My current PC is now six years old, and it is really showing its age. It’s been consistently very slow, despite the regular “maintenance” I perform to clean it up after barely using it every third day. I had recently lost files on it, and it even rebooted on me while I was typing. When we moved into a house last summer, the computer was set up in a spare bedroom that we turned into an office. So I wanted something portable that I could use in other parts of the house, such as the living room or basement. With this portability in mind, I researched laptop computers for a few months, waiting for the right moment to buy.
I corresponded with a friend who tried Windows Vista on a new laptop. He was really dissatisfied with its performance, even though he bought a computer that was at least a step up from entry level. My parents also had issues with their Vista desktop. And I had worked out a security issue at work where some of our customers were unable to access our legitimate registration Web site because of an over-cautious security setting in Vista and Internet Explorer 7 (I tried IE 7 at home on Windows XP and was able to access the site). After hearing all of the horror stories about Windows Vista, I decided to go a different route: I bought a Mac.
Why a Mac? There are a number of compelling reasons to stick to a Windows-based machine, including cost and familiarity. Some argue that the cost of a PC is about half of what a Mac costs. Also, I currently use Windows XP at both home and work, and we’re running Office 2007 at my workplace. Some of the familiarity would be gone by migrating to a Mac.
But I would argue that those arguments are not true. When it comes to cost, the Mac Mini is really comparable to most affordable PCs. The MacBook and similarly equipped PC laptops cost about the same, especially when you add software costs. In fact, software costs actually go up when you consider the PC; some software requires annual subscriptions (such as anti-virus software). And software between the two systems is often comparable. Macs, though, also come with iLife, which makes the cost so much more worth it if you use this suite of programs (they’ve worked for me so far).
For familiarity, I would say that some of this is also true. I am a keyboard shortcuts nut. I have become so used to using Ctrl and Alt that I have had a tough time getting used to the Mac shortcuts. But they’re there, and I’m slowly learning to get used to them. And Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac is available and similar to Office 2003 and 2007 for Windows.
And when you take the hassle of dealing with Windows into account, the cost of additional security software that you need to protect your computer (and some of these costs are annual), and the number of times the computer just doesn’t operate properly, the cost of aggravation goes up with a PC. Apple, on the other hand, has a tight chain of production, meaning that it specs and develops components to work with its software. This results in a more reliable and stable system.
Still, the Mac interface differs a lot. Buttons are in another corner of the window. Instead of a start menu, I have a dock. Installing software is different (actually simpler on the Mac). And learning how to use the new trackpad on the MacBook has presented its own challenges. But learning these has actually gone smoothly.
What really sold me, though, was the fact that I could still go to Windows on a Mac. Although I am used to the Windows interface, using a Mac offered me the opportunity to return to the familiar interface that I’ve used for so many years. I still have the option of installing Windows on a Mac via either Boot Camp (which comes with the Mac but requires rebooting out of OS X), VMware Fusion, or Parallels (which allow you to run Windows within OS X). I haven’t made the leap to Windows on the Mac yet.
After using my Mac for a few weeks, I’m totally happy that I made the switch. Getting used to it has not been a major issue, although I am still working out some of the keyboard shortcuts. I’m currently running a trial version of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, and tried iWork 09 but haven’t been as impressed (I’ve read good and bad about each, depending on which particular function you’re evaluating); my concern here is the lack of some functionality that I’ve come to appreciate in Word that Pages doesn’t support, and the same is fairly true for Excel vs Pages. I haven’t had a chance to really try Keynote, but PowerPoint seems to work well. I even seem to like using Mail, iCal, and Safari more than Microsoft Outlook; they especially work fast. And iLife is fun, easy to learn and use, and just outright awesome.
I’m a Mac, and I’m happy I made the switch.