Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the March
6, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Megan Peterson: A Mac Person
Just as there are dog people and cat people, bulls
and bears, vegetarians, and fans of bar-b-que, there are PC people
and Mac people. In none of these groups is allegiance shallow or
fickle. Megan Peterson is a Mac person.
Peterson has been a member of the Princeton Mac Users Group (PMUG)
for "at least 15 years." She is a past president and vice
president, and edits the group’s newsletter. She recalls that the
group was started by Princeton staffers who worked on the university’s
mainframes. Among the founding members were Alan Goldberg and the late
Phil Thompson, whose children are now members
of the group.
PMUG (www.PMUG-NJ.org) started as a place where the university
could meet to talk about how to get the most out of Macs. Now, says
Peterson, "there are very few members from the university
Membership has been as high as 200 people. Now there are about 100
members, 80 or 90 of whom turn out at each meeting. But while
is down from all-time highs, new members are joining, and excitement
is building as Apple introduces products that win raves from tech
reviewers for their outstanding design, ease of use, and cutting-edge
PMUG meets on the second Tuesday of the month at Jadwin Hall on
Road on the Princeton University campus. Each meeting begins at 6
p.m. with two question and answer groups, one for beginners and one
for more advanced users. A presentation by a speaker follows. On
March 12, at 7 p.m., Andy Baird, a long-time member, speaks
on digital cameras. There is no charge. Call 609-258-5730.
Peterson, a graduate of Kutztown University, has been a communications
designer in Princeton’s office of communications for 12 years. Before
that she worked in advertising, a profession known for its embrace
of Macs. She got her first Mac 16 years ago. She remembers that
cost $3,500 and could do barely anything." She used it mostly
for word processing. "It could do page lay-out," she says,
"but just barely."
Then software designers like Adobe came out with more sophisticated
design and lay-out programs. "Desktop publishing was the first
killer ap," says Peterson, "and for a long time it was much
better on a Mac." On a PC, commands had to be typed into a DOS
program. "Only programmers could understand it," she says.
"You had to have a Mac-like interface for a lay person to do
While PC design programs have caught up with those for Macs, design
people generally prefer to work on a Mac. Often more expensive than
PCs, the machines captured only a tiny fraction of computer users
in other industries, and did not do much better with home users. Steve
Jobs, who, along with Steve Wozniak, founded the company in his garage
in 1976, did capture the school market in the early years. Apple beat
IBM to the classroom, but eventually lost this stronghold.
Jobs left Apple in 1985 after losing a power struggle with John
whom he had lured from Pepsico to lead the company. After Jobs left,
says Peterson, Apple’s products lost some of their zip and had trouble
standing out in a sea of PCs.
Then, in 1996, Jobs, returned. "When Steve Jobs came back, the
excitement came back," says Peterson. He gave the world its first
blueberry-colored all-in-one computer, the iMac, and followed up this
winter with an eye-popping update. The new iMac is a half-globe that
uses a flat-screen monitor attached by a graceful, flexible arm that
allows users to pivot it to any height. "The company received
150,000 orders for the computer just in January," says Peterson.
Having remained a loyal Mac user through boom and
Peterson talks about why the machines fell out of favor, and why they
may rise again.
says of the post-Jobs era. "All the boxes looked the same, there
was not a lot of excitement. People in charge for years had no
same, price became a determining factor in purchasing decisions. Apple
computers tended to be significantly more expensive. This problem
surfaced again just recently. Apple introduced the Mac Cube, a
little computer in a completely new shape. While reviewers praised
its lines, consumers balked at the price tag.
The beautiful Cube exceeded the amount she — and most other
— were willing to pay. At the same time, the machine disappointed
those who need the kind of power it delivered. Graphics professionals
working, for instance, for glossy magazines, need to run PhotoShop
at ever higher speeds, and the Cube was not expandable.
alongside PCs in chain stores like Sears. "Salespeople weren’t
trained," says Peterson, "they didn’t know how to handle Macs.
This went on for years and years. People in user groups were
a while people got confused," Peterson says. "Steve Jobs broke
it into four categories." There are now consumer laptops and
and professional laptops and desktops. Period. Says Peterson,
able to do better with fewer machines.
The all-in-one machine, which came in a range of vivid colors, was
a breakthrough in design and ease-of-use, and its price was on a par
with — or below — that of comparable PCs. The iMac sold well,
as did the iBook, its laptop counterpart.
PMUG saw an increase in membership as the computers caught on. The
organization makes use of an iMac at its beginner question and answer
machine," says Peterson. Sure, she is prejudiced, but newspaper
and magazine tech reviewers share her enthusiasm. Just becoming
now, the stylish-looking computer even includes a CD-RW/DVD-R drive
in its highest end model. This means that it can copy files —
say home movies — from the computer onto a DVD. Priced at from
$1,299 to $1,799, including, of course, the attached flat-screen
the computers compare favorably in price with comparably-equipped
the new iMac yet?" Peterson asked a good month after reviews for
the computer had appeared in the New York Times and The Wall Street
Journal. The answer was no. Peterson hadn’t seen any ads yet, either,
and was dismayed and puzzled at Apple’s failure to tout its handsome
machine. A multi-story banner advertisement for the machine now hangs
on 7th Avenue in New York, near Penn Station, but there has not been
anything like an ad blitz.
Peterson does give Apple high marks for opening its own stores. So
far, there are not too many of them, though. The only Apple store
in New Jersey is in Tice’s Corner, at the northeast end of the state.
Also a plus, in Peterson’s view, is Apple’s retail website
Business there is so brisk that by the end of 2001 Apple had won a
spot as the fifth largest E-tailer.
has been able to boast of an outstanding operating system, says
The company has just introduced a new one — OS X. "It’s not
an upgrade," she says. "It’s based on UNIX. It’s completely
different, but it will run old programs.
reasons that consumers shunned Apple computers. PCs — and
operating system — became so dominant, at home and in offices,
that people feared they would not be able to easily send or receive
files with an Apple.
Peterson says she has virtually no trouble working with PC files.
"I’ve been dealing with PC files on a Mac for five years,"
she says. "I might have to fudge a little bit," but not much.
"For 10 years, we’ve had a virtual PC on Mac that allows you to
run Windows." She opens Word files easily, has been sending
files back and forth for years, and only occasionally runs into
with picture files. And even then, she suspects human error more than
core incompatibility. "I have family members with Macs who can’t
open picture files," she says.
insists. But she admits many consumers don’t know it. "Stores
that sell PCs don’t stock it," she says. "It’s a big
Mac people know where to go for software, but, "PC people think
because it isn’t on the shelf, it doesn’t exist."
and revolutionary as its new computers are, it is not the machines
themselves that will be prime movers in Apple’s. The engine for
success? Says Peterson, "I think it’s some of the side
One of those products is iMovie, software that turns consumers into
movie directors. Peterson has been "having a ball" with the
program, and is now eager to try iDVD, a program that will get her
home movies onto DVDs, which can then easily be played on television.
Then there is iPhoto. Among the features she thinks are especially
cool is its ability to help users create photo albums. "You can
order a hard bound book with linen pages," Peterson says. The
software provides a variety of lay-outs. Users type in captions and
receive their albums in the mail "in a week or two." The cost
for 10 pages is $29.99. Extra pages are $3 each.
This software — and iTunes, too, for organizing MP3files —
are included at no extra charge with Apple computers.
users now have plenty to crow about. So exciting way back in the early
1990s, computers are at risk of becoming ho-hum tools. But Apple’s
strategy is to jazz things up. As Peterson puts it: "Steve Jobs
wants the computer to be more the center of all digital toys."
cat person who happens to use a PC.
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