A few weeks ago I was helping a friend take care of a hardware problem with his MacBook Pro, which I determined would be covered by Apple (despite being several months out of warranty). I called two local Mac-centric stores, the first of which didn’t answer their phone after repeated attempts, and so it was obvious they didn’t want Apple’s money and therefore I moved onto the next. They were friendly and helpful as I expected and so together my friend and I went to this store and while he spoke with the service desk, I stood back and observed and waited within earshot in case I was needed for assistance.
While he was taking care of his issue, a woman came in with her iMac, and I overheard her telling another technician the problems she was experiencing. I could tell immediately it was a software configuration issue with her Email client, which was Microsoft’s Entourage. To my horror, the tech promptly told her that they don’t support Entourage because it’s old and nobody uses it anymore, and because it’s a Microsoft Product.
Despite not being in a position to help the woman (and the impropriety of soliciting business while inside a store providing a similar service), I was quite irritated to say the least.
I was formally trained on Microsoft’s Windows operating systems, and I hold a number of certifications that cover them. But to make an excuse like he did would be like me saying I don’t support Apple’s QuickTime software or iTunes because they’re Apple products. Besides which, Entourage is by no means an old obsolete Email client.
I’m often asked which computer is better: Mac or PC? Typically those asking such questions won’t even consider Linux as a viable option. But it is a loaded question. It is a question I cannot answer, because I would say “both”. Each one has their benefits and limitations, and each have their place. Even Linux has some very user-friendly and viable options freely available.
Personally, my desktop (and not coincidentally the computer I’m using to type this) is a Mac Mini. I use this computer for all my web development, writing, billing, research, database development, and media authoring, and I find the software for most of those tasks to be equal or better for Mac OS X. For example, I am currently using Twitter’s first party Twitter app for OS X that I downloaded from Apple’s App store. No such first party software exists on the Windows platform. Conversely, my laptop is a Windows 7 Dell XPS 1530, which affords me more versatility in software options and configurations. Many of the tools I use as an IT consultant are more readily available or easier to use for Windows. It is near impossible to find a Mac equivalent for some tools I use. For the average user, however, I can see the draw to Apple.
My other desktop, which is actually one I gave to my wife, is also Windows 7, but it can also boot up into Ubuntu Linux 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”, which has a great user-friendly interface and compelling options… and it’s 100% free and open source (foss). I keep a number of Ubuntu installations around so I don’t fall behind the technology, but most of my time is spent between Mac and Windows because those are the two computers I have most readily available.
Apple’s OS X tends to be more media-focused. With iMovie, GarageBand, and iWeb you can create a movie, dub it, give it a soundtrack and publish it to youtube or even your own blog, and admittedly when finished the end product will look, and sound, far better than anything Microsoft has yet released.
On the other hand, Microsoft tends to be more business and office-centric, with a focus on word processing, email, and centralized administration. Windows has built itself to meet the demands of current IT security measures and standards. One server can control thousands of client computers in an organization. This is a feat that OS X is still catching up on, however they are gaining ground.
For businesses requiring a full-featured server, the competition gets a bit more interesting.
A business owner recently asked me to provide a quote for a server which will initially serve as a simple file server, with more functionality possibly being needed down the road. My first response was to go over the Windows option because it’s the standard option, however when I crunched the numbers, the cost disparity between OS X Snow Leopard Server and Windows Server 2008 was a bit of a surprise. Windows was up to five times the price of the Apple option, but had fewer features, and would have required an additional fee for many of the features which may need to be added in the future. On the other hand, if the business were part of a bigger enterprise with restrictive IT policies, the result wouldn’t be the same, and to integrate OS X into a greater infrastructure would take a relatively significant amount of configuration to perform.
I don’t have a “favourite” operating system. It comes down to personal preference and what you need it to do. I do, however, support all of them.