Not too long ago, while beginning work on some projects for a company, I was asked whether I wanted a PC or a Mac — laptop or desktop — to use while in the office.
Since the place was essentially a Macintosh shop, I requested an iMac (with a second screen so I didn't look like a complete schlub).
Oh horrors. Dvorak is using a Mac.
Hey, I figured since I'm known for ragging on the Mac all the time, I may as well speak from some experience, right?
It's been a couple of months now, so I thought I'd report what I think about the platform from a user's perspective — specifically, from a PC user's perspective.
So here's what I think.
First of all, the machine is not half bad. It's very quiet, and it performs as well as the PC on general office applications.
Generally speaking, the interface is slicker than the PC's, and you get the sense that the computer isn't about to start acting weird because of some virus, spyware, or endless Firefox loading procedure going on in the background and killing all the cycles of the computer.
(Despite my reinstalling Firefox half a dozen times on my PC and running deep spyware and virus checkers, Firefox will, all too often, chew up all my cycles and kill my PC's performance. I then have to kill it and start over. Anyway, this doesn't seem to happen with the Mac.)
Other than that, I cannot see much of a difference between the Mac and PC.
It's a computer. It runs the same old applications (more or less), and it gets the job done, albeit somewhat more elegantly.
The processes for some things, such as burning CDs, seem convoluted to me. I'm not a fan of some of the navigational concepts. And I have one USB key that the Mac refuses to recognize for some unknown reason. But these are not deal-breakers.
Now that I'm thinking about it, perhaps I should rethink my use of the word "elegant" when I describe the machine and the way it functions.
See, most people use this word because they love the often-gimmicky stuff, such as the bouncing icons and sweep-away window minimizing. It's all very interesting but superfluous.
More Good Things About Macs
Over the years, one of the things that most of us old-timers (gak) will tell you is that you often get a "feeling" for a machine that's more meaningful than what benchmark tests or performance numbers tell you. Some machines feel faster than others, for example.
This is probably the best way to approach any analysis or comparison of the Mac versus the PC.
In my opinion, I sense that the OS is more solid than Microsoft Windows, but I cannot say why exactly. I suspect that the modern underpinnings of the Unix kernel have something to do with it.
I have no plans to move to the Mac platform for my personal use. That said, I have noticed that I've been recommending the machine to friends and neighbors when they want to know what kind of system they should buy.
I can see why the Mac is gaining market share, because the rationale for using one is simple.
Do you want to deal with the agony of antivirus, firewall, antispyware and other touchy software subsystems, many of which do not work well? Or do you want to boot Microsoft Word and write a document and be done with it?
As someone who does recommend gear to people, I have to think to myself, "Should I recommend something that will come back to haunt me, or recommend a Mac with its higher price but lower hassle factor?"
The answer is simple. I hate the idea of having to do customer service for people who cannot keep their systems clean, and that's most people.
I hate to say it, but the PC community talks a big game when it comes to security and protection. The reality is that they'll never really get a handle on the problem as long as the PC is the never-ending target of hackers.
I'm certain the Mac will eventually be targeted, but when? It doesn't seem like it will be anytime soon.
The real potential killers of the PC platform are all the online apps that make it so we may not need much more than a smart terminal to get most of our work done.
Recently, I noticed that one columnist (he's an old-timer, too) told his readers that he actually uses online apps, such as Google Docs, to write his column.
Personally, I cannot see using these apps except in an emergency. I do use an online e-mail reader (Squirrel Webmail) more than I use Thunderbird, and I'm not exactly sure why.
Perhaps it's so I feel reassured that the mail is safe and not a sitting duck on my PC.
Anyway, the way I see it is that the differences between the Mac and the PC that really matter are minor.
The big exception is the usability factor. And, in the end, that's probably what the majority of users care about.
Yes, it's a sad day for the Mac bashers.
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