Why I Bought a Mac
Microsoft's desktop monopoly may not last forever, at least not for <i>Redmond</i>'s editor in chief.
I have six PCs and laptops running everything from DOS and Windows 95 to Windows XP. That is exactly why I bought my son an iBook for his twelfth birthday.
Faithful readers know the stress my family's PCs have caused. Viruses, spyware and other inexplicable phenomenon have hit us hard. Troubleshooting my own machines is bad enough. I don't want the burden of keeping my kids' boxes running as well. Those hassles led me to shell out $1,075 for a low-end Mac laptop. That's roughly double the best deals you can get from HP and Toshiba.
Frustration is only one reason I bought the Mac for my son. Exposing him to new things is another. David already has a pretty slick, late-model HP desktop with all the bells and some of the whistles. He's using it to learn about encryption, scripting and programming—and to play lots of games. He's already embarrassing me by asking technical questions I can't answer. Why get him another XP machine so he can lug it around on vacation and over to friends' houses? Besides, the Mac—loaded with Tiger, the latest OS—is new and very cool.
This experience has shown me that Microsoft's desktop monopoly, while incredibly solid, may not last forever. There are alternatives. Linux will eventually get there—although I'm certainly not eager to replace my XP frustrations with what could be a bigger dose of Linux headaches. I'm also not too keen on the Scott McNealy terminal style of computing in which you're dead in the water without a high-speed connection. (However, I've got to admit that having a single identity and set of files I can easily get to from a number of devices is pretty neat.)
The Mac has none of these shortcomings. What it does have is a Ferrari-like price tag. That's easy to justify for the occasional birthday present, but it would make me gag if I was running a 10,000-seat enterprise. It's going to take more than a few television commercials touting XP to keep the Mac and Linux forces at bay. Redmond desperately needs a new OS to keep its rivals from nipping at its monstrous market share.
Longhorn will have to be insanely great, remarkably stable and better at defending against viruses and other hacks than XP and IE—the Swiss cheese of software. Despite its problems, I happen to like XP a lot. If the rivals keep getting better, though, I might just have to buy another non-Microsoft box.
What Would Make You Switch?
For the enterprise, moving from Windows clients is a tall order. For one, you have to be able to handle common file formats like .DOC and .XLS, and continue working with Active Directory and other common tools.
All the Linux companies are eating their own desktop dog food, and Sun seems to be doing fine running SunRay terminals, but Windows is woven deeply into the fabric of corporate computing. So what would it really take for you and your shop to switch? Tell me at email@example.com.
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.