Where Mossberg Got It Right and Wrong
Mossberg essentially came to the conclusion that only people who use Macs for common, everyday tasks could switch to Macs. Of course, that’s probably about eighty to ninety percent of the computer users out there; so maybe my quibble is only what he said about the remaining ten to twenty percent. As you know if you’ve been reading much on this website, I use my computers for a lot more than that; and I’ve happily switched the majority of my computing—including work I do on my job—to the Mac and will not go back to Windows. That said, I also happily admit that I do keep a Windows PC around; and I’ll summarize the reasons for that in a moment.
One place where Mossberg and I agree is that hard core gamers need to remain on the Windows platform. While the newest G5’s are competitive with the fastest PC’s in many areas, the Windows platform still holds a slight edge in speed and a bigger edge in game availability. One of the major reasons I keep my PC is to run flight simulators. While there are some excellent ones for the Mac, I still have a better selection of sims on the PC.
From there on out, Mossberg and I largely depart company.
He stated that if you needed to access your network at work—most of which are still run by Windows servers—you need to stay on Windows. That’s half-true. I use VPN over a cable modem and router to connect to my workplace, and for simple e-mail and calendar access my Macs often will hook up with the network when my Windows XP Home machine will not. I use Outlook 2001 running in Classic mode to check e-mail and manipulate my calendar and it works just like my Outlook at my workplace except for access to Personal Folders. I haven’t been able to get to the shared folder where they are kept; and that is where my Macs don’t do as well, i.e., accessing some shared servers. Whether this is a true failing of OS X or my own limited knowledge of networking is not clear. (In this case, too, some of the problem is the way Outlook for the Mac is set up.) I can connect to those servers using my XP machine, so I simply have no reason to spend the time to get the Macs to work. I do have full access to all my folders when I use my XP machine. As Mossberg mentioned, you can run a Windows operating system using Virtual PC (and perhaps a new application called Guest, though I haven’t tried that, yet) and use it to access networked shares or resources if needed. On the other side of the coin, I can testify that if not for my Macs, there are times I would have been dead in the water when trying to work from home if I had been totally reliant on my PC.
As Mossberg said, I’ve heard that some financial services associated with Quicken don’t work with the Mac. However, I consider his statement that converting your Windows Quicken files to the Mac Version is “a bear” as puzzling. I did exactly that when I first switched over; and while it did take several steps, I did not consider it “a bear”. I understand that Quicken has moved away from the .qif file format and maybe that’s harder to convert than the file I did was. I don’t know. What is “a bear” is converting from the Mac file format back to Windows. In any case, I run on Quicken for the Mac today and have been happy as a lark with it. Admittedly, though, I access credit card and bank accounts via the web and don’t use Quicken’s special features to do any of that.
One group Mossberg left out who not only could switch to the Mac but need to consider it if they haven’t already is video professionals or serious video hobbyists. There are no packages on the Windows platform that have the capabilities and play together as well as those in the iLife suite, Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro. The latter, too, are beautiful packages to edit and produce on.
Creative professionals have already been long associated with the Mac. Frankly, with most creative packages (like Adobe’s) available for both platforms, the distinction between the two is not that great anymore. But there are still compelling reasons for creative professionals to stay with or move to the Mac platform. Frankly, OS X is not only more secure than XP, but it simply easier and more joyful to use. That enhances the creative process and is not a small thing. Additionally, the fact that OS X is not susceptible to viruses, etc., does mean you’ll spend more time doing your creative work than troubleshooting your computer. That’s not to say that Mac’s are trouble-free; they’re not. But they are a lot less troublesome than a Windows PC. Most of the time, it is true that I turn my Macs on and they “just work”.
I agree with Mossberg that professionals or companies running specialized software probably need to stick with Windows…or DOS. (Like many point of sale systems.) But that is only true if there is no OS X or open-source version of the software available. If your company runs Unix, Linux, or has been contemplating either, then a move to OS X makes sense since it is essentially a Unix operating system with a great GUI (graphical user interface). Products produced with Microsoft Office for the Mac are very compatible with Windows versions of Office. Most of the time, folks cannot tell whether the Word or PowerPoint document I just shipped to them was made on a Mac or on my work PC. And if you don’t want to use Microsoft Office, there’s Open Office that can be downloaded for free.
If you’re a pilot, you probably also want to stick with Windows, especially if you’re an AOPA member. But this is not an absolute. I am the living exception to what I just said. I run my AOPA flight planning software on the road via my PowerBook and Virtual PC 7.1 running Win XP Pro. It runs fairly well, too, even though the PB only has a 1 GHz processor. So, I am making my way around the problem; but I honestly did consider buying a Windows XP laptop just to use when flying. (And if we buy an airplane and start flying a lot more than we are now, I may reconsider.) But, for now, the PowerBook works well enough; and it’s kind of funky running XP full screen on my PowerBook. Really throws other folks off…
Yes, I have spent a lot of money switching to the Mac. I was one of those people Mossberg’s advice would have been to not switch, but I felt the expense was worth it. All my Adobe applications and Microsoft Office have been “re-bought” for the Mac platform; in fact, I run newer versions of the same on my Macs and have largely stopped upgrading Windows software. My costs of maintaining two platforms really are minimal over the cost of maintaining the Mac alone. I simply focus my time and money on the one I like the best and use the other as I wish.
It has all been worth it.
So, if you’re thinking about switching to the Mac, here are the reasons pro and con for or against doing so, as I see them:
* Beautiful design of both the computers and the operating system
* Stable, secure, operating system that is easy to use (though there is some learning curve as Mossberg said) that plays well with Windows networks
o Unix base (all versions support multiple processors)
o Macs more reliable with VPN than XP Home
* Less time spent troubleshooting or dealing with threats
o Run antivirus only to keep from infecting Windows running friends
o Relatively impervious to spyware
* Performance equivalent to the Windows world
* Expanding capabilities (Apple’s working hard…)
* Unparalleled video production integration
* Good software availability
o Most everyday programs available
o Runs OS 9 (old Mac OS), OS X, and open source applications on one operating system.
* Sense of community rarely found in other Computer Worlds
* More reliable than typical Windows PC’s
* Apple’s customer service is always excellent.
* Cost of switching
* Some learning curve
* Software availability not as good as Windows
* Windows network access not always clean
o Outlook 2001 the only real client that works like Outlook for Windows and it’s a Classic application not being updated
o Some Windows shared severs not able to be accessed without tweaking or third party software
* PC’s can generally be more easily upgraded.
* Apple’s quality control not always the best
Ultimately, there are no absolutes. You must decide what’s best for you, no matter what any of us computer writers thinks.