David Sobotta, once a salesman at Apple and now marketing VP at WideOpen Networks, a Gigabit Ethernet consultancy, recently authored a piece (some might say screed) on ReadWriteWeb titled How I Moved Away From The Mac After Leaving Apple. The article tells a tale of how Sobotta found PCs better and cheaper than Macs, and how Microsoft has improved Windows usability over the past several upgrades.
Some Mac fans immediately decried this post as traitorous; others believe that Sobotta must have lost his mind. After all, once a Mac user, always a Mac user, right?
Of course, I like many Mac users am also an occasional Windows user. I've owned PCs for business use, since Windows was required to connect with Windows-only databases and programs. (I haven't considered myself a traitor to the Mac platform nor deranged — much.) And that's how it happened for Sobotta: he worked for Windows-only companies.
After Apple, I was a vice president at a small federal contractor that dealt a lot with large system integrators. While my sales team at Apple had a lot of success selling to the scientific community in the federal space, we had only started to touch the federal integration market, with products like Xserve, by the time my Apple career ended. But for the most part, federal integrators and contractors, including the one I worked for, were almost exclusively Windows users, so I bought a Dell laptop in 2005 so as not to be the only Mac user in a room of 50 people.
The following year, when I started my job as vice president of sales and marketing in an email services startup, I was the only one of 45 employees who used a Mac. The team there was far from old; there were only four employees, myself included, who were over 30 years old. Much of the software we used was web-based, but there were things that were easier to get done on Windows. I eventually ended up carrying two laptops for my work there: my Dell, and my Intel MacBook.
Sobotta said he continued to use Macs for certain tasks and Windows for others. He reported trouble with an iMac and other Macs.
In addition, Sobotta has written a number of posts critical of Apple on his personal blog. For example, one about how he doesn't miss working there.
Apple is not about rewarding success, it is more about allocating blame. If something does not go according to the numbers on an Excel spreadsheet that comes from Apple's finance department, there will be hell to pay somewhere in Apple. Apple is more about money than any product.
And then there's his Kindle book, The Pomme Company, which describes the problems working under the reality distortion distortion field surrounding Apple's Cupertino headquarters and his personal experience at the company.
The reason that this post is garnering attention in the Mac community is first that it goes against the current common wisdom about Macintosh, one that is increasingly being accepted in business: Mac hardware, OS and software are always better and more secure than any Windows machine or program, and the Apple platform will provide a better experience and better ROI for any user. This post says it ain't necessarily so.
What's interesting here is a practice that can befall longtime Mac users, especially power users. They are often reticent to take their Macs into the shop. They believe that can fix problems themselves with this utility or that analytic program. Maybe so, but while Mac hardware is high quality, it doesn't mean that things can't go wrong. I suggest purchasing the 3-year AppleCare warranty extension and when problems come up, to take the machine in for servicing, earlier rather than later. (I don't always follow my own recommendations and right now, I'm waiting on taking in my MacBook Pro because of its failing video card.)
Secondly, there's always the distrust of the Apple experience by PC users. Here's a post from someone worked at Apple, who must know better. He says Windows is just as good as the Mac and the hardware is cheaper. Sobotta can see behind the curtain, truth-telling that the Mac and iOS aren't necessarily better, or can work just as well for some folks.
This all drives Mac users totally nuts. Of course, there's a big dollop of defensiveness with this reaction and some of the reason for that emotion is historical. For some, the Mac and PC have always been at war and there has to be a winner, even though Steve Jobs himself in the summer of 1997 called an end to the "era of competition between Apple and Microsoft."
"Apple lives in an ecosystem. And it needs help from other partners; it needs to help other partners. Relationships that are destructive don't help anybody in this industry as it is today. During the last several weeks, we've looked at relationships. One [relationship] stood out as one that hasn't been going so well, but has the potential to be great for both companies: Microsoft," Jobs said that day.
But the fight continues on both sides. Im many ways, Mac users' continued defensiveness about the PC platform is understandable. There's the worry that businesses and government will return to the biased purchasing practices that excluded the Mac from sites for several decades. This may ignore the continuing trend towards BYOD and that the Mac is the most flexible, reliable and quality platform. The worry is that all the progress could all be reversed as it was in the 1990s.
Is this reasonable? Perhaps not, but reason has been in short supply for most of Mac history.