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McIlroy--Managing Mixed Platforms

November 1998
Desktop publishing is nearly 14 years old. Since day one, there's been a bitter rivalry between the Apple Macintosh operating system (OS) and Microsoft's DOS. The rivalry continued when Microsoft advanced from DOS to Windows. For much of that time, users were forced to choose sides. Either you were a Macintosh maniac, and thought that PCs were for blockhead MIS types, or you had a PC preference, and thought Macs were just toys for kids.

A little-discussed development of the last few years has been the change from an either/or world to a mixed-platform world. It's becoming increasingly common to find designers and publishers who use both Macintoshes and PCs, rather than choosing sides. Reflecting this change, publishers and prepress shops are started to accept PC files with open arms, where they used to look at PC disks like something the dog brought home.

I think that several factors have contributed to the change. First of all, Windows is now nearly equal to the Macintosh operating system in terms of support for publishing. All the major publishing software operates under Windows, in a manner very similar to the Macintosh. Arguably the only major issues for publishers between the two OSs are the Mac's generally better support for color management and for scripting. But few publishers use color management or scripting, so the difference seems very slight.

The Fall and Rise of Apple
Another factor was Apple's near collapse of the last few years, ended only recently by Steve Jobs' deft moves to get the company back on track. Just 10 months ago, I was predicting that Apple wouldn't make it through 1998 without merging or being acquired. MIS types, long anxious to rid their corporations of Macintosh computers, finally had potent ammunition with which to fight. "Look," they said, "Apple's nearly out of business—we better get these Macintoshes out of here." So a slow trend towards the PC-ification of the publishing world was hastened by Apple's own inept behavior.

In a way it's intriguing that there are any Macs left in publishing. Some analysts think the explanation lies in people's general disinclination to change. But I think it's more of a tribute to the essential quality of the Macintosh OS, and the ease with which non-technical types can master it, and work with it, day by day.

Publish magazine has been covering these developments since the early days of the revolution. This past October, Publish moved its coverage of the battle into a new dimension with the launch of a new conference business. Called "Connections 98," the two-day event looked at the challenge of "understanding the strategic benefits, workflow advantages, and technical requirements of integrating Macintosh, Windows and UNIX platforms into a single network."

 

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