Friday, November 24, 2006

One Bucket of Water Does Not the Mississippi Make 

Those of you who have known me professionally during the last 2-3 years know that I have been a steadfast supporter of the Apple Macintosh. This is a direct result of well over twenty years of Microsoft developer and user experience. The new Apple MacBook notebooks and MacBook can even run legacy PC operating systems and applications such as Windows, Linux and BSD Unix. The difference between the typical Windows and Mac user experience by a joke making the rounds in a mixed support shop circa 1996, when the Mac was only half as good as it is now:

Q: What's the difference between a Windows usee and a Mac user?
A: The Windows guy talks about everything he had to do to get his work done; the Mac user talks about all the great work she got done.

The point is that, in most ways, most of the time, the Macintosh does things so much better than the Windows-only PC that it's like describing a sunset to a blind man to convey the difference. Except in this case, the 'blind man' wasn't born blind; he's taped his eyes shut with duct tape.

Like all things made by man, however, the Mac is not perfect. Secunia, one of the major security consultancies, recently warned of an extremely critical "zero-day" exploit against the Macintosh OS. While this is depressingly common in the Windows world, with new critical defects discovered on a seeming hourly basis, the number of zero-day exploits against Macintosh OS X 10.3 in the wild can be counted on your fingers.

This relative scarcity will drive Windows partisans to even more frenzied attacks against the Macintosh: "See? It's got zero-day too". Yes, it does - BUT. First, the remediation is very straightforward, since a single application (the Safari Web browser), which unlike Internet Exploder on Windows, doesn't force itself into every otherwise unrelated nook and cranny of the system. Secondly, the flaw which causes the problem is known; it's in Apple's high-level system code (the "Macintosh" part, not the "built on Unix" part). Apple's track record in fixing such problems is far, far better than their main competitor's in acknowledging, let alone fixing, their own. Short version: People in straw houses shouldn't throw Molotov cocktails.

I do expect to hear flak about this from the Microsoft-informed clients and client prospects I will be talking to in the near future. Based on my experience to date, however, my advice will continue to be "don't buy a new PC For your business. Migrate your existing PCs to other systems (like Linux or BSD), and strongly prefer Macintoshes for new desktop systems." By the time you take your average Compaq, HP or Acer Windows PC and upgrade the specs to be comparable to the Macintosh, any perceived cost advantage (for the Windows box) disappears. Also, consider the cost of maintenance and operation: the current Mac problem will certainly be more amenable to a fully-effective automated fix than many of the Windows problems we've been having for the last few years.

Two final thoughts I'll leave you with: The Macintosh has its own version of Microsoft Office, which many users and reviewers (and reviewers and reviewers) consider to be a superior user experience. Secondly, Windows has its own largely incompatible version of Office for Windows coming. The Ribbon Bar completely replaces the visual convention of the standard menu structure; you can still use the menus with keyboard shortcuts (like -F for the File menu, but that is not visually apparent to the novice user. In short, retraining and support for the Office 2003-to-2007 migration will be at least as onerous as similar migration from Office 2003 to OpenOffice 2.0, Sun StarOffice, WordPerfect Office, or any other similarly-featured and -matured system presently available.

More to follow.

As always, non-spam comments are greatly appreciated. I'd love to get a FUD-free conversation going here. And again, thanks for your time.

Hi Jeff,

Dont know where to contact you. So i am dropping by your site to tell you i am waiting to reconnect with you.

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