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Editorial: Five reasons to switch to Mac
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Nov 17, 2015, 11:00 AM
Yesterday, we covered five reasons why you should switch to Windows, and frankly it didn't take forensic science to see that we were biased toward the Mac. Give us points for finding real reasons, though, and arguing why they are important to some people, but take many of those points away for how we shook our heads a lot. Only, in looking at exactly how biased we were and are, we rather ignored the simple fact that we are biased. Something got us to this position.

This is MacNN, so there has to be a bit of an expectation that we cover Macs and all things Apple. Yet Apple doesn't own us, Apple isn't always all that keen on us, and if pro-Mac coverage were us just staying on some corporate message, you'd hope we'd be cleverer in our propaganda. No, the staff of MacNN don't like Macs because they write for a Mac news site; they write for a Mac news site because they like Macs.

Everyone is different, but there tend to be certain similar reasons why Macs appeal and certain similar reasons why they tend to appeal so very much. Your mileage may vary, and if you're a Windows fan then hello, do pull up a seat and see what you think, but we're not plotting to change your mind. It's just this: the most die-hard Windows fan knows that Apple users get much more obsessive than any other group. You can argue whether that's good or bad, right or wrong, healthy or not; but you know it's true, and what we're saying is that there are reasons. If it were all just fashion and style, Apple would not have survived.


You can rightly argue details of elements that Windows does better, and nobody can mock the Blue Screen of Death without admitting Apple's beach ball is just as aggravating and only slightly more whizzy. Similarly, there are always issues when a new OS X release rolls out to the world: it is far from perfect. Yet compared to Windows, it is pretty close to it.

It's Apple and OS X that introduced, or at the very least popularized, downloading the whole operating system: the process now is as close to point and click as it could be. It invariably takes longer than Apple says it will, but you do it overnight and it's done. Then you do get software that breaks, but with the startling exception of Microsoft Office, it's usually rare and obscure applications rather than mainstream ones. That doesn't help you if you need that software, but it tends to be applications that if you're using them, you know that they're problematic and you just don't update right away.

You can choose not to update: OS X might wheedle at you about it, but it never just installs the thing. We had a meeting where a fella opened up his laptop to make some notes, and couldn't. Windows had chosen that moment to update itself. It was a four-hour meeting and at the end, it was still updating itself. The poor man had to use paper and pencil. It was horrible to see.

This is all about updating, and yet it's the day-to-day running that appeals to us more: OS X is an excellent operating system that does a huge amount and doesn't get in the way. We said yesterday that using Windows was satisfying if you like problem solving, but it's many, many, many years since we had to think about drivers.

We also once recommended that a particular friend stick with Windows because he knew it so very, very well. He ignored us, switched to a Mac and for weeks afterwards would phone up laughing. He would read us the instructions for installing some software on a PC, a page or two of detailed notes followed by "and for Mac it's just 'click OK.'"


Apple makes things to last. It is not true that Apple fans will rush out to buy anything new that the company releases, but it may well be true that we want to -- and can't because our old machines are still working fine. We have not tried dropping our MacBook Pros onto hard surfaces either for testing or insurance purposes, we have not. But the reason there's that perception is that, as Apple users, we know that the Shiny New Thing is likely to be amazing, whereas (for example) the latest in the EP-Whoosiwhatsit 970EX series (ooh, this ones the 970EX 5P!!) from your printer company just doesn't inspire the same lust.

You do certainly pay more for Apple's aluminium unibody manufacturing processes than you do for plastic, but as with OS X, Apple did this, and others are copying it. They're copying it because it's a good idea: you get stronger yet lighter laptops. MacBooks take a lot more of a battering than the average PC, and partly because of that, they get much more of a battering: they get taken everywhere and they get used extensively. Yesterday we mentioned someone who goes through a lot of PCs and we heard from them: it's true, they said, but they don't regard themselves as heavy users. It's just the way it is with PCs, they don't last, and anyway there's a better one out.

We wish we could find who said this first, but someone commenting on the difference between iPhones and Android said once that Apple makes things so well that you want to keep buying the upgrades; (most) Android-based manufacturers make these so badly that you have to buy an upgrade. The PC world is one of cost-cutting, and a race to the bottom in price, which results in a similar drop in quality too. Apple has this premium image, and there's the idea that people pay anything to get them, where we'd offer that it's really how there is a cycle where PCs don't seem worth buying, so they aren't worth buying.

There are exceptions, or this would be a boring world, but PC sales are diving and Apple sales are up, so there is more to this than price alone. There is certainly perception; you expect to pay more for Apple, and the company has done miraculously well in holding its nerve rather than offering cheaper devices. We'd just say that at the very least, the durability and build quality of Apple hardware is a factor.

This section sponsored by Bloatware

Here's an edge case for you. One of the MacNN staffers has papyrophobia: he has a fear, a revulsion of paper. A writer who's afraid of paper. One of the odder manifestations of this is in how his skin twitches when he has to write on a PC laptop because they have all these tiny decals and labels on them. It's not exactly the most common problem, but it's a real problem for him, and in comparison Apple's pristine label-free hardware is a relief.

It's also a sign of confidence. The Apple logo is hardly hidden, but the company doesn't also slap stickers on. They have always included stickers in the box for some reason that we can't fathom [Editor's note: for vandalizing Windows users' cars] -- but if you see one on a MacBook, it's the owner who chose to put it there. With Apple, the sense is that you've bought this machine, now let's go to work and do something, create something. With a PC it's right, we got you to buy this bit but you should buy something extra now, oh and your machine has to carry ads from our partners to constantly remind you and others that it uses this technology or that processor. Because you might forget otherwise.

You can now pay extra to get a Windows PC that doesn't come with junk on it. Just think about that for a second. Apple may overcharge for its cables, but it wouldn't put something on an iMac and charge you to take it off again. You can call it Apple being classy, or you can call it PC makers being tied to ridiculous contractual obligations that certainly never help the user but probably also don't help the software manufacturers. Either works for us.

Newest technologies

Again, we said yesterday that if you're running Windows, then you at least used to be able to get a machine with a newer processor than Apple uses. Not for long, but certainly there was some PC somewhere that got a processor first and used it. Yet just as with the way Apple has changed how operating systems are distributed, it continually introduces and changes hardware.

Wi-Fi. It existed before Apple, but once they added it as an option to the Pismo G3 Powerbook, it started going into every computer everywhere. Look how that's turned out: we've got Wi-Fi hotspots on street corners now. You don't go a day, an hour, or maybe even many minutes without using Wi-Fi. Doubtlessly, surely, some other manufacturer would've got there, but it was Apple that did.

Similarly, there were countless laptops before Apple introduced the PowerBook, but look at the Before and After picture. Before it, every machine had the keyboard at the front of the case. After it, every machine had it at the back. Then Apple popularised the trackpad, and that is a tremendous boon, but it's really the cleverness of the keyboard position that appeals to us. Apple thought about it. That's the difference. It didn't just grab the latest component, it thought about what would actually be useful, and then it did it. Then everyone else did too.

Apple popularized USB, it dropped the floppy drive, it introduced the DVD drive, and it got rid of the DVD drive too. It's not the greatest thing in the world when Apple ditches a peripheral you're reliant on, but so far every time it's done it, every other company has followed. That needn't mean Apple was right, but it's a bit of a clue that it is.

It just works

Compare OS X's failings with Windows' crashes and incompatibilities. When it goes wrong, OS X is becoming extraordinarily aggravating, but partly because we're not used to it going wrong. Today we pair our new Apple keyboards by briefly plugging them into our iMacs. We might be texting as we walk up to the iMac, but we can finish writing the text on that new keyboard on that iMac.

If we want to run new software, we just get it from the App Store or, preferably, direct from the developer, and it works. You rarely need to restart your Mac, you don't have to change settings or preferences, you start it, it works, you finish.

Again and always, there are exceptions, and you know there are. Yet you also know that one other thing, that other reason for preferring Macs that you're surprised we didn't put first. Let's just say viruses, and ask what is that all about? Macs aren't free of security concerns or malware, but we have never run a Keynote presentation and had OS X interrupt it to say everything's okay, your virus checking thing is up to date.

And one or two reasons to not switch to Macs

If you like Windows, stay with it. We think you'd get on very nicely with Macs, but we're more about you getting your work done and enjoying doing it, so if that's Windows for you, you stay right there. There is also a cost reason for going for Windows: in that case, look at your budget again, because Macs are worth it over even the medium term when you look at true cost of ownership, and not just the initial purchase.

Of course the majority of PCs are in businesses, and there sheer volumes of scale mean if your IT department won't allow Macs then they are probably intractable. Do tell them about IBM's discovery that switching to Macs decimates the support time users need, though, won't you?

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Dec 1, 2015 at 01:37 AM. )
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Nov 17, 2015, 01:25 PM
The section about automatic Windows updates reminded me of the time that there was a "high level" project review at work. A couple of dozen staff making presentations and a panel of experts flown in to review. Part way through one talk the Windows PC running the Powerpoint presentations announced a mandatory update in five minutes. No OK, Cancel or Later. The poor guy moved the dialog to the edge of the screen. Five minutes later the PC dutifully rebooted and we all went for an impromptu break.
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Nov 17, 2015, 02:36 PM
re: "If it were all just fashion and style, Apple would not have survived."

Amen to that! That's the one that works me up the most, as it just shows complete ignorance from the other side.

re: "Then you do get software that breaks ... it's usually rare and obscure applications rather than mainstream ones."

Hmm, or the core Apple ones. And, often without even an, 'Ooos, you'll maybe have your workflow back in a year or two again... if we decide to get around it... because, you know, iPhone.'

Or, apps that rely on core technologies that were once best-in-class, but have now languished, because, well iPhone and Apple has lost the core talent that produced and maintained them... but who care? iPhone.

re: "You can choose not to update..."

That is a valid point. That said, it's getting pretty hard to work on current stuff with Snow Leopard. I recently sold one of my old laptops that was limited to Snow Leopard, and had to carefully explain to potential buyers what it could and couldn't do... usable, but getting harder for sure.

re: "OS X is an excellent operating system that does a huge amount and doesn't get in the way."

Agreed... that's the big one! But, who knows how much longer it's going to be around, and the doesn't get in the way thing is less and less true. I've easily spent more time in the last 6 months, fiddling with family OS X machines than I have in the last 5 years.

And, a bit ironically the reverse, I keep a Windows Bootcamp for some gaming purposes and website testing. The last time I set that all up (a couple years back), it took a lot of fiddling, especially getting controllers working with games and such, as well as some other devices. But, since Parallels destroyed my Bootcamp partition, I had to start over with Windows 10. Aside from a bit of frustration that I could get it to instantly update from 8.1 to 10 when I wanted it to, the whole setup was painless and flawless this time. Hmm... is this a trend, on either side?

re: hardware - no arguments there. Even if I did switch to Windows, I'd strongly consider running it on Apple hardware! When I used to work at a Fortune 100, even though the central IT department hated Macs, they bought Macbook Pros for all the executive staff, and loaded them up with Windows. It's pretty hard to argue with reality there, aside from the builder/tweaker community aspect (been there, done that, lost time, money, and even some blood!).

re: Bloatware - another reason to just buy a Mac and load Windows on it if you're a Windows person. Or, if you're brave, build one... BUT, you'd better be ready to spend near Apple prices anyway if you don't want a bunch-o-hassle and a reasonably similar box in the end.

re: "You rarely need to restart your Mac, you don't have to change settings or preferences, you start it, it works, you finish."

From early-2000s until a year or so ago, I'd agree. But, again, as I've noted above about fiddling with Macs, I've also had to restart more in the last year than probably the last decade. And, unless you're a fairly basic user and don't use Apple's cloud stuff, it no longer just works. (Maybe it still works more often than Windows... I'm not a day-to-day Windows user anymore.)

re: Viruses - Bingo! That's one of the big things keeping me here, despite the above. I've *never* run any kind of anti-virus stuff. I've never had a problem. And, while I've found a few on client machines over the *decades*, I've hardly ever seen a problem caused by them for the user (a couple times back in the mid-90s they did). At the same time, I'm not sure I know a single Windows user that has not had issues in that regard. (I've seen a couple Windows users claim such in forums, but they tend to be relative-security-experts who know how to lock the machines down... and they are few!)

Bottom line:

I used to almost always argue with Windows users in a similar manner to the closing couple of paragraphs. And, I still believe those *reasons* are largely true. (And, most Mac pros knew IBMs findings long before that... we just lacked the hard data, aside from old Gartner studies from the 90s.)

But, at this point I might caution potential Windows switchers (to Mac) to hold off a bit if they aren't having troubles there. We need to see where the future of OS X is headed at this point. I, and others I know paying attention to this stuff, think we might be seeing an end-of-line for OS X. It won't be for a few year yet... but if current trends continue, it's inevitable. OS X is no longer being paid much attention (aside from questionable UI tinkering... and few iOS compatibility additions). And, it seems the writing is on the wall that Apple prefer to just move everyone to iOS if it were feasible, which even they admit when pressed, it isn't at this point. And, it seems Apple is quietly sending a message (not in words, but in actions) to it's pro users to start looking at Windows.

So, I'd have a hard time pressing a Windows user to switch to what might be a dying platform. Prove me wrong, Apple! Please!!! (signed one of your over-30-year Mac evangelists)
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Nov 17, 2015, 02:41 PM
@ daqman -

LOL, no kidding! That's one place I'd absolutely urge anyone to use a Mac, or maybe better an iOS device at this point. When you see a presentation about to begin, and PC hardware involved, you can almost always count on an interesting time. (Or, if you're a presenter, nothing puts the fear in you quite like showing up at a venue where it's PC based and they won't let you connect to the projector directly!)
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Nov 18, 2015, 01:03 AM
Of course, the 'fashion' accusation now has some merit thanks to Apple recently... and I'm not the only one that thinks so:

How Apple Is Giving Design A Bad Name
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Nov 18, 2015, 05:52 AM
Yes, but who is it for - who is it not for?
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Nov 18, 2015, 10:52 AM
For me, one of the greatest advantages of the Mac over Windows is the ease of cloning the hard drive and, when disaster strikes, being able to boot off that clone. No re-installing from original disks, etc. I make this point whenever a Windows-using friend asks about the Mac. If they've ever lost their "C" drive at some point (and most of them have), they are dutifully impressed.
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Nov 19, 2015, 08:35 AM
Why do I stick with the Mac (even though I'm growing to dislike it more and more every day, particularly with this El C-R-A-P-itan update)? Because I can run OS X and Windows at the same time.
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Nov 19, 2015, 11:03 AM
Originally Posted by SunSeeker View Post
Yes, but who is it for - who is it not for?
A wonderful point.

The key to all of this is that tools exists in order to facilitate and enhance one's productivity. If it fails to do that, it is merely frivolous window dressing for one's ego.

Historically, the strength of Apple's Mac has traditionally been that it offered an ecosystem for being more productive. Much of this was by having a lower "BS" overhead burden from the Operating System getting in the way, but also by having superior productivity tools (eg, Applications).

If you look at this as a ratio of (Good Stuff) : (Bad Stuff), what you get is a Value paradigm and metric...which is how we decide what to buy & use.

The challenge that Apple has had is that with all of the junk and bugs that have made their way into OS X to try to align it with all of the 'features' being packed into iOS, the (Bad Stuff) has grown. With a larger denominator value, the Value of a Mac has diminished even if no (Good Stuff) had changed.

But there has been change in the (Good Stuff): Apple has been systematically deconstructing their ecosystem, most noticeably in the iLife suite which was the gateway drug for content creators and also in their higher end "Pro" apps - - the Final Cut X 'transition' was an utter disaster of mismanagement, and Aperture has been EOL'ed. As such, those Apps which had made the Mac good at (Good Stuff) in actual productivity are also in retreat...ie, the (Good Stuff) in the numerator has gotten smaller.

To illustrate, consider some notional numbers. Call the Good:Bad of yesteryear to have been 8:3 ... which creates a normalized goodness metric of 2.66:1. With OS X getting more buggy, the bad has gone up to 4 and with the erosion of the Apps ecosystem slipping (IMO, I'd call it a 5, but to illustrate I'll say only to 7), the revised Value ratio is 7:4 ... which is a normalized goodness metric of 1.75:1.

Now note that even these two single-point changes results in an overall change in the normalized goodness metric of a 34% decline in Apple product desirability. Ignore at your own peril.

Finally, a few bullet-by-bullet comments on the Editorial:
  • It's Apple and OS X that introduced, or at the very least popularized, downloading the whole operating system...

    True enough, but that observation is hardly anything to be considered an actual "Feature" in regions with non-stellar internet connections.

    There's still vast regions of the USA where due to ISP monopolies, the only reasonably affordable connection has the performance levels of DSL. Having no alternative but to download results in frequent time-out errors/aborts and all sorts of headaches. Similarly, one notices Apple's use of bandwidth hogs such as every time that one launches the App Store - it can't be changed out of its default "featured!" entry page (such as to go to the updates page) which can literally take minutes to load and during that time, it is a direct obstruction to one's productivity and workflow.

  • Durability ...

    Granted, the hardware is generally good, but the comparison that's usually made here isn't peer-to-peer, such as a MacBook vs Thinkpad, but against something profoundly cheap PC. One wouldn't be foolish enough to compare a Mercedes to a Yugo while trying to totally ignore their vast differences in MSRP.

    Similarly, when it comes to mobility (including laptops), the care that an owner takes with their gear is a variable. It does generally pay to avoid the most cheap stuff, but even top-of-the-line stuff will get trashed by a chronic abuser far more quickly than someone who takes care of their equipment.

  • Bloatware ...

    A fair point, but also countered with the observation that one can now pay extra for PCs that haven't been bloated down, which can go right into the product value/cost assessment upfront. In the meantime, look back to the bloat that exists in how the iTunes Store and Apps Store present themselves to their user ... and now note how it isn't an OS X user preference to turn that junk off. Choose your poison because there's bloat on both platforms.

  • Newest Technologies

    WiFi .. Trackpad .. no examples from THIS decade...hmmm. If we really were pushing for innovation, then why did Firewire 1600 and FW 3200 never get adopted by Apple? Similarly, the deletion of lagging legacy technologies (floppy, optical) isn't really an innovation as much as it is in pushing obsolescence -- even though that's diametric to the longer lifecycle claim (part of 'durability').

    And in the meantime, the last hardware upgrade of Apple's most expensive and most cutting edge highest performance Mac, the Mac Pro was ... golly, it was exactly 700 days ago today, which is eight (8) months longer than its average replacement cycle.

  • It just works.

    Except when it doesn't. Consider how Apple EOL'ed iPhoto to replace it with the sham of Photos ... and how upon launching the latter, it underwent an extensive hammering of your system to write some sort of modified/clone Library file which literally took hours if you had a large library ... yet it was done without any time estimate warning, nor with any clean way to suspend/abort the operation once it was started: good luck if you were running off your laptop's battery.

    Similarly, when the customer was unsatisfied with Photos and went to revert back to iPhoto, the App Store had obstacles to deliberately obstruct their customer.

    Yet if one persevered, one would have also found that the Photos "didn't change anything" Library conversion did actually in fact did change stuff, resulting in a corrupted file that iPhoto couldn't use. Now this wouldn't be a stopper in of itself if the "Repair" feature to bring back the Library worked, but this apparently wasn't tested adequately in QA either. The longer you had been an OS X customer, the older your core iPhotos Library was and the less likely that the repair tool would work - - this is either a QA testing design failure, or a callous disregard by Management of servicing those customers who had a longer history of repeat business.

    At that point, one's only remaining recourse was to pray that Time Machine had worked. But when Photos did its Library "clone", even though it supposedly was only symbolic links which shouldn't consume disk space, TM thought otherwise ... and was also an error source which would then corrupt TM backups, causing a non-recoverable failure mode. The only good news here is that it didn't actually damage the hardware: one could erase the drive and start a new TM backup...assuming that one was running another data archiving means independent of Apple's TM product.

    How's that for a very contemporary counter-example to "Just Works"?
( Last edited by -hh; Nov 19, 2015 at 11:08 AM. Reason: removed an emoticon; fixed whitespace)
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