Apple has done a great job of marketing the Intel-based Macs' ability to run Windows, but has confused some ordinary users into thinking all new Macs come with a built-in ability to run Windows software and use third-party devices designed only for Windows-based PCs.
Two co-workers recently sought my counsel with this type of query. Both had bought peripheral devices for a Mac user before discovering the device was not Mac compatible.
Both said they had heard new Macs could run Windows and expressed hope the destination Macs still would be able to use the devices. I had to tell them that while the newer Intel-based Macs can indeed run Windows, the user must buy and install a retail copy of Windows to enable that capability. Though disappointed, they understood.
I'm not sure what Apple should do to clarify this point for its growing legions of non-technical users, but it might behoove Cupertino to give it some thought. People who hear "Macs can now run Windows" not unreasonably may expect it to do so out of the box.
Apple does not need thousands of annoyed customers calling its tech support personnel to ask why this or that Windows thingy won't work with their new Mac, only to be told the feature requires a bit more money and effort on their part.
Of course, the real culprit in this scenario is neither Apple nor the innocent user, but those companies that continue to manufacture third-party peripherals incompatible with Macs.
In this blog I have noted often the Mac's steadily increasing market share, particularly in the United States. Those market share increases are coming mostly from consumers switching from Windows - consumers who buy lots of peripherals.
When the Mac's market share was mired in the sub-5 percent zone, it was easy for tech companies to dismiss it. The numbers for the Mac this year have consistently shown growth; in October Gartner reported overall Mac share at 8 percent (which translates to much higher consumer market share, given the Mac's low profile in the business world). ChangeWave Research released data from November revealing that 29 percent of those who intend to buy a computer in the next 90 days would choose a Mac.
At some point the Mac user base will become too large to ignore with impunity. Companies that refuse to make their peripherals Mac compatible will start to lose business to the ones that do. Such market forces eventually should make the absence of Mac compatibility among peripheral devices a rarity.
Read Dave Zeiler's Apple blog at www.baltimoresun.com/business/appleaday