Friday, November 13, 2009

"Why would anyone buy a Mac now?"

There was a bit of a lively discussion the other night about Macs and PCs. A friend had picked up an Acer Laptop for about $350 with a pretty impressive spec sheet (15" monitor, dual-core processor, 4 GB RAM, 256 MB graphics card, Windows 7). He had looked into Macs but the closest thing to that was the MacBook Pro 15" for $1600. Ouch, what a price difference!

Then he poses the question: "Why would anybody buy a Mac now?"

Hmm. Well, I can't imagine he came to me looking for objectivity, I'm fairly well biased. Still, are we really that disparate now? A $1250 premium for a Mac laptop does seem pretty onerous, especially since Macs and PCs were supposedly on par pricewise for awhile there.

We should probably mention here that at least some of that cost savings on those PC laptops is advertising -- apparently companies pay PC manufacturers to include their software on the machine. So when you boot it up, you get a ton of ads, spyware, and other junk you have to turn around and clean back off. What a mess. I'd pay $100 just to not have to mess with that. So we're up to $450, but that's a far cry from $1600.

So what'd I say to him?

I told him different people value things differently, and I could think of at least 25 things I valued enough more on the Mac to make it worth it for me.

"No way!" he says. "You can't think of 25 things."


  1. No viruses. What is that peace of mind worth?

  2. Awesome process scheduler. The mac prioritizes the user interface much better than Windows. Doesn't seem to matter how busy the computer is, I can still move the mouse around, switch windows, etc. Windows (and linux for that matter) have always let the interface suffer when the machine gets busy.

  3. Window manager not in the kernel. Huh? This means that the part of the OS that draws the windows is wedged into the core of the OS, but runs as a separate process. Why is this good? Ever have your Windows-windows stall, i.e. stop drawing? You drag them and they act like a cutout of that part of the screen? Happens all the time on Windows, but rarely on the Mac (actually never, but I hesitate to use that word).

  4. Time Machine. Plug in a spare drive, accept the OS's offer to make it a Time Machine drive, and it builds you a back up, taking regular snapshots as incremental backups (but not wasting drive space!). Their solution is quite elegant (uses unix hard links), each snapshot looks and acts like your entire disk file structure. Very nice!

  5. Spotlight. Fast system-wide contextual search. Maybe Windows 7 does this better, but none of the Windows versions I've ever used have done this well.

  6. Expose/Spaces. Supposedly Windows 7 just stole this from the Mac, but I'm guessing they did a half-keister job of it. I love being able to invoke expose or spaces in the middle of a drag.

  7. Unix. The Mac is a unix machine under the hood, and it's very nice. I have written lots of perl and awk scripts to do stuff for me, and it's great being able to have perl create emails for Entourage (Mac equivalent of Outlook), or to pipe the output of a unix command to my text editor. Also has X11, so much of the open-source stuff from the linux community is available as well. I love rsync. Love that I can type "open ." in a terminal window and have the Finder open a window of that subdirectory; or drag a file from the Finder into a Terminal window and have it insert the path to that file. SSH/sshd built in. Find. Apache webserver. Super stable. Etc.

  8. Robust networking. I come and go on my laptops, and they always just happily connect to the network wherever I am, wired or wireless. I could never get Windows to do this.

  9. Column view in the Finder. I've grown to love this view. The sidebar shortcuts are also a huge time saver.

  10. Long battery life. My work laptop gets 5-6 hours off a single battery charge. My home laptop is older, but usually gets 2-3. I was lucky to get 45 minutes out of my Windows laptop.

  11. Built-in PDF generation, editing. Anything you can print in the OS you can make a PDF of. I use this *all the time*. Also, you can delete and reorder pages, then save a copy. All built-in.

  12. No reboots necessary. I seriously can't remember the last time I restarted either my work or home laptops. I put off OS updates just because I don't want to have to reboot. I love an OS with long-term stability!

  13. Good sleepers. I just close the lid, and when I open the lid, they're back up and usable faster than I can get the lid opened all the way. My Windows laptop would always drain the battery whenever I just closed the lid, and the machine would be off the next morning when I opened it back up. I wanted to drop-kick it into the parking lot. On the Mac, when the battery's about to die it writes the contents of RAM to the hard disk, and when you power up it reloads the RAM in about 10 seconds and you're back in business. Awesome.

  14. Multi-touch trackpad. Windows laptop trackpad stunk -- no multi-touch, inconsistent response, etc. Mac laptop is a joy -- 2 finger scrolling, 3 finger page turns, 4 finger expose control, and more.

  15. Quick window zoom. Hold down control and swipe 2 fingers up or down on the trackpad (or hold down control and spin the mouse wheel). Fun, and I use it all the time.

  16. Best of 2 worlds. A platform with native MS Office, Photoshop, Quicktime, and unix terminal all in one. Any other platforms do that? I can also run Windows and Linux in a virtual machine, having all 3 platforms on one machine.

  17. Great keyboards. I love the new flat keyboards, they have a nice touch.

  18. Auto detect monitors. Everybody at work who plugs their Windows laptop into a projector or external monitor has come to expect trouble. Not me, monitors come up fine, even hot-plugged.

  19. iChat with screen sharing. If mom calls needing help with her computer, I can be looking at and controlling her screen in about 20 seconds, all with built-in software. Awesome. Pretty rare, though, she doesn't need help very often.

  20. One-click flash drive eject. Why does Windows make this so hard? Snow Leopard made ejecting flash drives a joy, no more "you can't eject this drive because an application is using it..." errors.

  21. Built-in screenshots. I can take a snapshot of any part of my screen with a single keystroke, very cool.

  22. Built-in zip and unzip. No WinZip necessary. I prefer tarballs myself, and also has bzip2.

  23. Built-in dictionary/thesaurus. I use this all the time. You can even do a spotlight search for a word and one of the options is the definition in the Dictionary app.

  24. Applescript. System-wide almost user-friendly scripting tool. Lets you do things like automatically build a spreadsheet from the contents of an email filtered through a unix command, then email it to someone, all automatically. Does require some skill but not a CS degree.

  25. Quicklook. Highlight any file (or files) in the Finder and press space and get an instant preview of it. Another huge timesaver.

  26. Mounts and compatibility. NFS, SMB, AFP, FTP, VNC connections supported natively (probably more). Macs can read FAT32/NTFS drives, but PCs can't read Mac HFS+ drives.

  27. Disk images. Built-in support for encrypted and non-encrypted drive images. I store all my sensitive stuff on one of these and don't worry about my laptop getting stolen.

  28. Acceleration sensors. Laptops have acceleration sensors such that if it detects that it's falling, it quickly parks the drive heads on my hard disk before it hits the ground to keep from damaging my drive.

  29. Drivers. Almost no futzing with drivers. With my current batch of hardware I didn't have to install goofy drivers for any of it, not my printer, scanner, digital camera, or digital video camera. Ever try installing a printer under Windows? Never works the first try, often not the second either.

  30. Unobtrusive. Somehow on PCs I feel like I'm always tripping over the interface, it's always asking me dumb questions or notifying me of things I don't care about. Or not working for reasons I can't determine (and my Windows using friends can't either). The Mac works, and stays out of my way and lets me work.

There's 30, want me to keep going? =)


onecsguy said...

lol, hope you realize Windows 7 which is the acer your friend bought, covers more than 50% of your reasons =P.

Anyway, it seems like your comparing Windows XP/98 to Mac OSX Snow Leopard =P
I'm a user of Ubuntu 10.10, Windows 7 in a VM, and Mac OSX for iOS development

Windows 7's process scheduler was the primary focus for the windows team, and the UI no longer locks up, and vista solved the draggable cutout issue already.
Spotlight: Windows 7 does do this better, they have added categories and better indexing so its faster and gets to what you are looking for, much better than vista (in my opinion better than spotlight).
Expose In the middle of a drag: Windows 7 can do a similar thing now when you hover over a program itl show you whats in its screen now in full size rather than thumbnails so you can actually use it better than expose when dragging especially if you have multiple documents possibly word documents open.
Unix: Windows now has PowerShell which enables C# scripting and intellisense like discovery for almost all microsoft products and functions.
Robust Networking: Again, another focus of Windows 7, lacking in earlier editions. Seems solid in Windows 7.
Column View in Finder: seems windows 7 has that already along with many other views.
Long Battery Life: New MacBooks dont have replacable batteries and many newer widnows laptops have over 5 hours (buy 3 batteries and go on an international flight) with a new macbook, after the 5 hours you can swap the battery and you not by an airplane battery outlet your screwed (or sleeping)
No Reboots Neccesary: (i just installed some software on my mac that required a reboot) I have a Windows 7 PC that hasnt been rebooted for 161 days and counting corruption and memory leaks that caused XP and less so vista to need reboots are fixed in Windows 7.
Good Sleepers: Hybrid sleep new to Windwos 7 does exactly what the mac does, sleeps, then Hiberantes later before battery dies or after a time period (actually hibernates first internally, then doesnt shut down leaving it in sleep mode, but when battery dies RAM had already been written to disk).
Multitouch Trackpad: Windows has this now, also Multitouch Screen)(so windows users can save another $600 by not buying an iPad since they can get affordable convertable tablets and just carry one device around) about $200 is the extra paid for a multitouch screen from most manufacturers.
Quick Windows Zoom: Windows 7 has this feature now altho key combination is not enabled by default
Great Keyboard: Choose your keyboard with Windows, but Sony and HP have the flat keyboard available side by side feel the same as the new macbook keyboards.
Autodetect Monitors: again another focus for Windows 7, Presentaion modes and handy windwos that pops up allowing you to clone,extend or switch.
Built In Screen Shots: Windows XP could do this with a single keypress for screen, of Ctrl+PrtScreen for current window, Windows Vista and 7 have a snippet option that allows you to drag a border around any screen element.
Built In Zip and Unzip, this has been a feature since Windwos XP, lol, tar gz etc can be seamlessly added to the interface with free software. (windows is more extendable than macosx, not than linux tho of course)
Applescript: Again, Powershell C#.
Quick Look: A bit of a stretch but windows has this now, its getting better but must be supported by software manufacturers, the usual Word, Text, Excel currently work, PDF however is still missing i believe.
DiskImages, for $70 upgrade to Windows Professional you get this feature, much less than the $1000 upgrade to OSX =D, All editions of Windows 7, provide (2) click document backups.
AccelerationSensor: Almost all HP laptops have this built in, not sure about others.
Drivers: again, a major focus for windwos 7, It now has drivers even that Vista depricated also installs a printer as soon as its plugged in, no clicking necessary (still doesn't like scanners).

Anonymous said...

Heard of Ubuntu?? Buy a regular PC for $400, get Ubuntu for free!!! NO VIRUSES!!!! Humm..

It would take a moron to buy a Mac, based on your arguement, Linux has most all the features you used there.

Seems like a no brainer, people buy macs for the status, and have ntoing better to do with their money.

David Morrison said...

If you started with the MacBook specs and went looking for a Windows laptop with those exact specs how much would that cost?

bryan said...

Haha, see my latest post as to why David's post just hit... Anyway, most of the things I like are OS-related so you don't get the same thing even if the specs are the same...

bryan said...

I left that first comment in moderation for a long time because it sounds like a teenager troll, but giving them the benefit of the doubt--

Yes, I use linux at work every day, and no it doesn't have all the features I list, at least not without researching the myriads of options, downloading/configuring/installing, futzing with incompatibilities, and dealing with the peculiarities of the implementation. The core stuff on linux is awesome. The added stuff bit-rots like crazy.

The last straw for me was trying to get a DVD to play on my Ubuntu box after the latest update broke it. I downloaded the libraries (of questionable legality), but then some other component was incompatible and after fixing that it just didn't work -- no error messages, nothing, just a blank player window. Such a simple thing, broken by a software update.

I spent 10x more time trying to get Ubuntu to do half the stuff that my Mac does out of the box. Unless I need a web server or some other kind of processing server (or I'm flat broke), it's not worth it to me.

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008