Moving to a Mac, and other news in the Indie

I realised the other day that the “Network” section doesn’t exist per se anymore. (One of those things one doesn’t notice within a paper; one files just the same but the titles change around you. We used to just change editor and keep on churning things out. Ah, the 90s.)

Anyway, the Science + Tech pages for this week are up. First is my column on Peter Cochrane and his futurology (I’m a fan). Then there’s a reader’s experience moving from Windows to a Mac, which I suspect may attract some Net attention. (In fact, get us slashdotted.)

John, who describes his experiences, got in touch out of the blue earlier this year as he’d decided to move from Windows (his ancient Gateway was giving up the ghost) to an Apple Mac. I encouraged him to keep a diary. In a future week we’ll have another person who moved from Windows to Linux. And that’s why I’ve been seeking someone who has moved from the Mac to Windows: I wanted some balance. It’s proved harder to find that I expected.

When the science features appear, I’ll add the links to those.


  1. Finding a Mac to Windows switcher. I am sure this is difficult. I think most cases it will be soemone like myself who moved to windows for business purposes/requirments. We suffer our time spent with windows daily and gladly go back to our Mac’s at home. Move to windows for a better computing experience? That’s like saying move back to the telegraph key for a better communicating experience. Other than possibly the died hard gamer, I don’t know as you’ll have much success finding Mac to windows switchers? I use a PowerBook on the road and I have “created” a number of windows to Mac switchers in the last few years just from seeing a Mac work. :-)

  2. John complains about the download folder and says he can’t change it…
    John needs to pull down the Safari menu, select Preferences… and a selection tool to pick any folder will stare right at him.

  3. I switched from a Mac to a PC – but that was back in 198cough when I was (briefly) tech ed of MacUser before leaving to become a programmer of real men’s machines (again). So I’m not sure that’s any good for you.

    Someone’s switching, that’s for sure. According to IDC, US market unit shipments for PCs were up 11% last year but Apple’s share was down to 3.2% from 3.5% in 2002 (less than 2% worldwide in either year). I doubt the current dearth of iMacs is helping to reverse this.

    Don’t have a lot of sympathy for Apple. It, like Sun, distinguished itself by complaining on a regular basis to PC Magazine (where I was for the first half of the 90s) that we never gave its computers the coverage they deserved. We said “that’s because you never talk to us or let us see the computers”, after which there were many promises of kit and contact, a sullen silence and – after a few months – a repetition of the original complaint.

    It continues. We asked Apple’s PR something last week, and got “That question’s not on our briefing list, we’re not prepared to comment”. Not “We’ll get back to you”, you’ll note, but a straightforward refusal to handle the issue because it hadn’t been pre-approved. Apple’s PR is strictly unidirectional.


  4. Aw, Paul, too cynical. As the bottom (or top) of the article says, it’s one of two about people switching; the next is about Linux. I simply thought that it would be worth challenging the assumption so many people make that if you’ve got Windows, well, that’s enough, let’s consider it all a done deal, and wow isn’t it hard keeping your anti-spyware/adware/virus stuff updated. John Dodds is (as journalists would say) just an “ordinary punter” (not as one site said “a columnist”). I was intrigued by how he got on: it turns out that stuff that Apple boosts, like Expose are so deeply hidden that ‘ordinary’ users don’t, ordinarily, find them.

    Rupert’s point is interesting, but actually isn’t quite right. The fact that Apple is shipping fewer of the total number of PCs being shipped does *not* mean necessarily that people are switching from Macs to PCs; it’s a statistical syllogism. What’s happening is that the world market is getting bigger, but Apple is selling about the same number of machines as it did. So Apple users are hanging on to their old ones. Our office, for example, will hold onto its G4s until 2005, having bought them in 2000.

    Meanwhile, it’s selling as many iPods as it can package to all and sundry, so it’s getting something right there.

    And as to the journalism point – well, it’s about relationships, isn’t it? Journalism (and PR) is about building relationships with people so you can do things outside the loop. I have good relationships with individuals inside Microsoft and Apple and all sorts of companies so I can avoid the “official” line. Sure, for a magazine seeking a review, kit might matter. Then again if you’re determined to produce a picture that’s representative, you might seek out someone with an Apple machine – say, a local dealer – and ask for a loan to do tests. They get their name known more widely. You get the test. If Apple has other things to focus on – hey, their PR machine isn’t the only source of information.


  5. Naw, I know! Just figured Apple’d be very happy to have this kind of real-world test happening. I’ve seen lots of links on to journalists singing the praises of their Mac machines, but never Joe Public. This kind of honest, straightforward look at using a Mac helps dispel the myths, and I for one found it very interesting, having switched myself back in 2000, to OS9.

    Vis a vis not finding stuff like Expose, yup: I think Apple pays a lot of attention to the sensory experience of the consumer, but not so much to letting them know how much their computer can do, and how to make it happen. And trumpeting Expose, right up front, has gotta be priority – I’d get Panther for it alone right now if Tiger wasn’t coming in January.

  6. Charles –

    Oh, if I was reporting on Macs (as I was when I was MacUser tech ed) then yes indeed. Nobody does their journalism purely on what PRs tell them – and if they do, it’s not journalism, it’s copy-taking. But in the context of PC Magazine, we were product based and furthermore we only wrote about products that we could get our hands on (no, we didn’t believe PRs then either.
    Apple distros just didn’t talk to us full stop about products – if you weren’t a customer, you got referred back to Apple HQ faster than you could crash into the wall in Crystal Quest.)

    As a result, I like to think that we did a good job by the readers of forming a reasonable opinion about stuff and as a result the manufacturers liked to be seen in PC Mag. I’m not complaining that Apple does bad PR (although it does, at least to the trades, and the attitude it reveals in so doing is noteworthy), but that the internal disconnects within the company meant that they complained to us about something only they could fix.

    As for the figures: exactly the same pattern marked IBM’s decline in the 80s – static figures in a growing market. If, as Apple says, people are switching to Macs and the figures are static, then someone somewhere is switching the other way – even if the product cycle is slower for Macs than PCs.

    Sure, the iPod sales are evidence of them ‘doing something right’ – my iPod is the first Apple product I’ve bought since Apple ][e – but, um, it’s looking like a bit like the Palm Pilot. A genius product that’s an evolutionary dead end.

    (And can you please make this reply window resizeable? I’m typing into a screen roughly the size of a TRS80 Model 100…)


  7. Re the iPod “dead end”.. hmm, John Gruber has an interesting article “Why 2004 won’t be like 1984” at pointing out how the Newton was a dead end because it wasn’t a peripheral to anything, but the iPod is more flexible – you can use it as a bootable hard drive (some admins do, for peripheral fixing of bust user machines).

    As to the reply window.. hey, are you saying you didn’t *like* the TRS80? Oh, all right, I’ll see what can be done. I suspect resizable is beyond me, but hacking the code for the size of the window isn’t. I might see if I could incorporate a “preview” function too. But don’t hold your breath.

  8. Oh, absolutely. I use my iPod (which I’m thinking of having reclassified as a vital organ by BUPA) for all manner of nifty big file fun. If more PCs could reliably boot from USB, I’d probably work out how to put a decent bootable partition plus av, spyware and repair tools on it. Hm. Sounds like a job for a Linux distro. LiPod, anyone?

    But I’ll stick to my guns about it being tricky to push the iPod into many interesting new areas without losing that iPod magic and making it just another hard disk with an inadequate battery attached.


  9. Isn’t Peter Cochrane the same futuroligist who for a time wore a wrist-based fax machine? Do you know if one of his arms is longer than the other still? Oh, well, we can’t always get it right. Heh, I bought not one, but two, Newtons!


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