Today is my last day on a Macintosh computer. After almost 4 years on an Apple computer first the iMac in our den, the main family computer, the last 2 on my MacBook, I believe I have used Apple products, and specifically computers long enough to understand the trajectory of their culture, their people and their identity. And I can honestly say that the Apple environment is not exactly what I expected.
I’m the first to say that there was a time when in my mind when Microsoft represented something insidious and dark, Bill Gates, vilified for the company’s success, was at the helm of a company we “left brain” thinking Liberal types viewed as just another example of corporate greed gone bad. The guys in Cupertino, at a company that 10 years ago was struggling to make it, well they were the good guys, they represented creativity and freedom in the computing world. At Apple was king and their stuff worked, and honestly it did work, worked well!
I was an early adaptor to home computers. I’m old enough to remember my first home computer, a spiffy DOS 286 machine that was the size of my Scion. She had an amber monitor and took about 8 minutes to boot. It made all kind of weird spinning sounds and when up and running presented the following interface
I spent the next 20+ years in the PC world. I was there for Windows 3.0, 3.1, NT, Vista, and now Windows 7. And the experience with these old machines was the same. I watched every computer I’d ever purchased get slower and slower over the course of time as spyware and software bloat took them down. I’d installed more drivers than I cared to think about. I had printers, one in particular that never worked because I couldn’t get the driver to talk the printer or the network to see the driver. I’d dealt with viruses and blue screens of death. Memory dumps and memory leaks, bios issues and defragged hard drives. Hell I’d even dealt with Double Spaced hard drives.
Over the years I’ve owned licenses to Norton, Norton Utilities, McAfee, Trend Micro and Kaspersky virus programs. All worked, kinda, and one thing they shared, they all contributed to the decreasing usefulness of my PC to the point where I believed that purchasing a new computer about every two years was just part of the experience.
And somehow, it was all Bill Gate’s fault. Now let’s be honest, Microsoft was a victim of their own success. With 96% of the world’s PC’s using their software why would any hacker waste their time with a Mac?
I purchased my first Mac in 2008, an iMac to replace the windows based desktop the family was using. Gawd was she sexy, a nice flat screen with no giant box to stuff discs and drives into. And it was simple to use. My wife was up and running in minutes checking email, surfing and writing letters in Text Editor. The kids had been pre-conditioned to like macs based on years and years of Apple giving the things away to schools. A marketing plant BTW that’s paying off in spades as all those kids weaned on Mac’s are now coming of age as consumers and are interested in recreating their experiences, in hindsight a brilliant marketing strategy.
I didn’t use the Mac much, I don’t like to share stuff, especially computers and since I sit on one 12 hours a day I kept my windows laptop. After a particularly ugly software upgrade and install on my PC I decided in a fit of rage that offended even my gentle neighbor, who happens to work for Microsoft, I bought my MacBook, from Amazon in 2010 and prepared myself for computer ecstasy.
Pete Townsend wrote “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, perhaps one of the greatest rock songs of all time. It was in that song he warned us; “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” When I exchanged my PC for a Mac little did I know just how prophetic that line would be?
Anyone remember that 1980′s Super bowl ad where the lady with the hammer comes running down the aisle where minions of dark hooded beings are watching the big giant evil 1984 face? Remember how we all knew exactly who the guy on screen was.
Or did we?
That evil monopoly that controlled all of our computers, from whose clutches no one could escape. That corporate giant who not only sold software, but sold the hardware to go with it, keeping prices sky high. That giant company that changed how we bought media content, charging us for music and at the same time controlling what we did the things we bought. The company that created a host of slick sexy gadgets that had people flocking to their slick sexy stores, eager to fork over whatever the company dictated they pay, in the process creating the most valuable company in the world. Oh wait, I thought Microsoft was the big bad company not.. wait..
When I bought my MacBook the thing worked. Flat out. I opened it up, booted it and in 3 minutes was connected to my home network and could see every other computer in the house, as long as it had an Apple logo on it. I printed wirelessly, my laptop library was visible on Apple TV it was cool. Email set up was snap, loved Garage Band, played with iPhoto seemed good. For surfing and Facebook it was great. Loved it. Why did I wait so long?
And then, I wrote my first blog entry. I’m going to suggest that after 1850 posts I know a wee bit about blogging and posting. I was absolutely flabbergasted to learn there are no decent clients for blogging in the Mac world. I was stunned; blogging feels like one of those things where Apple would excel. Nope, the world’s very best blogging client is Windows Live Writer. I can place text, images, movies whatever I want by simply dragging and dropping, it paginates according to my blogs template and when I’m done I just press “Publish”. It has a place for tags and categories.. The difference between Live Writer and the very best Mac Blogging tool, Mars Editor, is the difference between the New York Yankees and the single A Stockton Ports from my hometown. I kid you not, the gap in functionality is that big.
This experience foreshadowed of life in the Mac world, matter of fact life in the Apple World. Play by rules, stay within the pay to play boundaries and everything will work fine. If you want to try something new or different, well we’re going to have to talk.
I took my software problem to the Genius Bar I was asking the black t-shirted dude with the scruffy beard “do you have any software for blogging?” The answer back, “just do it on the WordPress site. But I want a desk top app, I don’t want to use the WordPress site. His answer; “hmm, no one’s ever asked that before”. “Have a database that I can use for managing a large nonprofit? Contact management sorts of things?” Filemaker. “I don’t want to pay $300, anything else?” “Bento by Filemaker.” Anything else.. “Hmm, no one’s ever asked for that before..”
What about gaming.. “app store” Photo management? “app store”, everything is in the app store now, where choices were limited. Want Angry Birds, no problem, want an in-depth strategy game? Keep looking.
iPhoto, I have 3000 photos on my computer. Thanks to iPhoto and it’s big brother Aperture I have no idea where on my computer they are. Want to copy a photo to use in a blog post, export a copy of the photo to the desk top and go after it here. Want to copy and paste it into WordPress or Flickr, nope import only, then hope it lands where you want it.
And when I run Aperture, or the recent version of iTunes- Boom K-Rash. Apple may not have the blue screen of death but they programs do crash and the do clock, in some cases, Garage Band, for’evah.
And finally, for play, movies, music, Facebook, playtime, my mac is fantastic. But for work; building databases, technical diagrams, spreadsheets, I have to have a PC. And now that I’ve played around with the Windows Live Products, well looks like Microsoft is giving away for free products that work as well or in some cases, much better than the same sort of products on the Mac.
And so far in Windows 7, everything has worked.
I purchased my new laptop at the Microsoft Store at the Mall of America on Sunday. The Store is directly across from the big silver store with the giant white apple on it. You couldn’t get into the Apple Store with a shoehorn thanks to the iPad launch. The place was packed. The Microsoft store.. not as much. As a result I had a chance to spend some time with a person who could really answer my questions as opposed to the guys I’ve encountered at Apple. With the exception of the Genius Bar, most of the guys I’ve asked questions of at Apple couldn’t answer me. The Microsoft guys, much better.
I’m digging the new PC, 4lbs, 14 inch screen, 500 gig hard drive, 8 gig ram, i5 Intel chip, thing really screams. And, was less than half the price of the Apple product with similar specs. We’ll have to see how it goes over time. I still can’t print as my printer is “owned” by the 4 Macs in the house and believe me, they don’t like my PC.