February 25, 2009

Why I won't get a Mac

A lot of people I know use Macs. They carry their shiny Mac Book Pro like a badge of honor, a talisman which embodies the measure of their master-geekery. It is quite funny how unknowingly religious such an iconic piece of shiny technology can make these latter-day geeks, but without many exceptions they are all very religious about it. Many times I find myself being invited to their Church of the Mac. I suppose they wish to save me from the evils Microsoft and protect me from the effort it takes to run an open source OS such as Ubuntu or Fedora. But I'm not interested. I believe in the seperation of Church and Tech.

What I find particularly interesting about this following, at least amongst the people I know, is that they are most big FOSS (Free and open source software) supporters. I ask them why not use an open source solution to their OS needs? Linux afterall is Unix based (like Mac's OS) and it's FOSS!!! But apperantly these master craftsmen, these warriors against the Big Corporation Microsoft find that using Linux distribustions to be a bit taxing on their patience. And apperantly, similar to Microsoft's Windows, Mac's OS is made to be a bit more user friendly.

What is the usual hold-up for using a FOSS operating system? In my experience it's been hardware support. This is getting better with every kernel release and distro update, but admittedly getting Linux to work with your particular hardware configuration can leave you a bit befuzzled. I happen to enjoy tinkering when I have the time, but I do realize the turn-off it can be when you just can't seem to get your wireless card to connect to the Internet of all things.

But Apple takes the fuss all out of that. They've got their proprietary, Unix-based OS that is very much like it's distant cousin's in the Linux world, but one HUGE caveat: Apple manufactures their own pricey hardware. In fact, if you read the EULA (you do read those from time to time right?) for your favorite Mac OS you'll see in plain text that it is an infraction of the Mac OS license agreement to run the OS on any other hardware than that provided by the manufacturer. Now I understand that Apple has found a niche market, but this wreaks of non-compete, monopoly-esque, the kind of stuff Microsoft get's taken to court for all time business. (Jeff Atwood, of codinghorror.com fame, compares it to the dongles of old.)

Sure Microsoft's dominance in many areas has led to product stagnation and other negative side affects, but you can take their products and run them on pretty much any hardware, manufactured by any company and it's fine. At what point of company growth will Apple no longer be able to get away with this. I'm glad their are companies like Psystar that are trying to keep Apple honest, but even they seem to be on the losing side.

So in the end, I don't see Apple as a Microsoft competitor, but more of an equal to them in their philosophies and business model. Sure they're competing with Microsoft, but only in a niche market. But they resemble that competitor more than their proponents want to admit.

For now I'll keep tinkering with Ubuntu and using Windows as deemed necessary.
Until next time