Monday, 16 May 2011

Behold the reluctant Apple warrior

The on-train office. Screen reflection was
in photo, but not in use of iPad.
There was a time when I was very wary of Apple. I was a DOS man. I knew my way around that operating system like the back of my hand. I could do things with a command line prompt that would make your hair curl. I sneered at the limp wristed Apple users who hadn't a clue what was going on in their machines. If anything went wrong (and it seemed to quite a lot in the early days of Mac - remember the 'bomb' icon?) they were stuffed, where I could reach under the covers and sort it out.

Now, of course, with Windows 7 or Vista I'm just as stuffed as they were. But I couldn't possibly think of changing operating system, could I?

Then, under the influence of alcohol and Dr G. of Cromer I got an iPhone. Up to that point I was of the 'all I need is calls and text' persuasion. I was still using my 10-year-old Nokia, persuading myself it was cool because they had them in the Matrix. But very soon the iPhone became an essential part of my daily life. It wasn't just all the features and apps, it was so usable! But I didn't give a thought to changing my main computing platform.

Last Wednesday I acquired an iPad. I spent a whole day on Thursday using it as my 'away' computer and never once thought 'I wish I'd brought a real laptop.' I really can't think of anything I used to do with a laptop/netbook that I wouldn't be able to do on my iPad. It did everything I wanted, had all those brilliant apps and the battery lasted me all day with plenty to spare.

And while I was using it - in fact while I was writing this blog post on the train - a sacrilegious thought came to me. Later this year I am going to be replacing my desktop. Do I really want a Windows 7 PC, or should I get a Mac? And for the first time ever I really wasn't sure which way I should go. Two bites of the Apple and I was in danger of being thrown out of the garden of Eden. As an omen, my laptop bag is on its last legs. Why an omen? Because it was a giveaway from the Windows 95 launch. It's as if Windows is coming apart in my hands.

If I am honest, if it weren't for a number of issues I'd take the plunge. I was teetering on the edge, but a quick comparison of costs between Macs and Dell quickly poured on a bit of cold water. Up to £1,000 worth of cold water if you include the software. I'd have to buy much of my software again (one key application isn't even available on Mac). There are a couple of hardware issues too. For example, I use a Pinnacle Soundbridge to play music from my computer through my stereo, which uses Media Player as a server and wouldn't work with a Mac. I suspect in the end I will stick with a PC. But I came so close.


  1. I'm not a proselytiser for Mac, just like them. But ways round these obstacles to conversion, surely?

    I know amusingly little about computers but play (and record) music on Macbook using an iMic, which only costs a few quid - maybe your thing is more sophisticated?

    Home office works with his and hers Mac Minis, which are cheap and mean only having to change monitors when you really need to...

    And can't you tell Macs to pretend they're PCs if you want to run Windows software? We also have a cheap netbook which now thinks it's a Mac, after kind attention from daughter's boyfriend.

    Mac also means you can use Scrivener, to which I am addicted for book writing.

    Of course I really, really want an iPad, but can't quite justify buying one until at least one laptop dies - and Macs are damnably durable!

  2. I firmly believe it's just a matter of time. And I would never say Macs are easier to use (though they are). Just more elegant.
    But that bomb icon! God, why did you have to remind me! :-)

  3. If I could do it for the same amount of money, or even a 10% increase, I would. Of course it's possible to get round the obstacles, Jon, but that involves spending a lot of money and time.

    I reckon to get equivalent hardware to the Dell I'm likely to get, plus to replace my key Windows software with Mac software would cost around £1,000 extra. Then there's the problem that I have 6 websites written/managed from WebPlus, which doesn't have a Mac version. It would take weeks to convert them into another management system.

  4. Brian - welcome to the Dark Side.

  5. I went over to Mac before I got my iPhone or iPad, about two years ago, when I had to replace my trusty Windows XP home computer --and Vista (with all its problems) was the only PC game in town. So I bought a 24" Mac. It was a revelation. I felt like I'd been banging my head against a wall for years, and had now stopped.

    Back then it cost me about £1300 with all the software I needed installed - the same as my old Dell laptop cost me.

    Yes, there are all the problems with transitions and such, but I find the iMac scores over PCs in a number of ways, not least the ease with which it interfaces with external devices such as cameras and so on. iTunes (which you need to manage your iPad) is much nimbler on a Mac. And you'll find the operating system so much faster than a PC.

  6. I am still tempted, Henry, believe me. There is a cost difference of a few hundred, but I could bear that. The main things holding me back are:

    a) Maintenance. With Dell I get next day on-site, where Apple is 'when we get round to it' off-site. When this is the computer that runs my business, that's a bit worrying.

    b) Some transfer issues. I have several websites written/managed with Serif WebPlus, which would take a lot of effort to re-write into another environment. I also do my accounts on a legacy Access 2000 database, and would have to set them up again in another environment - this could take quite a while!

  7. ... and there's the £££ you save by not having to shell out for third party security software.

    But why should it be a zero-sum game? Presumably you'll keep your PC in a semi-retired state - you won't throw it out the moment you get a new computer, will you?

  8. The security software costs about £15 a year per PC, so not world shattering.

    Unfortunately it is a zero sum game - the current PC is leased and will be gone by 1 September.

  9. Hmmm. Well, in that case I'd go for another PC. I hear good things about Windows 7.