Back when I was a kid in the late 1990s, most everyone I knew had a Windows 95 PC, myself included.
But I had this one friend whose family owned a Mac — one of those multicolored iMacs that were the company’s first big product launch after Steve Jobs returned to the company.
I loved video games, and he loved video games, but he especially loved games on his Mac. Well, one game in particular: “Marathon,” a first-person shooter, which was only for the Mac.
We got into fierce, week-long arguments about it, in the way that only ten-year-olds can. He said that the Mac may have had less software, but what was there was simply better. I said that the Windows PC was way more versatile. Each of us begrudged the other everything.
Apple stoked the flames with its famous “Get a Mac” ads circa the late 2000s, in which actors John Hodgman and Justin Long played a PC and a Mac, respectively, showing how the PC was old and stodgy but the Mac was young and hip. It was a big part of Apple’s turnaround story, as the iMac brought the company back from the brink of disaster, paving the way for the massive success of the iPod, and then the iPhone, which turned Apple into the most valuable company in the world.
Sometimes, it feels like those days never ended.
People are still crazy protective of the computers and phones they use. When I wrote a piece a little while back lamenting the fact that the iPhone doesn’t play nicely with Windows the way Android can, a reader said I was “cocking stupid,” just as one example.
Well, guess what? The world has moved on. And it’s less of a “choice” than ever before.
Because so much of what we do these days is based in the browser, Mac versus PC is no longer a lifestyle decision like it was back when boxed software ruled all.
It’s just a matter of taste. Even Microsoft knows it.
The operating system wars are over
For the last few weeks, I had been using a Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 with Windows 10 instead of my MacBook Air. I found a lot to like (the touchscreen, Cortana, window management) — and a lot that was annoying (random crashes).
Now the Lenovo is at the Microsoft Store getting some work done, and I’m back to my Mac, now running the brand-new Apple OS X El Capitan. And I’m rediscovering that there’s a lot to like (performance, stability, iPhone superpowers) — and a lot that’s annoying (no touchscreen, no Cortana).
They both fill a niche. And they’re both successful for their parent companies in their own ways. Macs are highly profitable for Apple. Windows is everywhere.
Despite Microsoft’s claims that it’s twice as fast as a MacBook Pro, the Surface Book isn’t meant to destroy Apple, nor is anybody seriously expecting it to. They can both win. All Microsoft wants is a better device for people to use Windows.
The same goes for the mobile platforms, too.
Apple and Google both won: Apple’s iPhone is ridiculously profitable, while one in every five people on the planet owns an Android smartphone. Both of them got exactly what they wanted from the smartphone business.
So while iPhones and Androids may have little features that set them apart from each other, they are still, by and large, running the same major apps, connecting to the same big services.
Maybe you like Instagram on iPhone better than Instagram on Android, but Instagram is still Instagram.
It’s all about the service
Indeed, it’s “service” that’s going to make the difference going forward.
Switching between a PC and Mac was simple because even my handwritten notes from the Windows 10 computer were stored in Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud service. I didn’t need to worry about syncing my music between computers, because I use the Spotify service on my Mac and the Spotify service on my PC and the Spotify service on my iPhone.
This is why Microsoft is making sure that there are Office apps and services available for the iPhone and Android. It’s why Apple is going to bring its new Apple Music service to Android. It’s why Google invests so much in the Chrome browser, which runs on both Windows and Mac OS, and services like Google Photos.
When the operating system doesn’t matter, users are free to choose whatever service suits them, at any time.
It also means that picking a computer or a phone is no longer like getting sorted into a house at Hogwarts. Go where you want, do what you want.
So relax, and remember that you don’t owe the big tech companies anything. Let them serve you, in the way that you want.