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

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Reader Comments:

Tue, May 15, 2012 JOY

It doesn't sound like many of you spend a lot of time in the Apple environment. While both the MacOS and IOS provide elegant interfaces, what they also provide are simplicity, consistency, reliability and real technological capabilities. What this does is enable people who are not technologically sophisticated to be able to use their technology usefully and effectively, AND enjoy doing so at the same time. From what I've seen of Windows 8, its only going to make the MacOS and IOS look better.

Tue, May 15, 2012 Dan Iowa

Well, up to now I use only Windows. I have used Macs before, but not any recent iteration. I know a lot about Windows, but I do keep avoid "playing" with the one that I run my productivity tools on. If business switches over to Macs then maybe I'll switch right along with, but I think we're a long way from that. Let's face it. Mac's are cool these days because the logic of a teenager says, this iPhone is cool. If the iPhone is cool the Mac must be cool because Apple makes both. The problem with this logic is that these teenagers will grow up, and they'll have kids. Their kids will think my Dad/Mom use a Mac and an iPhone. Therefore these things are, by definition, NOT cool. Well you know the rest of the story... We'll end up switching to things like Androids or the some other device. If only you could be efficient and control costs by buying cool!.

Thu, May 10, 2012 Tom

@TIM: 'JUST WORKS' -- I hear that Tim, and 'tis most certainly true. I think part of the the handicap (and blessing) Microsoft has suffered over the year is that it doesn't control the entire product ecosystem. On the one hand partnering with hw companies has made them very successful, but on the other it has led to problems related to stability, perf, questionable hw designs and so on. Not sure what the right answer for them is since whichever way they go they're gonna have problems. I use Mac and OSX for mainly one purpose (because there's no choice): iOS dev, and even then I use Monotouch. I'm not a big fan of XCoce or Obj C, but they're ok - though they are light years behind VS. Do I like Apple products? Yes I do. They're pretty cool and 'just work'. But I honestly prefer a Win tab and currently use a Fujitsu Q550. Yes I get the issues that come along with Windows, and it's not blazingly fast (at least with Win7, Win8 CP runs more fluidly though), but I can do whatever I need. What would I recommend however to a non-tech person? Sadly until Win8 hits the streets, I would tell them that I USE a Windows tablet, but that they may be happier with an iPad as the touchability/performance is better. As far as phones go, iPhone is nice but I really like Windows Phone. It's a VERY stable and fast platform, does everything I need, and is a real pleasure to develop for. However I find the current customization choices (the screen layout for one) to be a bit limiting and would like to see more flexibility there. This limitation also causes hw partners to think twice about their future direction as its more difficult to distinguish themselves. I believe that MSFT should not try to clone Apple's methodology, but rather should stay true to their roots. Win8 will either be amazingly successful or a big flop, time will tell. But I will say this, Metro on the desktop is just not for me.

Wed, May 9, 2012 Tim E. Richmond, VA

It's funny how a few more years experience in the IT field changes one's mind on belonging to "camps". I am presently a passionate .NET developer and have been one since .NET 1 Beta came out. My experiences however, have been drastically altered by my sales experience at the Apple Store when I bought my wife her first IPad (okay, OUR first iPad). Yes, they play Angry Birds wonderfully and yes, the SDK is probably not for everyone but the iPad is a device that JUST WORKS. Mobility needs to be in the forefront of our thoughts for many use cases that historically have been handled with the kiosk or the counter in mind. The only direction to really go with services these days is to be able to bring those services directly to the consumer and that requires mobile appliances that run a reliable OS. I recently moved back to consulting and lo and behold, my employer fully embraces the testaments above. I now run my development OS's in Fusion (Wnodws 7 x64, Windows 2008 R2) and my productivity apps in OSx. Personally, this has proven to be a very eye opening experience. I miss many of my keys on the keyboard that make me capable of 120 wpm, but that's a small price to pay for a machine that runs for 9 hours on battery and can run my VMs with performance similar to what I'd expect from a dedicated workstation. I challenge my colleagues who favor Windows machines to embrace OSx and give it a try. You won't be sorry!

Wed, May 9, 2012 Tom

You know in the enterprise crazy things happen. Upper management buys a ton of iPads basically because they 'like them' (cause they use them at home and you know if it works at home it must be good for the business right?). But then when they get them in the business, they realize 'Hmmm what am I gonna do with all these things'. And so they think 'Oh man I better double down to prove I made the right decision'. So then they go out and buy even more of them, task their developers with writing LOB apps for them to make them mildly useful, and then go touting how proud and smart they are to their buddies over golf. Golf buddies say 'Hey John is a smart dude, maybe we should try these iPads out too'. One dude I know (small enterprise CEO) basically said something to the effect of 'Hey maybe we should buy a bunch of these to run Windows'. What he meant was that he saw some presentation using OnLive and now thinks the iPad is the greatest thing since a pair of socks. Try to explain why it's not, and guess what? YOU'RE just 'stuck in the past' and not a team player. So what happens now? I'll tell you,,, iOS makes its inroads in the enterprise arena, then the enterprise wants manageability (which btw currently exists in some limited form with Lion svr), and an enterprise stack starts to emerge due to demand. Of course Windows already has all this, but hey, people want 'cool' and 'hip' so let's reinvent the wheel all over again (reminds me of centralized mainframes to distributed model with PC's back to centralized with the cloud). Where does it end.?.?. You think Metro is gonna save the day? Really? Bull! People who like Apple and Android won't change. People who LIKED Microsoft will leave to something else, perhaps some *nix flavor. Microsoft should be, well,,, Microsoft, traditionally uncool and unhip, but functional and open in architecture and extensibility.

Mon, May 7, 2012 Dustin

Craig, Are you kidding me about Linux not being a growing end-user OS? Andriod IS Linux. There are some specific nuances, and it is not mutually exclusive (All Android is Linux, but Not All Linux is Andriod), it is Linux. As for MacOSX... Apple needs to figure out which horse is is going to back and do it... iOS is NOT MacOSX... Microsoft is beginning the process of unifying its mobile OS with the flagship OS in Windows 8...

Sun, May 6, 2012

It is funny that one of your reasons is a concern that Windows may fade in terms of market share. At least Microsoft has thrown its full weight behind the Windows OS. Apple, on the other hand, is becoming more and more of a consumer electronics company. Even members of Apple's longtime, diehard niche -- video professionals and other artistic types -- are complaining about being ignored and are, in some cases, leaving the ignored platform. (See: Final Cut Pro X fiasco) A longtime Macolyte designer friend recently challenged me to spec a high-powered desktop that was as powerful and good looking as a Mac. She was blown away by the sexy Falcon PC... and the price tag that was over $1,000 lower. Because, in her perception, Apple has abandoned her, there are equally powerful Win-based programs for her field and because she admits to kinda liking my Win7 system, she's actually considering jumping ship -- something that would never have entered her brain just a few years ago.

Fri, May 4, 2012 Tom

Hi Don, I understand what you're saying, truly I do. But the issue with this is when one gets on a stage to do a presentation with a Mac (at least to non-tech people), even if your running Windows, people see that glowing Mac logo thing and think "hey that's cool let me get a Mac", and guess what,,, they buy it and use what comes with it, which is OSX not Windows. So although I do like the hardware (and the OS is not bad either), I will not use a Mac because I don't want to contribute to its propagation amongst the masses. You know one of MSFT's partners should create a laptop with a glowing Windows logo. In general I'm not against Apple, Mac or OSX (unlike my views on Google), but from my perspective I feel Windows is a far more useful/extensible envt, at least for my purposes. Another thing I like about Windows (and MSFT tech) is that when I have a client with a [roblem, no matter what the issue is, I'm confident that we can resolve it because of the rich extensibility/dev tools available. I certainly hope that MSFT does not change this 'extensibility' ideology with Win8, although I admint I'm feeling a sense of concern regarding the Metro UI and WinRT. Also not happy about the dumbing down of MSFT products to the LCD, this is not what MSFT's been about. I just hope that don't 're-imagine' themselves out the door. Anyways, I guess time will tell.

Thu, May 3, 2012 Craig

But right now Linux isn't a growing end-user OS and probably has less penetration in the desktop market than iOS or Android. So, for a consultant, spending time learning the Mac OS and related hardware provides a compelling business differentiator. Spending time on Linux-on-the-desktop, while a differentiator, provides little real opportunity for a consultant to maintain or grow his/her business. Lame? No: well reasoned and responsive to his customer base. Based on his arguments, if his customers were moving to Linux, I suspect he'd start to learn it more...just a thought, ya know?

Wed, May 2, 2012 Nick

You forgot to list the real reason why you use a Mac: because it's trendy and stylish. Almost every justification you listed would apply to Linux, but Apple is "cooler" and the market leader in personal use technology right now. Lame.

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