I regularly use both Apple Macintosh and Windows PCs every day so am quite used to how they work.
The Apple Macintosh OS X package has a lot of advantages over most computers running Microsoft Windows, but Apple doesn’t do everything better. Here’s my list of things that in my opinion Apple could improve on.
1. The Keyboard
When editing a text document, I often want to jump to the end or beginning of the line I am typing. On a PC, I just hit the “Home” or “End” keys. On a Mac I can’t do this, and have to hold down two keys for the same effect, which is a lot slower.
OK, I know the Mac keyboard has some great features too (like the eject CD/DVD key, and the 16 rather than 12 functions keys), but those two extra keys that PCs have save me a lot of time and frustration when I work on my PC.
2. The Dock/Toolbar
The Dock at the bottom of the screen on a Mac has some advantages compared to the Windows Toolbar – it’s moveable, expandable, can hold more than just programs and has some nice visual effects, but there is one fundamental area in which the logic is not complete on a Mac and where the PC gains back some ground.
On a PC, if you want to maximise an already opened Window that is sitting on the Toolbar at the bottom of the screen, you click on the name of the program and it maximises itself so you can read it; if you want to minimise it again quickly, without having moved the mouse you can just click on its icon a second time and it disappears as quickly as it arrived (actually a bit quicker perhaps).
On the Mac I click on an icon in the Dock to launch it, and the program jumps into action; but if I want to minimise it clicking again has no effect – I have to move the mouse cursor all the way to the top of the application’s window and click the yellow bead to minimise, or the red one to exit. It takes a whole lot longer.
3. User programming of Applications
I know Apple has the easiest ever mini-script maker (Automator) which has made my life much easier for doing batch jobs and stuff like that. I know that Apple Script does do some stuff and integrates across a few applications. The problem for me is that Apple’s principle Word Processing application, Pages, which comes as one half of the £55 iWork suite doesn’t have ANY programming connectivity!
I love using Pages a lot more than nearly any other Word Processor out there, but for automating report writing I have to go with the built in features of Lotus WordPro that allows me, on opening a file, to be shown a dialog box with fields I can or must fill in depending on how I set them. When completed this information is entered directly into the document where the template says it should go. This save me a whole heap of time every time I open a template. Even Microsoft’s own, rather difficult to learn Visual Basic for Applications can do stuff like this. This is clearly an area where Apple is inferior.
DRM, variously known as Digital Rights Management or Digital Restrictions Management is today’s hot potato. Microsoft Vista is said to have a remarkably severe version that oftentimes doesn’t let you even view stuff you own legally, or have created yourself. You have to hand it to Microsoft, they really know how not to let you do things.
On the other hand, Apple’s version of DRM is far less effective in preventing you copy your own stuff. Steve Jobs has even come out and said that DRM should be scrapped because it isn’t effective at stopping pirating because bad people can always afford to hire clever bad people to crack open the cookie jar.
Of course, Steve Jobs is wrong here: Microsoft’s DRM is very effective – at locking you in to buy Microsoft’s new products. It’s the new version of “built in obsolescence” in which you don’t make an inferior product so it breaks quickly and therefore has to be bought again, but you make something nobody really wants but force them to have it even when their older things still work fine. Check out this blog article for more info on that one.
5. Keeps Corporates Sweet
Coming from a corporate background (Bill Gates’ mother, Mary, was on the board of IBM when young student William was awarded the contract to provide IBM with an Operating System for their new PC architecture) Microsoft knows how to keep the big companies happy. His DRM software is designed specifically to fit in with the large Media Corporations in Hollywood and in the world’s TV stations such as the BBC.
Microsoft’s tie up between their server platform, Microsoft Office, and Exchange Server together with the use of technologies such as Direct X which allow websites to load software onto your PC without you knowing a thing about it really tie the large corporations into using Microsoft.
Finally, despite the spreadsheet appearing first on the Apple platform, Bill Gates and Microsoft knew how to copy it and improve on it, using the monopoly position to leverage out the opposition. As anyone knows, if you haven’t got a good spreadsheet program, you aren’t going to impress many business people. Spreadsheets are the basis of accounting, taxation, budgeting and many other principles of high productivity business.
I know Apple has a spreadsheet in Appleworks suite – as well as a lot of other stuff – but it appears not to be available as a Universal application so won’t work on the new Intel Apple Macintosh computers.
Because of this, Microsoft does the accounting and tax software much better than Apple. Strange really, because Apple is more robust and has better security with no Borg asking you to Cancel or Allow all the time.
So, the principle difference between the two marques is that Microsoft believes in control, and Apple believes in freedom. Which one do you want? Me too, but which one do you have to have?