Thoughts on making the PC to Mac switch

Just as some background, I would consider myself pretty tech-savvy, though Mac users are often stereotyped as clueless regarding computers. I have no fear of reformatting hard drives, editing the Windows registry, etc., etc. I am very careful with maintaining the computers I own. Several of my friends turn to me to fix stuff when it goes wrong on their computers, although I do have a Wolf I turn to at times when I can’t figure it out. I had always been very anti-Mac. My only experience using one was for a class I took in, I believe, 1996, and I was far from impressed at the time. That was comparing Mac to Windows 3.1/early Windows 95, which were no great shakes themselves, so that’s how little I liked Mac, and I never before considered getting one.

Then I got an iPhone. I will preface this by saying that I was an absolute iPhone hater before. I thought, who do these people think they are, thinking that Apple invented all of these features, when Palm Pilots ten years ago could do a lot of it, and Windows Mobile phones can in fact do much more, and have been around for ages. But I got an iPod Touch, and then had the chance to get a refurb iPhone at steep discount, and I was sold. It’s true that it  can’t do everything, and it is annoying that Apple is so proprietary about allowing certain features (video recording, etc.) that the hardware is perfectly capable of. (Yes, I know jailbreaking addresses a lot of this, but I haven’t done that yet). The interface, however, is so quick and intuitive that I stopped caring that my WinMo phone has a faster processor and a hardware keyboard, and a gazillion other things it can do if you are willing to spend hours tweaking it, editing the registry, etc.

The key thing for me is that I actually enjoy using my iPhone. It’s just fun to use in the way my Windows Mobile phone will never be. I still keep the WinMo phone because it’s great for things like tethering (come on AT&T, where is this for the iPhone?), has HSUPA, and some other things, but otherwise I am switched completely to the iPhone. (You also can’t ignore the marketing genius of Apple in getting people to develop for it and centralizing the sale of the apps. While WinMo programs exist for many things, finding them is a lot trickier).

When it came time for me to look for a new laptop, I considered getting a Mac for the first time ever. I have been putting it off for a while because I don’t want to mess with Vista. My hope with getting a Mac was that it would have those almost intangible features that the iPhone has that make it so enjoyable to use. And I was not disappointed. It’s not perfect (all the keyboard shortcuts annoy me more than anything else and I desperately want my delete key back), but overall, it is intuitive, quick, and fun to use. The operating system is so much less obtrusive. It seems to run “leaner” for lack of a better word. I was prepared for the usual hours and hours it takes getting Windows set up from scratch the way I want it, and I was amazed by how it just, well, worked. It did take some time since I was switching myself over to several new programs, testing a lot of features, and so on, but overall it has been surprisingly pleasant. No need to do a clean reinstall of the OS and set up all the drivers. No need to uninstall a bunch of preloaded crapware that Dell and others give you as a “bonus” when you get a new computer. And McAfee has never touched my system and left all of its little bits of messy software all over the place, which is enough to make me think it was all worth it right there. The software that comes with it is full-featured and very good, so I didn’t have to straight away start looking for new photo/video/DVD editing software. My big fear with Mac was that I wouldn’t be able to tweak everything the way I like it because it wouldn’t allow it, but what ended up happening was that I really didn’t feel the need to do much tweaking. It just works.

I did install XP Pro on a partition of my Mac, and that was the only hassle involved in setup. That really wasn’t the fault of Microsoft or Apple, but rather the tricky issue of needing to change CDs during installation from an optical drive during the DOS part of the installation, which I found isn’t actually possible. Luckily there were ways of “convincing” the computer to accept my (legally purchased) copy of XP, so that’s done. It then took forever doing all the updates, installing antivirus/spyware protection for the Windows side, etc., but that was no surprise. The dual booting thing and running XP in a virtual machine both work perfectly, so I can run the couple of legacy programs I need and some games I didn’t want to give up. That part was a little tricky, and probably not worth it for the less geeky user, but if you are thinking of making the switch except for a couple of Windows programs, it can be done and works well once it’s set up. Now that Macs use an Intel processor, running Windows is the same on a Mac as on, say, a Dell.

I think Windows of late suffers from the same problem that Windows Mobile has. It feels the need to accommodate so many old pieces of software for so many people, and doesn’t want to leave anything out, but what’s left is clunky. You can do everything, but not necessarily in a way that is smooth and easy. I think that was understandable in 1999, but not anymore. With how advanced hardware has become, there’s no reason for things to be slow, lag, and crash. We should be past that.  Apple on the other hand, will stop supporting things, and that has its downside. But the upside of it is that what they keep will work well. I will remain open-minded in the future, and if Windows 7 turns out to be great, I will give it a chance, but for now, there is nothing in Vista that I want any part of.

As far as price goes, at the lower end, Apple is definitely more expensive, no question.  The truth is, Apple doesn’t choose to compete at lower price points.  But for what I needed, I knew I wanted a high-end video card, lots of RAM, etc., etc., and I ended up paying about the same as I would have for a similarly configured Dell. I did get a refurbished computer, which saved a lot, but with the warranty being the same and Apple’s excellent reputation when it comes to refurbished products, I didn’t think that was taking much risk. It is true that if you just want a very basic system, you will pay a premium with Apple.

Anyway, I just wanted to offer the experience of a very long-time, tech-savvy Windows user who has happily made the switch, not because I don’t know how to make Windows do what I want it to, but because I’m sick of fighting it and I want my life to be easier.

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