The almost universal praise showered upon AppleComputer Inc.'s new music service has obscured a rather daunting reality: the majority of Macintosh users cannot access it!
Most of the reviews dutifully noted that the iTunes Music Store is for the time being Mac only, and thus restricted to Apple's approximately 3 percent of the computing market.
Few bothered to point out, however, that because the iTunes Store requires Mac OS X, only those who have moved on from Mac OS 9 to OS X -- about one in four Mac users by Apple's most recent estimate in January -- can use the service.
In January Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that with 5 million of an estimated 20 million or so Mac users running OS X, "we can now say that the Mac OS X transition is nearly complete."
Ken Bereskin, Apple's director of Mac OS X marketing, said its adoption rate "compares favorably with any OS release" -- including versions of
's Windows as well as previous Mac operating systems.
But since neither company releases hard data on adoption rates, there's no way to confirm or refute Apple's claim.
Apple has said all along that the conversion is on schedule, but it would seem that having 75 percent of Mac users still on Mac OS 9 -- or earlier versions, for that matter -- is far from a transition in its final stages.
Considering that OS X's official release was more than two years ago and that converting its user base to the new system has been an Apple priority, one might wonder what's behind the delay.
Apple itself clearly has completed the transition: Such new services as the Music Store, as well as the newer "iApps" like iPhoto and iCal, are available only for Mac OS X.
In fact, Apple's "OS X only" policy is a part of its carrot-and-stick approach to encouraging the Mac masses to leave OS 9 behind.
The carrots, including cool new software and services, grow juicier while the sticks -- Macs that will boot only into X, no more major upgrades to OS 9 -- grow more vexing.
Apple also has done a good job of moving developers onto the new OS. More than 5,000 applications are available for Mac OS X, with many developers following Apple's lead in releasing OS X-only versions of their latest software.
Many of the Mac users that have switched to OS X are the "early adopters" and "power users" who can't live without the latest and greatest Apple offerings. And anyone who has purchased a Mac in the past year had OS X installed as the default system.
What are the other 75 percent waiting for? Well, there are several things.