days following all the hoopla, I read, and was told by people in the industry, that Apple's days are numbered. The theory went that Windows does enough of what the Mac does to eliminate it as a reasonable choice. Following the usual partisan politics, the PC magazines proclaimed Windows the new GUI champion, while the Mac magazines argued that all the talk about GUIs and WYSIWYGs would actually increase Mac sales.
I've tried Windows 3.0 and find it quite useful—especially its ability to multitask on a 386. But it's still too dependent on pull-down menus and text-based icons (real computers apparently don't use trash cans), crashes without warning (shades of Microsoft Word 3.0), and doesn't seem intuitive (or am I just too used to the Mac?).
Warts and all, Windows 3.0 will be accepted more for its applications than for anything else. ToolBook is comparable in almost every way to HyperCard, except that it's slower (even on a 386) and much more expensive ($395 versus $49). It's basically HyperCard on a PC, and you can always throw more hardware at it to make it run faster. A runtime version of ToolBook is included with Windows 3.0, so developers can assume that each Windows 3.0 user can run a book, just as each Mac owner can run a stack.
Apple's reaction to all this has been characteristically low-key. Following the Windows announcement, the company ran ads in several of the PC-specific and cross-platform computer magazines along the lines of now that Microsoft has your attention, don't forget it was the Mac that started it all.
More recently, Apple sent PC Week subscribers an oversized 16-page ad that included some well-considered arguments for the Mac (menu choices consistent throughout applications, icons manipulated directly for file operations, thousands of applications available today, 24-bit color for photographic images, hardware and software designed to work together—"not added on later to a decade-old, command-line-driven operating system," and networking capability built-in).
The testimonials in the ad include one from the director of Information Services for Ben & Jerry's Homemade, who says his company spends more than 90 percent of its time supporting 25 PCs and less than 10 percent of its time supporting 50 Macintoshes. The ad is effective, mostly because its claims appear to be grounded in fact—as opposed to Microsoft's claims for Windows, which have been criticized for containing too much hot air.
The outcome of this battle for our GUI hearts and minds will be computer sales. A recent survey by Roberts. Stephens & Co. indicates that the typical Fortune 500 corporation plans to increase its total Mac sales from 15 to 16 percent. In those companies where Mac purchases account for more than 20 percent of total purchases, corporate buyers plan to significantly accelerate their Mac purchases.
What about the home and small business market? My guess is that Apple is on firm ground there as well. It takes a PC with a fast 286 or 386, 2–4 megabytes of RAM, and a lot of extra space on the hard drive to run Page-Maker, Word for Windows, Excel, or Wingz as fast as the lowly Mac Plus or SE. Of course, that PC most likely has VGA color—which is much more appealing than a small black-and-white screen. Let's hope Apple remedies that problem soon with a low-cost color Mac.
How are we doing? This is COMPUTE's second monthly Mac section, and we'd like to hear from you. What do you think of our focus? Are there areas you think we should cover? What kind of Mac are you using, and how do you use it? Write to us at COMPUTE'S Mac, COMPUTE Publications, 324 West Wendover Avenue, Greensboro, North Carolina 27408. We want to meet your needs, so tell us what you need and we'll try to deliver.