To Mac, or to Windows? That’s your question, here’s my answer

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If you’re looking to get a new PC or notebook, chances are, you’ll be asking the question above. So, should you be getting a Mac or Windows machine? Well, in my humble opinion, the answer is pretty simple. If you are willing to fork out a little more (to get more too of course), then go for the Mac option as I had.

Sure, like I mentioned, the Mac option will be a little bit more expensive when compared with the ‘equivalent’ Windows option from the technical specifications perspective. Is it worth paying more for the Mac then? I’d say yes and here are three reasons why.

1. The hardware itself is a work of art

A little caveat here. I’ve only own a single Mac all my life and it’s the mid-2010 13″ MacBook Pro notebook. But if I take this machine I bought as a benchmark against any other similar notebooks on the Windows camp, it’s easy to say there’s not even one that’s even close to compare with the MacBook Pro.

Firstly, do you know of any other manufacturer that spends a whole lot of attention into your experience in opening the display of your notebook? Well, apparently the boys in Cupertino did and even gave the design a name, Thumbscoop. Let’s see what Apple has to say about this interesting part of the Unibody design.

There’s a story behind each part. Take the thumbscoop, for example. It’s the indentation that allows you to open the display. If the scoop is too deep, you put too much pressure on the display to open it. If it’s too shallow, you struggle to open the display. It may seem incidental, but if the thumbscoop is well designed, it makes the difference between a bad experience and a good one. The challenge of the thumbscoop was to create a crisply machined scoop that was still comfortable to use. The designers at Apple worked on hundreds of versions of the thumbscoop — even examining them under an electron microscope — to get it right.

Now that’s gotta score Apple some points! But seriously, that’s just the thumbscoop alone. I’ve not even started to describe how awesome the unibody design is. And I probably won’t since Apple did such a great job here on their website.

2. It runs both OS X and Windows anyway

This I believe is a major plus point to most professionals as the majority of business applications still runs only on Windows-based PCs. However, I do notice that with the increasing popularity of the MacBook Pros amongst business professional, this is starting to change too. Most large organizations are starting to adopt the Macs as a corporate approved and supported platform. But it’s still a long way to go before you can live without needing Windows. So the fact that you can run both Windows and OS X is a major plus point.

But why is only now that this is such a great value proposition when it’s been quite a while since Windows co-existed on the Mac. If you asked me, here’s what I think.

Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac Back then, software emulators or virtualization solutions for Windows to run on top of the Mac OS was pretty slow. Slow performance simply means low productivity and a whole lot of frustrations. And on top of that, the virtualization technology was still new and wasn’t exactly what I’d regard as a stable platform. It works, well, most of the time. And sometimes, that’s not good enough. Then came Boot Camp when Apple decided to go with the Intel-based CPU to power their machines. While it works very well, the idea of needing to reboot the system to use Windows, or back to OS X isn’t too productive too. And isn’t part of the reason to buy the Mac to enjoy the OS X?

So why now? Well, remember the virtualization option? Good for us, virtualization took off pretty well and there’s been a whole lot of improvement in this space, both from the hardware and software perspective. So today, with the likes of Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac, you can literally run any Windows application almost as if it’s a Mac application. That’s really cool! What it means is that I can literally open a MS Word document attachment using the Windows’ version of Office directly from Apple Mail application seamlessly.

I wrote a short article on this in my post here on the 3 reasons why I chose Parallels.

As for a Windows-based PC, you can do the same, or at least it’s not easy to do the same. Trying to run OS X on a Windows machine takes a lot of effort and sometimes require you to swap devices. Definitely too much effort for the normal user.

3. OS X Snow Leopard really is an OS done right.

Now, I’m not saying it’s the perfect operating system. There are areas in OS X that just baffles me and really irritates me. But tge overall user experience is best I’ve ever had among all the operating system I’ve ever used. And when I said all the OS I’ve ever used, that’s really an extensive list; Windows (since v3.0 all the way to 7. Yes, ALL the versions and iterations), OS/2, Linux (with Mint/Ubuntu being the best ones I’ve played with), and no, let’s skip all the non-gui based OSes.

The one reason why I think the experience is such a great one with OS X is the fact that it’s built specifically for just one single platform. The Mac. Everything is fine-tuned so well that from the performance stand-point, it’s really rocks. But performance is just a small part of the positive experience I had with the Mac.

Oh and let’s not forget the multi-touch gestures that the OS supports and utilizes. This is seriously a real killer feature for the Mac. Scrolling is so natural when you use your two fingers on the trackpad. It’s just so much more intuitive compared to even a scroll wheel.

This is really hard to describe in words and like a classical score, one needs to experience it to truly appreciate it’s elegance. But I’d try anyway and perhaps point out two really great features that has helped with my productivity at work where I think Windows can’t provide the same experience. You can find more of them listed here in Apple’s site too.

Firstly, the Quick Look feature is really a productivity booster. In Apple’s own words, “Opening files is so last year”. And with Quick Look, it really is! How many times at work do you need to quickly look into a file, be it to read a PDF, to ensure it’s the right Powerpoint slides to pass to your colleagues, or to just quickly view some screenshots saved as a bunch of JPGs. For me, almost all the time!

In Windows 7, there is a preview pane in explorer that you can probably try to do something like this. But almost always useless as I can’t see the content of the file unless it’s an image. And even if I can just rely on the ‘thumbnail’ of the file, it’s usually too small to be of any great use.

On the Mac, all I need to do is just press the Spacebar key when I’ve selected a particular file in Finder and voila, a quick preview dialog pops up showing me the content of the file. If it’s a image file, it’ll just show the image. If it’s a PDF file, it will preview the entire PDF document, allowing me to also scroll through all the pages. If it’s a Powerpoint slide deck, I can scroll through all the decks as well, not just the first deck. I think you get my point. Best of all, with the flick of your fingers, you can immediately zoom the Quick Look dialog to preview your file in full screen mode.

Never as previewing a file been so much fun and productive at the same time! Don’t believe me? Hop over to the nearest store that sells a Mac or find a friend who owns one and try it yourself. I’ve never met anyone NOT liking this feature ever since I’ve shared my experience with it. In fact, this is the first of the many features I’d show anyone who’s wondering what’s so great about a Mac.

Sure. Windows Vista and Windows 7 has a pretty cool Windows Flip 3D feature that allows you to browse through running applications in a 3D cascading stack of window panes. But if you ask yourself, how often do you use it other than showing off the visual ‘niceness’ of this feature.

Expose on the other hand is actually a very quick way of allowing you to see what’s currently running and quickly switching over to the applications you want to work on. Apple has even gone one step further from just providing the feature but also the best possible way to access it. Once you get the hang on the multi-touch trackpad, using Expose is extremely natural. The default action to activate Expose is a four finger swipe up/down. It just don’t get more natural than that.

Again, just as the Quick Look feature, you’ve got to experience this yourself to appreciate it.

And Mac OS X Lion will eventually improve this feature with the Mission Control feature that integrates Expose, Spaces, etc into a single view to see what’s running on your Mac. Especially cool for those of you who plan to also use the Spaces feature.

Sure, there will be Apple fanboys (and some will consider your’s truly to be one as well which I would heartily deny) that would just buy a Mac because it’s made by Apple. But honestly, the Mac really is a compelling platform to consider, not just because it’s cool to have one, but it really does help you become much more productive. The combination of Mac OS X and the Mac hardware really delivers what one should expect out of a well designed PC. And most of all, it works.

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