Rumors around the Internet continue to make mention of the possibilities of Apple initiating a deft attack, targeting the pending Windows 7 release. Advertisements are just the first step with Senior Apple VP Phil Schiller stating that the Microsoft OS upgrade process presents a "very good opportunity for us", which could very well include price reductions in Apple's lineup to better compete with low-cost PCs. Business Week reports that Apple is gearing up to lure PC users facing the daunting task of upgrading their machines to Windows 7 into Apple Stores to purchase a shiny, new Mac that "just works".
As a Mac guy, I am completely in favor of this. As a writer for a Mac-centric blog that focuses on troubleshooting, I am somewhat wary. Let me explain. Let's say Apple's advertising campaign, coupled with lower price points on their most popular models, create yet another surge of new Mac users. It is no secret that Apple has taken incredible steps to make the computing experience more intuitive--the fact that separates Mac OS X from others the most. But with an influx of users that have been using Windows for years, I think we will start to see a shift in how troubleshooting is conducted. We, as troubleshooters, will need to adjust our coverage of issues.
The biggest issue I see with new Mac users is not knowing "the given" steps. Repairing Permissions, installing the Combo Update packages, resetting the PMU and PRAM. With Apple Stores cropping up all over the country, it's not enough for people to learn about these basic troubleshooting tasks. Now, they make an appointment and have a Genius fix it. And why not? It's free, if only for a little hassle trying to find a convenient appointment time.
As I moonlight as a Mac consultant in the Portland area, I have found that more and more people simply do not want to "deal" with fixing their computer--no matter how simple the solution may be. Often my clients have very basic needs that are thoroughly discussed in detail on sites like MacFixIt or in knowledge base articles directly from Apple. Yet, they are convinced that they must pay my ridiculous hourly rate to have me repair their permissions and install their OS updates.
To me, that's the Windows way of thinking. "Computers are too complicated for me," seems to be the most common reasoning when I ask about what my clients have attempted to troubleshoot. So where does that leave us? Troubleshooting now, I believe, is less about sifting through complex bug issues inherent to the operating system and more about finding a way to teach users about basic techniques to keep their systems running smooth. Many of our articles here on MacFixIt delve into the Terminal underbelly of Mac OS X, but most Apple customers (and certainly the newest ones) need something much more basic.
They need the understanding that it is okay to fix your own machine; that there are resources available online and otherwise where you can learn about the operating system, what makes it tick, and what to do if the ticks aren't quite right. That is the new troubleshooting. A lot less Unix commands to change permissions on a root level directory and a lot more tutorial-esque resources on preventative maintenance and basic troubleshooting. Of course, MacFixIt will continue to offer the very best in basic and advanced troubleshooting news and solutions. But, thanks to Windows 7 and aggressive marketing by Apple, that shift may be getting a lot closer in the next couple weeks.