We will not contest that Windows/PCs have continually tried to copy both the Mac interface and its hardware innovations.
In fact, in the very important Federal lawsuit of Apple vs Microsoft
a few years ago [35 F.3d 1435 32 USPQ2d 1086 (9th Cir. 1994)], Microsoft did
NOT contest Apple’s primary contention that most of the
Windows operating system had been copied from the Mac operating system.
(Since it was indisputable that they had copied as much as they
could, Microsoft’s daring arguments were: 1) that the US Government had
made a mistake in granting Apple some 100 patents on
the Mac operating system, and 2) that Apple had granted Microsoft the right to
copy Apple’s operating system. Surprisingly, the judge actually bought
these desperate claims... Read a sample legal
discussion about this puzzling court decision. Read more of what we have
to say about Microsoft.)
[BTW: if you are of the belief that this theft was OK since Apple similarly stole
from Xerox, well you are misinformed. Read this to
see a more accurate accounting
of how Apple had predeveloped most of its features prior to their Xerox
then PAID Xerox for the rest — to accelerate things. Of
course, even if Apple had stolen something,
we all know that Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right.]
Once again a car analogy is appropriate.|
Let’s pretend that a non-automotively astute, but financially sensitive,
person is shopping for a new car. At a dealership they see both a new $15,000
Escort and a new $16,000 (let’s just say) Mercedes Benz.
The clever salesperson dude says, “Well, if we can make a deal here,
then let’s go for the Escort, as I can save you $1000.
And there are two important things you should know: 1) the
Escort is the best selling car in the world, and 2) the
Escort is essentially the same as the Mercedes.”
Even the non-technical buyer may be a little skeptical about the latter claim, and ask something like “Really? I’ve
heard that Mercedes are better cars. Why do you say that they are the same?”
Salesperson: “Glad you asked. Consider these similarities, they both have:
four wheels, a spare tire, four cylinder gas engines, stereo radios, automatic
transmissions, disk brakes, power windows, yadda, yadda...”
At this point the technically challenged buyer is often swayed by this extensive list of “identical” features.
Of course, what the salesperson is very careful to avoid, is the long list of
Another perspective would be to compare the “PCs are the same...” assertion
to someone proclaiming that “All women are alike.” Sure, there are many similarities,
but — believe me — despite being similarly configured, all
women ARE NOT ALIKE!
See the excellent "Broader
Take on the Mac vs PC debate" (12/03), which highlights BIG differences.
My large ISP’s chief MIS person (a PC/Windows expert) awhile back sent
all subscribers this message:
To turn off file sharing in Windows 95/98/ME:
1. Click on the Start menu.
2. Go to Settings, and click on Control Panel.
3. Double-click on the Network icon.
4. From the Network window, click on the bar labeled "File and Print Sharing." A dialog box will appear.
5. Make sure that neither of the check boxes is checked. Click on the OK button.
6. Click on the OK button for the Network Control Panel.
7. You may be prompted to insert your Windows XX CD, and you will need to reboot your computer for any changes to take effect.
To turn off file sharing in a Mac:
1. Go to the Apple Menu.
2. Select Control Panels and File Sharing.
3. Click on the "Stop" (File Sharing) button. (Note: no reboot is necessary.)
I received an email from a foreign language teacher in Michigan, saying “Given
the increasing use of MS PowerPoint for our international language classes, we
note that the Mac version of this program permits easy input of special
characters (German ß, Spanish ¿ and ¡, French ç, diacritical
marks (á, à, ä, ê, ñ, etc.), and international
punctuation (German, Polish quotation marks: ? . . . .?); however, the
Windows version is significantly more difficult to use for creating international
presentations. In Windows one is forced through the tedium
of selecting the insert symbol
menu to access a character chart — a daunting, tiresome, and very slow process.
Windows’ Powerpoint lacks the keyboard shortcuts for entering characters found
on the Mac.”
Another MIS person wrote: “This is the Windows way. Many things on the Mac that take one step take three in Windows.
A lot of things that take two steps on the Mac take five in Windows, etc. Multiply this times the number of things you need to do with your computer every day,
and you’ll see how serious this problem is. Again, I’m telling you this from personal experience. I am constantly astounded that
intelligent people actually choose to work with the Windows OS every day, and the amount of money they choose to waste by doing so.”
Read this report by a school tech person comparing
the time and effort to set up 30 Dell computers (six hours) to 30 iMacs (one hour).
Read this unusually detailed OSOpinion article
that goes through many examples of how and why Windows
is more complicated to use than the Mac OS... And then there is this.
In November 2002, I received an email from an electrical engineer who has used PCs from DOS to Windows 3.11 to NT to 2000, HP UNIX, IBM mainframes,
and HP 3000 minis. He expressed frustration as to why more people do not get the clear superiority of Macs over PCs.
“A good example of the differences between these systems came out after
the 2000 Presidential election. Before the election most people would have said
that the butterfly ballot used in Florida was perfectly fine. You could have
talked forever without convincing them that there could be a problem, and that
there were better designs. Now everyone knows. To me this is the same
as the Mac vs PC situation, where many folks erroneously think that PCs are pretty
much the same as Macs. Not! My view is that Windows is not a
true GUI but a command-line interface done graphically!”
The MIS director at a University of CA campus wrote me "I concur with your
assessment of the situation. You should point out the direction Apple has
taken with their open-source BSD UNIX core. This is effectively the continuation of the standards-based
TCP/IP networking revolution that created the internet, and is going to dramatically
alter the software industry. It is a very strong argument in education that since
it is open source and standards-based, it is extremely attractive since you are
not locked in to a single source (anything
that is written for one flavor of UNIX is easily modified for another, e.g. LINUX,
FreeBSD, etc)." (Sounds like rather big platform
Carefully read consultant Norris and Wong’s VERY detailed study that compared Macs and Windows in regards to many everyday activities. In EVERY CASE, the Macintosh had SIGNIFICANT advantages. (Seems that if things were the same, there wouldn’t be any differences in these common areas...)
An engineer writes: “Most everyone runs out of computer space eventually. PC
users cannot just install the OS, drag and drop applications and files from
their old drive to their new one — Mac users can. This is because the
Mac associates files with the application that they run in, not with a pathname
(C:\xxx.xxx) on the drive
someplace. In addition, Windows has a registry with all kinds of garbage stored
away in it which prevent users from simply copying their old data to their new
drive and having it work. The Mac is seamless in this respect.”
Another professional wrote me “... There is no serious color management on PC’s.
There is no scripting like Applescript on the PC. You can not automate events
between non MS products on PCs and you can’t run scripts over IP networks either.
Applescript on Macs is the only reason that USA Today and Wall Street Journal
can produce some many daily editions customized for local markets...”
Consider this quote: "Market acceptance notwithstanding, Windows is far, far behind the Macintosh." [Computer Reseller News]
(Seems that if things were the same, that wouldn’t be any “far behind” aspect
to it. And this is a Windows/PC publication...)
I received an email from the director of technology of a large VA school system.
He said that for every 400 Wintel computers he had one tech, while a Mac tech
could maintain some 900 Macs. (Seems like some significant underlying differences
Ok, how about viruses? There is a laughably large difference
here says the Wall Street Journal (10/03).
security based site explains that "because Mac OS X offers superior security,
and because Microsoft’s security efforts have not produced better defaults, Windows
will continue to be a prime virus target."
And then there are RATS.
(Seems that if things were the same, there wouldn’t be any such differences, but...)
Consider this article by
Stuart Alsop. Stuart writes for Fortune magazine, and is a Windows/PC expert. Even though this article is about an earlier version of
Windows, it explains the typical challenges faced by all Windows users - none of which apply to a Mac.
Furthermore he states “Microsoft’s operating system is what has led to our loss of control
over computing”. (Just think about the profound implications of that!)
And in a more recent article
Stuart explains that he now bought a Mac because it just works... “Windows, on the other hand, still doesn’t seem to work.
Now, of course, you can turn on a Windows PC and have it operate. But you can’t do so without a guaranteed level of frustration,
which will definitely increase the more you use the computer... If your Windows experience is like mine, programs will fail or crash;
the machine will start acting funny; tasks won’t get completed; you’ll wait around a lot hoping the machine will work after
this reboot.” (Sounds like this experienced professional can see a VERY clear difference!)
Consider this recent email I received: “John: I am a computer technician for
Metro Public Schools in Nashville, TN. When I was hired five years ago to fix
the PCs in the school system I had never even seen a Macintosh. I quickly learned
how to repair Macs. I was shocked at how superior the Mac is over PCs. They are easier to use, troubleshoot, and repair. I wish all people could see Mac quality and performance.” (Another
PC person now appreciates that they are not the same!)
Consider this July 2002 eWeek article titled “For Plug-and-Play, I Pick the Apple”. Peter Coffee goes on
to explain about “how I learned the hard way about the difference between
mere IEEE 1394 compliance and genuine, FireWire-class plug-and-play convenience.
There’s also a moral to the story, one that may change your perception
of evolution versus revolution in personal computing platforms.” (Just
because they SAY they are the same does not mean that they ARE the same!)
Consider this article
about a former Mac user who exclusively went to a Windows machine for a few years. Now he really gets it. (And
now he REALLY knows they aren’t the same!)
Consider this October 2002 report where
PC Magazine chose the iMac as its Editor’s Choice. In a sister article they
go on to say that ”With its newest addition, the 17-inch iMac, Apple has done it again — achieved that delicate balance of design,
performance, and ease of use that, we stress, is a fundamental part of innovation.” (Did you say PC Magazine???)
Consider this NASA report:
which cites a Westinghouse study that showed that engineers doing design work are about twice
as productive using a Mac compared to those using a Windows PC. (Again, seems
that if things were the same, that productivity would be the same too...)
Consider this July 2002 BBC
It says, in part: “In the 21st Century, computers have truly gone multimedia.
Whereas once we got excited about writing letters with word-processing programs
and designing shopping lists on spreadsheets, the fun has long gone from those
activities. Now it is all about music, video and photographs. Today even the
cheapest computers come with the faster, larger hard drives necessary for storing
hours of video or thousands of images. The undisputed leader in the multimedia
field is Apple, which has refashioned every one of its machines into a digital
hub.” (Seems like those obviously biased people at BBC have
found some differences.)
Consider this June 2002 USA Today story,
which says a mouthful: “For Mac Users, Life Is Less Complicated.” (Seems like that would be a GOOD thing.)
Consider this analysis: A business Mac user gets $24,000 more work done per year, their computer is down 14% less,
and it costs less to support than any other platform: Gartner Group
(Seems that if things were the same, then the profitability and the amount of downtime would be the same too...)
Consider the Pfeiffer Report that
explains that "on a superficial feature by feature comparison, the Macintosh
and Windows NT provide similar functionality. It’s only when one
looks below the surface that important differences emerge." The report then goes on to enumerate several Macintosh advantages,
like reduced maintenance costs. (Seems that if things were the same, then the maintenance, etc. would be the same too...)
Consider the Evans Research Associates report (PDF), which surveyed 150 people who regularly use both Macintosh computers and Windows/PCs in business,
home, and education. Overall, people who use BOTH
systems rated the Macintosh computer higher in overall satisfaction, user productivity, creativity, and a wide variety of attributes (ease
of setup, ease of troubleshooting, ease of connecting peripherals, etc.). (Seems that if things were the same, then the opinions of dual users
would be evenly divided.)
Consider the very exhaustive research done by Dr. Michael J. Johnson, Deputy Superintendent for Instruction and Technology for the Conroe School
District, a northern suburb of Houston. He set out to conduct an objective analysis as to which computer platform was better for education users,
and this study involved three researchers working for three years with
200 educational technology projects in 14 states. The
decisive conclusion of the report
was that everything in education that could be done on a Windows/PC computer, could be done cheaper, simpler, and better
on a Macintosh. (Doesn’t seem that would be the result if Macs and Windows/PCs were the same.)
Consider this March 2002 LA Times analysis.
It says that the typical high-end PC will “include Microsoft’s Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker and the MusicMatch Jukebox MP3 program. These programs lack the features and elegance of Apple’s i-ware. Windows Media Player can’t create MP3 tracks, Windows Movie Maker can’t record finished videos to tape, and MusicMatch Jukebox has a brain-addling user interface... The iMac and Apple’s software have a design elegance that’s
missing from the Windows world.”
The story then continues: “I use both Macs and Windows XP computers daily,
and the Mac is less frustrating, less commercially intrusive and more elegant. Quite simply, the Mac is a better computer.” (Seems like pretty clear differences to me...)
Consider this March 2002 story byNewsFactor Network,
where they interviewed several knowledgeable people as to why they preferred a Mac. Some sample quotes: “Rob Enderle, vice president
and research fellow at Giga Information Group, told NewsFactor that unlike such companies as Microsoft and IBM, Apple speaks to its user and
continues to speak to its user throughout [the Macintosh’s] lifecycle. Most PC vendors gave you the product, and you have to learn to live
with it. The Mac was and is distinctive. The PC was the machine you had to have, while the Mac was the one you wanted.”
The article continues: “Alan Promisel, portable PC analyst at research
firm IDC, told NewsFactor that people continue to gravitate to the Macintosh because Apple’s
industrial designs are hands-down the coolest available on the market. They have
cornered the coolness market and set the standard by which other vendors try
to achieve coolness.” (Seems like these cross platform experts get it.)
A lawyer’s computer user group’s site says: “A recurring request
from Members and Prospective Members is paraphrased as follows: Our managing
partner is considering switching from Macs to Windows. Can you tell me where
to find information I can use to persuade him not to?
“We do not subscribe to the herd mentality. We have not accepted the commonly
held belief that one operating system is better for graphics and publishing while
another is better for business applications — because
we know the truth: An operating system which is easier to use
and more dependable will be more productive in ANY business environment.” And,
of course, they were speaking about a Mac, and they enumerate several reasons
why the Mac is superior. (If lawyers can figure this out...)
Consider the TechWeb Report that says that the Aberdeen Group, a Boston- based
consultancy, has produced numerous case studies about companies migrating to
NT and has concluded that they suffer greatly increased costs and user dissatisfaction. (This
link is now apparently moved, but it was "http://content.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19980720S0006". Seems that if things were the same, then the costs and the degree of user satisfaction would be the same too...)
Closely read these to see detailed discussions
PCs are not the same as Macs, and this,
and in this business
(where the requirements are for "high quality, 24/7").
In this insightful column Mark
Collins asserts “Windows uses primarily language to communicate its interface. The Macintosh uses primarily symbols (graphics) to communicate its interface. Well, isn’t
one easier than the other? No. However, right-brained people feel more comfortable
interfacing with symbols, and left brained people feel more comfortable interfacing
“Windows is also a lot more structured than Mac OS 9. (Mac OS X’s
columns hierarchy may be an attempt to make Windows users feel at home on a Mac.)
Mac OS 9 is so flexible in the layout of files and directory structure that it’s
nearly formless, except for the form you give it. This frightens structured minded
people. They are always thinking of what the correct thing to do is, not
thinking in terms of what they want to do. For these left brained people, it’s
about procedure, not expression. And that is the difference between Windows and
This cross-platform user doesn’t have any trouble is seeing the differences. In an article in the Spokesman he says (in part): “Mention Mac and Windows in any polite conversation and it’s guaranteed to become a name-calling, hair-pulling platform war.
“Well, I’m here to end the debate and stop
the fight. Simply, the Macintosh is the best computer built today — bar
none. I’ve used them both, and based upon personal experience, PCs running Windows XP can’t hold a candle to the elegant user experience provided by a Macintosh running Mac OS 9 or OS X. Macs have style, class, elegance and the best hardware and software available. Sure you can compute using a PC. But why not go in style?...” The article goes on in MUCH more detail.
For a brief but informative historical perspective on WHY Wintel PCs are NOT the same as Macs, you will find
Alex Patterson’s site most worthwhile. His conclusion is that “The superiority of MAC OS over WINDOWS emanates out of their respective beginnings... It is worth noting that practically ALL the innovation that PC users now take for granted emanated out of Apple (or the Macintosh fraternity), and virtually NONE from Microsoft.”
In the same vein, I received an email from a computer design engineer who said, “The PC is designed from off-the-shelf component parts. In order for it to work, those parts need to be generic (not to mention cheap). The OS for a PC needs to run on those generic parts, so the OS is designed to run on the hardware it is given. That is, the OS supports the hardware.
“The Mac, on the other hand, was designed thus: First, Apple designed how the software ought to work, from a human-engineering standpoint; then they designed the OS that would support that ease of use; then they designed the hardware that would support that OS.
“In short, from the git-go, the Mac is designed to support the people using it; the PC is designed so that the people need to work within the constraints of the hardware.”
In an insightful email I received in September of 2002 from Jean-Marc Verniajou,
he states (in part) that “The main goal of a graphical human interface
is to ease the use of a computer through a visually consistent presentation of
data, related information, objects to perform actions and relations between entities
of all kinds. Consistency is what makes possible learning what a computer
can do through a natural everyday use of all kind of software. The Macintosh
graphical human interface is, by nature, by programmer’s habits
and by traditional users vigilance, calibrated to ensure consistency. It
helps acquiring visual shortcuts naturally. This makes the perception of a situation
more ‘a snap’ and the system makes you as comfortable as possible
to make a decision at any time.
“The Windows graphical human interface is different. Some objects
have been made intentionally globally redundant. The close box of
a window being the same as the ‘Cancel’ button most of the time and
same as the ‘OK’ button in other cases is a good example. This is
an example of what makes consistency in Windows more a free bonus functionality
than a guideline users can rely on. Moreover, some programmers don’t use
this redundancy twice the same way and a close box sometimes does ‘OK’ in
a window where ‘Cancel’ should be the behavior the user thinks is right.
(Too bad — try again!) The most puzzling for the user is that they have
to remember when the thing happens (and probably to learn it is changed in
the next revision of the software).”
When cornered by the facts, another witticism I occasionally hear is “Well,
what you feel is the better computer just depends on what you’re used to.” I
ask you, how come such non-sequitors are so rampant in the computer world, where
they would be openly laughed at if used on other everyday matters? (Personally
I believe it relates to the fact that most people are technically challenged,
and are very cautious to speak up to a perceived “technical expert”.)
Let’s say that you and a friend were discussing what kind of television
to buy now. You are suggesting that an HDTV is the best quality option, while
this less well-off associate is saying that a black and white TV is perfectly
fine. If his argument ends up being “Well, what you feel is the better
TV, just depends on what you’re used to”, what would your reaction
be to that thinking? Clearly this TV difference has nothing to do with experience: there
are discernibly different FACTS. Ditto for computers.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of
emulation on a Mac, but are you aware of this lower-priced alternative?
At MacWindows they show
how the power of the Mac makes it an exceptional base to emulate almost anything.
And, similarly, this shows
you how an enthusiastic Machead got 55 (yes that is FIFTY-FIVE)
operating systems to work on his Powerbook! Do not try this on your PC at home...
Another reason why Macs are not the same as PCs is that
Apple leads the computer industry in innovation. In December of 2003 ComputerWorld said "Apple
isn’t a computer company, but a solution company. Apple delivers innovative,
elegant and friendly solutions." Then they make a long list of recent innovations
like Quicktime Streaming Server, DVD Studio Pro II, The iSight camera and iChat
AV software,Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther), X-Serve RAID, etc... And there is Rendezvous, which
enables a local network of devices to configure themselves — which PC
Magazine calls a "Best
For examples of exciting hardware see the new iMac
and G5. Then check out the
fabulous iLife software
package introduced in early 2004. No comparable PC package exists... See why Fortune
(May 2003) says "Steve
Jobs Keeps Rocking My World." This July 2003 USA Today article says
that iChat/iSight blows away the competition. MSN Messenger has poorer audio,
poorer video, poorer setup, poorer performance... and compared to Apple’s
offering is "for the dogs."
The OSX oparating system has ignited a flurry of creative new third party developments
the likes of which have never been seen on ANY platform.
Check out Konfabulator,
etc. Exciting stuff!
2003) says "Like a comet that passes Earth every few years, Apple Computer consistently comes
out of the blue with products that alter the trajectory
of the technology business and leave observers
rubbing their eyes in amazement. To change an industry once is impressive. To
do it as many times as Apple has is phenomenal.
For three decades, Apple has blazed a trail for the computer world. The company
does the inspired work of figuring out new ways to entice people to buy its machines,
only to have other vendors
crank out inelegant imitations for the masses. It seems unfair, both to Apple
and to the hordes saddled with second-rate gear."
Have you heard the one about where some people think that the latest Windows
bugs fix (aka Windows XP) is almost as good as the Mac OS
X? Just in case you might have, make sure to read our section for
the real scoop: OS X vs XP.
I don’t know about you, but it sounds to me like there are a LOT of significant differences here...
Oh yes, one more thing. It’s interesting to hear that many of the people promoting PCs say something like “The computer is just a tool.” Well, there certainly is some truth to that. But let’s say that I’m constructing a backyard deck and need to put in several hundred screws — so
I buy a battery-operated screwdriver.
Am I better off with: a) a tool that
requires me to read twenty pages of assembly and operating directions,
stops working if I don’t follow every instruction just right, or b) a
tool that I snap together and start working with immediately (no classes
required!), and which performs flawlessly throughout the job?
So for people who are insightful enough to make the "tool" observation,
it would seem like they would then also grasp the idea that if there
are TWO possible tools for a job, then USE THE BEST ONE. A
Mac is very powerful, yet MUCH easier to use — which makes users
more productive. The Mac is simply the superior tool: the
Swiss Army Knife of computers.
Conclusion: PCs are NOT “the same” as
Macs! Standardizing on Macs will let you get an extremely powerful computer
that is less expensive, easier to maintain, and results in more productivity.
Download a printable pdf version of this document (rev: 3/06/04).
If you have any constructive comments or suggestions about this page,
please email John.
This section’s Haiku
(see the bottom of our Intro page for more explanation):
Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.
rev: August 1, 2007
— Section #4 —