Have you seen the Apple "Switch" ads yet? They're low-key testimonials set against a white backdrop, featuring people who recently switched computing platforms from Windows to the Mac. "Using my PC was like being stuck in a bad relationship," one questionably groomed fellow moans. In another, a fidgeting DJ from Santa Monica explains that her PC was "not very attractive" and "had stupid little speakers." The solution for these people? A Macintosh, of course.
But seriously folks, making the move from the PC to the Mac doesn't have to instill an us-against-them mentality. One of the things I don't like about this ad campaign is that it fosters the misconception that you must, in fact, choose between the PC and the Mac. It doesn't have to be this way. In fact, Macs and PCs can interoperate fairly well, and if you're thinking about getting a new computer, and keeping your existing computer online (as is so often the case today), a Macintosh makes a fine choice in many cases.
To test this theory, I bought an Apple iBook in early August 2001. I didn't do so to replace a PC, but instead purchased it to use alongside my PCs. As a technology writer, it's important to me that I keep up with the industry, and the Mac is as relevant today as it's ever been. Indeed, for a company with 3.5 percent global market share in an industry dominated by heavyweights like Microsoft and Intel, Apple has done an amazing job of staying in the news and taking credit for pushing technologies such as USB, FireWire, and wireless networking well before their dreaded PC rivals.
Anyway, the iBook is wonderful. It's small and light, gets amazing battery life--far better than anything similar in the PC world, and I test a new laptop each month as part of my job--and comes with an amazing suite of digital media software. And if aesthetics are important to you, remember this: Apple products get noticed. Every time I take the iBook on a trip--and I travel frequently, again for work--at least one person asks me about the machine, usually more. "My God, that's beautiful," one woman noted as I worked during a stop-over in Chicago recently. "Are you watching movies on that?" another inquired. On a flight back from CES earlier this year, a stewardess actually interrupted me to ask about the iBook, how much it cost, and where she could get one. "It's just so cute, I had to ask," she said. Cute. Exactly what I was shooting for.
This appeal isn't limited to the iBook, however. I also have an iPod, Apple's excellent portable MP3 player and people ask about that all the time too. Riding Boston's T subway system recently, three people inquired about the iPod, all of whom gushed over its polished white fascia. And forget about Apple's stunning Titanium PowerBook (TiBook), you probably wouldn't even be able to get work done if you took it out in a public place. A recent review iMac was initially met with uncertainty by my wife--"Why would I want to move the screen?" she asked--but less than a week later, unsolicited, she announced that the new iMac was "attractive." She likes it, she really likes it.
But design issues aside, Apple offers even more value through its software solutions. If you are considering a PC purchase for digital media reasons, I strongly urge you to consider a Macintosh. All modern Macintosh systems come with the following software solutions, all best-of-breed, as good or better than anything offered on Windows:
iPhoto - A digital photo acquisition, editing, and management tool with a simple yet powerful interface based on the playlist functionality used by popular media players. This makes iPhoto easy to learn and use.
iTunes - A digital music player and management tool, again with a simple yet powerful interface. iTunes lets you listen to local music and Internet radio (Apple handles streaming media with QuickTime Player, also excellent) and provides a number of cool features, such as per-song equalizer settings, iPod interoperability, and audio CD burning.
iMovie - The standard in home digital movie editing, iMovie is a stunning achievement. Digital movie making is hard, but iMovie makes it easy and fun, and it's still my top choice.
iDVD - Available only on the top-of-the line iMac and SuperDrive-equipped PowerMacs, this software does for DVD movie authoring what iMovie did for moving editing. Simple, powerful, and fun: The DVDs iDVD makes are far more attractive than anything available on the PC side, and I'll be reviewing this product separately soon.
The Macintosh also makes an excellent general purpose computer, and there are a variety of Web browsers, email clients, Instant Messaging (IM) solutions, games and other software available for the platform, including Microsoft Office, though the Windows version still performs better. Data interoperability is a non-issue, since Macs have always lived in a PC world and solved that problem long ago. And I tackle file sharing between Macs and PCs in this week's Tip.
The point here is simple. If you're considering a new PC for digital media, don't buy anything until you've test-driven a Mac. For more general purpose computing, you might have other issues that would negate the Mac option, such as a software collection you'd like to keep using (though Windows emulators run--slowly--on the Mac) or hardware that won't run with the Mac. If these issues aren't important however, and you're interested in a computing solution that just works--the Mac is the place to be.