Thursday, October 11, 2007

Windows vs Mac

Last week I wrote about the iPhone and issues that I see with owning one. I noticed a recent column in ZDNews about why Windows users in general  don't switch to the Mac. This in turn leads to an earlier column on the same subject on a pro-Apple site. I thought I would add in my own observations. Unlike the columns I mentioned, I am not a Mac user. I have used a Mac a few times. The most I have done was some trouble-shooting on why a Mac wasn't connecting to the Internet properly (it was using the wrong name-server and I had to open a unix prompt to figure it out). I will also note that I have extensive Unix and Linux background. Basically, this is why someone who is not afraid of new operating systems does not switch.

Let's get the big reason out first - money. I've priced at Macs. They start at around $1,100. I can get a perfectly usable PC for half that. I realize that I can get a Mac mini for a lot less and hook up my own peripherals. It's still a lot of money since a comparably-priced PC will include everything.

Mac users can argue that their boxes are better built, will do more, etc. I don't care. A BMW owner could make the same points without getting me to buy a new, more expensive car.

This dovetails into the second big factor - OS/10 may be great but Windows XP is good enough. I can do everything I want a PC to do on XP. some things may be easier or work better on the Mac but it is not enough difference to switch.

There are hidden costs to making the switch. If I buy a new PC I can usually run all of my old software. If I buy an Apple I have to get new software. Some products don't have an Apple version. There are replacements but this could get expensive quickly. I have a lot of graphics software (all legal). Some I bought. Some I got free through special offers. I am sure I would lose a lot of it if I switched to Mac. Yes, thee is boot-camp. I could buy a version of Windows and run it on the Mac. All of my software would work but I'd be left with an expensive Windows PC. I think I could run it in a virtual session at a performance penalty and I'd probably still have to buy Windows.

A different hidden cost - hardware upgrades. I've gone through several PCs and I usually stretch their life by upgrading the disk, memory and possibly the video. I'm not sure how possible this is with the Mac.

Apple's ads don't help their case. They have several that imply that PCs can only be used for business. One in particular has the Mac guy showing off his digital pictures while the PC guy shows a spreadsheet graphing how much fun he had. This ad was so over the top wrong that my wife even complained about it. This raises the question - if I know that Apple is lying in some ads, why should I believe the other ads? Even without that, the PC guy is more likable than the Mac guy.

Then there is the whole cult of Steve thing. I have it on good authority that Steve Jobs is a jerk to work for. He is a control freak. usually this only affects people at Apple but sometimes this bleeds into the product. Look at the fights over the iPhone. You may buy it but Apple thinks that they still own it. Back when they introduced the Mac, around 25 years ago, they tried to control it the same way. You violated your warranty just by plugging in a hard disk or printer that someone besides Apple made. More recently they've done it with music. Music you buy on iTunes will only play on an iPod. Apple will not license anyone else. Real Media made a way to convert files to Real's format without removing copy restrictions. Apple had a fit because people could then play music they bought from Apple on players from someone else.

It seems like buying an Apple includes a commitment to join the Cult of Steve. This includes putting up with the stuff I just mentioned and more. There also seems to be a requirement to evangelize. All of that is a lot more commitment than I want to put into an operating system.

So, why would I want to switch? Graphics? Yes, they are nice. Vista is better and Linux has some snazzy effects that will run on low-end hardware. There are a lot fewer viruses for the Mac but that isn't a big issue for me. I have good anti-virus software and I know what not to run. If I was really worried, I could move to Linux and keep my existing hardware.

Bottom line - I'd be paying money to be cool. That just isn't me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you’ve taken an overly simplistic view. You also cite the “cult of mac” and the supposed importance of “being cool” and yet you’ve clearly come at this from your own pre-defined agenda. Let's look at some facts as part of the discussion.

Microsoft has a long and undistinguished past as an inventor and innovator of very, very little. From DOS to the modern GUI, all they have done is copy, and then make it proprietorial. It’s well documented that Apple can occasionally copy (Xerox-Parc) but nearly every aspect of the modern GUI we own to this company. On-screen colour consistency? Apple. Usable fonts? Apple. DTP technology? Apple & Adobe. The etsbalised GUI? Apple. Apple has done so much more to bring modern computing into everyday use than Microsoft ever has. This is why many knowledgeable people chose to use Apple, contrary to Windows user’s limited perception of them as style-obsessives.

How much has Microsoft made computing better? Well, they’ve produced an operating system that runs on thousands of varieties of hardware, which is no mean feat. More recently though, this has become a bit of a joke with Mircoroft facing massive fines for telling lies. I’d guess that’s why you’re sticking to XP for the foreseeable future.

Price. You’d probably pay twice as much for a laptop from Sony than you would from Dell. Why do you think that is? Is it just about the style and “brand values”? Of course not; it’s about product design, industrial design and build quality. If you want to buy a Dell then fine, that’s your choice. you have a right to buy products that barely get the job done. Apple products are acknowledged as having top quality production values. This approach is manifest in ALL aspects of design, from the materials used to the interaction design, usability, accessibility, even to the packaging. Good design is important, because it demonstrates that deep thinking is evident. When buying Apple you are buying quality. This why people compare to B&O, BMW etc. But do not denigrate or malign the word “design”. It has far more depth, meaning and significance than you allude to in your arguments.

Re advertising, if you want a quick objective analysis of Apple vs PC you only have to look at their respective operation and business models. Apple build the hardware and operating system, which makes for an infinitely more elegant workflow – hardly suprising. They also produce consumer-professional software that is mostly aimed at the creative industries, hence their line of ads, of which I’m no fan myself. Microsoft produce a ‘floating’ OS and some good business software. However most of their revenue comes from proprietorial enterprise, where, not surprisingly many corporations are desperate to move away from to open sources and standards.

Personalities. Two words: Steve Balmer. This is the man who ran around on stage for five minutes sweating like a pig and shouting like a demented ape. Bill’s put him in charge. His last high-profile Apple swipe was to write off the iPhone as a fad. I would not want to be holding MS stock with this guy in charge. Small wonder they are desperate to buy Yahoo.

Don’t get me wrong – as a professional interaction design consultant I have a highly objective overview of most thinks interactive. I also use PCs and macs. Apple isn’t perfect – far from it. But a world without one of the most important, innovative computer technology companies around? Bottom line: You might not “like” Apple, but be glad they’re around!