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The Grand Experiment


June 4, 2006 11:44 PM PST

macvspc.jpgI've embarked on an experiment to actually switch people from Mac to PC. The family's aging Bondi-blue iMac running OS 9 was basically unable to run modern software and a decision had to be made. Either a new Intel based Mac could be purchased, or a Shuttle mini-PC would be handed down. Since either would require an OS transition (to OS X or XP), here are my thoughts:

I analyzed the potential usage and realized that the primary applications used are: This got me to thinking - most of what is done on the computer by basic users can be done in applications with essentially cross platform interfaces. IE and OE run on both platforms. So does Firefox. POP email programs are all pretty similar once set up. Games have unique interfaces, so platform doesn't matter much there. Mac has iPhoto, PC has Picasa. I personally like Picasa better, but it's basically a toss up. Despite the recent Apple commercials, Windows has much more comprehensive driver support for things like Cameras, Printers and Scanners. The Mac and PC both have fun "toys". Despite the PC having more, when thinking of quality applications, I'd call it a toss up. Basic word processing is a pretty universal interface, so no platform advantage there. Income tax applications are cross platform as well, so no real advantage.

I do have some reservations on going down the Windows path. The primary one is simply that malware will be installed by the user in the form of an email attachment or "cool game". This really is not a platform issues as much as a user issue, except that Windows machines are more heavily targeted.

You may see where I'm going with this - the real grand experiment is whether or not the actual OS is becoming irrelevant to average users. Look back at the application categories above and consider how each currently have Web based alternatives. Take a look:

I'll keep this post updated with what transpires.
Comments (5)
John, June 5, 2006 12:31 AM:

This is the conclusion that several companies came to back in the dot com days. Remember the eye opener and similar web appliances? The thinking there was why do they need a full OS at all? Just give them a device that has web capability and be done with it. Is it possible that these guys were just ahead of their time? What was missing back then was some of the rich Web apps that we see today. I wonder if a cheap web appliance might make a come back? Think, Web TV 3.0, but with broadband and in HD! All backed by some good web services with lots of online storage (hmm, think Google here). It just might work.
Related info: Just for grins I tried out this new Web based office product. It is free and offers word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. It reads and writes MS office formats and PDF. It is not bad. The word process has a light mode that is Ajaxy, and a full version that is a web based java app. It pretty much looks just like a clone of Word, and has almost all the features implemented (it is still in beta). It includes advanced features like tables, styles, TOCs etc. They even give you 1G of file storage.

Paul, June 5, 2006 02:48 PM:

Remote technical support is probably the most important, and if you can't help them once you've set them up with a Mac, that's a problem. Since I have both, I've advocated Macs for my mom and sister, and that's worked out fine.

As far as comprehensive driver support on Windows, this is not my experience. Or rather, the statement should be, "In theory, Windows has better driver support" but I've never experienced it. I've had a terrible time getting XP to recognize basic devices like my Canon digital camera or a wifi card. Nevermind the fact that my former Windows laptop would regularly drop sound drivers when you installed any audio application, or the Creative TV tuner card was hell on earth to install and work. People say that Windows supports more stuff. I think that the word "supports" needs to be in quotes because they really mean "sort of supports, almost".

I'm probably migrating to a Mac / Linux setup at home (I was messing around with installing Ubuntu this weekend) since I'm more of a unix guy anyways, and I'm totally not impressed with the Vista UI (translucent window borders!?! that's about as cool as translucent xterms until you try reading text in them).

As for games, I've bought 5 PC games in the last 2 years: Half-Life 2, Doom 3, Warcraft 3, Black & White 2 and Darwinia. HL2 was excellent, but I'm sure it'll end up on the 360. Doom3 and B&W2 are total disappointments, won't miss them. Warcraft comes on a Mac/Windows hybrid CD so I can keep playing that. Darwinia comes on a Linux/Windows hybrid CD. So, games for me have moved to the console, PC not required.

John, June 5, 2006 10:17 PM:

Don't forget to try out the 'Remote assistance' feature in XP, that's what it is there for. It is also another reason I don't really understand the market for CoPilot.

J, June 5, 2006 11:57 PM:

Just a guess about Remote Assistance, but probably the same reason that MSN Messenger voice chat never took off (and Skype did 5 years later). Proper NAT traversal.

John, June 6, 2006 09:38 AM:

Pretty sad state of things when people just assume something from MS won't work and don't bother to try it. MS is a big company and I'm sure a different group of folks worked on RA. I have been able to connect from work to my wife's laptop at home so at least it gets through my NAT. It works by sending an 'invitation' to help via email or IM. This starts the connection process. It is much slower than RDP but as long as it gets the job done.

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