Who Ate Apple’s Lunch?

Apple has a serious problem, someone is taking food right out of their mouth. In a slow economy, CPU sales are slow even though users want to upgrade to new powerful machines. What is the problem? The lack of MacOS X drivers for legacy peripherals is strangling CPU sales. Mac owners are forced to replace perfectly good peripherals because there are no MacOS X drivers. Limited hardware budgets are being consumed by replacement peripherals, when people would much rather spend their money on a new PowerBook or a dual-1Ghz desktop machine.
My own situation is perhaps typical. I have an original B&W G3/400U2W, it has excellent SCSI disk performance that rivals even modern machines so I’ve kept competitive even though my CPU is a bit slow. I also have a SCSI Mitsubishi 4x CDR, a 9" serial Wacom tablet, an Epson 636 SCSI scanner, and an Epson 1520 wide format inkjet printer. None of these peripherals were initially supported in MacOS X. Official SCSI CDR support only arrived with version 10.1.3. My SCSI scanner worked with Vuescan, but the software is very poorly written and definitely not suitable for professional work. My Epson 1520 printer has no drivers. My serial Wacom tablet must be almost 15 years old, but it works fine (except in MacOS X).
Apple knows their partners need to make money too, and Apple has allowed their partners (like Epson, Hewlett-Packard, Canon, etc.) to make a few bucks at their expense by allowing them to grab these lucrative replacement peripheral sales. But now these partners are exploiting Apple by stalling on legacy driver releases. Apple needs to put more pressure on these peripheral vendors to support a wider variety of legacy peripherals. If the vendors will not support Apple, Apple will have to stop these vendors from eating their lunch.
Vendors like LaserSoft are vital to fixing this situation. LaserSoft quietly released their SilverFast drivers for SCSI scanners from Epson, Microtek, Polaroid, etc. I called Lasersoft a few months ago, their rep said that after Photoshop 7 shipped, they’d release new OS X plugins almost immediately, and they sure did, right on schedule, with new scanner support being added almost daily. Silverfast is a graphic artist’s dream, it would be almost impossible to improve upon it. It comes in a simple $50 version and an advanced version that can be used with an ICC sample target to generate incredibly accurate color profiles. You can even download a demo and see if it works with your scanner before buying online. I would much rather use this advanced software on my old scanner than purchase another new scanner from a company like Epson that has already shown its unwillingness to support me. But LaserSoft has shown that they intend to support advanced MacOS X features, so I will support them.
And this is how Apple can apply the pressure. When 3rd party developers fill in the gap, these "forced" sales of new peripherals are slowed down. Apple should take this money away from their greedy "partners" and support the 3rd party software developers that will help them. Every $200 printer and $300 scanner that can be salvaged by a $50 driver is a big chunk of money returned to the CPU fund. Perhaps Apple recognizes this. I read a recent report that Apple had licensed the open source Common Unix Printing Environment (CUPS) for use with a future MacOS X update. I hope that it comes soon. CUPS is a universal printer driver environment that comes from the BSD/Linux world. Just about every inkjet and dot-matrix printer I ever heard of is supported. I tried compiling and running CUPS to run my Epson 1520 over a serial port, I was able to get the printer to print random characters, spitting ink off the edges of the paper. After about an hour cleaning ink off my printer platen with a Q-Tip, I decided I could wait until Apple debugged and released CUPS.
So now I only need Wacom tablet drivers. Wacom recently announced that they would not release serial tablet drivers for MacOS X, but offered an upgrade instead. You can send in your serial tablet and they will replace a circuit board and convert it to a MacOS X compatible USB tablet for about $170. Unfortunately, this offer only extends to 12" tablets and above. My tablet is a 9" tablet, I paid $600 for it back when that was real money. And it still is real money. The nearest replacement is the 9" Intuous tablet, for about $450. I suppose I will have to continue to live without a tablet.
Perhipheral manufacturers had better wake up and realize they will be irrelevant in the Mac market unless they get busy and release more drivers. Apple had better wake up and realize they are on the open source "release early and often" system and should get CUPS out the door soon, before it is too little, too late. And while they’re at it, maybe Apple could find a nice BSD or Linux driver for Wacom serial tablets and port it to MacOS X? Please?

2 thoughts on “Who Ate Apple’s Lunch?”

  1. Hi Charles any luck finding some osx drivers for epson 1520? I’m in the same boat, by coincidence i have three wacom paperweights waiting for an osx driver as well!
    regards Aaron
    (If you want a cd burning app for osx let me know)

  2. Yes, I am currently using SilverFast SE by Lasersoft for my Epson scanner. Lasersoft shipped their Epson 636 drivers a couple of weeks after I wrote this article. I highly recommend SilverFast, it has all the controls that any professional graphic artist could want, and even a few advanced features like the best demoire filter I ever used. You can’t do better than SilverFast, it’s great.

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