After nearly 20 years, one of the first things I did upon leaving Apple in July 2004 was to have my area associate — who was still an Apple employee — order me an employee-discounted 15″ aluminum PowerBook. It was a natural thing.
Apple products began populating my desk starting in the summer of 1982 when I bought one of the first bundles of Apple II+ machines to arrive in Maritime Canada.
But more than two decades later, in September 2004, just a month after getting my new PowerBook, I ordered myself a Dell Pentium desktop running Windows XP.
A Big Transition
There were three reasons for my decision to buy a Windows computer: I wanted a platform where I could do some GPS work, I thought I would need Windows experience for my next job, and I wanted to bring up a Linux system, which I did. (The first real foray into the GPS world would have to wait a few years for the arrival of Google and Android.)
Having a Dell system among the collection of Macs in my office was also a way to see how the majority of the computing world was surviving on a platform which I had sold against for years.
See also: How I Fixed An iLemon
I needed to learn just how much of “the Apple story” (that had been my life up to that point) was reality, and what was hype. I had no intention of transferring all my work to Windows XP, so that December, I purchased a dual G5 from Apple. At $1,795, I thought it was the best product that I could get my hands on to focus on the graphics, web and photography work that had always been part of my life even as Apple’s director of federal sales.
Fast forward to late 2012—my office gets its latest technology refresh. The first product I buy is a first-generation Lenovo Yoga, the second is an I5 Lenovo desktop, and the third is a Mac mini, which is really more of a token Mac than anything else. It’s the only other functional Mac in the house besides that old dual G5 purchased way back when. My main laptop for office use was—and still is—a 15” I7 Lenovo laptop.
Spurning The Mac
My family of five once owned well over a dozen Macintoshes — not counting my collection of old Macs. Strangely enough, no one in my family owns an iPhone and the only iPods are relics stored in drawers.
So how did someone — who bled rainbow colors alongside his family for so many years, and led arguably one of the most successful enterprise sales teams in Apple’s history — end up using a Lenovo Yoga as his favorite travel computer?
(What’s even more amazing is my wife gave up her beloved 12″ aluminum Powerbook in February of 2010. Four years later, she remains quite happy with her Windows 7 laptop from 2010, even though she complains every once in awhile about the lack of a Mac address book.)
There was no conscious effort to move away from Macs, at least in the early years; it’s been quite a long journey. When my Powerbook G4 died an early death roughly 18 months after I purchased it, I ordered an Intel MacBook in 2006 and a 26” I5 iMac in 2010. I had good reasons for keeping Macs in my life.
Living With Windows
More than anything, the Mac’s fall from the top spot in my digital life was caused by jobs that took me deeper into a predominantly Windows world.
Windows was required by my job, and Apple’s machines were failing on me. Two of my Macs suffered premature hardware failures, and even though my faithful Intel MacBook eventually experienced total death, it still got me through the Windows Vista experience single-handedly.
Having a deeper understanding of Windows was inevitable with every job I had:
- After Apple, I was a vice president at a small federal contractor that dealt a lot with large system integrators. While my sales team at Apple had a lot of success selling to the scientific community in the federal space, we had only started to touch the federal integration market, with products like Xserve, by the time my Apple career ended. But for the most part, federal integrators and contractors, including the one I worked for, were almost exclusively Windows users, so I bought a Dell laptop in 2005 so as not to be the only Mac user in a room of 50 people.
- The following year, when I started my job as vice president of sales and marketing in an email services startup, I was the only one of 45 employees who used a Mac. The team there was far from old; there were only four employees, myself included, who were over 30 years old. Much of the software we used was web-based, but there were things that were easier to get done on Windows. I eventually ended up carrying two laptops for my work there: my Dell, and my Intel MacBook.
- When I was ready for my next career switch—this time I would tackle the world of real estate—I had already donated my Dell laptop to my daughter so she could finish up her business degree. I was determined to use a Mac for real estate, and with the help of my home Pentium Windows XP system, I managed to do it for almost nine months. At one point, I felt like I was thriving in a Windows world with a Mac.
By October 2007, the reality of living in a Windows-centric world had finally sunk in. Real estate forms were simply unavailable on the Mac, and that was huge for me. The Mac could also no longer print to our office printer—a software issue, no surprise. It simply didn’t make any economic sense to buy a more capable Mac laptop just for the sake of running Windows virtually.
One system I needed to use required running Internet Explorer and something called a “SecurID card.” I had my doubts I could get the system to work on my Mac unless I dual-booted it into Windows, but if I did that, I might as well own a Windows computer. So I bought an inexpensive HP laptop for my real estate needs.
For quite some time, I came to work with two laptops. Sometimes I would get a lot of work done while waiting for the HP loaded with Vista to boot; eventually, when Vista got better, I started noticing some problems that gradually eroded my loyalty to the Mac platform.
The Windows Advantage
By early 2010, my wife’s 12” G4 PowerBook was so slow that even the Washington Post’s minimalist webpage wouldn’t load. I wanted to buy her a new laptop within a reasonable $1,300 budget, but my Apple friends kept assuring me that no company was actually shipping Intel’s new series processors in their laptops—I would just have to wait for a while.
I had no intention of buying my wife a premium-priced Mac with an outdated processor (the Intel Core 2 Duo), but around that time I saw a special at Staples for HP laptops with the new Intel processors. I was stunned—my Apple friends told me it wasn’t real. I ordered my wife a 14” I5 laptop, and got myself a 15” I7 laptop.
The two HP laptops together cost less than $1,500 and both computers showed up in a few days, even though Apple folks maintained the processors weren’t shipping in any products any time soon. It would take a few months before Apple could announce similar products — which, of course, were also priced much higher.
After a year, our Windows 7 experience was flawless. In February of 2011, I wrote a post where I said this:
“First off Windows 7 is an exceptionally reliable operating system. It is just a few days shy of a year since my wife and I both started using Windows 7. There have been no problems either hardware or software related with the systems. That is no as in none. That is a pretty heady accomplishment for a brand new operating system running on new processors. The systems have not crashed, locked up, or misbehaved in way that I have been able to determine.”
That Windows laptop turned out to be such positive experience that I quit using my MacBook altogether, with the exception of iPhoto, thanks to its bigger hard drive and more robust memory.
The Apple addict I am, I eventually relapsed in the fall of 2010 and ordered an I5 iMac — I had started working on a project involving CAD and web development, so I felt I needed a Mac — but that particular computer is when the wheels really started coming off the Apple wagon.
The iMac and I never hit it off. I had to buy the huge 26″ model to get an I5 processor and I hated the positioning of the SD slot right under the DVD slot. Less than a year later, in summer 2011, problems with iPhoto caused me to pull the plug on my favorite Macintosh application, iPhoto, altogether.
In January 2012, I bought my first Lenovo — an I7 laptop with a 15″ screen, 8GB of RAM and Office — for under $1,000. That Lenovo laptop became my main computer in the face of my dying iMac. To this day, it is still a workhorse in my office. I eventually handed down my older HP laptop to one of my daughters, whose lampshade iMac was dying a slow and painful death at the time.
By spring of 2012, my 16-month-old iMac was not running well and none of my Apple system engineer friends could offer any solutions. It was not long before I was running the iMac off an external hard drive and I eventually ended up writing a ReadWrite article about the computer I called my “iLemon.”
Striking A Balance
When I went to buy a travel laptop in late 2012, I could not find a Mac that had an integrated SD card for under $1,000. So, I bought an I5 Lenovo Yoga for $999 (which comes with a bonus — a touchscreen), as well as a $479 Lenovo desktop to run all of my photo editing tools and applications like Lightroom and Picasa.
I still use the Macintosh for certain things but I have to admit being a Mac user has become too much trouble. While my son and I recently resurrected my I5 iMac, we did so only so I could own a backup Mac system in case my Mac Mini fails. That computer, after all, experienced some challenges before OS X Mavericks came along, but my new job requires a system that runs Pages and Keynote — Apple’s answers to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, respectively — so I can’t rely on Windows completely just yet.
My Modern Setup
If you look at my desk today, you’ll see the I7 Lenovo laptop, the Mac mini, and the Lenovo I5 desktop. On another table, you’ll see a hardly-used but newly-resurrected I5 26” iMac.
It is perhaps the ultimate irony that I now work for a company, WideOpen Networks, that is Mac-centric. We create our proposals in Pages and our presentations in Keynote.
Even though I’m back in a Mac environment, which is how I started my journey, there are still things I like better on Windows. Some of these things I’ll choose not to mention for fear of inciting the wrath of Mac users everywhere, since many of those people will refuse to believe anything can possibly be better in the world of Windows.
See also: How iOS 8 Will Fix Apple Maps
My most recent Kindle book, 100 Pictures, 1000 Words, A Crystal Coast Year, was written and compiled in Microsoft Word on my Lenovo desktop running Windows 8.1. The images were all catalogued and edited using Lightroom on my Windows desktop. I still needed my Mac for a few things — I resized all my images on Pixelmator and edited the filtered HTML for the Kindle using TextWrangler — but many of these things could have been easily done on Windows.
Obviously I am not your normal computer — check out these pictures of my desktop and you’ll see what I mean — but my transition from Mac to Windows was also affected, and hastened, by decisions made at Apple.
Apple makes high-quality products, I can’t argue otherwise. However, my personal experience with Apple products is that they’ve failed more than the Windows products I’ve purchased since leaving Apple. Call it luck of the draw, but the only Apple product I’ve owned in the last decade that hasn’t any problems is my dual G5 tower, which still works fine for a nine-year-old computer.
My career at Apple revolved around making customers happy, and keeping them that way. And even though I was challenged to solve some of the Mac problems that came to the attention of Steve Jobs, I’m still not accustomed to seeing Macs experiencing as many problems as they do.
Many of the issues I’ve experienced are specific and circumstantial, namely having to do with changes in the interface and efficacy of Apple’s photo apps for the Mac. But in general, for Web-centric people like me, Apple’s struggles to figure out the Web — from to .Mac, MobileMe and iCloud — have been frustrating to say the least. These changes have cost me a lot of time and work rescuing images and webpages that Apple decided that they could not longer host.
The other issue with Apple, to me, is its attitude. I would’ve felt better about my failing products if Apple was willing to repair the problems. When I was at the company, I held great expectations for our products and made certain that customers served by my team stood behind Apple’s products. Unfortunately, I am not certain I feel the same commitment from the new Apple.
What’s worse is that Apple’s poor attitude towards hardware issues rubs off on its customers.
Amidst the series of problems that ensued with nearly every Mac I purchased over the years, I still hung to Apple’s platform. But for some reason, there are a number of Mac users out there that will blame you for the problem, regardless what it is, and heap shame upon you for suggesting the world’s richest company should solve a hardware/software problem that you caused. It is radically different mindset from the worlds of Windows or Linux, where most people tend to relate to your problems and end up blaming Microsoft, or perhaps the hardware manufacturer.
In the end, technology products are a bit like sausages and hot dogs. Most of us love to eat one now and then, but we’d rather not know how they’re made or what goes into them. I still remember how, at Apple, we met federal requirements for government laptops by having Powerbooks assembled and tested in China, but then taken apart and shipped to California for reassembly. Maybe I just know too much about Apple and its products to be able to enjoy the taste these days.
All that said, all is not lost for the Mac. I prefer Mavericks much more than the last two previous iterations of OS X, and like any technology company, Apple is always one magical product away from getting customers to forget their old problems and fall in love all over again.
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