David Lang, CMUG‘s Content Editor, has what I consider to be an excellent piece on the impact that the recently announced Bible software programs and digital libraries might have on the Mac market. It is not an official statement on behalf of Accordance Bible Software, but quite a lucid and, IMO, balanced assessment of the situation.
I have some mixed feelings about this whole issue. As a user, I am excited about the possibility of seeing new Bible packages for Macintosh. Mac users deserve it, the platform deserves it, and more competition should bring about more content, more features, and better prices. What else could we ask for?
On the other hand, as someone who has worked, is working, and (hopefully) will continue to work as a freelance for various Bible software companies and organizations, I can think of a number of potential problems. I’m sure most developers and CEOs have already wrestled with some of these, if not all, but let me jot down a few unconnected thoughts that come to mind — after all, I’m blogging, not writing a thesis
1. Switching to Mac is much, much more than just porting a product and implementing Apple’s UI standards. It is nothing short of a huge paradigm shift. It is difficult to put in words, but there is definitely a distinctive Mac mindset and lifestyle, if you will. Users will gladly welcome true Mac OS X applications, but will look at any product that smacks of being an “afterthought for the Mac crowd” with great suspicion, to say the least. Please don’t give us “macintoshized” versions of the Windows “older brother.”
2. New content, particularly good content, is always a welcome addition. But content cannot be dissociated from the core search engine and the look and feel (i.e., power, flexibility, ease of use, metaphor followed, etc.) of the retrieval system. By all means, bring more content, but don’t forget to build good, solid applications Mac users can feel proud of and use with their proverbial enthusiasm. Mac OS X has such a great potential for developers, that it would be a shame not to take advantage of it in a creative kind of way.
3. Don’t try to be all things to all people. When programs are aware of what their natural habitat is, resources can be spent more effectively, and they become complementary tools rather than either/or choices. Just like many Windows users frequently run different PC Bible software applications, Mac users can do the same. Be conscious of your strenghts and make the best possible port of those features to the new platform. People will appreciate that.
Now, I know that we haven’t actually seen any prototype yet. I also know that we’ve been promised “100% OS X-native” products, and that it is to be expected that good, efficient, Mac programmers are working hard on it already (they better do if they really want to meet their expected release dates!). But let’s also hope that they take to heart these and other suggestions that have been voiced in different newsgroups and forums in the last couple of days. It would be a pity if such significant investments and good intentions were to prove unsuccessful and short-lived.