About two months ago a friend insisted that I should seriously think about switching to a Mac. OS X is especially of interest to me because I have been into Linux for a few years now, mostly using it as a learning platform, and, given the Unix core, OS X becomes a very nice alternative. There are several things that have kept me from moving to Linux, including (please read the complete post before adding comments) the hit-or-miss upgrades, missing or little support of some hardware, not so great support for Windows based applications (like I said, read the whole post first :)), and the fact that my main jobs have revolved around Windows development. Mac, on the other hand, overcomes many of these issues (VMWare Fusion looks awesome).
With my recent involvement in web development, starting out with Ruby on Rails and then settling on django, I have realized that I now have many more choices of operating systems than I did before. This is especially true since my editor of choice is vim, which is supported on most of the platforms, and I generally do most of my development on a server running ArchLinux. So, here are my thoughts after two months of honest exploration, even going to the extreme of asking a friend running Hackintosh to lend me his computer (in exchange for the tablet :)).
What I like about Mac
Here is a quick list of things that I liked about Mac.
- The most significant part that I like is that it is based on Unix; the terminal is awesome (even though, the pain in my arms in a few years is going to make me say otherwise :)). On Windows one of the first things that I do is install cygwin.
- VMWare Fusion is awesome and really makes me comfortable making the switch.
- I like the font anti-aliasing, but I am not sure if this is because I have been using ClearType pretty much since it came out and I am looking for a change or if I really like it.
- Automator looks like a nice alternative and improvement to AutoHotkey
- Expose’ is an improvement over the simple alt-tab switcher.
- PDF manipulation is useful at times.
- Time Machine.
- Adobe Photoshop is natively supported (vs. Linux where you can get older versions to work in Wine).
- On larger screen the “ ooming” (i.e. “maximize”) button proves very useful.
Here is a quick list of things that I don’t like.
- You can’t turn off the apple logo on the back of the screens of Mac laptops (i.e. MacBook)
- I don’t like how OS X maximizes (or zooms) windows, i.e. it zooms to show the complete document instead of taking up the complete screen. For example take a look at the second screen shot here (for Photoshop the screen mode is a very easy solution, but I don’t think every application has a similar view). This one is debatable because on huge screens (anything above 19”) I can see the zoom being more appropriate, but on smaller screens, like the 12” 1024×768 on my tablet, I would hate if the programs did not take up the whole screen. Ideally the operating systems would implement a mix of the two approaches. Stoplight implements the Windows’ version of the maximize behavior, but it seems to be Cocoa specific.
- Moot points…
- iTunes is not for me, I don’t like Windows Media player either, I am all out for MediaMonkey.
- The dock isn’t for me, but it is easy enough to hide 🙂 Even on Windows I don’t use the task bar much. TaskSwitch XP, or the new alt-tab switcher in Vista supporting arrow keys and mouse clicks is what I prefer.
- Expose’ is nice, but an alt-tab switcher with a same size preview (all previews same size) has been working like a charm.
- Both of the following points are preference, and probably because of my Windows background, but it is what it is 🙂
- The window close, minimize and maximize icons are on the left side.
- One menu, always on top, you are really going to make me move my mouse all the way up there?
- MacBooks run just as hot (if not more) as the Windows counterparts.
By looking at the short lists above, if you haven’t guessed already, right now the Mac/OS X doesn’t seem to add enough value for me to invest the time and resources to switch. There are definitely parts that I like, but there is also going to be an upfront slowdown, which I currently can’t justify. Many people have problems with Windows, but (luckily?) I have had a good time with it. It does what I want it to do, and over at least the past seven years I have not had a single virus or spy ware infect any of my computers. Additionally, in the past I have purchased a new computer almost every other year, but lately I don’t really see any reasons to upgrade because my current one (Pentium D w/ 2GB RAM) is fast enough and I don’t see any significant improvement in performance or other features.
I also want to see how Apple deals with the increasing market share. Microsoft’s growth was relatively stable, but if Mac was to really pick up now, then its growth would be humongous. I think they would be able to keep up, but the quality will probably go down. How many knowledgeable geniuses can you hire? Here are two interesting finds about that.
Furthermore, it at least seems like Apple is all about money. Understandingly, it is a business after all, but still! People that don’t like Microsoft, especially some Linux users, generally spell Microsoft as Micro$oft for obvious reasons. Well, if these people were to spell Apple, I wonder how that would be? $$Apple$$? 🙂 70/30 sharing for iPhone apps anyone? 🙂 I realize that they have some infrastructure cost, but 70/30? Additionally, there are other issues, and interesting articles.
Please note that my goal is not to degrade Apple or Mac or OS X, but to just put down the reasons for not switching right now. I am excited to see the increasing competition for Microsoft because, if nothing else, it will make Microsoft pay a lot more attention to usability and home users. For me this is a win-win situation. If Microsoft can’t or doesn’t want to keep up then there is always a well worthy alternative.
I have intentionally kept Linux out of this discussion up until now. With the first release of Ubuntu, Linux had seriously started competing in the desktop space. The latest Hardy Heron release is very close to be a worthy competitor. If only it had support for Photoshop, better support for multiple monitors, a VMWare Fusion Unity-like / Parallels Coherence-like integration with Windows and a little bit better package management. The missing NTFS write support was an issue until about a year ago when ntfs-3g had a stable release, eliminating one more reason to not switch. With every release Ubuntu (ubiquitous with Linux) is making great progress. Two releases ago I would have had to worry about drivers, but with Hardy Heron the drivers aren’t really an issue.
I believe right now there is a fierce competition going on between Windows, OS X and Linux. Before Windows Vista’s release this wasn’t there, but with the disappointment that Vista has been to many people—partly FUD, partly reality. It has been very good to me—the trends towards web based applications, and the latest marketing for Mac, everyone now has a chance to be the next leader. The online world and the Apple marketing have distorted things, but Microsoft still is a very big company on which many other businesses depend. Do you think Dell will let Windows sink so easily?
One of the complaints against Microsoft has been that it is very business focused. Many of the enhancements are dictated by the business users because a good part of their revenue is coming from them. Interestingly, after the latest WWDC (2008) and the upcoming Snow Leopard release, it seems that Apple is also starting to look into the same direction as Microsoft. I realize that this is because that is what the users are asking for, but what says that in the end Apple won’t end up looking like Microsoft, possibly worst?
In the end you will use whatever is going to work for you. Mac / OS X is good, but right now Windows more than meets my needs. I guess if Apple really would like me to move to their platform then they need to do even better, but then again would they really like me to move? Oh, and all this peer pressure, would you just stop that?!? Stop making me feel bad about my choice of Windows with all your “I am better ads.” Believe me, it is doing you more bad than good! Unless there are huge leaps in computer performance or capabilities, I am now going to sit back and focus on what the computer is there for (i.e. the real “work”) while keeping an eye on how things work out. Who knows, maybe my next computer will be a Mac running some new flavor of Linux?! Or, who knows, maybe Microsoft will start taking the operating system much more seriously, and like Internet Explorer 4/5, overcome the issues and really make the next version of Windows an awesome operating system that is faster than Windows XP?