So here I am trying to figure out whether or not I want to buy a MacBook Pro. I'm certainly not going to order one for a few months, but I am starting to think about my next laptop as my PowerBook approaches two years of age. After all I'm down to one memory slot at this point with the recent failure of my bottom memory slot. The real question in my mind now that I'm working in a company that is essentially Windows with a couple of Mac users and a similar number of Linux users sprinkled around is whether or not a Mac laptop is worth the extra hassle.
Now it's easy to say that everything is seamless. I have no problem with our Samba file server. It's true that all the platforms can work together without any problems if you really work at it. It works that way in my basement office because I went to a lot of trouble to figure out how to do it.
Now I'm in a different environment and many things work great. Printing isn't one of them, and there is no one who has the mission to make my Mac work seamlessly. We have a Dell 1600N printer which shows up as a Xerox Bonjour printer on my Mac which also seems to have the right drivers. Yet when I print to the 1600N the Mac always thinks the printer isn't working. I can rotate 30 degrees and use my Dell Laptop to print to the same printer without any problems.
There are some other things that I need to factor into my consideration. Once in a while there is something a little odd on a spreadsheet, perhaps just the background color on a cell I want someone to fill out, nothing big, just something irritating. Also for our fast transaction based business, I'm considering moving the sales people from Salesforce.com to ACT! Salesforce is web based but we're experiencing some terrible problems with Salesforce availability, and we use only a small subset of Salesforce's features so the ACT! client based solution might be better and cheaper for us. The problem is that it only runs on Windows machines.
The other software that I use is pretty simple and available on both platforms. MS Office, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, the Firefox browser, and Filemaker Pro are the products I rely on these days. Right now some of these packages will likely run on the Windows platform a little better until developers get everything ported to Intel for the Mac.
Then there's is the big important feature for small businesses, price. Right now the Sony VAIO® FE590PB Notebook is significantly less expensive than the MacBook Pro. To start with the Sony comes with a gig of ram while the MacBook Pro comes only with 512 megs which borders on ridiculous these days. When my current Powerbook had to live on that little memory while I was waiting for a 1 gig dimm, it was not a very fun system. The Sony also comes with a 100 gig drive, and you can order a dock for it. The MacBook Pro has a little better screen resolution but the Sony has the XBRITE-HiColor™ Technology. The MacBook Pro is a little lighter, but the Sony has three USB 2.0 ports compared to two on the Mac. The Sony comes with on site repair, and the MacBook Pro has Apple's standard PowerBook depot service. The Apple specifications are impressive but so are the Sony's. They both are also very nice looking systems.
When you add memory and hard drive size to make the systems relatively similar along with a modem which I still use a couple times a year in strange spots like the Outer Banks, the MacBook Pro ends up being priced at $2,348. The Sony's price is $1,899. So the price differential is $449 for buying a Mac. Put in other words, the Mac is 23.6% more expensive than the Sony.
I would have to buy a $69 subscription for Virus protection for the Sony, but you may have to start doing that for the Mac. I'm not sure how the OS "upgrade" prices would factor into the equation. I haven't lived long enough in the Windows world to comment intelligently on that. You could probably give the Mac an edge on software, but until I have used the Sony software suite, I'm not willing to concede that point, especially based on my needs.
Of course the biggest problem for the Sony is that it isn't running OS X. However, given the software and printing challenges, it might make more sense for me to move to the Sony especially given what may be a long and protracted schedule for making my favorite software Mac Intel native. I remember how long it took the last time around. Even then I'll still be missing ACT! and hoping someone figures a way for it to run on a Mac. Some of the website analytic software I'm considering for the company also only seems to come in Windows versions, and then I already went to a small business version of Quicken that only runs on Windows. There are ways around all of those challenges (like carrying a second laptop) but do they make my life even more complicated?
I am disappointed that Apple seems to once again have made the decision to take its loyal customers to the cleaners on price. It's just going to reinforce all the subtle price comments that I've heard since joining a basically Windows world. My favorite is "Not all of us can afford to run a Mac." I've given up pointing out the obvious that iMacs are pretty competitively priced.
As to Apple software included with the MacBook Pro, the only item in the iLife suite that I really use is iPhoto with iDVD and iMovie distant second and third place apps. I like Keynote and what it can do, but it's really an app that I do not need. It comes with Pages which I prefer not to use. I'm convinced that the replacements for the iLife suite in the Windows world aren't so bad these days. They've come a long way. For my one or two iMovies a year, there will still be a desktop Mac at home. Also as is usual these days, most new interesting technology comes out first for Windows machines. A good example of this is the new Photomatix HDR photo product which is already shipping for Windows.
I would be very interested in hearing pro and con arguments on the Sony and MacBook Pro products. I'm certainly on the fence right now. Of course it will be interesting to see both products reviewed by the same person. I'll be glad to volunteer.
I'm just not certain that I'm willing to pay that much extra to be a Mac user. Even with the unknown cost, challenges, and potential benefits of Vista on the distant horizon, it doesn't necessarily make the Mac a better choice. The little challenges in being a Mac user in the almost all Windows business world just make it that much easier to finally give up and buy that Sony and all those Windows versions of my favorite software and be done with it. Carrying two laptops to work each morning isn't a very exciting long term prospect.
Of course if I bought the Sony, I wouldn't get to agonize over the decision whether or not to stay a Mac user every two years.
Some updates-September 26, 2014
I went on to buy a white MacBook in the summer of 2006, see the article, The Genius of Apple. I am glad that I did not buy a Sony.
The MacBook was faithful computer, but as Apple laptop prices kept rising next came a couple laptops from HP, the first one in 2007, On the eve of Apple's Leopard, I buy a Windows Vista Laptop. Next I got tired of waiting for Apple to ship I5 & I7 processors and bought my wife and myself new laptops in February of 2010, A Mac user & Windows 7 on an Intel i7 laptop. The orginial 2007 HP laptop that I bought is still functional and I have installed Mint Linux on it.
My faithful MacBook limped along with some hard drive transplants until early in the summer of 2012 when I could no longer come up with the magic to get it to boot. I upgraded my main laptop in December of 2011 to an I7 Lenovo with 8GBs of ram. It came with a 15" screen, MS Office, and a big hard drive for $999. My HP I7 laptop went to my younger daughter who is still using it. My wife continues to use her HP I5 laptop which will be five years old in February. In November 2012, I chose a Lenovo Yoga I5 with a SSD drive to replace my MacBook. It was under $1,000 and has been the only laptop in my life to challenge and perhaps beat the original Titantium Powerbook that I still remember fondly. It also came with a 13" touch screen and a memory card reader slot which still in September 2014 no MacBook Air under $1,000 has. Right now for the same $899 that will buy you an 11" MacBook Air with no photo card slot, you can get 13.3" FHD LED Backlit Multitouch (1920x1080) Lenovo with a faster processor and the photo card slot. Apple could be competitive it they wanted to, they just would rather have the extra margin.
There are still Macs in my life, I bought an iMac in October 2010, Apple's I5 iMac joins the Applepeels' nerve center. Unfortunately it turned into my iLemon. The iLemon/iMac ended up in a closet for almost a year before my Apple-service-trained son helped me repair it, How I Fixed An iLemon. In late 2012 I finally replaced my faithful Dual G5 desktop Mac with a Lenovo I5 desktop. I did buy a MacMini to go with it early 2013 and had some rough sledding with it but fortunately a friend at Apple helped me persevere, Mac Mini Tale Of Woe, Part Deux, and the MacMini is one of the computers that I use daily.
I have what I consider to be a power user's desktop and virtualization lets me do about anything that I want on any computer, Home Virtualization & The New Power User.
In a certain sense using the Mac is not as important to me as it used to be, How I Moved Away From The Mac After Leaving Apple, but in one of the great ironies of life, my job now requires me to use Pages 09. I would probably use a Mac laptop if I had one, but the Apple value proposition in laptops is even weaker than it was when I wrote this article eight years ago.
I find Apple's Mail client unreliable and have switched to Windows Mail, Something To Like About Windows 8.1. iDVD and Aperture are gone, and now it looks like iPhoto is on the way out. Only third party apps like Rapidweaver and Pixelmator besides the need to use Pages 09 keep me on the Mac.
While I realize that Apple is having a hard time making sure everything works, U2, Bendygate and iOS 8.0.1: Apple's banana skins, even in its bread and butter iPhone product line, I can still wish that the company would turn over a new leaf and deliver the kind of service and support that their pricing seems to suggest. It would also be nice to see something more powerful and expandable than the MacMini but a lot less expensive than the Mac Pro which starts at $2,999. I am not interested in anything so hard to service as one of the new iMacs.
I try to update these technology recommendations in November of each year. I still believe Apple has in a sense lost its way and only cares about those folks who have lots of money. I am more of a fan of Lenovo which believes that they can deliver great products at a reasonable price.