Sick of Blue Screens? Get a Mac!

August 25, 2007

Don’t fret: Fantasies about ditching Windows are perfectly normal–maybe even healthy. Mac heads are dissing our machines again! Nothing new about that–except that now they’re doing it on television in commercials paid for by Apple. They’re calling Windows machines “horrid” and “clunky” and “unwieldy.” They’re even saying that they’re “disgusted!”

You’re probably thinking, “So what? They’re like a religious cult. Apple’s last big campaign featured famous dead people who’d never touched a computer, let alone a Mac.”

But now they’re bringing up the Blue Screen of Death! In public!

You’re probably thinking, “Hey, that’s our dirty little secret. These Apple guys must be stopped!”

Or maybe you’re thinking something else–the Appleseed that Steve Jobs wants to plant in your brain: “Is the Mac really easier and more reliable? And should I consider it for my next computer?”

After all, you’re already using lots of Apple’s pioneering concepts: Microsoft acknowledged in a written agreement with Apple back in 1985 that Windows was “derivative…of the visual displays generated by Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh.” And from Windows 1.0 to XP, the operating system has grown more Mac-like, not less.

Then there’s innovation. The 3.5-inch floppy disk drive? First seen on the original Mac. Wireless networking via 802.11b (Wi-Fi)? As AirPort, it rolled out first in Macs. And Macs had built-in ethernet when it was a mere add-on for PCs. Although these technologies weren’t invented at Apple, it committed to them long before they trickled down to Windows.

Some things were invented at Apple, including one advance now in every Mac: FireWire. Too bad the high-speed port (aka IEEE 1394) has been slow to catch on in PCs, in part because of the even slower-to-arrive copycat USB 2.0 standard. And the Mac is often far more elegant: Thanks to Apple software, editing digital video or burning a DVD on a Mac is almost a pleasure. On PCs, it’s almost always a pain.

Windows users just get used to annoyances that Mac users don’t have to put up with. Exhibit A: the Registry. That nightmarish Microsoft innovation means it’s far easier to move applications between Macintoshes than it is to go through the grueling reinstallation process that keeps PC users clutching their current machines rather than upgrading.

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Prior versions of the Mac OS managed memory poorly and crashed more often than Windows. My limited experience with OS X suggests that these problems have largely been corrected. Still, the Mac is far from perfect. I continue to prefer the PC’s windowing interface, its lack of proprietary connectors, and its freedom of hardware choice (particularly in laptops, where I like ’em small and Steve Jobs apparently doesn’t).

But every day that brings a Blue Screen of Death, a networking disaster, or a collection of security warnings from Microsoft is a day that more Windows users will consider making the Big Switch. And while there’s no hard evidence that Apple is developing an Intel version, consider this: If OS X were available for the machine you have now, wouldn’t you be frustrated enough with Windows to give it a try?

Contributing Editor Stephen Manes, a cohost of the public television series Digital Duo, has written about PCs for nearly two decades.


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