Monday, March 10, 2008

The ABA Journal on Macs v PCs


The ABA Journal has a cute "debate" between two lawyers who "advise on the use of technology in the law office", one advocating for Macs and the other for PCs. There's not much new to the debate - you can read it yourself here. I did find it amusing, though, that the PC advocate frequently resorted to misinformation.

My first Mac was an SE/30. I needed a new hard drive. Did I call Apple? No. Did I find a third party vendor, order a third party hard drive (Apple, after all, doesn't actually make hard drives), and install it myself? Sure did. When I wanted to expand the memory, same story. And this was how long ago? Seventeen years ago - 1991. Has this changed? Hardly. My external hard drive has the word "Maxtor" on the side, not "Apple". My scanner and printer say "HP". My memory card reader says "Lexar". My FireWire hub says "Belkin". My wireless hub says "Linksys". So when I read,
As far as worrying what components are in my PC and worrying about the company I buy from, I have always objected to Apple's proprietary mindset: If you want a new hard drive, you must buy it from us, and you will pay what we want.
I cry "shenanigans". And when I read,
I like competition, and I like the fact that I can open up a PC and change out the hard drive with an inexpensive product that is the result of a lot of competition.
Well, welcome to 1991. No, even then he would be late to the game.

I do grant that many Macs aren't meant to be opened. As with PC's, Mac notebooks aren't meant to be serviced by the end-user. The iMac and Mac Mini are also not meant to be casually opened and self-serviced. Which, frankly, is fine for most users, even if the gearheads would prefer a Mac Pro.

His "last word" on the PC/Mac debate is this:
For all the positive hype about the “cool” Mac, a Web developer/ Mac convert has posted on his blog a 33-item complaint about why he has thoughts about going back.

Slow operations, bugs and crashes, useless functions, high expenses—sounds like the cost of an Apple is nearing its weight in gold.
Even though there is no follow-up to suggest that the developer actually switched back, that might be a little bit more compelling if, you know, the blog entry weren't dated September 22nd, 2005. (This would be more current - and the complaint, "Seriously, Steve - want more people to buy Macs? Just let them get the software", is valid, as you might expect from a seven-day-old post.)

That's not his first effort to oversell the PC, either.
In its zeal to be cool and proprietary, the new Apple ultralight, the MacBook Air, costs more than $1,700. Comparable specs are available on Windows machines for less than $1,000.
Comparable specs are available on cheaper Macs as well. I do agree that Wintel machines still have a price advantage in the portable market, which is why my portable is a Dell, but the proper comparison would be to a standard MacBook. In terms of performance? Let's just say, Vista is pretty but slow - I suggest investing in extra RAM. And Vista seems quirky - sometimes when I try to "wake up" my Dell, it shuts down - that's annoying.

My take on the debate is this: Despite the hype about how hard it is to learn a "different" system, it's really not. There are some significant differences between OSX and Vista, particularly if you use keyboard shortcuts, but you get used to them. I frequently switch back-and-forth between systems with only an occasional slip.

PC's have a lead in software, and have held that lead for years. As more software is browser-based, this lead will become less significant in the future. But if your office runs on a PC-only case management program, or you have a ton of money invested in HotDocs, you need to be careful. You can run both OSX and Windows on the current generation of Macs, but if you're going to be booting up in Windows mode as a matter of course it isn't sensible to spend the extra money (a Mac plus a Windows license) for functionality you will not use. If you run an emulator such as Parallels, so that you can run Windows in a window while running OSX, don't expect it to be fast.

If you are really just looking for basic functionality - Microsoft Office, and browser-based access to Lexis or WestLaw, you can go either way. In my opinion, right now Macs are much more pleasant to use. But there is a short learning curve if you switch.

After I graduated from law school I produced many legal documents on a Mac desktop computer, as that was what I owned. After owning several Macs, I switched to Windows because at the time it was a better option. When my last Dell desktop was groaning under the weight of modern applications, I switched back to a Mac desktop, because OSX offers many advantages over Windows. (XP was a resource hog. Vista is worse.) I have an emulator for programs that only run on PC's - I rarely use it. As I mentioned, my notebook is a Dell. Not that my saying so will make either Bill Gates or Steve Jobs happy, but my loyalty is to my own needs, not to a computer manufacturer.

1 comment:

  1. I will add one more thing - my mouse is by Logitech, and it has two buttons. (I guess, technically, the mouse has five buttons and a scroll wheel.) Whatever design elegance there may be in having a "one button mouse", there's a lot more functionality in "left click," "right click".

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