Decision Maker

Don Jones: Why I Use a Mac

Yes, Redmond magazine columnist and Windows author and expert Don Jones uses a Mac -- and not just occasionally. Read on to find out why.

It's one of the worst-kept secrets of the IT industry: I, Don Jones, use a Mac. And it runs Mac OS X, not Windows. Microsoft probably hates it when I pop up on stage at TechEd with the glowing Apple logo, but hey -- it runs Microsoft Office!

There are actually some very good reasons why I use a Mac, though, and I think they're worth sharing. First, I like Windows a bit too much, and I know a bit too much about it. It's my toy. I always have a virtual machine (VM) or two running some version of Windows, and I'm constantly messing it up by experimenting with it. So, I roll back the VM to a known-good snapshot, and keep on truckin'. The Mac, on the other hand, is a tool. I have no desire whatsoever to play with it. It runs my productivity apps, and that's about it. I actually know several Windows network admins who do the same thing: Run Mac OS so they'll have a machine they won't mess up, and then run Windows in several VMs so they can "play" safely.

Another reason is perhaps more relevant to today's businesses: I run a Mac because I know so little about them, compared to my Windows knowledge. That probably seems like a weird statement. But the fact is that businesses are using Macs in increasing numbers. That means I have students asking questions about how to support them in a Windows environment; customers asking questions about how to integrate them; and even the occasional end user asking how to perform some function or other on a Mac. As an independent consultant, I need to be able to answer those questions, or I'm handing business over to a competitor. I also need to know when a Mac is the right tool for a specific customer need, so that I can make an intelligent, reasoned recommendation. I think more IT departments should be the same way. Using my Mac every day forces me to learn how to use it, and eventually I'll perhaps be as good with it as I am with Windows.

There's also the parachute reason: While I foresee Windows having a long, long future, I don't know that it'll continue to have as commanding a market share as it does right now. Microsoft has made some missteps, and it could make more. I'm a little nervous. Macs, to me, represent a potential alternative for businesses -- and so I'm keeping my hand in the Mac game, just in case. Again, having that kind of fallback plan isn't a bad idea for IT departments, either. Having expertise in two or three OSes helps to quell the sometimes-religious fervor we have for our "favorite" products, which we often have because they're the only products we know. If you're an expert in Unix and you hate it, that's fine. But if you "hate" Unix, and try to steer people away from it just because you feel threatened by it … well, that doesn't help anyone.

It's funny. I know a lot of software developers and not a single one of them knows only one language. They know C#, Java, JavaScript, a bit of PHP, maybe some IronPython, maybe a little Ruby. Nobody bats an eyelash. But when I whip out my Macbook Air (so featherweight, so svelte) at a conference, people smirk.

But you know something? Some of the smartest, most-effective leaders at Microsoft aren't "Microsoft guys." Jeffrey Snover, architect for Windows Server and inventor of Windows PowerShell, came from Digital. He's got VMS experience, some AS/400 blood in his veins, and more than a little Unix floating around his brain. Windows PowerShell itself benefits by its adaptation of techniques from other platforms and technologies. There's value in being cross-platform -- it lets you bring a bit of the best to everything you do.

So don't look at me funny the next time you see me on stage with my Mac. It's good for you.

About the Author

Don Jones is a 12-year industry veteran, author of more than 45 technology books and an in-demand speaker at industry events worldwide. His broad technological background, combined with his years of managerial-level business experience, make him a sought-after consultant by companies that want to better align their technology resources to their business direction. Jones is a contributor to TechNet Magazine and Redmond, and writes a blog at ConcentratedTech.com.

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