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Mac OSX and Windows 8

I’ve been a Mac user since 2010 and I haven’t looked back in over three years – until recently. Ever since Windows 8 was released last October, I have been catching myself saying the “W” word (it’s frowned upon to say “Windows” when you’re part of the Mac cult) and “I want” in the same sentence. All bias aside, the Windows 8 start screen using the same live tile layout as their mobile OS was a very risky move for Microsoft. However, I think they hit the nail square on the head – I like it!

I’ve been following Windows 8 ever since bloggers first started reviewing it and I’ve been seriously considering ditching my three-year-old MacBook Pro in exchange for a Samsung ultrabook running Windows 8. Here’s why:

Apple’s UI Is Stale

My biggest complaint with Mac OS X (and iOS for that matter) is that the user interface never changes. iOS has looked essentially the same since 2007 when the iPhone was introduced and Mac OS X has looked very similar since 2001 when OS X Cheetah was released. Granted, they have polished the interface and smoothed out some of the rough edges since 2001, but for the most part, it works the same way: dock of icons at the bottom of the screen, menu bar at the top, the red button closes the window, the yellow button minimizes the window, hard disks appear as icons on the desktop, etc.

If you look at Windows, the user interface looked essentially the same since the days of Windows 95. However, over all those years, they would at least change the color scheme with Windows XP and introduce the “Aero” UI with Vista. Apple has maintained the same grey color scheme since the very early days of Mac OS X.

My favorite part about Windows 8 is that they drastically redesigned the whole interface. The UI (codenamed “Metro” when it was introduced with Windows Phone) is a modern, sleek design that looks nice on any size display. It’s really a step up from Windows 7, which looked very similar to Windows Vista. Microsoft’s message with the new Windows UI is clear – they are ushering in a wave of tablets, hybrids (laptops that convert into tablets), and touch screen computers. I believe the touch screen to be far more efficient than using a mouse or trackpad, but it would be awkward to use Windows 7 because it’s built to be used with a mouse… Windows 8, however, is touch-based in nature which means it should stand the length of time on Microsoft’s lineup of operating systems (similar to what XP is doing now).

Apple Is Perfect, But You Have No Freedom

After three years with my Macs, I can proudly say that they have never frozen up or gotten to a point where I had to do the Mac equivalent of CTRL + ALT + DELETE. The operating system is absolutely flawless in this regard, but it comes at a price: Apple gives no freedom.

With the introduction of the Mac App Store a few years ago, it “revolutionized” the way Mac applications were downloaded. Before, you had to search the Internet for the application you want, find a reputable website such as CNET, download it, and install it. Now all you have to do is open the Mac App Store, search for “Evernote,” and click download. The App Store is great and all, but it limits the users a lot. I’m used to buying big, high-priced software (such as Adobe Photoshop CS6) on websites like eBay or Amazon where people are selling their used copies. With the introduction of the Mac App Store (and the fact that Apple is removing the optical drive from newer laptops), less people are buying the Photoshop CS6 disc, which means there are fewer used copies online for me to buy.

In addition to the Mac App Store controlling the third-party software world, Apple controls the hardware as well. When you buy a Mac, you have a few choices. The first choice is simple: laptop or desktop. If you choose laptop, you have a few more choices: MacBook Pro or MacBook Air and the screen size that you want. If you choose desktop, you can either pick a Mac Mini, iMac, or Mac Pro… That’s it! In the Windows world, you can choose from tons of brands (Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, Dell, HP, etc) which all have many models of PCs. I’m not complaining that Macs are ugly (which they obviously aren’t), but I am complaining about the fact that not only do you have no choices, but the laptop models look generally the same every year. In fact, the current design of the MacBook Pro hasn’t changed since 2008 – they just keep upgrading the inner specs.

On a Mac, the only user-upgradable components are the RAM and the hard drive. In later models, though (such as the MacBook Airs and new Retina MacBooks), the hard drive is very hard to replace without damaging the computer permanently because Apple has attached components directly to the case – if you open it up, you’ll crack them. For most users, they will never even notice that they cannot upgrade (or repair) any of the components themselves. Power users, on the other hand, get very upset about this because they want to be able to upgrade their MacBook and use it for many years instead of buying a new Mac. I recently bought 8 GB of RAM to upgrade my MacBook from 2 GB to 8, but that’s as much upgrading as I can do. In a few more years when my computer starts running slow at 8 GB, I’ll just have to get a new one.

Apple Sacrifices Usability For Fashion

When I first bought my iMac in 2010, it came with the new Apple Magic Mouse. The Magic Mouse featured no tactile buttons, no scroll wheel – nothing. It was simply a Bluetooth-powered, curved white slab that you glide your fingers across to scroll, make your web browser go back, zoom, etc. To say the least, the Magic Mouse is really cool and it was first of its kind (since then, Microsoft, Logitech, and other companies have copied and made similar products).

A few months ago, I was in Staples looking to buy the Logitech K750 Mac keyboard because it was solar-powered. I was constantly dumping AA batteries into my Apple keyboard, so I wanted to go with something more economical. When I was there, I dared venture into the land of Windows peripherals and started testing some of the ergonomic mice. When I got to the Logitech Performance MX mouse, I was blown away. It conformed to my hand perfectly – making it one hundred times more comfortable than the slim Magic Mouse. I bought both the Logitech keyboard and the mouse and ditched my Apple peripherals on eBay. I can definitely say that the “coolness” factor of the Magic Mouse wore off when I used something more functional.

Conclusion

Other than the fact that I’ve gotten a little bored with Apple, I can live with the other problems. When I decided that Windows 8 may be a good idea, I started doing more research and decided against it. Many reviewers claimed that although the UI is nice, it’s awkward transitioning between the “Desktop” and “Tiles.” I don’t like to feel awkward when I’m using my computer, so that was an instant turnoff.

In addition, I think I would miss the seamlessness of Mac OS X. When I bought an Android phone to replace my iPhone 4 (I wanted Android because it was more open – for the same reasons I considered Windows), I regretted it because it was so choppy compared to iOS. Doing simple tasks such as opening Calendar or taking a picture caused lags and crashes, which can irritate anyone used to the almost-perfect iOS. When the iPhone 5 was released, I ditched my Samsung Galaxy Nexus and bought the iPhone.

Although Windows 8 looks nice, I think I’ll stick with OS X for now. I know for sure that the operating system is rock-solid, I’m used to the way Mac applications work, and it’s essentially seamless. If I can get over the fact that it hasn’t drastically changed in years, I think I can live with it.

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Ian Eberle
Computer science major at Northwest Florida State College. I enjoy programming, web design, technology opinion, and following the news.
  • http://www.facebook.com/gibtown Chris Gibson

    I recently ditched my Mac for Windows 8, and I love it. I’m not familiar with any “awkwardness” when switching between tiles and the desktop.

    I also switched from the iPhone to the Galaxy Note 2 and I couldn’t imagine going back.

    It’s funny, six months ago I was the ultimate Apple fanboy, and now I’ve almost completely dumped the whole thing.

    • ianeberle

      I agree with you that it is nice to use alternative products every once in a while. Us Apple fanboys get so accustomed to doing things a certain way, we never take time to examine the alternatives.

      I was looking at the Galaxy Note for quite some time, actually, because the screen is so large. I like how Apple made the screen on the iPhone 5 lager, but they should have made it proportionately larger, as in, make it wider as well. I often find it being too skinny.

      • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

        I completely agree with you, Ian. I use an iPhone 4S and have no desire to upgrade to the 5 because it’s just longer, not wider.

        I reviewed the Galaxy Note 2 last week for my blog and fell in love with it. If I switch to Android from the iPhone, it will be to the Note 2. That phone has none of the stuttering of older Android phones. It’s smooth and sleek. I love the larger screen and the S Pen stylus that gives it added functionality.

        • http://www.dragonblogger.com Justin Germino

          I am with you, the Galaxy Note 2 looks incredible, I am waiting to see about the Galaxy S4 as well.

        • ianeberle

          I was with you until you mentioned a stylus… I’m with Steve Jobs on that one: “Who wants a stylus? You have to get ‘em and put ‘em away, and you lose ‘em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus.” — Steve Jobs.

          However, I do agree that the Note 2 looks awesome. I’ve never really messed with one, but I’ve seen them in the stores before. One nice thing that I haven’t seen any Android handset match is the awesome Retina display on the iPhone.

          And about the iPhone 5 – Yes, the screen is just longer, but I encourage you to go to an Apple Store or Best Buy or somewhere and try one out. It actually does include a lot more screen real estate, but I still find it to be too skinny.

        • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

          The S Pen is so much more than a stylus. Yes, I have seen the screen of the iPhone 5 but it doesn’t compare to the real estate of the Note 2.

  • Tinu

    I’ve just always had both. To me they are mirrors of each other – one’s strength is the other’s weakness and vice versa.

    • ianeberle

      Agreed. There are a few times as a Mac owner where I’ll want to use some program and it’ll be Windows only :(

      There’s always alternatives to these Windows programs, though, so I haven’t seen a reason to have both types sitting around.

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Hi Ian, I was in a very similar situation, but my old Windows 7 laptop died before Windows 8 came out. My daughter talked me into my first MacBook Pro and I’m very happy with it. There are some issues I have with it though, leaving me wishing for the best of all possible worlds.

    I have no problem with Windows 8 and probably would have been perfectly pleased with it if I could have waited. I even attended a class on how to use Windows 8 at my local Microsoft store. The Live Tiles look very interesting and I enjoy using them on a Windows phone.

    My husband needs a new desktop but isn’t as enthusiastic about new tech as we are. I’m not sure what I will get him but whatever I get him will be a new experience for him.

    • ianeberle

      I didn’t even know Microsoft had local stores… I hope you enjoyed the class! Did you take your MacBook to it? :P

      • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

        I did enjoy the class! No, they provided me with a computer to use and they had a huge touch screen monitor (think wide screen TV). After that I walked into an Apple store with a Microsoft bag and got yelled at… ;-) They were kidding at the Apple store, but it was funny!

  • http://www.dragonblogger.com Justin Germino

    Great article Ian, I have been using Windows 8 for a few months and the start screen isn’t so bad, though I must admit it took getting used to for right mouse button to open settings in apps and having to slide the mouse to the right to get to options and such in Windows 8 apps. I still mostly just hit WIN+D the moment my start screen loads to go to my desktop and only use my start screen to start up apps, I don’t like that the Windows App Store can only use your C: drive by default (which is a smaller SSD in my case) and if you hack it to put to another drive, it breaks for software upgrades. Still, I have never used or touched Mac OS X ever, Ubuntu is my favorite non-Windows operating system if I had to choose and have run alternating through the years. As Steam starts giving more support to Linux, I think other devs will follow and Ubuntu has the best potential to be the best of both worlds OS, plus now has a phone/tablet version too in the near future with Unity.

    • ianeberle

      The best part about Ubuntu is that it’s free. I’ve used it to save a few old PCs that were running Windows XP. After a while, those old Windows PCs (I’m talking like 10 years old) slow down and become obsolete due to slow processors and such. This is why it’s nice to install a version of Linux to speed it up because Linux needs less resources. That being said, I only see Ubuntu as a hobby OS because advanced apps like Photoshop, MS Office, etc aren’t really available. There are alternatives, but it’s not the same.