If you buy a PC, you’ve just bought a PC. If you buy a Mac, somehow you’re a Machead, a cultist, an Apple fanboy or girl, you’ve joined a religion, you worship Steve Jobs and Jonny Ive, you’ve been fooled by the hype, you’re trying to be cool, you think shiny is good, the list goes on.
You hear much the same degree of jeering between football fans but at least with that there are fans on both sides. Who’s actually fan of Windows PCs? But okay, if Apple is a religion, it’s the Church of the One That Works.
If Microsoft comes out with something, I’ll probably hear about it at some point. I don’t follow many of the techie news sites I used to when I worked in computers but I’ll hear eventually. Mostly because it takes so long: a pretty standard spiel from Microsoft is that our new product will kill Apple/Google/Everybody as soon as it’s launched in three to four years. And it’s cheaper too, so there. Will be cheaper.
There was a nice-looking tablet computer they did this about: if you saw the articles, you quite fancied this. It was a wee way off, they said, and now the other day they cancelled it entirely.
In comparison, Apple loves making big announcements about fancy technology and ending with the words “Available today”. I’m not sure whether you’d call that smug or gleeful, but I think they earn whichever it is. The famous Apple secrecy up to the launch of a product has some unpleasant sides but ultimately where so many firms talk about what they’re going to do, Apple tends to just do it first.
Seriously first, too. They nicked the idea for a graphical computer back when there used to be any other sort. Microsoft nicked it from the same place an hour later. But where Apple took Xerox PARC’s idea and made it commercially practical, commercially available, Microsoft Windows has been copying the Mac for nearly thirty years and it’s still not there.
You have a mouse. You wouldn’t have if Apple hadn’t done it first, or at least if someone hadn’t, because Microsoft came late to mice. If you’ve got a laptop, it has the keyboard pushed to the back so you can type comfortably and it’s got a slick touchpad. Because of Apple. I was at the UK launch of their first PowerBook with that touchpad and they crowed about how they had patented it.
Apple patents are plainly rubbish, but there you go.
When Apple does come out with something new, I hear about it much, much faster because these days I’m looking. I’ve got a couple of Mac sites on my iPhone’s newsreader and I’ll read them not through fervour, not because they happen to update while I’m bowing toward Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino.
I read them because of Apple’s track record and how the firm thinks things through.
One example. I hope this has changed in Windows 7 but it lasted for the first twenty years of Windows so it’s a fair illustration of how the technology doesn’t matter, it’s the people behind it. Copy some documents to a floppy disk, if you can find a floppy disk.
Windows gives you a nice, pretty graphic of paper airplanes flying between an icon of your hard disk and an icon of your floppy one. Until suddenly the floppy is full and it panics. “Error!” it screams. I can’t remember the unmemorably techie error message but its meaning is very clear: it’s your fault. You’ve got it wrong, not Windows.
Do the same thing on a Mac and it looks first. Tells you there’s not going to be enough room on the floppy.
That’s it, it’s just sayin’.
Microsoft did the pretty icon fine, it just thinks that pretty is enough. Well, sort of. Windows XP has a very Fisher Price kind of look but Windows 7 is prettier. It’s just that pretty is as pretty does, I think: Apple products have a shine to them at least in very great part because they work and work so well. Before the iPhone, no phone looked anything like it. Since the iPhone, no phone has been released that hasn’t tried to copy it. That’s design, that’s thinking brilliantly.
That’s not trying to make a long list of features, that’s trying to make the things useful.
Not long ago I recommended that a friend did not switch to Macs because I felt he was so wedded to Windows and had so many applications that changing was a giant deal. He changed anyway. I’m very persuasive. And for weeks afterwards he’d phone me up laughing. Because he’d buy some new software, new hardware, something, and he’d read out the six pages of instructions for how you install them under Windows before delivering the punchline. For Mac, the instructions were always “Plug it in.” The End.
I used to actually like computers. I enjoyed fiddling, I even had a fair enough career in computer magazines though I always felt I was a magazine guy more than I was a computing one. And all the friends I still have from there are nodding now. Possibly also nodding off, but.
Today all I want is to work on a machine that works. Someone asked me recently how I could possibly enjoy computers so much. I had just repaired a ridiculous problem with his Windows Vista laptop but I swear we stared at each other as if across a gulf. I don’t like computers, I like that I can talk to you like this, I love that I can do my work wherever I am in the world, I adore that right now I’ve got music playing, that in a short while my Mac will record the Afternoon Play so I can listen in the car later. That BBC News channel is open on my right. That Twitter is updating in front of me. That the film I’m buying off iTunes will be ready to watch in a second or two.
And obviously I write. But for every advantage this Mac gives me for writing, it does offer a thousand distractions.
It’s just that I’m not distracted struggling to find a DLL, whatever in the hell that is, I’m not interrupted by WARNING! VIRUS! YOUR FAULT! messages. And when my disk is full, I know I’ve just been talking too much.