RetroMacCast

Where great old Macs live again!

Taking the plunge, switching and Macs vs The Credit Crunch

First of all, thanks to eBay, I am now the proud owner of an Apple Newton. For £4.75 plus postage, I picked up a Messagepad 110, which is fine by me. I know it's not as cool as the later 2100, but it'll do for a start and I rather like the design. I'm looking forward to getting hold of it and am genuinely interested in seeing if I can't run an entire project using nothing but the Newton and my Pismo PowerBook. I don't see why not and, if all goes well, I think I'll post the findings up here.

I've written a lot about my love of Macs and especially my love of some of the older machines and how useful they still are. I genuinely believe that you can do a day's work on an iMac G3 and happily run a design Agency using G4s and G5s - yes, the newer stuff is quicker, but only if the program is optimised for multiple cores on the x86 processors, etc. In reality, you'd be hard-pushed to find a Quad G5 PowerMac slow to work with and, to be honest, my old G4 400 was more than happy tinkering in Photoshop and Flash. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact I gave it to my mother to replace a PC that died, I'd still be using it now. What I love about Macintoshes is that anyone can use them - they are totally unlike a PC in that respect - and everyone who sits in front of one ends up saying the same thing: "I never realised it was this easy".

Apple has long had a strand of its advertising based on converting people from Windows to Mac and it usually focusses on how Macs are easy to use and totally compatible with PCs, but I don't think that is quite the right tack to take. Think about it - the reason Apple plays up the compatibility is because Windows owns something like 80% of the market at the moment, so it was always seen as a sensible option to point out you could still work with a PC if you owned a Mac and, in a way, it made sense. The main reason was the fear that if this wasn't made abundantly clear, Macintosh would go the way of BeOS, or OS/2 Warp and become seen as a niche platform with no appeal to business users, but I think there is another way.

Think about this for a minute: what defines a PC? Is it a suite of applications, the Operating System, or the hardware? If it's the latter, then even PCs aren't compatible across the board, because Vista won't run on a machine quite capable of running XP, which in turn requires far more hardware investment than Windows 98. Windows is no longer based on DOS, which means that from the introduction of NT to the death of Windows Millenium, there were two OS streams at work under the "Windows" banner - that based on the NT platform and the other based on DOS running a graphical interface (i.e. win.exe running on DOS). Many "PC" programs written for Windows 3.1/95/DOS didn't run on NT and vice versa. In fact, programs written for DOS 6.0 very often didn't run on earlier version, so we can't really define a "PC" as being based on one OS, as for nearly 30 years, there wasn't a "single" OS, rather a bunch of OSes made by the same company (not to mention DrDOS by Digital Research, etc). It can't be the hardware, as we've had AMD and Intel CPUs, CGA, EGA, VGA, SuperVGA, XGA, 3DFX, OpenGL, DirectX and other graphical hardware standards, along with Adlib, Roland, Soundblaster and god knows what else on the soundcard front.

So, the only thing that can define a "PC" is the applications and the files they write - Word for word processing, Excel for spreadsheets, etc. I can understand this, because if a company has 1,000 users, they can roll out the next version of Word easily with little or no training required, but switching to OpenOffice could cause them problems. Doubtful, but possible. So, if Macintosh now has Microsoft Office andother industry-standard application suites running natively, as well as the creative suites we all know and love, why do we need to worry about being "compatible" with Windows/PCs at all? Servers on the network are just as likely to run Linux and the data transfers use universal protocols such as HTTP or FTP, so file-sharing is not the headache it was in the days of Novell and Token-Ring networks. If you can read and write .Doc, .XLS, .PPS and .PDF files, you're pretty much set for an office environment. The fact that the obsolescence curve is far less steep than in the Wintel world should only serve to speed up the switching process. I know that everyone who has used one of my Macs has then looked to get one of their own as their next computer, so I think we are on the brink of another revolution - especially as Windows Vista is failing to set the world on fire.

I think that, in these times of economic uncertainty, it makes sound business judgement to switch to Macintosh, both at home and for work - you can pick up a high-spec G4 or G5 for a couple of hundred pounds at most and, given the fact that businesses don't migrate every time software is updated, you'll still be able to do the books, write your reports or create your presentations and, given the fact that web standards mean that whilst Flash 10 might introduce a whole raft of new features, web agencies will still be building to at least two versions earlier due to the need to reach the broadest audience, you won't have problems with the more creative work, either. Not only that, but in a years' time, it won't have crashed, costing you work, and the odds are that someone would pay to take the machine off of you, as opposed to having to pay to get it taken away. In fact, Macintosh could see its market share increase significantly during the economic crisis, due to the longer lifecycles and lower obsolescence. Won't that be interesting? We might soon see Windows adverts showing "compatible with Macintosh" branding...

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