It has been some time since I last posted an article, so I thought I better give you a pretty good excuse.
Long story short: I have said goodbye to my old Windows (Averatec) laptop, and have bought and am using a brand new MacBook Pro 2.4G 2/250 15″ laptop running OS X (Leopard), which I bought directly from Apple. After buying the laptop, I swapped out the 2G RAM for 4G, so now I have one sweet top of the line Mac. Right now, I’m basking in the moment since I’m sure that Steve Jobs will introduce something more cool at Macworld 2008.
Oh well, that’s the Apple tax…
My first computer, bought in 1989, was a Macintosh SE 4/40, which had its operating system on a floppy disk. From 1989 to 1997, I used Macs, and owned about eight Macs. In 1997, when I moved from Taiwan to the US, I moved to the Windows platform because the Office suite on the Macintosh was not compatible with the Windows version. At the time, Steve Jobs had just returned to Apple as CEO (for several years he preferred using the term interim CEO, or iCEO, because the company was in such bad shape.)
For a long time, I was a satisfied user of Windows. Unlike many Mac users, I don’t think that Microsoft is evil, and overall, I believe that the company has tried to develop and launch decent products which bring value to their customers. But I think that there are problems.
First of all, Microsoft has too many product lines and business units. The end result: there are too many mini-business kingdoms fighting for their piece of the pie. Apple does not have this problem; it is run by only two people, Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive. By any definition, they are very smart, even brilliant. Ultimately, they make the call about every product and service Apple ships. This means that there are no mini-business kingdoms at Apple.
Unlike Microsoft, Apple is run by designers. Engineers are interested in technology and features; designers are interested in how to make technology usable. For designers, user experience is everything. Jobs and Ive are designers, not engineers. Most people are excited by design and usability, not by technology and features. Since Apple controls the hardware and software, Jobs and Ive are in a unique position to control and shape user experience in a way no other company, not even Microsoft, can. This is why the iPhone has been a runaway success, not just in the US where it was first launched, but all over the world. When it comes to the space where technology and design meet, Apple is in a league all its own, and the market is now rewarding it.
But Jobs doesn’t just understand design, he also understands marketing, which is all about managing peoples’ expectations and perceptions. Even though he is widely respected, he never hogs the spotlight; by saying less, he puts Apple’s products and services in the spotlight where Mac aficionados can work themselves into an excited frenzy and become evangelists for the company. By saying and doing less, Steve Jobs does more for the company.
Enough big picture stuff; let’s talk about the experience. Long story short: I love it. The OS feels mature, and it does everything I want it to do, and fast. I tend to be a fast thinker with bad short-term memory; when I want something I want it to happen right away. There is a Chinese saying xinxiang shicheng which means “to get something as soon as you can think of it”. That was always the ideal when talking about computing for me; why couldn’t the computer do what I wanted it to do NOW? For the first time, I feel that I’m close to that goal.
While Windows has been generally satisfactory, I have never been satisfied with Windows registry. While a new Windows computer was snappy, it would quickly decay into molasses mode when the registry got all gooked up. During the ten years I have been using Windows, I have used several different versions of Windows (Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows 2000, and Windows XP). And this does not include the software patches for all the different versions. From a business and customer point of view, it makes no sense that Microsoft could not take care of the registry problem over the past ten years. During the same ten years, Apple has been able to shift to an all-new Unix-based operating system which is rock-solid and continues to improve in performance.
At the same time, with Windows I still have to put up with some DOS commands and foibles such as the backward slash for directory navigation, instead of the forward slash used by Unix, and Windows failure to differentiate between upper- and lower-case in naming conventions. (I have a real problem with the backward slash “\” even though Bill Gates invented it himself.) If I’m spending most of my time on the Internet, why not just deal with Unix on the computer’s OS, which is the native language of the Internet?
Microsoft should be more like Apple and just explain to their customers why they are phasing out a lot of the obsolescent stuff including DOS commands and navigation, and should bring Windows naming conventions in line with Unix.
I bought and installed a copy of Windows XP so that I could run my favorite Windows application, MindManager Pro 7. Since Mindjet also makes a Mac version, I have downloaded the trial version and have been using that. Result: I haven’t been running Windows XP at all.
I can see that I’ll be doing some prototyping and maybe even development on this computer. For this reason, I’m keeping the configuration relatively simple and clean. Web servers use port 80; since Skype uses port 80 too, I’m keeping it off this machine. I’m thinking of getting a new ASUS Eee PC to cover that.
They should keep me busy for a while…