Is working on a Mac all that different to a PC?
A couple of people have asked me whether working on a Mac is significantly different to working on any other Windows PC. I'm guessing that what they are really asking is whether the workflow associated with carrying out a task on the Mac is all that different to doing the same task on a PC. Is it easier? Is it harder? Are there greater or fewer steps involved?
I've been using my MacBook Pro for over two weeks now and in that time I've actually used it quite a bit to do real work with. Once you've got a few basic skills under your belt the Mac then become just a tool. I find that tasks relating to the writing and communication (surfing the web, email, blogging, writing and so on) are now just as easy to do on the Mac as they are on a Windows system. I really don't feel that there's a huge difference between the two operating systems when it comes to doing simple tasks. Yes, I have far more customizations on my Windows PCs that make life quicker and easier and I also have a raft of tools and utilities that I'm just so used to using that their use is almost automatic (for example, tools such as WinZip, UltraEdit and BlogJet). However, considering that I've only had the Mac for just over two weeks, and considering that the platform is so radically different to what I've been used to for well over a decade, I feel that I'm doing pretty well.
The truth is that I like the Mac, and I feel that I'll be a little sad when it has to go back. It's a good machine. I think that part of it's appeal is that it's still relatively clean and uncluttered - most of my systems have too many apps installed and way too many distractions in my eye-line. The Mac is still pretty sterile, and that holds an appeal. When I'm working on it I'm not constantly distracted by RSS feeds, emails, messages sent over the network and games. Yes, that makes me "off the grid" in a lot of ways and there are times when I've been seen with the MacBook on my lap (yes, I was surprised to find that the MacBook Pro is actually cool enough to use on a lap without cooking any of my vitals) and my Windows-based notebook next to me. Why? Because there are about 1,001 things that I really should add and customize on my MacBook (and that I now know how to do!) that I can't be bothered doing - setting up email accounts, network permissions, installing software, moving my cache of passwords over, that kind of thing. I can't be bothered doing all this because the machine has to go back in a couple of weeks and it's not worth the investment in time. If it weren't for that single reason, I would have set it up so that I could work independently on it by now.
But I'm also aware that Mac isn't for everyone. Some things bind you to your existing platform (Windows or Linux) more than others. Photoshop, Visual Studio, accounting software just to name three. Here you're either going to have to unlimber your wallet and buy new software or, if your are, say, a Windows developer, find a new job. The same goes for hardware - PDAs, MP3 players (unless it's an iPod), cell phones - can keep you locked to your existing platform. Even thinking about making a 100% transition to Mac is either going to be very painful or costly.
One thing that having the Mac for sixteen days has shown me is that black and white thinking about operating systems is, at best, idealistic. For years I've been puzzled by people who look at the choice of an OS like a religion, and the more I use the Mac the more this kind of view seems irrational to me. Sure, we all like to think that we've made the perfect choice or purchase, but increasingly that is nothing more than a state of mind or an illusion. In this age of convergence, the differences are getting smaller and less noticeable.
Is being "platform agnostic" the way forward, or will user of different platforms continue never see eye to eye?