What is it that makes most people never even consider a Mac when it comes time for their next computer purchase?
A little background. I have been in the IT field for 17 years. I owe a lot of my career to Microsoft. I remember a time before the GUI and MS Windows. I remember Windows 1.0. I had to work with the less-than-elegant pseudo GUI that was part of MS-DOS 4.x. I felt, at the time, that Windows 3.x really nailed it. Very nice. Windows95, even nicer I thought. I was running WindowsNT before NT was hip. 3.1, 3.5, 3.51, 4.x. Windows2000 is probably the best operating system Microsoft has ever put out, but I have not had a chance to spend much time with Windows2003 yet. I have managed MSMail and Exchange in all of its versions. So, as you can see, I have a whole lot of experience with Microsoft. 4000 users. 350 servers.
So what’s my point? The point of that little trip through the past versions of Microsoft Windows shows you something important. Baggage. Microsoft has to support a ton of legacy code in their programs. Much of that legacy code was never meant to be secure. It was meant to get easier and easier for the end user to use with each version. It is not easy to have it both ways. You usually either have it secure, like OpenBSD unix, or you have it easy to use, like Microsoft Windows.
But all of that changed for me April 1, 2002. I had made fun of the Macintosh computer for most of my career. It always seemed like a toy to me and something that just couldn’t be taken serious. It seemed to have its place in the graphic world, but that was it. At one point in my career i even made it a point to do everything I could to eliminate the Macs from our Graphics department. I purchased the fastest, biggest, baddest PCs that you could buy at the time and also got the Windows versions of all the apps they were running. They reluctantly agreed to try them out side by side with their precious Macs. They hated it. And me. Even though the applications were pretty much the same, I had taken away the “feel” of their computing experience and introduced occasional crashes that they didn’t need to deal with too frequently before the switch. Sometimes it was just a nuisance, sometimes they would lose work. Not pretty. But I convinced them to hang in there and I finally got all but one Mac out of the company. Wipee for me.
If Apple had not released OS X I would still be on the Windows side making fun of all of you Mac users. But they did. And then they released the flat panel iMac, which I thought looked cool but still thought was a toy. I had read that Apple had built OS X on the base code of BSD unix. BSD unix was the base for my favorite secure operating system, OpenBSD. This is what made me decide to take a look at it. So, tax-free computer week came around in my state of Pennsylvania, and it was bonus time at work. A very dangerous combination. In all my years in IT, I have never, ever, had to buy a computer. I was always able to get one from work that I could use at home. This is important for our story since I was about to spend money on a computer for myself for the first time in 16 years.
I am fortunate that I get to work with a lot of smart people. I work with one guy who is undeniably the smartest person that I know when it comes to technology. He was going over to the local Apple reseller to take a look at the new 15″ flat panel iMac and asked if I wanted to go. I had done a little bit of reading about OS X and had seen pictures of the new iMac and figured I would tag along. An hour later I had purchased my first computer. I even had to wait for it. My name went on a list and I had to wait for the store to fill orders with the 1 or 2 it would be getting a week. But I did it anyway. I had to have it. The funny thing is, as sound as I knew it was underneath it all, the thing that got me was the interface. I’m a sucker for a pretty face. Especially when it minimizes an application the way it does. If you are a Windows user you owe it to yourself to check out a Mac just to see the “Genie effect” that happens when you minimize an application. Worth the trip.
So now I have this thing at home and I need to set it up, right. I am prepared to load CDs, and then download additional drivers for my digital camera, printer, and video camera. Not necessary. Everything came up, asked me a few questions and welcomed me to my new interface. Sweet. plugged in my digital camera. iPhoto fires up and I can import all of my pictures. And make a book. Or a web page. Included with OS X. Nice. Plug in the video camera and can edit my movies with iMovie, also included. Edit and then save it to DVD. No problem. With each minute in front of the new iMac I am more and more impressed with what I can do. It really is a thing of beauty.
But what about all of the applications that you can get for Windows that aren’t available on the Mac. Hey, you got me there. I still have a Windows based PC in my house for just those kind of applications, but for most things I use there is a Mac alternative or I have been able to find a different program for the Mac that does everything I need it to. And sometimes more. I use my computers for some pretty ordinary, boring things;
I browse the Internet – check. I check my email – check. I use Quicken for home finances – check. I organize my music – check. I use MS Word – check. I use MS Excel – check. I use MS PowerPoint – check.
Did I mention that; My built-in email program does an incredible job of filtering spam for me? I haven’t crashed in 16 months? I haven’t dealt with Viruses in 16 months? I have never had a worm bring my Mac to its knees? I actually have fun using my Mac? The more I use it the more I want to do?
Now, to be fair, I am sure many people will say that the Mac has fewer worms and viruses because of its smaller market share. People state that the Mac only has about 3% of the market. But what market? That may be 3% of the entire installed base of computers, but not the home market. If Microsoft Windows has a bazillion licenses in place, I bet that the majority of them are for businesses. When you pull that share out and focus on consumers, Apple has a larger share than 3%. I have no idea what that is because I don’t know if anyone even keeps those statistics. But I think that OS X is less susceptible to worms and viruses because of the unix history that is running beneath it, not because of market share.
So, can the Mac run AutoCAD or any of the other myriad of specialty applications out there? Maybe, maybe not. But do you use those specialty apps at home? For most people the answer is probably “no.” Which brings me all the way back to my original question: why do you stick with Windows? Why deal with the constant issues that are out there? I know WindowsXP is MUCH better than Microsoft’s other consumer operating systems, but it is still carrying all of that baggage necessary to maintain compatibility with devices you probably don’t own or haven’t owned in a decade. I can multitask better with OS X than any version of MS Windows I have ever touched – which is all of them. I can browse the net, listen to music, check my email, and burn a DVD without breaking a sweat. Try that with your Windows based PC and see which application slows to a crawl first.
My own thoughts on this are that it comes down to education. Apple should do a better job of educating Windows users on the merits of OS X. Their Switch campaign was cute and all, but it never showed the operating system even once. Most Windows users have never even seen it. They are probably just like I was back in early 2002 before I bought my first Mac. Classic is a joke to them. Apple is a niche player. There’s no apps for those computers. Macs are too expensive. Get it in front of them. Show them a screenshot at least! For as creative as Apple is, I don’t think they have done a very good job in this area. Apple, you can do better.
So I now have the 15″ flat panel iMac. Then I added a 5GB iPod. Then a 12″ G4 Powerbook (which is on at least 21 hours a day and is used to manage the environment I described above). Then a 30GB iPod. Then an iSight. On second thought, maybe you should stick with Windows. Apple is like a drug. The more you use it, the more you crave it. The more creative you want to be. It isn’t just a computer anymore. It is a dependable device that is there to help you with anything you need done. But I can’t go back. Everything just works and I don’t want to deal with the hassles of constant driver updates and security patches..Especially when you have to reboot after almost every one of them. I even took my wife’s Windows2000 Dell notebook and put Red Hat Linux 9.x on it. She used it for web browsing and email. I no longer have to worry about her running Windows update, or making sure her AV is up to date nightly. There are still patches in these worlds, but our house is a lot more secure since I pulled Windows from all but 1 computer in the house. Maybe the key is not to replace that old Windows PC when you are ready for a new one, but maybe people could add a Mac to their household and see how it works out. I am willing to bet that the Mac starts to get more and more use until the Windows PC is rarely used. Except for hardcore games. You got me there.
So, why don’t you consider a Mac when it comes to your next computer purchase?