Both Andrew and I are used to having friends, acquaintances and outright strangers asking us for advice on buying their next computer. However, in recent months, I've been amazed at the sheer volume of people who have been asking whether they should switch to Mac. In many cases, the answer is an easy one: "Most definitely! Get your skates on, let's go buy one now!" But despite the fact that I have Apple juice running in my veins and that if you gave me open heart surgery, I most likely have a Mac Mini instead of a heart, I still strongly believe that Mac isn't for everyone. In some conditions, OS X just isn't right.
So here are the questions I think anyone on the fence about switching to Mac should ask themselves before giving Steve Jobs their credit card details...
1. Do I use any particular Windows-only software on a regular basis?
- If your answer is yes, then look into Mac alternatives. The best solution isn't always necessarily an OS X port of your fave Windows apps. In fact, it most likely isn't. There are tons of great Mac apps out there.
- Can't find an alternative? You can always run the app in BootCamp or Parallels on your Mac, and this will suit almost anyone.
- Still not sold on this solution? Then this is where you should probably stick to Windoze.
- Don't need any Windows software? Attaboy!
2. Do I have anything to worry about compatibility-wise?
In 99% of cases, no you don't. However, if you use very specialised software, again, do your homework before the Big Move.
3. Will it take me time to get used to the difference in user interface?
Yes, it will. There's no way around it.
It takes some time to get used to a new way of doing things. You'll need to think differently, far beyond simply going to the other corner of Firefox to close a window. Shortcuts are different. The way installs and uninstalls are handled is different. Using the hardware itself is different: For example, with a Mac laptop, you'll hardly ever need to turn it off, as shutting the lid sends it to sleep so comfortably that I only turned mine off once since Christmas, and rebooted a handful of times for updates.
You'll also need to get used to... things just... working! Plug a peripheral in and it works. Add a printer to the network and there it is. Your stress levels will definitely go down.
It's a complete mentality shift and it will take time to adapt. So give yourself time, have patience and be ready to relearn. Once you get up to speed, you WILL love it, I promise!
This is one of many reasons that, for example, we didn't encourage Andrew's parents to move to Mac. Their use of computers is pretty simple: browsing, email, photo management. They know their way around these features in Windows. There was simply no benefit in shifting them into a whole new environment.
4. Will it cost me a lot more than a Windows machine?
Actually, it probably won't. Sure you can buy Dell's loss leader at £395 and be sorted for a few years. But if you need to spec up your Windows machine to a similar level to what's the bare minimum offered on Mac, you'll find that the prices are similar.
This can be argued, and I'm sure my smart ass friends will come disagree with me on this point, but as far as personal research goes, that's my observation.
5. Will I get special treatment and a secret handshake?
No. That's fanboy nonsense.
Ten years ago, meeting another Mac user was a revelation and a bit of a dirty secret. I certainly didn't know any other Mac users my age. They were all middle aged men, usually my dad or grandpa's acquaintances.
Today, well... Show up at a conference and count the laptops. Odds are a vast number of them will be Macs. In fact, somewhere between 15 and 20% of all laptops bought in the US since March are Macs. It doesn't get a second look anymore, and in a way that's good.
Hopefully that'll send the fanboys away to play with a different new shiny toy. Hopefully...
6. Am I doing it just because all the other cool kids are doing it?
Yes? Then piss off, I have no interest in giving you support. :P
In summary, Macs are probably a good solution for Chantal, a graduating student who's living space is limited and who wants a fast, reliable machine. It's also a great solution for my dad who's still living in the 90's using OS 9.2 (that's a hint, dad! ;) ) but it might not be the best solution for, say, my sis-in-law Lisa who just wants a bog-basic laptop to use a couple of times a week to check email.
To each their own, pick whatever you feel most comfortable with!
One last piece of advice. Oi! Here! Pay attention or it'll cost you!
The new OS X operating system, called Leopard, is coming out within the next three or four weeks, so my advice is to wait until it comes out to buy a new Mac, to ensure you get the latest OS.
[Update: Leopard came out in late October, and it's fantastic. So go ahead and upgrade now if you're ready!]