A Windows expert opts for a Mac life, Part 2

The transition was a little rocky for Windows expert Scot Finnie, but once over that hump, his Mac experience has been superb

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Real people, real jobs

Some Macintosh folks took umbrage to a sentence in the conclusion to the first story in this series. I wrote:

I expect to wrap up with a final assessment [on] whether the Mac is a viable alternative for real people with real jobs.

This story was referenced on Digg.com and by numerous blogs around the Internet, including the Apple Blog, Cnet's Blogma, and the MacUser blog. In most cases, commenters to these blogs took the opportunity to read that one sentence and get spitting mad that I was apparently dissing the Mac. Reading it out of context, I can understand their ire. But it really wasn't meant that way.

I'll repeat here part of what I wrote in response to Derik DeLong's MacUser blog post, "Another Windows guy looks at a Mac":

Of course real people with real jobs use Macs! And have done so since the beginning (1984). I was one of them in the '80s. As a writer, I chastise myself for using hyperbole -- when, clearly, the Mac side of my audience didn't get it. The sentiment I was conveying was actually a gentle chiding of Windows users, some of whom may tend to think that there's no software on the Mac. If you read the whole story, and connect the dots, I think you'll see there's a connection to other things written in the story that support what I'm saying. I agree, the hyperbole was too subtle though.

In fact, one of the surprising things to me as a recent Mac convert is how much software is available for the Mac. There is a rich community of Mac freeware, shareware and trialware. It's been a lot of fun to dig around and find programs that work for me. The quality of this third-party code is generally better than the quality of comparable Windows freeware and shareware, too.

But this wasn't always the case. In the mid-1990s, I went back to the Mac after about four years with Windows. I was forced to go back by a job. This was not a good time in the history of the Mac or Apple. Steve Jobs was in between stints at Apple, the Mac community was drying up, and almost nothing about the Mac was interoperable with Windows. Even common file formats weren't fully compatible.

So a lot of more experienced Windows users tried Macs long ago, and gave up on them. Those people may be pleasantly surprised 10 years later by how well the Mac integrates with Windows and the business world today -- and that improvement is a continuing trend. Apple has made a lot of good moves over the past few years.

There is still a question, however, whether all Windows business people will be able to do what I've done. There are some business apps, such as AutoCAD, Visio, Project, Outlook (Microsoft's Entourage is very different from Outlook) that don't have mainstream counterparts for Mac OS X. Some enterprise apps, both commercial and in-house, don't run on the Mac. Some Web-based enterprise apps won't run without Internet Explorer, which no longer exists on the Mac. For those people, though, the Parallels virtualization tool may well be the bridge that connects the Mac to Windows.

But I have managed to make the change surprisingly easily. With a little perseverance, many other business people could too.

This article is an advance excerpt from the next issue of "Scot's Newsletter" and is published by permission. Scot Finnie is Computerworld's online editorial director.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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