mac

I'm a... well, I don't know: Part II

When I started writing this, I was back home and had gotten the chance to play with the Microsoft Surface the weekend before. My dad, a fellow tech nerd in arms, was game for driving to the new Microsoft store nearby and we dashed through the cold to indulge our inner nerds. Keep in mind that I was an early adopter of Windows Phone 7 and have just switched back to Android with hope for the platform and design language. I wrote the first part of this piece when I had just purchased my 13'' early 2011 Macbook Pro. In the time that has passed since then, I've upgraded to Mountain Lion and also set up Boot Camp to Windows 7 for some things that were PC only. At the end of the piece, I was left straddling the fence. Since then, my Dell has been retired completely. I rarely look at and will probably recycle it in the next few months; this was made inevitable when I installed Windows 7 on my Mac. The Dell hardware was and is sluggish and starting to really show its age. My Mac, on the other hand, is approaching on its first year and I am still constantly amazed by how snappy it is. I can draw a better comparison now between Windows 7 and OS X using my MBP as the hardware baseline.
Windows 7 on the MBP is a dream. It's snappy every time I use it, like I've just installed it for the first time. That aging problem that I've had with every PC in my life hasn't happened yet (the installation is still considerably new, so I may have to reanalyze a few months later). But having spent the better part of a year learning the interaction patterns of the Mac's multi-gesture trackpad has really done a number on my mapping of the keyboard. I remember the keyboard shortcuts that were drilled for years, but the location of the Command Key on the MBP is where the Ctrl key was on my Dell. Needless to say, I've slowed down a lot on Windows since I use it for maybe fifteen minutes if at all I need it. There are certain features I miss like automatic window resizing for having two windows pulled up while completing a task, but from a high level perspective there's nothing from a user experience perspective that gives Windows an advantage over Mountain Lion.
Does this mean I've picked Macs over PCs? Yes, but not a resounding yes. I will probably never buy another PC unless there's a very compelling reason, but both are experiences that become very simple once you've spent time with either of them. Had I grown up with a Mac, I'm sure I would have struggled to transition to PC the same way I struggled with learning the ins and outs of OS X. For the majority of my general desktop tasks, I can live on either operating system - the only task I have not tested is the use of the Adobe Creative Suite on a PC. But I pick Macs for that snappy feeling I get every time I use it, which was a huge experience frustration I've had with every PC I have ever worked with.
There's also the complication of tablets in the equation now. I love my Touchpad a lot, but when I first got my Mac, I was using my personal Touchpad infrequently. At my current job I have a new iPad to test our products with, but I find that except for very few things, I can do everything I want on the iPad. There are a few websites that are not mobile optimized or look better on a bigger screen, but the majority of the computing based things I do in my personal life are a great experience on the tablet. Tablet apps sometimes aren't as robust as their desktop counterparts, but that's a whole different tale; the point is that when it comes to picking a Mac or a PC the answer isn't very clear cut simply because there's a lot of different factors I consider in this throwdown, and for a lot of those factors the answer is Choice C - None of the above; smartphone or tablet
So am I a Mac or PC? I have to say I'm more Mac, but overall I'm very much a tablet/smartphone person (I'll spare you the cheesy version of this answer).

I'm a... well, I don't know: Part I

Most folks I've met are firmly in one camp or another when it comes to the never ending debate that is PC vs Mac. I used to be staunchly PC - I grew up with them and my family's choice of poison is Dell. It wasn't until recently when my Dell suddenly refused to charge and I got completely surrounded by Mac people that I even contemplated crossing over. I finally bit the bullet and purchased a 13 inch Macbook Pro which comes with Lion.

Let's just say I'm not so sure about the PC camp anymore.
I've never been one for mice - it's another piece of equipment to carry (tiny, but as a student, I was already lugging around enough stuff). By enabling gestures, the trackpad allows me so much more functionality at the tip of my fingers (literally) than the mouse and PC trackpad combo ever did. While some of my gestures are already keyboard shortcuts, I find it more natural to use the gestures (it might be my webOS background). Unfortunately, the tradeoff here is that I've found the contextual menu harder to get to - with a PC, I got to it with a simple right click or the contextual menu shortcut button that's part of the keyboard. On a Mac however, the equivalent is the two finger tap on the trackpad. This means that I have to press and hold with two fingers with my right hand and navigate with my left through the menu - if I let go, the menu disappears. An alternative I've found is pressing the Command button and then tapping, but this has been inconsistent.
I haven't really put my Mac through its paces yet - the majority of the time, I live on phones, my Touchpad, and my work laptop. Thus, the majority of my software is free downloads from the App Store. This is a big bonus for me, because there's no PC equivalent (yet...). I'm enjoying the apps that live in the status bar mainly - I have 1 click access to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ simply from my status bar. In addition to those, I don't have to hunt around the Internet for applications - my first stop is the App Store, which I found pretty familiar from iOS.
It's slightly unfair to be comparing my four year old Dell with Windows 7 to my Mac because I've lived with my PC longer. The constant concern of it crashing (old hardware + new OS optimized for better hardware specs = frequent BSoD) is still fresh in my mind, and I'm less likely to put up with my very short battery life. However, I find that I still return to my PC sometimes. Old habits die hard, and designers know that an effective product is one that a user can easily assimilate into their routines or methods of performing tasks. My Mac is super effective, but some basic tasks are still easier on the PC for me, such as word processing. I have not purchased any software that is better than the standard Mac option for it, but I have played with Microsoft Office on a Mac, and MS Office is much better as an experience on PCs (go figure).
All in all, I highly doubt I will ever return to a PC given a choice. I admit to wanting to throw my work PC out a window when I try to do a gesture on the trackpad. But I'm not entirely a Mac either.
I guess that makes me a fence straddler for now.