Sunday, September 16, 2007

Macs and test-drives

Thinking about a new computer? From an article in today's New York Times:

If you're the owner of a Windows PC who is looking for a replacement computer, the choices are grim. You can step into the world of hurt that is Vista, the latest version of Microsoft Windows that was released in January. Or you can seek out a new machine that still comes loaded with the comparatively ancient Windows XP.

Maybe, you might say, the moment has arrived to take a look at the Mac. You can easily order one online, of course. But if you'd like to take a test-drive before you commit, odds are that you'll have to look far and wide for a store that sells it.
Randall Stross, the author of this article and of The Microsoft Way: The Real Story of How the Company Beats the Competition, seems to be telling us that a lifetime of Windows is inevitable, pointing to Apple's still tiny market share and citing a tech consultant who likens Microsoft's operating system and the hardware that runs it to a giant flywheel: "'It takes a lot of energy to spin it up, but once it gets going, it's virtually unstoppable.'" Alas, the analogy reminds me of the endless wait for Windows (XP) to finish starting up and of the dozens of times I had to hold down the power button to shut off a frozen Windows (98) machine.

I'm not persuaded that the Mac's limited retail presence is that crucial. The Mac interface can be studied at one's leisure at Apple's website. If one really wants to try before buying, Apple resellers can be found on or off campus in many college towns. A library or an obliging friend can also give the cautious consumer a chance to try a Mac. Still, the sometimes disarming simplicity of using a Mac — of, say, installing a program — is more likely discovered in ordinary use than during a test-drive.

The choices aren't grim: many people find Mac OS X ("ten," not "x") a joy to use. Having switched myself — first at work, then at home, no test-drives involved — I'd never go back.
A Window of Opportunity for Macs, Soon to Close (New York Times)

comments: 9

Lee said...

Would you mind listing the advantages of the Mac other than start-up speed and ease of software instalment? I'm going to need a new PC soon.

Thanks!

Jason Dockter said...

Michael,
Thanks for posting this article, and for more commentary on a Mac. I hope to make the switch sometime early next year. I, too, have no real "test driving" experience, but love what I have seen on Apple's website and what I have heard from friends who own Macs.
-Jason

Michael Leddy said...

Jason, I hope you're as happy with a Mac as I am. Lee, here are some Mac advantages:

Aesthetic pleasure, which increases when you use the free program UNO to add some more consistency to the interface.

Solid operating system: No registry (the registry is the cause of so many problems in Windows), no need to defragment. That the hardware and software are made for each other, so to speak, also helps. (I'm thinking back to the hours and hours I spent finding a wireless card that would work with my Vaio.)

Security: viruses and Trojans are virtually unknown on the Mac.

Simplicity of use: As Apple says, it just works. If you like to tweak (as I do), it's easy to do so. But if you just want things to work, the Mac is a great choice.

There are annoyances with the Mac, for sure: my pet peeve is that the Finder (analogous to Windows Explorer) can't default to "columns" view (or if it can, I haven't figured out how). But these annoyances seem pretty negligible.

If you do switch, David Pogue's book Switching to the Mac might be helpful. (Though I've consulted my copy maybe a dozen times, tops.)

zoom said...

Interesting. I'm curious, though, why Macs don't get viruses (virii?) or trojans.

Lee said...

No registry? Yippee, no registry!! I think you've already convinced me.

Michael Leddy said...

Zoom, here's an Apple page that gives an explanation of the virus question: 114,000 Viruses?

Lee, if you already know about stuff like the registry, you'll have no problems using a Mac.

Ben said...

Mac is also the best bet for college. Watching my classmates struggle with Vista makes me glad to be using a MacBook. Great post!

-Ben

Lee said...

Do you use a Power Book or one of those mini desktop models, which look quite sleek? Or a tower (too pricey for me, BTW)? (As you can tell, I've been surfing the Apple site!)

Michael Leddy said...

I have a plain ol' MacBook, like Ben. (Hi Ben!)