Stranger Fruit

Two weeks on …

I’ve been using my Macbook for two week now and am very comfortable with it. While I’d never become a rabid Apple fanboi, this comment by Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer strikes me a simply assinine:

“Apple gained about one point, but now I think the tide has really turned back the other direction. The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment — same piece of hardware — paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that’s a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be.”

Um. No. Sure the logo is nice, but I’m willing to pay the $500 (an overestimate, by the way) for an OS that works seamlessly with the hardware and with the way I want to do things. In two weeks, I’ve had only one system crash and that was when I was running the Mac version of Powerpoint. Go figure.

Comments

  1. #1 Tony P
    March 21, 2009

    I’m a very long time Windows user and find XP to be the most stable of the desktop/laptop OS’s. Works fine with all the hardware on my laptops.

    But as of the last decade I’ve also become quite the Open Source Evangelist.

    I tire of the Microsoft games regarding the Linux Kernel, or the Zero Day flaws, etc. When this machine needs to be replaced (It is 3 years old now, and I just did a complete overhaul so I’ll get another 2 to 3 years from it.) I’ll end up getting a MacBook Pro.

  2. #2 DVMKurmes
    March 21, 2009

    In my experience you usually need a faster processor and 50-100% more RAM to get similar performance from hardware running windows, and you still have annoying problems with print spooling, fatal errors, etc that windows never seems to get rid of completely. I currently have 2 windows machines (one XP and one Vista) and an iMac. The mac is by far the most pleasant and easiest to use.

  3. #3 Lettuce
    March 22, 2009

    Yeah, that Ballmer quote is excellent.

    I like his thinking. We’ll see how that works out in another five years.

    Whoo-boy.

  4. #4 Fia
    March 22, 2009

    Oh, how nice. I also only have crashes with Microsof Office, – I found the 2004 version runs better under MacOS X than 2008.

  5. #5 Thony C.
    March 22, 2009

    Ballmer’s comment is one of the most common myths about Apple computers and is the result of comparing apples and pears (pun intended!). If you compare the price of an Apple laptop with a comparable laptop, that is comparable in design, finnishing, performance, quality etc., from Sony or Toshiba etc. then the Apple is not more expensive but usually cheaper. Apple computers are more expensive than cheap run of the mill computers but if you want a high quality appliance then Apples are competively priced.

  6. #6 Mystyk
    March 22, 2009

    I’ve used just about every OS there is at this point (right down to punch-cards), and I’d say there’s a bit more to the issue than most people are willing to admit.

    First, what does Apple do right? The same thing they’ve had an edge on for years: designing an intuitive interface. Their programs are well thought-out products, intended to work with a minimum of training and virtually no tech support. That is a definite plus.

    But where they go wrong is a presumption of superiority based on that one factor. Quite simply, the common perception is that Apple users consider themselves better than PC or Linux users, which drives people away from using the platform. Apple itself endorses this ego-stroking. This is a critical flaw when your market share in computers is 3rd place out of 3.

    So, not many users equals not much software being made, which further makes it tougher to increase users. Sure, you could run Windows or Linux on a Mac in order to use all the other software, but then you’re giving in on the very thing you say makes Mac better: the user interface.

    The hardware really isn’t anything better or worse: for $2500 you get about the same level of quality parts from a PC as from a Mac, and as I mentioned, the software that comes with it has less options.

    Last, a lot of people love to harp on Windows for instability, but not many people take the time to answer why. Most issues come down to one of second-hand software instability (meaning other than the OS – so MS Office is second-hand under this use), user savvy, or market-share targeting. The first means basically that as there is more software available, inevitably less is going to be quality software, and more instabilities (including ones that can take down the OS) are going to pop up. The second means that a user’s understanding of computers increases, they’re less likely to do something damaging (like not updating AntiVirus or accidentally deleting a system folder). The third is specific to viruses/worms/trojans/etc: The more market share a system has, the naturally more likely that system is to be targeted by malicious entities.

    What about OS stability itself? Well, I will admit that Windows has had its share of problems in this department. However, starting with XP, Microsoft actually gained some ground here. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s nowhere near as problematic as it once was. Windows 7 has shown so far a remarkable stability, and the main push for improvement came from the threat of Linux.

    So what does this all mean? It means that in the end the benefit of Mac is really negated by some pretty staggering losses that you incur for going that route. Overall, I consider it a draw. This means it comes down to personal choice and which factors are more important to you.

    By the way, this was written on a Vista-based laptop that I’ve had for about six months. In that time I’ve had zero system crashes, and the only program that has crashed is MS Office Outlook 2007. I only offer it to say that you don’t automatically encounter endless problems from PC.

  7. #7 Doc Bill
    March 22, 2009

    Sorry, Mystyk, but I disagree with you.

    The Mac OS was superior from the beginning when it was written for the Motorola 6800 chip. It didn’t need to use indirect addressing based on 1024 byte pages as Intel 8080 developers had to use. It was designed from the start to use a huge graphical canvas far larger than the original 7 inch screen. And there was the Toolbox that gave developers bullet-proof API’s into the OS.

    In the 90′s the Mac OS was ported to the Power PC architecture. Windows, by contrast, has NEVER moved platforms.

    The Mac OS was totally rewritten and based in Unix. That was System X. Later, System X was ported to the Intel Core Duo.

    The entire OS has been rewritten and moved to different chip sets several times.

    Windows is still, still based on DOS. It’s not image, Mystyk, it’s engineering.

    Apple is a SUPERIOR engineering company that engineers the hardware, software and services. That’s the difference. It’s not popularity. Windows is the Ford and Apple is the Lexus of the industry. Simple as that.

    Ford is popular. Lexus is superior.

  8. #8 Heraclides
    March 22, 2009

    Mystyk,

    One problem with your argument is that it assumes that Apple’s “simplicity” is targeted at users more advanced than “naïve” beginners or people who are never really going to learn how the system works. My own impression is that Apple deliberately make basic processes simple enough to not need “training”, to target the naïve user; if this happens to suit some more advanced users, that’s a bonus, but it’s not the target. If you can handle the complexity you can still get it via the admin tools and Unix level, and tinker away. My impression is that Apple expect people who work in the more “advanced” levels will be capable of seeking the appropriate information out and be naturally inclined to.

    OS X in it’s present form is very stable and useful, etc. To be honest I find arguments for and against are largely pointless as it seems to me that the main issues are external to the OS itself, e.g.:

    - Your intended use of the machine. If you’re after high-end gaming you’re likely better off with a Windows machine or a gaming machine (X-Box, etc) simply because that’s where the games are. If you want to host a website or database or compute server, a Linux (or Unix) server is probably still the best option (although OS X must be closing in on this for some applications now, e.g. intranets already using OS X-based software, etc). If you want both robust commercial applications and Unix-level access in the one box (as I do), OS X is a good choice. If you have no specialist interests, it’s probably a case of wanting the simplest solution and that’s where Apple “simplicity” approach has some merit. With the latter aside, this is not really about the OS per se, but the applications hosted on it.

    - What you are already familiar with the time to learn something new. If you already know Windows well, and haven’t time to learn a new OS, there is an argument for avoiding a new learning curve and you should at least toss this into your thinking. If you know little about any OS—what’s probably true of most users when you take the big view—then an OS that makes less demands on you isn’t a bad thing, and, again, Apple’s “simplicity” approach isn’t a silly approach to the market.

    (That said, I would like Apple to add “advanced users” panels to the preferences, etc., so that some of the tweaks you can get via altering the plist files are “recognised” by Apple as something for advanced users to tweak.)

    Simplistic claims about $500 more are silly in that they ignore the specific issues each user faces. You’re far better off fitting to your needs that try save an initial outlay of $500 in the long run, I think.

  9. #9 Mystyk
    March 23, 2009

    Doc Bill:

    You fell right into the very trap I warned you about: You assume superiority rather than proving it. For example, what metric have you used to determine that changing ones’ platform is a positive thing? Further, once you go above about $2000, you find that you generally get quality hardware, regardless of the software. It’s never a promise, but certainly a general rule. Also, you don’t seem aware that 98 was the last windows version that ran on DOS. Ever since then, it’s been emulated. Now it’s so far removed that you need second-hand DOS emulators to run old games and programs, because even the built-in Windows emulation of DOS can’t do it.

    Heraclides:

    I actually think that our viewpoints are closer than you realize. I fully recognize that different systems perform better in different functions – I even alluded to such in my own comment (“This means it comes down to personal choice and which factors are more important to you.”).

    Yes, OSX is stable. It also has more options under the hood because of it’s UNIX base. Previous versions didn’t have many of those features. Windows has also gotten more stable and easier for beginners to use. Hell, for that sake so has Linux. What I was alluding to is that you cannot simply say that a higher failure rate is only the OS’s fault; there are factors involved in market share that affect those numbers. Yes, the fact that it is easier for a novice to accidentally reformat their hard drive in Windows than in OSX is a minus, but virus activity and probabilities of software volatility are directly related to market share in addition to the base code’s flaws.

    In the end, people will use the systes that provide them with the most flexibility within their needs. Hardcore programmers and server operators will migrate to Linux, gamers will migrate to Windows, and graphic designers will migrate to Mac. This is not a bad thing! I own two PCs, a *nix box, a Mac, an Xbox (original), an N64, and a Commodore 64. I use them all, for different things.