Last Saturday I started setting up my new Macbook Pro. Nothing spectacular about that, I guess, except that this is my first foray into the world of Mac OS X. Here are some thoughts on why I decided to buy one of these machines.
In the last few years there have been more than a few occasions when clients, friends or colleagues have been surprised to see me running Windows or even Ubuntu, saying things like “I always had you down as a Mac person”. It reminds me a bit of when I used to smoke and colleagues would say “I didn’t have you down as a smoker” – it feels flattering, but you still wonder about the signals you’re sending out.
I’d never become a Mac user because I never really saw a compelling reason to. I enjoy learning new things and I’m interested in computer systems (let’s face it – I’m a nerd) but could never justify the time and expense that switching would have involved a few years ago.
You see, back then everything was different. Macs ran on proprietary hardware. The application ecosystem for OS X was still developing. Most of my personal data was stored on the hard disks of Windows machines, and just moving to a new PC was arduous enough.
But these things have changed. You can install Windows or Linux on modern Macs, making them far more multi-purpose than they used to be. The application ecosystem seems far richer now (this list of indie graphics editors for Mac OS X is a case in point).
And most importantly, my personal data doesn’t bind me to a specific machine in the way it used to. Like many people, my online self is becoming increasingly nebulous, drifting away from the lone device to reside in the external world or the “cloud”. Email, contacts, files, personal notes – all of these can be reached from any machine with an internet connection, and with every couple of months the setup time becomes shorter and shorter.
It’s this last point in particular that encouraged me to give Mac OS X a try, and which I expect is encouraging OS-agnosticism among many other people too.
There might even be a bit of a paradox at work here: the less we depend on a physical device to act as our information store, the more free we become to focus on its physical properties – ergonomics, build quality, the tactile sensation it offers, as opposed to, say, its hard drive capacity or its RAM.
As the computer becomes a physical device first and an informational device second, a company like Apple (which has been focusing on physicality for a long time) can only stand to benefit.