15 years ago I got my first Mac and it was rather useless. Today I'm reliving that experience after picking up a Windows laptop.
Back in 2003, it was curiosity, probably from the growing iPod and iTunes exposure, that initially led me to the iBook. What was going on over on the Mac OS X platform? It looked pretty, but how was it to actually use? I didn’t know anyone who actually used one, particularly for web development. Everyone used Windows, at least in my circles.
Imagine that, not knowing anyone who used an Apple.
Anyway, I picked up an iBook G3 to find out for myself. It was one of the white square ones, not one of the fun colorful ones. This is one of the only pictures I have of it:
At the time I was doing on-the-side web projects on my Windows XP computer, and tinkering with a lot of web tech when I didn’t have a paying freelance gig.
So while I was using a Windows PC at work, I thought I’d try to use the iBook for my side projects.
It was not easy.
Back then, OS X didn’t have a selection of free or cheap software for web development. It had some big-name software, but nothing that fit my raw-code workflow (HomeSite anyone?) or that I could afford or steal* easily. And those that I could steal like Photoshop and Dreamweaver were just damn slow on the G3-powered iBook compared to how they ran on the AMD-powered RAM-filled powerhouse that was my custom-built PC.
(*Don’t do this kids, there’s lots of great free / affordable software options these days.)
So the iBook was a disappointment. OS X wasn’t capable as a productivity machine. Yet. But I was glad I gave it a shot. If nothing else, it’s very useful when you work in software to see what’s going on around the industry. What are the other visions for an OS? What user problems are they focusing on? I may not have produced much with the iBook but it was hard to deny something interesting was brewing in the Apple world.
And Now The Tables Have Flipped
Today there’s an Apple on every plate. Software, and in particular the web area in which I work, has changed a ton and the complexity has gone through the roof.
The community migrated to Apple over the past 15 years and now all the best productivity apps and web dev tooling are on macOS. It’s hard to use anything else and stay up-to-date.
That said, Microsoft is putting up a fight. Visual Studio Code is well-respected and used by even hardcore Apple users. Fluent design is pretty darn pretty. And the hardware is deliciously experimental, particularly with laptops. Convertibles, detachables, touchscreens, super-lightweight purse-computers and tank-like gaming machines — they’re throwing every damn thing at the wall to see what works.
So once again I found myself peering over the fence to see what the other guys were up to. Competition is good!
Thus, out of the same curiosity that led me to an iBook in 2003, over the holidays in 2017 I picked up a 13″ HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 Johnny Rocket Edition 439-0 Upsilon Pi Version 2. Or something like that. There are so many variants of the HP line it’s hard to know when to stop adding adjectives when describing it. I got the 4k/16GB/512GB beast model so at least speed would not be a factor.
And I went all-in. While I’ll still be using an Apple for paid work, that’s all I’ll be using it for. I’m gonna try to do everything else on the HP. Including this blog post!
I’m even using Edge.
So far I’m getting pretty strong feelings that remind me of the iBook experience. Windows is a capable OS no doubt, but capable is not what computing is about anymore. We’ve moved passed capable to the experience and the power. It’s about how much you can get done without the machine getting in your way. And, at least for me, it’s about the machine and the software looking damn good in the process.
My gut says Windows is getting there, but will take another few versions and a lot more support from the web dev and design communities before it can truly compete. (Again: this is specifically for my use case — there are plenty of reasons why Windows is a solid choice for certain types of work!)
I’ll probably post lots of updates and thoughts as I dig into the computer more and more over the next year. Or I may toss it off my balcony in a fit of frustrated rage and not talk about it under my lawyer’s advice until we settle the lawsuit of the person who had the unfortunate luck of walking underneath my window that day.
Place your bets.