This may seem extraordinarily obvious; after all, Apple has built an entire advertising campaign around the concept. But I am obstinate, and I have loved Windows for a long time. Now, however, simplicity is increasingly important to me. I just want things to work, and with my Mac, they do. Though my Mac barely exceeds the processor and memory requirements for OS X Tiger, every bundled program runs perfectly. The five-year-old printer that doesn’t work at all with Vista performs beautifully with OS X, not because the manufacturer bothered to write a new Mac driver for my aging standby, but because Apple included a third-party, open-source driver designed to support older printers in Tiger. Instead of facing the planned obsolescence of my printer, I can stick with it as long as I like.
And my deepest-seated reasons for preferring Windows PCs–more computing power for the money and greater software availability–have evaporated in the last year. Apple’s decision to use the same Intel chips found in Windows machines has changed everything. Users can now run OS X and Windows on the same computer; with third-party software such as Parallels Desktop, you don’t even need to reboot to switch back and forth. The chip swap also makes it possible to compare prices directly. I recently used the Apple and Dell websites to price comparable desktops and laptops; they were $100 apart or less in each case. The difference is that Apple doesn’t offer any lower-end processors, so its cheapest computers cost quite a bit more than the least-expensive PCs. As Vista penetrates the market, however, the slower processors are likely to become obsolete–minimizing any cost differences between PCs and Macs.
I may need Windows for a long time to come; many electronic gadgets such as PDAs and MP3 players can only be synched with a computer running Windows, and some software is still not available for Macs. But the long-predicted migration of software from the desktop to the Internet is finally happening. Organizations now routinely access crucial programs from commercial Web servers, and consumers use Google’s services to compose, edit, and store their e-mail, calendars, and even documents and spreadsheets (see “Homo Conexus,” July/August 2006). As this shift accelerates, finding software that works with a particular operating system will be less of a concern. People will be able to base decisions about which OS to use strictly on merit, and on personal preference. For me, if the choice is between struggling to configure every feature and being able to boot up and get to work, at long last I choose the Mac.
Erika Jonietz is a Technology Review senior editor.
WINDOWS VISTA operating system