Reasons to switch

In the next month I'll be splashing out on a new MacBook to allow me to test websites for work. Since i'll have a perfectly good MacBook available to me, I thought I'd 'trial' a switch to using it full time for development.

It would seem that the age old battle of Mac vs PC is as lively as ever. In the one camp, the PC users have always called on the trusty reasons for not switching to the Mac being the massive array of software available and the inexpensive and alternative array of vendors of PC hardware.

On the Mac side, it's always been "no viruses" and "no crashes" - the two (apparently) massive downsides to using Windows PC's.

Started on a Mac

I started using Apple Macs back when the SE30 ruled the roost. Over the first 9 years of my professional career I was a dedicated Mac fan - owning several Mac IIci, IIcx's, Mac IIsi, Quadra 700's, Powerbook 190c, and so on. Too many to remember in fact.

Ended up on a PC

Around 1998 however I switched to using PC's exclusively - partly because of the requirement of Lotus Notes for development of websites, and partly because of the introduction of the first 3dFx Voodoo card for gaming.

These days I still use a PC exclusively, currently a Dell Inspiron 9300 purchased almost 2 years ago - but which is still surprisingly current given the specs of most laptops available now. I have been running Windows Vista since the first beta releases, and am currently running RC2 (Build 5744) until I get hold of the release version within the next few weeks.

At the office I have always used Dell desktops and switched from a Toshiba laptop to a Dell when I purchased the 9300. These days I will only purchase Dell hardware, so any switch from a PC to a Mac is actually a switch from Dell to Apple.

PowerPC... not

Back when Apple were still using PowerPC I considered switching back - but there have always been definitive reasons that this was not possible - software requirements, hardware requirements etc. There also really seemed no financial justification to warrant the massively inflated prices for some unquantifiable gain of using a Mac.

To put it simply - towards the final years of PowerPC driving the Mac, the PowerPC Mac always seemed less capable to me in terms of pure speed than an equivalently priced PC. In fact the Macs we had in the office, always felt sluggish and unstable to me.

Now that Apple have switched to using Intel CPU's - one significant reason NOT to switch has been removed. Apple now can benefit from Intels obvious dominance in the CPU market. No longer are comparisons between Apple and Windows PC's purely subjective - there is now a common baseline between the platforms to judge some of their merits.

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

The FUD surrounding Mac and PC is as strong as ever, but for all intents and purposes completely outdated as far as I am concerned.

The usual arguments for both go something like this:


  • Ease of use
  • Less maintenance
  • No Viruses
  • No BSOD
  • No evil Micro$oft


  • Range of software
  • Range of hardware
  • Support
  • Performance
  • Price

My list

My reasons to choose (or not choose) a Mac or PC comes down to:


These days, with Apple now using Intel CPU's, Macs are more than ever directly comparable to any other PC manufacturer. Anyone who tries to tell you that Apple components are somehow superior or that they use better hardware than their competitors are spinning FUD, or simply do not know what they are talking about.

There is no doubt though that their industrial design is incredible. Why are they the only manufacturer that can pack so much into their laptops, make it look incredible, and (these days) actually price it competitively?

I have however been spoilt with my Dell 9300s' incredible 1920x1200 17" WUXGA screen and will have a hard time using anything else, and unfortunately Apples available 'choice' (of 1 screen) is really disappointing.

So while Apple definitely win with their industrial design and finesse, Dell still have the upper hand as far as I am concerned with a much greater range of hardware options.

In future however, I suspect it's easier for Apple to expand their hardware choices than Dell to improve their industrial design and polish - so this is something that may swing Apples way over time.


This is one area where Apple really loses out, and one I am still surprised about.

With my current Dell laptop, I have next business day, on-site support. Simply put, that means if I have a hardware failure, I call Dell and the next day a support technician will drive out to where ever I arrange and fix and replace the faulty hardware.

In the last 2 years I have relied on this 3 times - twice because of damage I caused myself to my laptop, and only once because of a failure.

Every time I called, the Dell staff ran through some simple tests for me to carry out taking less than 10 minutes, then organized for their support team to visit me.

The support was incredible - at no stage was there any question of whether it should be a Dell problem - I called, told them what had happened and they took 'ownership' of the problem immediately and did everything they could to make sure it was fixed to my satisfaction.

The bottom line is with 3 support calls, over 2 years, once requiring a new screen, and twice requiring a replaced mainboard I was without my laptop for a total of 1 night - and that one night was only because a screw stripped and the tech was able to fix it over night rather than get a replacement and return the following morning. 

So frankly Apples return-to-base support is appalling compared to the quality of service I currently get from Dell.


So it will be interesting to see what happens once I start using the Mac. Will I suddenly realise the error of my ways, and be X times more productive? Or will it simply a slick looking PC - different for difference sake?


This is the personal blog of Adrian Lynch, owner of Millstream, developers of Spring CMS.

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