There are a few topics that are often best avoided over dinner conversations as they elicit very strong views and emotions. Such topics include religion, politics and operating systems.
The electronic holy war that used to be Linux vs. Windows has somewhat changed into an Apple versus non-Apple debate, spurred by the competition between iOS and Android devices with each side having their fanatics. This is all the more obvious reading comments left on BBC blogs about Apple coverage.
I have always found myself using multiple platforms for convenience. My desktop workstation runs Windows whilst I tend to prefer using Linux based servers. I have used Symbian, Android and iOS devices and today; carry two of these with me for different purposes.
At thinkbroadband, we use the full range of operating systems both on desktops and portable devices, and we often internally have debates (sometimes just to wind each other up) about their respective merits and features.
Over the last ten or so years, I have been an avid user of the Sony Vaio-series of laptops, focusing mainly on their slim (TZ/TX) models as I often carry around a laptop with me. I think Sony produce some very nice devices that last as long as I expect them to, and have good features. As my friends and colleagues will know, I am not one for following fads but following repeated praise from so many people, I decided to give Apple Macbooks a go.
Let me first set out my major criticism of Apple laptops, and the reason I have not considered a switch to Apple before; one of the major benefits of other notebooks is the ability to buy models with built in 3G wireless cards, meaning that you don’t need to have a USB dongle to carry around to connect to the Internet. This is most significant in the UK obviously, as using mobile broadband abroad is prohibitively expensive, although I would add that laptop 3G modems are usually unlocked and thus you could easily insert a foreign SIM card. I like not having a separate USB stick to lose, and having the SIM card in the laptop, with a decent antenna. I realise Apple no doubt believe I should be using my iPhone tethering functions, but I like separation of these functions for a number of reasons, including being able to use a foreign SIM card for data because of the cost whilst keeping my usual telephone number on my phone. The lack of a built in SIM card slot is therefore most annoying.
I was quite surprised by how quickly OS X booted up for the very first time, given Windows installs tend to take half an hour or longer to complete the installation. Within a few minutes of turning my shiny new laptop on, a video started playing, welcoming me in many different languages to the world of Apple.
I have spent the past week away at the SXSW Interactive conference, and left my trusted Sony Vaio laptop at home. Instead, I took a MacBook Air 13″ and I have used this exclusively for the last week and this has proven it can work for me.
Following this experience, I am today declaring myself a MacBook user.
Weaning you off Windows – Parallels
One of the key tools that lets you to ‘wean’ off your Windows habits on Apple Macs is Parallels, which lets you run any Windows applications inside a virtual machine, in a mode that essentially makes them appear like normal Apple applications. It is rather ironic that since installing it, I have actually found very little need for Windows applications at all on my laptop, although it will be a slightly different story if and when I look at switching my desktop.
However, despite all these issues, the MacBook Air has won me over as indeed has the iPhone4 and iPad. The size of the screen, excellent battery life, and the way in which it suspends and resumes quickly when you close and open the screen are key to this—whilst the suspend feature is available in Windows laptops, I have never really found it to work well in terms of recovery time and battery life. This may be one of the benefits of Apple having control over both the operating system and the hardware.
Popularity of Mac
In the Internet industry, Apple laptops have been the norm for quite some time, something that has become very apparent when attending conferences. You have to look around for quite a while to find someone who isn’t using an Apple device. I tried using Macs a few years ago with a PowerBook G4 and a Mac Mini, but I never quite felt it gave me enough of a reason to switch. What made me reconsider was the iPad, which gave me a taste of Apple’s amazing hardware and software design. It has some parallels to the enhancements offered by OS/2 Warp over previous versions of the alternative operating system of the early-to-mid 1990s.
This preference for Macs was even more dominant at SXSWi where practically every attendee using a laptop was using a MacBook, every cellphone was an iPhone and every tablet was an iPad; the only remaining question being whether it was an iPad2?
These photos aren’t great as they are indoors without flash, nor do they illustrate the sheer volume of Apple devices, but you get the picture :)
Why Macs are great on planes
Not only is the instant-on and extended battery life great when you are flying and don’t have access to a power socket, I was also going to praise the size and shape of the MacBook Air 13″ for its suitability for working on planes, making the best use of available space whilst giving you a sizeable desktop; that was until the person in front of me reclined their seat. So, if it was you travelling in seat 6C on BA795 from Helsinki to London on Thursday morning, thanks!
I should probably thank another former Apple refusenik and current apple fan Theo Zourzouvillys, for finally persuading me to give it a try :)