Would I be a Mac, if…?

It’s a great box and I love it, but…

For those of you that know me, you know that my love affair with the Apple ecosystem is very recent. I’ve been a Windows advocate most of my computing career.  In fact, most of my computing chops were earned in the Microsoft ecosystem – Windows, WindowsCE, PocketPC/ PocketPC Phone/ Windows Mobile and Windows Phone. I am still listed as a Sr. Content Editor for WUGNET, the Windows User’s Group Network and have been associated with them since 1997. For example, most of contents of their Windows and Computing Tips database are my work.

There’s been a bit of talk in the tech world about some changes Apple is making. Recently, Apple announced a decision to kill both Aperture and iPhoto. Jason Perlow over at ZDNet wrote a column about it.  It got me thinking about my own Mac journey.

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I bought my first Mac in 2006; and believe it or not, I bought it to be a Windows machine.  Boot Camp is a GREAT tool; and Intel-based Macs do a great job of running Windows (though I know Steve Jobs can hear me, and is definitely rolling over in his grave as I type this.)  I apologize, Mr. Jobs; but your hardware, IS the best in the business. Period…AND they make awesome Windows PC’s.

Since 2006, I’ve owned 3 different MacBook Pro’s or Unibody MacBooks.  However, it wasn’t until late 2010/ early 2011 that I made the complete switch over from Windows to OS X. This happened for a number of reasons.

1. I Invested in the Mac Ecosystem
It’s gotten better over time, but even though iPods were Windows compatible, they REALLY didn’t want to live there.  The differences in their operation were subtle – and still are – but if you have a chance to have an iPod or an iPhone pair up with a Mac, you will see they are much happier speaking their own language with their own people than they are living as an exile in a foreign country. In other words – you iDevice wants to pair up with an iTunes library on a Mac rather than on a Windows box. It’s easier to manage. It’s easier to sync content to, though that may not be as obvious today as it was back between 2004 to 2010.

It was also about this time, that I started buying more audio and video directly out of the iTunes Store rather than buying CD’s and ripping them myself.  As I began doing this, I decided to move my music library from the Windows side to the Mac side of my MBP. Since I knew that my iDevice life would be a better experience as a native Mac device AND I had a Mac to do this with, it simply made sense to move everything to the Mac side.
2. I Became Lazy
I don’t want to say that I made the permanent switch to OS X from Windows because I got tired of stopping and starting my PC when I wanted to watch a movie or sync my iPod/ iPhone; but stopping what I was doing and trying to quickly swap over was becoming a bit of a pain.  There wasn’t a real good way to reading or writing to an HSF or HSF+ volume from the Windows side of things, though you could at least read from an NTFS volume via OS X, natively at the time.

My biggest problem at the time was Office for Mac 2008 – it stunk. Period.  Word, Excel and PowerPoint were DEFINITELY behind in both technology and functionality with their counterparts from both Office 2007 and 2010. As I was (primarily) a Windows tech journalist/blogger at the time, and all of the GOOD tools that I was used to using were on the Windows end of things, it made sense to stay there, despite the fact that I had a Mac.

The other big problem I had was that despite how much I tried, despite how much I upgraded my Mac(s), running Windows as a VM with either Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion was a horrible experience.  The only way you could get good performance was to run Windows via Boot Camp, and that meant bopping back and forth between the two operating systems. Running Parallels or VMWare was painfully slow, and threw a boat anchor around the host OS, too.  So, I stayed a Mac owner running native Windows.  However, it was becoming clear that if things ever did improve, or if I ever did get a Mac that could run Windows in a VM with decent performance, I’d make the switch.

It was in late 2010 that Office for Mac 2011 became available and I jumped on early betas thanks to my TechNet subscription. It was also during this time that I was able to purchase an Early 2011 15″ MBP that had decent enough specs to push Windows as a VM via Parallels Desktop that it made sense to make the full switch over to OS X.  I’ve been a full-blown Mac ever since.  However, I do want to make one very important point.

I’m not made of money.  I love the Mac ecosystem; but the price of entry is WAY too high for the average consumer, in my opinion. While it may be easier to get there with iPhone and iPad, buying a Mac laptop or desktop costs a LOT of coin, and honestly, I wouldn’t own a Mac computer if I wasn’t a technology journalist.

Since I can VERY EASILY run OS X natively and Windows (as well as any variant of Linux) in a VM with decent performance thanks in no small part to Intel’s i7 processor and 16GB of RAM it makes sense for me to stay here. Running a VM of OS X or Linux on a PC hasn’t always been easy, and I gave up on tweaking and pushing hardware to do things they REALLY don’t wanna do (even though they should be able to) a few years ago. It’s just not worth the hassle, and I have better things to do with my time.

However, Jason Perlow brings up a very good point in his Aperture/iPhoto argument – would I be a Mac for any other reason?  Jason’s pull was digital photography. Mine was the need to easily run more than one computing OS at a time without having to reboot OR having to put up with crappy performance so I could write about apps, hardware, accessories, etc. used with those operating systems.  I was forced recently to admit – and rightly so – that if I weren’t getting paid to do that, I wouldn’t have purchased a Mac in 2006 in the first place.

It’s true. I really like my Mac, OS X and the way all of my iDevices work and integrate so well in their native environments and operating systems.  While it isn’t as “just works” as it used to be, owning and using a Mac is still a lot more elegant than anything that I’ve seen on the PC side.

Are you a Mac?  Have any of the recently announced changes to the Apple ecosystem turned you off to the Mac?  Why don’t you let me know your thoughts in the discussion area, below? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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HP Applying OS Pressure

HP’s “Back by Popular Demand” Promotion confirms – Windows 8 really does suck.

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I heard this while listening to episode 926 of TNT, “Get Adam Curry on the Phone.” My initial response was that this was a huge problem for Microsoft. HP is not only offering a current PC i.e., not refurbished and not a clearance item with Windows 7 on it, but it’s doing so at a $150 discount.

HP is offering the HP Pavilion 15t-n200 Notebook PC with Windows 7. It has  a 4th generation Intel Core i5-4200U Processor and is priced $599.  This is huge for both consumers and the enterprise, as many users have really struggled with Windows 8. Many enterprises are still using Windows XP and their IT departments are more inclined to refresh those aging endpoints with Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.  The Windows 8 UI is totally different from Windows XP and the learning curve is steep.

Many organizations aren’t willing to take the productivity hit associated with the new desktop OS. That coupled with the fact that many critical, proprietary and other traditional enterprise apps have not been fully vetted or optimized for Windows 8 makes them an unlikely candidate for the touch-centric OS.  Add in the absence of a Start Button and a more traditional Start Menu and you begin to clearly see the hot mess that Windows 8.x has created for itself.

I think the biggest issue here is that Microsoft is having to compete against itself with much older products.  Windows 8 has less than a 10% market share of all Windows PC’s worldwide, and they’re under a great deal of pressure to:

1.Make Windows 8.x work – Microsoft has a long row to hoe, here. Their Windows 8.1 Update 1, or Windows 8.2,whatever they’re going to call it, has a large bill to pay. It needs to right more wrongs than Windows 8.1 did gain more confidence, more user satisfaction than it currently enjoys and it really doesn’t have a lot of time to do that with.

2.Distance themselves as quickly and as far as they can from Windows 8.x. Microsoft can’t make Windows 9 get here quick enough.  While its next OS, code named Threshold is currently scheduled for a Spring 2015 release, for Microsoft, this next year is going to crawl.

Microsoft’s PC market is losing a lot of ground to the tablet market, especially the Android tablet market. Not only are Android tablets cheap , many decent models can be had for between $250 to $450.  Microsoft’s tablet offerings, Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro are much more expensive, and Windows RT doesn’t have the ecosystem of apps and content that Android has, yet another area where Microsoft seems to be seriously struggling.

HP’s move to bypass Windows 8.x and instead offer the outdated Windows 7 is a slap in the face for Microsoft. It’s clearly a challenge.  Microsoft clearly needs to do better with Windows 8.1+ and Windows 9. It needs to make serious advances with its tablet offerings, and either change, enhance or open its mobile ecosystem to insure that it attracts users, or its going to have some serious relevance issues in the next 5-7 years. It can ill afford a third Vista, let alone two…

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HP & WebOS – What does its Loss mean, really?

In a mobile world currently dominated by iOS and Android, does the loss and then open sourcing of WebOS really matter?

I’ve been in mobile devices most of my career. I cut my teeth on them. I’ve watched some devices and operating systems grow up, grow old and die. PalmOS, WindowsCE and Windows Mobile are a few. WinMo was killed for Windows Phone, and its totally different.

WebOS with its cards motif was a big step forward and a huge step away from Palm’s traditional PalmOS. The hardware was ok, the OS was pretty good; but Palm lost their momentum and wasn’t able to turn it around.

Palm mothballed the OS and sold it to HP. HP promised to do something with it, but they couldn’t get it together either. They initially decided to let the OS die, but later decided to revive it and open source it. Its been a number of weeks since that announcement. I can’t help but wonder what the impact of that development means at this time.

In a word or two…not much.

HP’s official development and work with WebOS has ended. They’ve given the software to the development community to tweak and use as they like. Right now, there aren’t any CURRENT devices using the open sourced (or any) version of WebOS. Unless a major hardware manufacturer or OEM decides to go that way, you likely won’t see it, either.

So again, what does that mean? Will it make a difference in an iOS and Android dominated market?

I don’t think so. The iPhone is the iPhone and will continue to grow in popularity all over the world. Android will continue in current and new devices, and be as diverse as the day is long. Windows Phone will continue to chip away at both; and RIM will likely disappear,  regardless of what WebOS does or doesn’t do.

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HP Envy Spectre – one of the best-looking ultrabook you’ve ever seen

Do you remember the teaser clip released by HP which showed a mysterious device dubbed Spectre ? Well, now we can be more accurate and tell you that the mysterious device is called HP ENVY 14 Spectre and it’s possibly one of the best-looking ultrabooks you’ve ever seen.

Sleek, midnight black glass on the outside and stark contrast silver glass on the inside make Spectre extraordinary, defying conventional notebook design,” said Eric Keshin, senior vice president, Strategy and Marketing, Personal Systems Group, HP. “We chose the Spectre name to evoke mystery, and we packed it with the best in entertainment technology to satisfy those who expect the unexpected.

HP Spectre weighs less than 4 pounds and uses lightweight, scratch- resistant glass on the lid, display, palmrest and HP ImagePad and a full 14-inch screen HP Radiance Display which offers higher resolution, richer color, better brightness and wider viewing angles than traditional notebook displays.

HP Spectre is equipped with a matching audio-grade speaker mesh and Beats Audio, an exclusive, high-performance technology developed by HP and Beats by Dr. Dre, the HP Spectre boasts an aluminum analog volume dial that acts as a visual design to precisely adjust audio levels.

HP Spectre features built-in HP Wireless Audio that can turn your home into a concert hall, allowing you to stream uncompressed audio to up to four external devices or directly to any KleerNet-compatible device.

The HP Radiance Backlit keyboard provides really cool illumination using individual LEDs dedicated to each keycap. The keyboard works with an advanced proximity sensor to intelligently sense a user’s presence, lighting up when a user approaches and dimming down after he or she leaves.

Talking about performance, HP Spectre is powered by an Intel Core processors (i5 or i7), solid state storage (128GB or 256GB) and 4GB (or 8GB) of RAM. Moreover, the ultrabook features Intel Rapid Start Technology and support for two ultrafast mSATA solid state drives allow for quick boot and resume times. Also, it comes loaded with HP CoolSense technology, which automatically adjusts performance and internal fan settings for a noticeably cooler PC. In addition, the HP ImagePad provides precise multifinger touch navigation and the HP TrueVision HD Webcam provides brighter, cleaner HD images.

Additionally, the Spectre offers a performance-tuned software image, full versions of Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements, two years of preinstalled Norton Internet Security and a concierge phone line for technical support that is dedicated exclusively to HP ENVY users.

Envy Spectre is expected to be available in the United States on Feb. 8 with a starting price of $1,399.99.

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Palm company is history

After being acquired by HP back in 2010, the smartphone pioneer company has struggled since to survive. On Monday HP decided its time to put an end to the HP Palm brand. They will re-organize it into a new group called the webOS global business unit. The former Palm CEO and webOS leader Jon Rubenstein will be replaced by Stephen DeWitt.

There is no surprise that HP decided to close the Palm brand after a year from its acquisition. Even its first product, The Palm Pre 2 produced under the HP’s guardianship, showed that the company cannot win the trust of the consumers in its newest state. Next products like the Veer and even the next Pre 3 confirmed this situation.

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HP-Palm’s Topaz Tablet with the new 1.2Ghz Processor

It looks like the Topaz (and the Opal, if HP decides to go with the same processor for its smaller model) will come packing a Qualcomm MSM8660 processor clocked to 1.2GHz. In terms of graphics you’re looking at the MSM8660’s integrated Adreno 220 GPU. We also now know that the Topaz will have 512MB of RAM, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and a 24WHr battery that’s supposed to be good for up to eight hours.

Read the full article on HP Palm Topaz.

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