Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Think different

Think different
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I try to make a habit of not responding to replies to posts on ideasonideas. I feel that I should make my full observation in the initial post. From there I believe that each topic should be left open for the community to discuss. Quite simply, I feel it’s my role to present some ideas, not defend them.

With this next post, I imagine that there’s no way to avoid some negative reaction. Perhaps I’m wrong, but this topic seems to raise the ire of nearly every creative in the land. So, in what appears to be my weekly aim to make readers think that the people at smashLAB are “big stupid-heads”, I’m going to start this post by saying it: we use, and will continue to use, PCs.

What this post is, and is not

Oh, I can already hear the gasps and guffaws. So, let me take a moment to clarify the impetus behind this piece. This post is in no way intended to discourage or belittle any Mac user. To the contrary, it is intended to document some of the questions we faced, and decisions we made, as a result of weighing the pros and cons of each operating system for our studio.

In short, I wish to present the notion that the seemingly abundant reasons for a design studio to depend upon the Mac platform have dwindled; whereas, the Windows environment offers some strengths that many Mac users would with time find quite indispensable.

I was a dyed-in-the-wool Mac-guy

In 1996, when I for the first time tried to work on a PC, it was clearly deficient to the Mac OS. The applications just didn’t work as well, type control was abysmal, and sending files to the print-house felt like quite a harrowing prospect.

I can’t imagine that anyone would argue that the Macintosh was a quantum leap ahead, and that Microsoft responded at a snails-pace. In 1984, there was no question as to why the Macintosh was superior. For that matter, in 1997, the Mac still seemed to have a strong lead on the Wintel alternative.

Upon testing the first version of OSX however, it was clear that the new operating system was less than ready for prime-time. As such, our studio toyed with the notion of a world without Apples (gasp). In turn, we decided to give the PC another try. Although initially apprehensive about the solution, I found that after a week I had for the most part forgotten that I had made any transition at all.

Our studio ran as a completely Wintel-based operation for the better part of four years. Although I had a soft spot for my old G4, I cannot stress heavily enough how great a relief a single-OS world was. We no longer had to deal with cross-platform font issues or forked files. We experienced greater standardization in our office, and I.T. time was halved. We still had a Mac in the office for web-compliance testing; however, that soon became the only duty we placed upon that shiny little box.

I should note that the greatest level of resistance we noted was from new job applicants and some other designers. New hires would often turn a little pale upon hearing that their new work environment was PC-based; nevertheless, every one those individuals later acknowledged that the transition was easier than they had imagined.

It is just so pretty

With all of this though, the lure of the siren did catch me. I walked up to a Mac again in January of this year. I looked, I clicked, and I was in awe. What a beautiful machine. I raced home and called my business partner, “Hey, do you think we could give this Mac thing a try? I hear it’s really stable.” The truth is that I love beautiful things–stability had little to do with my interest; yet, I felt this was a sound way to convince a non-Mac guy to give it a spin.

After many weeks of research, deliberation, and questioning of peers, we decided that we would buy a Mac. It was a rather exciting experience. The packaging was beautiful, and the notion of a new set of computing solutions wasn’t without its allure; nevertheless, we encountered one question that we simply couldn’t get past: For the tens of thousands we would have to invest in order to switch, what notable improvements would we find in our office?

We ran through a set of questions, and searched for empirical facts to help us make this decision; however, we were hard pressed to find a rational answer to support the switch. Would they increase our efficiency? Hardly. Would they run faster? Seemingly not. Were there tools available on them that were not on our beige boxes? Nope. Sure, there were benchmarks and exceptions which could be used to counter the above statements; however, when looked upon dispassionately, many of them seemed more like propaganda than hard fact.

Certainly, the stability and security of a UNIX-based OS was very attractive considering the number of problems reported with Windows. When we looked at it more closely though; has our security ever been breeched? No. Do we have problems with stability? Occasionally, but 98% of the time, the complaint was due to an Adobe product misbehaving. And it’s not like other operating systems don’t have security and stability problems. Most times they’re just not as publicized as those affecting Windows.

We spent a number of weeks, trying to find ways to justify our switch to the Mac, and at the end we came back empty. I have to stress this: I wanted to move to the Mac. I wanted our little design agency to have those beautiful boxes at each desk. That said, while staring at a minimum outlay of fifty-thousand dollars to make the transition, I needed more to justify the cost.

Then it hit me

I quite love the Macs. They look good and they are nice to operate. I appreciate the attention to detail that they exude. They are without a doubt, the most aesthetically conscious computers available in the marketplace today. As such, it was hard to come to our conclusion.

My impetus for considering the Mac ultimately came down to one of style. I liked the look of them, and how nice they felt. That being said, when the marketing was pushed aside, I acknowledge that they simply wouldn’t allow our firm to do the things that our current solution did.

Our firm has always been different. We’re less fun than many others and I sometimes think we are more about strategy than design. I do not challenge the Macintosh’s superior styling and design; however, I do question the price of aesthetics in this instance. I believe in function over form. Let me restate that. I believe in both, but in my mind function should win.

What Mac users are missing

Beyond the cost factor, which realistically is a very compelling reason to choose the Wintel environment, there is one big reason why I’ll choose our Wintel solution over the Mac OS, and that’s Outlook. Mac users will respond, “You haven’t done your homework–we have Entourage.” True, however, Entourage is simply not the same as Outlook.

Although many confuse this application as an email tool, it’s so much more. Outlook in tandem with the MS Exchange Server is a powerful contact management and group collaboration solution. We use it for all aspects of our daily operations. For the small studio, it is an incredibly useful tool. To most designers, this is likely quite droll; however, for firms such as ours, who are working to build consistent process, efficient job management is a big issue.

Of course, there’s more. What about ensuring operability of template documents when they reach the client’s hands? We build templates to ensure consistency in any operation’s correspondence. This allows them to maintain the type standards, as laid-out in their identity, in every piece they create. We find it useful to work with systems that our clients understand and which we can walk them through as necessary.

Additionally, there’s the fact that most interactive shops require a team of developers who generally prefer to work on PCs. Frankly, there are efficiencies to keeping everyone on a single platform. Sure, BootCamp allows for dual booting; however, I am hard pressed to believe that most will use this function on a day to day basis.

These are just a few of my points; however, I believe that they help to illustrate a few of the things that helped us make our decision.

Never mind the zealots

People love their Macs. Some seem like those crazed Saturn drivers, who like to go to big barbecues together. Hey, I don’t really get it, but it seems to make them happy, so what the heck?

That being said, it’s weird when you ask someone about their computer, and they get this glassy, zombie-like expression, while spittle collects in the sides of their mouths. (I half expected some of them to offer me some really nice Kool-Aid, and an invitation to meet their leader.)

I suppose that in all of our research, I would have appreciated a little less passion, and perhaps a tiny bit more objective counsel. Honestly, that silly little box is just a tool. It doesn’t do the job for you.

We think different

One of the things that the Mac-camp of designers continued to reiterate, upon being asked about their preference for that particular OS, was that Macs are the industry standard. This phrase came up over and over again, a little like a mantra, “Industry standard… industry standard… industry standard…”

That seems like bunk to me though. The horse and carriage was an industry standard for some time–that certainly didn’t make it the only method of travel. Technology changes, as do user needs.

Isn’t the phrase “think different”? I suppose that’s what our firm is doing by choosing something other than the “industry standard”. That’s right… we’re sticking with these horribly ugly, but highly functional beige boxes.

Do I love the Wintel solution? Most certainly not. There are a number of deficiencies, and from all reports, Vista seems less than market-ready; moreover, it looks like a cheap knock-off of the OSX GUI.

The choice to employ Windows is not one we make wholeheartedly; however, at this time, it is the most effective platform for our firm’s needs. Although this very well may change with time, I don’t regret choosing to stick with this system. In fact, if you’ve never considered it before, I feel comfortable noting that it’s worth a look.

I should clarify one point. I’m not trying to change your mind. If you love your Mac, you love it. If you feel that way about your PC, fine; nevertheless, in all of my searching for objective feedback on which OS was the most sound, I found little other than evangelical hyperbole from each camp. My hope is that this lends an alternate voice to the debate.

Aren’t there better things to be discussing?

I have presented this topic in an effort to address some questions that others didn’t seem as able to answer when we asked. I’m not interested in starting a grand debate with this; however, from a business perspective, I think that choosing an operating system is a relevant discussion point.

That being said, I almost loath broaching the topic as I fear that it may spur even more pointless debate. For all of the talk about designers asking bigger questions, I believe that the Mac/PC question represents perhaps the greatest collective waste of effort known to a single industry. Has there ever before been a brand-loyalty topic that has commanded quite as great a furor?

Instead of seeing the bulletin boards filled with posts regarding preferences for one system or another, I’d love to find boards wrapped with relevant debate amongst designers, regarding potential ways that we can make change, help others, or improve the environment.

You’ll endlessly hear Mac users celebrate the efforts of Steve Jobs, the brilliantly creative showman, who has raised an almost evangelical following for the machines he sells. He’s a marketing genius. He has sold us on the idea of “insanely great”, and subsequently convinced us that these machines can make our lives better, happier, and even inspire revolution. He has equated the Macintosh to Gandhi, Edison, and Picasso. I believe there are few others who have pulled off as great an act of brand-wizardry.

Not as many speak as enthusiastically about Microsoft’s systems or their leader; however, it must be noted that Bill Gates, has contributed more than $3.6 billion to global health organizations, via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This organization has given away more money than anyone in world history. Am I part of the Gates’ fan club? No, but I’m starting to think that perhaps I should be.

Maybe we need to put the computer back in to perspective. It’s not a revolution, and it doesn’t define you. It’s a machine. If your identity is wrapped in it, perhaps you need to get away from that box a little more often. As a designer, you are measured by your ideas, output, and commitment–let’s accept that the time has come to stop worrying about the colour of the boxes beneath our desks.

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Comments & Trackbacks

  1. In my opinion, I see the Mac as a tool I love to use.

    Just as I have a favourite ballpoint pen with a comfy grip, I enjoy the design, details, process and experience of using my Mac.

    I decorate my cubicle with images and toys to inspire and encourage the design process. I could care less about the style or coolness of things like the eraser I use, or the note pad I scribble on, but the computer is something I stare at all day. Everything I view on it is shown through the windows of the Mac OS, which is just plain nice. If I had to come into work everyday and feel cramped or depressed by the style of a PC, I think the inspiration would not be there.

    Atleast not as much.

  2. Frank Lenk says:

    Great article! I laughed out loud to finally hear someone pointing out what a silly waste of energy the Mac-vs-Wintel debate really is.

    As for Bill Gates... it's important to note that the one 'technology' he really, really doesn't understand is Public Relations. Jobs has used business tactics at least as merciless as Gates', yet is loved while Gates is reviled. As you point out, Gates has taken philanthropy to an entirely new level... but again, has failed to take any real PR advantage of his activities. Nobody seems to understand that while Gates happens to be ridiculously wealthy, he's not about money, never has been. His drive is to change the world. Whether or not you agree with his vision of how the world ought to be, this key distinction should be kept in mind.

    One other minor point: I don't agree that Vista is particularly reminiscent of the Mac. If anyting, it seems less Mac-like than Windows XP. But whether it's going to be a worthwhile upgrade or the biggest disaster in computing history remains to be seen.

  3. Gary says:

    Well written. I work on both platforms and prefer Windows.

  4. gerald flach says:

    You can get from point A to point B in a Camry, but I'd rather do it in a Porsche.

    You can read a book sitting on a milk crate but it's much nicer in an eames chair.

    Given the choice between two things that serve essentially the same function, I personally will always choose the one with the aesthetic qualities that i appreciate.

    And altough my computer does not define me, it does make me part of a community. A community that appreciates design. A community that believes in being different. Weather we are or not is not the point.

  5. Josh says:

    I like your post alot. Very objective and it reflects my feelings and experience as well. The one exception I would make is Final Cut Pro. You can't find a comparable NLE for a PC. Premier is better than it was, but not as fast or as stable as FCP. Avid is good, but expensive. If I could get FCP on a PC I couldn't tell you a single advantage of the mac (but maybe a few disadvantages).


  6. ben weeks says:

    There also seems to be a much wider range of applications, plugins and hardware components for 3d/broadcast graphics use on the pc side. I bought a mac thinking "its more creative" (it is fun, but I can't play games with a lot of my friends because mac doesn't make so many) People look at it and "know" that i'm creative. So, that's powerful.
    But pcs seems to be able to do much more for much less in the broadcast design realm.

  7. Josh says:

    It's very ironic you write that, as I come from the complete opposite experience here at our studio.
    Worked with PCs for years, and I mean YEARS... untill maybe a bit over a year ago when without being too excited about it, we where forced to switch (except the 3D and render machines) to OSX.
    Now, I do not want to sound like one of those commercials but it really did changed the way we work here, and I mean that for good.

    From the quality of the monitors, to the ease of use of the GUI, and the integration with all of our tools..
    We are a design / post production studio, I'm not sure why do you think Outlook is much better than entourage, I'm sure you have your reasons and I believe you. But besides being a huge channel to get virus, (that's why I wasn't using it on PC either) we have no much of use for it here.

    What PCs are missing.. Final Cut, it's come a loooong way, and while Avid is still the standard, Final Cut keeps improving itself with every update, so we decided to "Think Different". The integration that it has with other tools like Logic and Motion are amazing. And again.. this might not be of an importance for you if Entourage was a strong point for switching platforms.

    Bootcamp is (and I do know most MAC heads dont like this) becoming essential, you are now able to test applications /websites/ design work, etc. on the SAME computer.

    Now more than ever... Mac is thinking how to make it easier for us designers to focus on what we do best, design.

    While it's a plus that the nice hardware comes with it, you sure won't find me in a bbq, fighting on what computer is better.
    I agree we are defined by our work (and awards) not by our computer's packaging.

    Good luck!

  8. Greg Stenson says:

    I agree with you on quite a few of the points that you have made in this article. I am fairly proficient in both platforms, however, I just prefer Macs (but I don't like Saturns, haha). I have a PC that sits under my desk at home and I plug it in and check browser compatibility whenever I get a freelance project that requires it, just like you guys did with your mac. I don't own a small company, or any company for that reason, so I may never be able to side with you on the whole Outlook Express theory…

    Oh, and the Bill Gates foundation thing, he's got to be getting some wonderful tax breaks on that, right? I'm not saying it's good, just speculating about the cause. I have not done any research on that, so I could be totally wrong, but it just seems convenient that the wealthiest man in America also be largest charity donater. Then again, I'm sure he's doing waaaay more than most of the upper class out there is doing. Hell, he's doing way more than me, relatively speaking that is.

  9. DaveMo says:

    Slotted or Phillips-Head?
    Metric or Standard?
    Mac or Wintel?

    I've always seen it as a choice of tools. Use the one you're comfortable with and that gets the job done. You can use either slotted or phillips-head screws to fasten two planks together, and you can use either standard or metric bolts and nuts to assemble an automobile. Use the tool set that works for the job at hand.

    I jumped on the Desktop Publishing bandwagon back in 1984 and haven't looked back. If it wasn't for that funky little Mac Plus, I probably wouldn't be doing the work I do today - on a PC. I don't prefer the PC over the Mac for any particular reason than that's what my employers have to work on. I'd be just as creative or productive on a Mac I'm sure.

    For the longest time, if you were a designer, that ment Macintosh, straight up. But over the years, the functionality of each OS has gotten closer and closer to a common experience. And now, we have the Mactel, poised to be the "Robo-Grip" of the computing experience. Boot up the OS of your choice, the software will be the same in Tiger/Leopard as it is in XP/Vista or Linux for that matter.

    In the future though, I suspect the thought of running full-blow apps on your CPU will seem quaint anyway, and it really will be a matter of getting from point A to point B in whatever vehicle you prefer or can afford.

  10. zorg says:

    Ok PC Mac its just a matter of attitude towards the design profession.
    I'm a designer so i look carefully with all my attention to every thing i do...
    There for i prefer to work on a machine that's nice to me even if you think it's just aesthetics.
    It is the form that has got the function, so why would i like to work in a machine if it hasn't nothing to do with the way i deal every day stuff.
    Needless is to ask...

  11. Anthony says:

    The cost of a computer is more than the figure at the bottom line on the day of purchase. So many people look at a few hundred dollars difference and say that is why they use a Windows PC. About 7 years ago, I saw a GISTICS Return on Investment report on Mac vs. Windows and when you consider cost-of-ownership on a 3-year basis the Mac platform was cheaper. It would be interesting to see an update to that report.

  12. Andy says:

    You make a very good point about the level of propaganda that's out there.

    I read so often about the way that Windows is so insecure and is a magnet for virii, how you only have to turn on a Windows machine and connect it to the net and in 12-30 seconds it will be infected by something...etc.

    In practice, while technically this may be true, in the real world things just don't look like that. I have never had any problems with Windows that relates to security at all, and the people I know who have, have usually installed software and agreed to the installation of something else at the same time.

    I love the idea of bootcamp. I would love to try OSX, but in the same way I like using Vista: It is fun to play with, but I already have an OS that has all my data on, all my software installed, and does everything I need it to do.

  13. K Daniel says:

    Nice article... I DO like the Mac much better than Windows. I do NOT like the, INHO, idiotic tradeoffs that you have to make to worship at the alter of Steve Jobs. I do NOT like having virtually no choice in laptops, no choice of TABLET form factor (despite what Steve Jobs thinks it's better suited for some tasks)... I would gladly buy a beige box Mac for $1000 less than his Steveness decrees it should cost for "pretty" plastic... I don't give a crap about "pretty plastic"... I decided a long time ago to NOT buy another Mac... but, I use my existing Macs at every opportunity - I still believe they are way easier to use than Windows).

    Apple's switch to Intel processors capable of actually running Windows (which I do have to use occasionally) will make me reconsider buying a Mac - but so far, the cost of, and lack of choice of, Mac laptops doesn't give me much hope that I'll buy a desktop Mac once Steve Jobs cripples them or charges twice what they should cost!

    And, this "it's a toaster" crap for what they call "consumer Macs" is totally brain-dead... I will NEVER buy a computer with no expansion slots! ( I know... USB and Firewire)... not the same thing.

  14. mark says:

    When it comes down to it, the only real rationale you gave for sticking to the PC/Windows is Outlook. I was looking for much more than that, and you say there is much more, but give no details. (You bring up templates but there are clients on both the PC and Mac sides, unless you only work with PC clients.) Of course, it's your choice and maybe your dependence on Outlook is greater than any other computing benefits you might find.

    So your article involves lots of fluff and is quite defensive about your choice. You spend too much time commenting on Mac zealots and on Steve Jobs, who are clearly irrelevant to this discussion. So in a followup post, it would be better if you gave more reasons for sticking with the PC.

    By the way, the Mac is not more costly (brought up several times in the comments). Yes, it costs to switch. But from a clean start, Macs don't cost more, and do even better when TCO is compared. There are lots of cheaper PCs out there, but they aren't using Core Duo chips, which are significantly faster.

    Also, I use a PC laptop (and Outlook with Exchange Server) at work. To provide for security (including Windows updates), we have a bunch of stuff loaded. That bunch of stuff (ZoneAlarm, SAV, Radia, etc) clearly takes away CPU cycles, sometimes to the point of rendering the GUI useless. Since I use a laptop, this stuff can't run after-hours, because I take the laptop with me. So this has been a real drawback. And I don't find Outlook indispensible but maybe we don't depend on Outlook that much as you.

    I have a Mac at home. An old G4. And it has no security running. And the overall experience (including getting things done) is much more pleasurable than my PC. Of course, I don't need to use Outlook and Exchange Server on it.

  15. mike says:

    Nice post, but doesn't say anything new to an old pragmatist like myself.
    Form follows function, so true.
    Less is more, etc.
    PC is the commodity, Mac is the Object d'Art.
    PC won't admit to being a commodity.
    Mac is happy being Object d'Art, with a very thin slice of a very profitable pie, margins that Dell only dream about.
    But that's not the point. PC vs Mac is a dichotomy, generally there will be a strong preference for one or the other. I know which I prefer.
    I like my computing life simple, but no simpler.
    For business, I want maximum value for money.

  16. Mike says:

    This article is a good example of protesting too much--I was disappointed that in the end all it appears to be is Outlook. Whatever you choose to do is fine by me--I don't work at your company, after all--but the article was rather defensive, maybe because a large part of you prefers Macs and you're convincing yourself that you've done the right thing.

    And maybe you have--Outlook does indeed only run on Windows, after all. But your final paragraphs are disingenuous, calling for people to stop talking endlessly about their OS choices when you've just spend 3,000 words doing the same. Designers talk endlessly about what OS to use because it is their toolset, and because it matters. If one tires of the conversation, don't participate--and certainly don't write long pieces about why one is tired of the conversation.

  17. P.J. Onori says:

    Definitely a good read.

    A computer is a tool - a very complex tool, but nonetheless a tool. It makes sense to use the tool that you're most comfortable and productive with. It just seems fairly straight-forward to me.

  18. Richard Taylor says:

    Everyone focuses on aesthetics when discussing the Mac. I prefer this analogy: Even now, long after Microsoft copied the Mac as closely as it could, disparities remain. Driving a car without door hinges is certain to strengthen your arm muscles, but really, aren't door hinges the better answer?

    You say you've never had your systems infected with a virus, so why switch to a Mac? Wrong focus. How much does it COST you to remain uninfected? Software? Hardware? IT support?

    I use Macintoshes not because they're prettier than Windows machines, although they are. I use them because they stay out of my way, don't crash, work as advertised, and cost nothing extra out the door. Now that's true "form follows function".

  19. Thanks for letting me know about this article Peter.

    I'll put this bluntly - I don't understand how web designers can work from a Mac. If your final product is more likely to be used from a person that is PC-based and not Mac, wouldn't you want to see exactly what they're seeing? Shouldn't that be part of the design process. With that said, I do have a Mac and PC but if I was limited to only using one it would probably be a PC. I couple of years ago I probably would never had thought that.

  20. JohnK says:

    I found this article rather puzzling. As I write this I'm in the middle of sorting out a printing problem where the windows pcs at Kinko's are mangling the colors in a postcard I'm printing for a customer. I consistently have font and color problems with documents that are generated by others on pcs - even when viewing with windows. I am quite surprised to hear that you don't have that issue.

    I use both both Macs and pcs although I have to say that I use the pc as little as possible. As soon as possible I copy the data off to the Mac and finish the project there.

    I was surprised to hear that you liked Outlook. Maybe I'm missing something but I run from Outlook as soon as possible. I've figured a work around by writing a rule that forwards all my mail to a POP account so I can read it, sort it and search it with Mail app on OS X.

    Anyway, good luck to you and your group.

  21. Shane says:

    I liked the article. For once it's nice to see an objective account of the decision making process. That being said, I was suprised about the Outlook thing. Our firm had the opposite experience with the Outlook/Exchange system being a haven for worm infections, viruses, and fairly ineffecient project management. Business Portal was another tool used and the exclusion of Mac/Linux compatability was difficult to deal with when bringing in contractors.

    Eventually we found another Windows software solution that worked much better, but Outlook/Exchange? Well, to each his own.

  22. Chuck says:

    I am a former IT Manager who worked at one of the largest design firms in the U.S. From my perspective, the Mac wins hands-down. No need for anti-virus software, so there are no process-hogging applets running in the background and less costs. The Mac will last much longer than a PC, so there are cost savings there. And I am sorry, but a Windows machine makes for a huge target when placed on the internet. This is the biggest reason, from an IT standpoint, to choose a Mac. Why should you have to defend yourself from all the crapware being silently downloaded to your PC when a Mac presents almost no target at all? And then there is the whole "re-install" process. When Windows craps out, there is really no need to even try to fix the multitude of problems that are impossible to find. Just reload the box. Yet my Mac at home hasn't had a reload in almost five years. I have upgraded it from 10.1.5 to 10.2 to 10.3 now, but I installed the OS right over the previous one. Try that with Windows! Macs may be more expensive up front, but no one will ever convince me they are more expensive over their life span than a PC.

    I thought the whole idea of using a computer was to get work done.

  23. Mac.

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  25. Mikhail says:

    An interesting article. To my mind, the fact that Macs generally look better is nice, but incidental. Computers aren't decorator items in most workplaces, but tools. You don't buy a hammer for its cool styling.
    I manage a mixed Mac and PC environment, and people can work on the platform they prefer. Both platforms are fine for the sorts of work we do, each has areas of software where it is stronger, and the user's familiarity with particular software seems to be the main determinant of whether someone chooses to use the Mac or the PC. Over time, users tend to drift from the pcs to the macs, but it's only a slight tendency.
    What is very obvious though, is that the PCs need more tech support. To generalise, the Mac users experience less problems, smaller problems, or find it easier to fix their own. And it is quite possible to keep a PC on the internet free of malware and exploits - but the price of liberty is eternal vigilance! And eternal vigilance takes quite a lot of time and software and hardware, to do it properly.
    Whereas once a Mac on the internet is set up for it (its internal firewall on etc, a three minute job), it just doesn't need thinking about again, except a one off training of the user to run Software Update occasionally and get the security patches. The only reason we put anti-virus software on our Macs is to protect the PCs from whatever might come in on emails. For us, total cost of ownership is clearly higher on the PCs.

  26. beto says:

    To each his/her own, plain and simple.

    I have been using both platforms on an everyday basis for at least 15 years. However, if I had to settle on just one, Mac would be the surefire choice.

    And why? First off, OS X makes me feel more productive. It is simply intuitive and accomodates itself to the way I work, not the other way around as Windows does. And considering myself free of viruses and weird crashes is just icing on the cake.

    All the functionality I'd need from Outlook, I get it from Entourage. Our organization shares a large Exchange server, and I get calendars, notifications, the whole nine. Beats me what I am missing.

    Someone above said web designers shouldn't be using a Mac since most web users are on PCs. Good point. But that is why a responsible web designer should always test his stuff on that platform while he can continue developing on a Mac. And now that you can run both platforms natively in the newest Macs, this is such a no-brainer.

    So yes, computers are simply tools. Either of them will get you the job done. You have your preferences, we have ours. No need to argue over that. In fact, Apple has never been in better shape than these days, ever.

  27. Alf says:


  28. John says:

    Wow, a rational and level-headed approach to choosing an operating system?!? Seriously though, I wish more people thought this way. If you're actually letting yourself be defined as a person by which OS you use, that's a pretty pathetic existence.

  29. Joe S. says:

    I'm a Graphic designer. I use PC's at work and a Mac at home. One problem that I have at work is consistent color between different applications from different manufacturers. The monitors & the printers are both color calibrated. No systemwide color management.

    Here are a few more annoyances.

    2. No Applescript. A lot of futzing with files.

    3. A desktop within a desktop over a desktop. Eats up screen real estate. The windows dominate the screen making it cumbersome to work with multiple applications& windows within applications. Having multiple windows open within an application & switching between windows requires a trip up to the menu bar...constantly switching between the mouse & the keyboard disrupting my workflow.

    4. Constant errors when deleting a file that is not open in any application...but Windows tells me that it is, so I have to quit all the applications that file was open in to delete the file or rename that file,
    then relaunch those applications.

    5. I can't draw with the mouse...inaccurate & jumpy. Trying to do accurate masks with the painting tools in PS just isn't going to happen.

    6. Drag & drop is a joke.

    7. Without well place shortcuts plus copy & paste the OS would be a usability nightmare.

    8. No spring loaded folders (constantly double-clicking & hitting the back button to get to nested folders.)

    9. When I use open from the file menu & I have set my menus to show files in alphabetical order (by name). They are never in order. MS must think that files & folders need to be separated from each other in a hierarchal menu. It slows me down. Also, when I set a window to look at my files by the date they were modified close that window & reopen that window the setting has changed.

    10. No visual cues when using hot keys in the menu bar.

    11. Keyboard shortcuts are an exercise in finger twisting gymnastics.
    with the windows key right smack dab in the middle of the often used
    control & alt keys guaranteeing a visit from the start menu fairy.

    12. No keyboard shortcut to get to the desktop in open/save dialog boxes (again a constant finger ballet with mouse & keyboard.)

    13. Program files spewed all over the hardrive...not in neat packages.

    14. When using Freehand selecting a palette will deactivate the main image window making the user have to click on the image window to make it active.

    These are just a few I'm not a zealot & I welcome any tips that may help. Your article seems pointless to me. You have not used a Mac in a production environment for sometime & somehow you seem to have some sort of opinion on using Macs. Your opinion, or lack of is void of any real world experience. I don't think you have done much in the way of research. Your opinions on price & aesthetics taking precedence over function. Why should I care what Bill Gates does with his money? What does that have to do with the subject that you have posed for discussion. Yeah computers are tools. Use what you are comfortable with but, let's get off the more expensive...just eye candy trip. Yes, Macs were more expensive in the past...but if you compare what Macs were doing at the time to a Windows system from that same era. The price was justified. Today the price is negligible for comparable systems. Windows was still having problems with postscript as late as 1998.

    I have enjoyed virus free computing for over 12 years & have yet to reload an OS. I'm not saying this doesn't happen. It just hasn't happened to me. Time is money & from experiences with both systems I chose a Mac for personal & freelance use. It has been a reliable, cost effective & pretty much problem free choice.

  30. Joe S. says:

    One more pet peeve... Special Characters: to make a bullet on the Mac I press the Option & 8...on Windows I press alt 0149 with the numlock on from the number keypad. You can also just hit alt 1 & the bullet will appear on the screen but it will not print as a bullet when it goes to press. If the screen is showing me a bullet how am I to know that a mistake was made until it is too late. All the systems special characters are pretty much the same nonsensical numbering series with the numlock on from the keypad. A productivity buzz kill.

  31. Maaike says:

    Good article. Some people say it's too defensive, but it's quite hard being a designer on PC without being defensive. My experience (I work on a pc but I'm surrounded by people who use Macs) is that Mac-adepts can get truly obnoxious when discussing computers. I've been told I'm stupid, cheap, igorant or even evil just because I don't care much for the Apple brand.
    I've used both Macs and pc's in the past 10 years and my personal experience is in fact that the pc is more stable and breaks less often. I know many people who have had hardware problems with their Powerbooks. My pc is now 3.5 years old, it's very stable, I've never had to reinstall the OS (Win XP) and I've never been infected by viruses or spyware. The only measure I had to take for this was installing a virusscanner, which wasn't expensive at all and doesn't need any maintenance.
    In the end, it's all a matter of personal preference. And come on, it's not a very big deal, it's only a tool. Owning a Mac doesn't make you a better designer in any way (though it will make people think you're very hip & trendy, doh).

  32. nikolaus heger says:

    No wonder this post is long. You are a designer. You are choosing Windows over Macs. I don't want to sound offensive, but for chrissake, the difference should be plain obvious to you: Windows == CRAP design. OS X == good design. Mac Hardware == Brilliant design.

    I use PCs and Mac day to day for programming. I love the Mac, and "can live with" the PC even though I always have the feeling of wasting lots of time on silly things. The PC is an "it's almost as good as Mac" - things tend to "almost" work. Just not quite. Things that take one step on the mac tend to take 5 or more on Windows. I help everyone I know with their PC problems, and likewise for Mac. Trust me, the PC problems are much more time-consuming.

    Being completely dependent on Outlook should have been the very first point in your decision making: "We are completely dependent on Outlook. Can we or do we want to get away from that?" "No." "Ok, so let's stick with Windows", end of story.
    I have a feeling the need to add a lot of other justifications to that comes from a feeling of having chosen the wrong path and therefore having to come up with lots of good reasons for it.

    On an unrelated note, I happen to think Outlook is the most amazingly crappy email client I have ever seen. I have since switched to Thunderbird on windows, which is bad, but not as bad as Outlook.

  33. Shahzad Khan says:

    Though I belive, that for an artist, computer i san expensive tool, but anyhow, as far as digital media is concerned, I have my belief in macs, though i do work on PCs most of the time, infact alsmot 90% of my work is done on PC's I still love macs, for their simplicity and ease of use, not to mention, they have the ability to automate alot f things, for that matter you need 3rd party plugins for WinTel....


  34. brad says:

    Interesting read as always. I too have had better experiences with the MAC over PC as many have stated in previous postings. I find the Mac to be more intuitive both through it's hardware and software ergonomics, usability and navigation(obviously a personal preference). I really appreciate the space saving design of the imac G5 for a desktop. It's nice to have the extra desk space to stack a few more piles of books. I felt like my PC was a bit of a space hog in comparison. Not to mention that I found it to be a much easier process to actually get my machine wired up and ready to go. Also, I definitely am enjoying the built in security of the MAC. No more paying extra to protect a PC from virus'.
    As for aesthetics, personally, I feel like the overall image of the company you work for is an important part of a design studio. For me this includes everything from brand colors to computers used. Semiotics are a telling and critical aspect of what we do. So if you wanna be interpreted as intelligent and beige that's what clients will see...if you wanna be interpreted as intelligent and good looking then in my mind MAC is the better choice.

  35. Tim Lapetino says:

    Wow. Interesting post. Having done the PC-only thing while running a three-person firm, and now working for a medium-sized, Mac-based firm, I can see both sides. But Macs definitely cost more.

    My big. burning question: What has your experience been in print workflow --specifically sending files to printers? How do your offset press print reps feel about your file types? Have you run into any issues with the RIP not enjoying your PC files? What about press-ready PDFs and fonts? This would be my one hangup with a PC-only workflow, since some of my printers have said they regularly have pre-press issues with native PC files in applications like InDesign. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! Thanks! :)

  36. Hi Tim,

    A few years ago we found that most printers would sigh upon hearing that we were sending PC formatted files; however, we rarely find any resistance at this point. The shops we work with seem to be equally comfortable with either platform.

    We send most everything as a press-ready PDF, and generally don't experience any challenges. We are quite vigilant in checking bluelines, and we work with meticulous printers. I'd be a little apprehensive of sending native InDesign files, but I have always felt this way. If it's locked-down before it leaves us, there seems to be a lower incidence of error.

  37. JakeTwoFish says:

    It's a tool. I couldn't afford to buy PS and Illustrator and a Mac. I already had a pc version of PS.

    What I don't like is the arrogance many mac users have. How about judging a designer based on his/her work? You cannot tell the difference in output. Crap is crap. Good is good.

    Use what you like. Obsesive mac-enthusiasts can sometimes resemble black-beret wearing egocentric artists. Just make good work. I respect that.

  38. Dan says:

    In best hypocritical tone:

    I have to be honest, I stopped reading at about the 15th comment or so. The number of replies either speaks volumes to the number of hits this site gets or there are far too many people out there searching for this subject.......It's a computer get over it!

    I spend 90% of most days in front of a computer and have been thinking a lot lately about trying to increase my productivity (scientist, not designer). I really doubt that either platform would really change much of anything.

    I'll be in the market for a new laptop within the year, and will likely go with a MacBook. Why? I'm a consumerist whore. Ok, not just because I'm a consumerist whore. I'm a sucker for pop culture and Macs are pretty. Also, as more of my peer group switches to Mac, the.....cough cough....available software is better. While I fear that this will create problems with my semi-computer illiterate boss, I should be able to handle it. I doubt that our household will ever be PC-free, but it is leaning towards being Mac dominant.

    When it boils right down to it, each situation is unique, and if you're happy with your choice who cares?

  39. Darth Sandmich says:

    Apple has one big advantage in that most Windows people HATE their platform. Apple zealots feed into the dream that there is a better way and who can't appreciate their well designed products.

    The Linux people try the same thing, but everyone know they're full of it.

  40. Derelict says:

    I never post comments anywhere but I must this time. Another reason not to go mac is the lack of a TabletPC. It may not be a Cintiq but I get so much more done being able to draw on the screen. I also don't have to cart around a Wacom as I did with my Powerbook. I appreciated the "industy standard" comments. I was the only person in my year at design school that only used PC's and somehow was able to produce excellent work on what students and teachers called a "inferior tool".

  41. CreativeGuy says:

    OK, I admit it. I'm a Mac Zealot! I love using the Mac OS. Notice I said I love the Mac OS, not the Mac and not Apple.

    Frankly, Apple has put out dud after dud after dud the last few years (excluding the iPod) to the point where I'm ready to consider the alternative.

    The G5 is a big, ugly bunch of hot air (literally). Fan noise issues have plagued the machine since the beginning and they still haven't fixed it.

    The MacBook and MacBook Pro. Still overpriced, still underpowered. And for the premium price tag, you are treated to a plethora of issues ranging from the white plastic turning yellow after 2 weeks, to yet more "mooing" sounds coming out of your speakers. In fact, the only selling point, it seems, besides the glossy screen is the ability to run Windows.

    What I really want is to run the Mac OS on a PC box. I love the Mac OS, but I'm sick and tired of paying an obnoxious premium price for equipment that offers little more in the way of features from the last box, but introduces numerous problems such as the ones littering sites like MacFixIt.

    I give Apple one more year. That's it. When Adobe releases CreativeSuite3, I'm going to take a long hard look at Windows and where Apple is with their computers. At that time, if there isn't a HUGE improvement not only in quality of the released product, but features too - then I see no reason to pay the premium prices and I'll probably switch to Windows. After all, as stated in the article, I actually USE the software as my tools of the trade, not the OS, and certainly not the hardware.

  42. Mackie says:

    Well, being a designer/media creator, the programs I use most are not Outlook but Creative Suite and Final Cut Studio. I've never had any compatibility problems.

  43. paul merrill says:

    The one thing the 3,000 people failed to comment on was that if our friend had stuck with Macs & never switched, there would not be a $50,000 expense to switch.

    Also, Mr. Gates is often cited for his philanthropy, but as a percentage of his income, what he and Melinda give is pretty small. Having said that, we never hear ANYTHING about what Mr. Jobs is peraonally giving away.

  44. zoeBe says:

    I agree with some of the previous comments. If you want other ppl to stop talking about an issue, YOU have to stop talking about it. It would actually be nice to read a design blog that never comments on this THAT would be a change. Oh well, can't undo what you've already done....(though could delete it! save a little face to new readers! ;)

  45. Tom says:

    I agree. It is completely worthless to be using a Macintosh computer if you're in business.

    If you want to look cool and use an iPod (even though a PC can run one too) then get a Mac.

    If you want to make money - use a PC. Ok ok you can make money using a Mac but you're probably snobby and overcharging for design fees just to make back your investment on hardware.

    Cliche's aside, I personally like to work by the numbers. If I can spend $500 and have a very nice machine that I can personally upgrade in the future - then that's a wise business decision. Even if it doesn't look as pretty. It works.

    Furthermore, Windows is the most widely supported operating system in the world. There are more programs written to run under Windows than any other operating system out there. Yes often times a lot of junk, but also a lot of very valuable software as described above.

    I do enjoy the recent Mac commercials that are nice and factual but leave out anything for the PC (of course). The PC can emulate Mac OSX too. It is actually MORE compatible with hardware - like the one Japanese speaking lady commercial I enjoyed that one...nearly fell off my chair laughing.

    The network one was nice too- they did say that they were both on the same network. Guess they wanted to make it sound like it was the Macintosh's reason why the Mac and PC were networked...Guess someone never heard of software like PC MACLAN, etc. MacDrive? TransMac? Crossfnt? All nice pieces of Windows software that will help a PC live in a Mac world - especially with graphic design.

    The damage Apple did to itself years ago is almost irreversable. Their solution is to make nice looking packaging and machines and overcharge making people feel like they got a value.

    I know this subject has been beaten to death - but seldom do you find designers out there saying they work on PCs. I think more should. Any business savvy person would because they are the economical choice. End of story.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  46. Tom says:

    haha. I don't know. A graphics card is a board with capactors, silicon, chips, etc. soldered into it. It has different firmware on the prom chips to run on different machines...I'm sure I'm simplifying a bit --- BUT the point is, they shouldn't be any different in price. Now, I must admit PCs have some pretty darn expensive video cards too...but generally speaking I could see the Mac being more expensive...maybe it's due to the fact they don't procude as many?? Not to throw a big dagger in the heart of Mac lovers, but contrary to popular belief PC machines outnumber Macs by an alarming amount. I do love Macs though =) All computers are my little children. ... that usually misbehave.

  47. karen says:

    This is a great post considerding just how sticky the topic is. You've presented several ideas in such a way as to give me a platform of ideas to use when trudging through my own battles on this subject.

    >pc advocate.

  48. mark lazaro says:

    hi Everyone,

    Well I have followed the whole "mac vs windows" debate for years and never really found anyone who could without reasonable doubt present  substantial facts that proved one was better than the other.

    I have been a windows user for over 10 years now working in the fields of graphics, 3d animation and video. My choice of platform was purely influenced by the first company I worked with, we had a network of 15 windows machines and no one really asked questions. With a result people developed workflows, methods and even work-arounds for some common windows memory problems and crashes.

    Ive moved on since then leaving my first employer to start freelancing and I now run my own advertising agency in India. On the platform front NOTHING really changed for me. As you would expect I equipped my office with PCs ranging from Celerons to Quad Zeons for various applications.

    Everyone was happy, work seemed good. For more than 1 reason I was unofficially crowned the IT guy of the firm. So apart from my work I had to take time off during the day to fix technical issues with the machines. Over the last 2 years the frequency of the breakdowns and issues increased exponentially, we expanded from 3 machines to 10 and things started to go berserk. Cashing in on cheap hardware providers like dell and  the local assembled PC market, we figured we had made very economical investments.

    Looking back I would so no, I realised my choice of OS platform was not truly mine, it was something I had grown accustomed to. Our network of machines would continuously develop some problem or the other. Antivirus software apart from interfering with mission critical applications like network rendering managers would eat up valuable CPU cycles. We found ourselves spending a lot of time fixing windows rather than working. To cut a long story short I still had no answer to this dilemma, I didn't  know better. By this time I had learnt the windows registry nearly by-heart. Our efficiency was suffering but we had no alternative.

    By sheer accident I met a fellow designer at a trade fair and during the course of conversation we discussed workflows. He ran a studio with a network of macs. Skeptical at first it took me a long time to accept that something as alien as a mac could find its way into my studio.

    Well, they have. It started with an imac, i personally moved to it and bought a mac licence of adobe creative suite. Within 2 weeks everyone  in the office was fighting for time on the mac. I completed 2 major campaigns in that 2 week period. Both without a single crash,blue screen, reboot, freeze or anything else my PCs had thrown at me.

    I now have a complete plan to move 2 pipelines within the company  (graphics-web,print and video-editing and effects) totally to mac. By the 3rd quarter of this year I would have completed the transition. We already have licences of FCS and Adobe creative suite and are making good use of them. The learning curve has been nothing like what we expected, everyone made a smooth transition within 3 weeks of the software arriving. If there is anything that I under-estimated it is the speed at which my staff found reasons to do thing on the mac. We need more macs now but money flow puts them out of our reach for just a little while longer.

    One of the major issues that faced me when I was buying that first mac was the cost of the hardware. Trust me today after much research and math its much cheaper. I bought mac care plans and got a 4 year warranty for my machines. FCS and Shake both top of the line apps upgrade for just 100$ and less. The efficiency gained in the last few months itself is a huge sign that the cost factor of moving to the mac platform is not an issue at all.

    Im running out of time here, have to run for a meeting. . . I will try and write more in the days to come.

    for now I can ony conclude that using the tool that keeps you designing is the way to go. As much as I love technology I dont want to spend my life fixing it. When the tool you are using is letting you effortlessly be creative youll know its the right one for you.


  49. A came across your article by accident, but it is even now still relevant. Nice reading and it gave me some good input on how to tackle some of these discussions still happening. I started with the MAC and ended with the PC. I will never go back again. Cost and efficiency.

  50. I spend 90% of most days in front of a computer and have been thinking a lot lately about trying to increase my productivity (scientist, not designer). I really doubt that either platform would really change much of anything.

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