Category Archives: Computers

Consumer Reports Vindicates Steve Jobs

I’ve been listening on my cycling commutes to Walter Isaacson’s fascinating biography of Steve Jobs. As a Mac user since the early days, with only minor detours to the PC side when I didn’t have the means to afford a Mac, I’m enjoying the backstory behind some of the products I’ve used and loved (and sometimes loathed), from my first girlfriend’s Mac Plus, through my Power Computing clone, various G3s and G4s (I still own a functional PowerBook G3 “Wallstreet” running OS9), and finally the late-2009 unibody iMac i7 on which I’m writing this post.

I’ve also done tech support for both platforms, which gives me a clear perceptive on which is superior. When asked to recommend Mac or Windows (something that happens infrequently these days), I recommend Windows – that is, if you have a large, responsive, and highly competent IT department on which you can rely heavily. Otherwise: go Mac.

From Isaacson’s bio, we get to see the positions held by Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Jobs regarding integration of OS and hardware:

Jobs believed in an end-to-end integration of hardware and software, which led him to build a machine that was not compatible with others. Gates believed in, and profited from, a world in which different companies made machines that were compatible with one another; their hardware ran a standard operating system (Microsoft’s Windows) and could all use the same software apps (such as Microsoft’s Word and Excel). “His product comes with an interesting feature called incompatibility,” Gates told the Washington Post.

My experience suggests that the divide between the manufacturer of the machine (Dell, HP, Asus, etc.) and the creator of the operating system (Microsoft) has been exploited by both parties to pass the buck. Machine won’t boot properly? Machine slow? Crashes? Call Dell, and they’ll send you to Microsoft. But Microsoft is going to send you right back to Dell. It makes for incessant fingerpointing, and no happy fix for the consumer.

When your Mac doesn’t boot, it’s Apple’s fault. And because of this, Apple is motivated to ensure that the OS functions harmoniously with the hardware. Not only that, Apple is almost always willing to accept the blame when something goes wrong. Anyone who’s been to a Genius Bar with a malfunctioning Apple product knows what I mean.

I was delighted and frankly a little shocked to see the following page in the November 2012 issue of Consumer Reports:

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A phrase sums it up: “…one brand stands out as the best all-around choice: Apple.” Support, build quality, integration, reliability – in every respect related to quality, Macintosh beats Windows. This from the magazine that would not recommend the iPhone 4 due to the “Antennagate” affair. It also placed the Samsung Galaxy SIII above the iPhone 5 in their latest ratings. This is not the opinion of a bunch of blind Apple fanboys; Consumer Reports is a respected, independent journal, which refuses all advertising, tests independently, and surveys its readers to collect large samples of data.

Listen Windows users, think about this one annoyance you probably have to live with on a frequent basis. If you plug a memory key into your Windows PC, do you have to wait while it installs a driver first? You get to see that little pop-up in which the OS declares, “hey, I’m so inferior I’m going to make you wait around while I dig up and install the driver for this thing.”

On a Mac, you plug in a memory key, and its icon appears on the Desktop. Always. No waiting.

Same goes for mice and keyboards. Heck, on Windows just moving your mouse to a different USB port can prompt a full driver re-install for the device. I’m even told it “might take a while.”

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Recently, I wiped and reinstalled a Toshiba laptop. My Macs always ask if I want to install updates, and will never spontaneously update and force me to wait and defer shutting down until it finishes up. This kind of thing has actually made my wife late when trying to shutdown and stow her Dell laptop when she needs to get to the kids’ daycare and avoid a fine. I’ll wager she risked her life rushing to arrive in time.

Michael Dell in 1997, speaking about what to do with Apple:

I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.

To summarize: Mac good, Windows bad. Michael Dell…moron.

I will leave you with my surreal gallery of screenshots (captured with my iPhone 4) showing the various messages I encountered while configuring the Toshiba. Yes, one of them does say, “Installing update 2 of 150.” I have to clarify that to the Mac users out there, who may believe the shot is a hoax.

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