The Last Mac Holdout

Computer Life column for 6/28/97 by
Richard Gordon


I have a reputation at work for being a champion of all things Apple. However, over the past year, I have been subject to the influence of the Microsoft empire.

I remember rolling my eyes while I watched Jay Leno MC the official announcement of Windows95. But even this Letterman fan now sees that Windows95 is suitable for most people.

How have I come to this place?

First, I've watched Apple make mistake upon mistake for over a decade. There was a time in the late 80's and early 90's when the computers Apple manufactured were superior in design and usability. But bad marketing, production, and pricing decisions led Apple to squander that advantage.

Second, I've watched the software available for Macintosh systems take up less and less space at area stores. And demos of fewer Macintosh titles are available over the Web. You can order lots of Macintosh software from a mail order house, but that's sometimes not the purchasing experience you want. You often want to try software before buying it.

Third, at work I built a good professional relationship with our Apple representative. He went out of his way to help me help faculty numerous times and always got me information in a timely fashion. One reason I remained steadfast and true to the multicolored Apple logo was because of the respect I have for this individual.

Guess what. He recently resigned from Apple and now works for a major maker of Windows95 systems. In fact, I saw him on campus Tuesday, making a presentation on behalf of his new employer.

Fourth, I now use a Windows95 system on a daily basis and find that, once set up, it is a reliable, easy-to-use system. I admit I'm still enjoying the mystery of "OK, so where did Windows put THAT file?", but so far have always been able to find things using the Windows Explorer. To be fair, my colleagues who start out on a Windows system and then use a Mac report similar confusion.

Macintosh: No Value Added

Neither operating system is a magic bullet to solve all your computing woes. The advantages and disadvantages of each mean that neither gives enough added value to tip the scales.

My experience is that the MacOS is still slightly easier to use for someone who knows absolutely nothing about computers, particularly if he has to install new software. But that gap has narrowed considerably.

Macs also used to be superior in how they managed memory. But with RAM prices so low and with the improvements in Windows95, this gap has also all but disappeared.

It used to be that Intel-chip based systems were a commodity that one would buy by comparing specs and price. However, since companies such as Umax, Power Computing, and Motorola are now able to market MacOS systems and since the software to do most things works well on both Macs and Windows95 systems, it's reached the point that all desktop computers are a comparable commodity.

For example, I use one of my two work computers more often than the other because it happens to be faster (233Mhz vs. 60Mhz) and have more memory (64M vs. 16M). I gain no advantage based on operating system.

Macintosh software used in the visual arts, to edit video, and in K-12 education still seems robust and healthy. But everywhere else, including the former stronghold of digital music processing, the software available for Windows systems seems a better long range option.

As a happy user of both operating systems, I'm no longer rabidly pro-Apple. In fact, if people ask me what to buy, I now usually suggest a Windows machine made by a manufacturer with a good history.

New to Delaware?

Check out the Delaware Almanac section of tomorrow's News Journal for a selection of Web sites we think you'll find useful if you're new to the region. We don't list every Delaware Web site, but you'll still tie up your computer for hours.


Copyright © 1997, The News Journal Company

Computer Life Index

Richard Gordon helps support faculty, staff and student computing at the University of Delaware. E-mail questions, comments or suggestions to richard@inet.net, or write him at The News Journal, Box 15505, Wilmington, DE 19850. Although each note cannot be answered individually, reader comments and questions will often be incorporated in future columns.