The Cult of Mac

Apple Mac Pro

Apple Mac Pro

What’s going on then? Why have I suddenly turned into a Mac weirdo recently? How do I justify this after spending so many years slagging off Macs and their users?

It’s probably exactly what you think; a combination of being utterly tired and pissed off with Windows (with XP now being over 5 years old and not due to be replaced for another 9 months at the very least) and much improved offerings from Apple over recent years. I don’t think that one of these things on its own would have been enough to convince me, and I expect Apple probably knew that too.

Yes, there’s Linux, and that’s good for many things, but Ubuntu (which is the closest thing I’ve seen to a useable Linux desktop) simply didn’t make me happy enough for me to be able to commit to it, and I never felt 100% at home with it (a reminder that I ran it on my old laptop for a number of months) and despite its advances it still required a large amount of tweaking to get it working with all my laptop’s hardware. This isn’t the case with my Mac. It really does “just work”.
Problems I had with Macs previously included:

  • Expensive hardware with poor performance: You used to typically pay around twice the amount you would have for a modern PC, with a specification around half that of said PC. Even when taking into account the assertion that Macs needed less resources to perform the same functions, it still didn’t add up and I saw little reason to spend so much on so little.
  • Rubbish operating system: Mac OS 9, in my admittedly limited experience, was a proprietary, buggy piece of shit and it was long overdue to be replaced (rather than just another release). It did things in its own way that made sense only to itself and to “native” Mac users, but that were completely baffling and counter-intuitive to anyone else. This put up a huge barrier to use and wider adoption.
  • Requirement for commitment to migration: While Mac OS has always enjoyed reasonable software support, it was still relatively limited when compared to Windows, for better or for worse (meaning that a huge range of software availability for a platform isn’t always necessarily a good thing).

Since then, Apple appears to have sat up, listened, and implemented a successful strategy for getting people to defect, including (but not limited to):

  • Cheaper hardware: I expect that this has largely been brought about by the introduction of Intel CPUs into all Macs over the past 18 months or so, but Apple made efforts previously to introduce more low-end models to entice people who simply couldn’t justify large expenditure on someone that, for them, was untried and untested. Things like the Mac Mini bridged this gap, allowing people to dip their toes in the water with relatively low risk. I am one of those people, and as a result here I am typing this on a brand new MacBook, a very capable laptop computer that, at £632 including NY state sales tax, cheaper than the vast majority of Windows-based laptops from other manufacturers. £600 will buy you a Windows laptop, but it won’t be a very good one.
  • Much improved operating system: The BSD based Mac OS X was a gigantic leap forward for Apple. It immediately attracted people from a UNIX background at a time when UNIX desktops left a lot to be desired. Its UNIX roots also obviously made Mac OS X extremely stable compared to Windows and Mac OS 9. While it still requires a little bit of getting used to by non-native Mac users, it can be picked up very quickly; certainly this was true for me.
  • Introduction of Intel CPUs: This has brought all sorts of advantages, from cheaper components (leading to cheaper products), through generally faster machines, through to the ability to actually run Microsoft Windows on a Mac alongside Mac OS X. Apple are quite correct in stating that many people will now have no excuse not to switch to a Mac. Mac OS X enjoys splendid software support, but even if that doesn’t prove to be enough and you’ve got some obscure Windows software package that doesn’t have an equivalent, you can still run it.

Other things that I really like about Mac OS versus Windows in particular:

  • Fairer licensing: Microsoft want money for each and every installation of Windows without exception, no matter who uses it, what it’s used for, or how often it is used. At around £300 for each installation, this is unfair and expensive, and now they’ve got their blasted product activation system to ensure that they get their readies. You have to be a large company in order to enjoy any sort of significant discount. Mac OS is not only siginificantly cheaper at £89, but spend £40 on top of that and you get to install it on up to five computers in your household, legally. Microsoft would want over 10 times that amount for the same privilege (assuming Windows XP Pro).
  • I didn’t have to spend hours uninstalling legions of useless crap when I bought my computer. My last two laptops and my desktop PC at work all came laden down with so much rubbish that it took me hours to remove it. Only after I had done so did the computer start to perform as expected. They do this because they want to push the fact that you’ve not just bought a PC, you’ve bought a Vaio, or a Thinkpad, or a Portege or whatever, and so obviously they need to make Windows XP less generic by filling it up with all sorts of manufacturer-specific rubbish that wants to manage your photos and play your MP3s and present you with special trial software with preferential purchase options. All bullshit.

So yeah, I’m hooked. Chris and I have an iMac as our “home computer” and now I have a Mac laptop. At work I currently have a Windows PC that I do all my work on, and sitting on my desk next to it is a Mac Mini that I use to test stuff with Safari. Next year when my PC comes up for replacement, I’ll be getting a Mac Pro, and instead of having the Mac Mini just to test stuff in Safari, I’ll install Windows on it and use it just to test stuff in Internet Explorer.

The real irony there is that the Mac Mini cost £400 and is smaller than my external DVD writer. I doubt that the same money would buy a Windows box of the same specification and size. So even for the things I need that a Mac can’t run natively, I’ll still be using a Mac. I hereby take back everything bad I ever said about Apple Macs and I willingly pledge myself to the Cult of Mac.

And yes, I’ll fix this site so it doesn’t look wonky in Safari, Howie, I promise :)