Is X the Answer?

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Two months ago, my father-in-law asked me if he should buy a G4 Cube. Last month, a friend who works as a video editor and uses Final Cut Pro religiously asked if I thought he should upgrade his home computer to a dual-processor G4.

My answer in both cases? "Yes. But if I were you, I would wait for OS X."

Apple's recent stock tumble and sales slowdown was blamed on downturns in the education market, cracking Cube casings, and iMac fatigue. But, as far as I'm concerned, the real culprit isn't consumer apathy or market downturns -- it's OS X. Case in point: I own a first-generation iMac, which is sorely in need of replacing. Since July, I've had an insatiable lust for the Cube. I'm a sucker for design, and at home I use my computer almost exclusively for word processing, Web browsing, e-mail, and a little light bookkeeping -- tasks that don't necessarily require the fastest G4 on the block. On top of that, I live in an overpriced, undersized San Francisco apartment where not one square inch goes unused. That makes the Cube very close to the ideal computer for me. Plus, I've got the money to purchase one -- it's expensive, but not prohibitively so.

So why haven't I bought one? OS X.

I was initially skeptical about OS X. It's not the Mac interface I know and love. It's different, and I don't think different. But once I saw it running on some machines and played with it a bit, I had to have it.

So here's my dilemma: I desperately want a new Macintosh, but I don't want to have to upgrade my operating system in a few months.

I have -- doubtlessly like many other Mac users -- resigned to wait. If Apple gave me a guarantee that my purchase of a Cube today would earn me a price break on OS X tomorrow, things might be different. But Apple isn't making any such promises to me or to anyone considering a Mac purchase -- hence the sales slowdown.

But here's the thing: I will buy a Cube, as will my father-in-law, while my friend will buy a dual-processor G4. We are all future Apple consumers. Yet, all of us have decided to wait on machines we really need until they come with the operating system we really crave.

There's an old saying in journalism that three makes a trend. Although today's Apple trend may be taking an OS X wait-and-see approach, I'm guessing that when the first Cubes roll out with OS X preinstalled, that trend will give way to another: a rush to the sales counter.

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