Windows Macs, What’s Next?

I was shocked and excited when I read about Apple's decision not only allow Mac owners to install Windows on their machines, but also provide software to help them do it. This is certainly big news – so big it is the top story on the New York Times right now. Certainly this is a sign of the growing détente between Apple and Microsoft. Apple recognizes that Windows is the dominating desktop platform at this point and with the Intel chips they can give customers the choice.

I have to imagine all this is also about letting its customers do the Pepsi challenge with Windows and MacOs X. I think Apple will win this battle too. They operating system is much cleaner looking and relatively safer than Windows. I think the delay and shift to Windows Vista will help Apple too. Vista introduces a high end graphical interface and a lot of other features Apple has had for years, Microsoft's acknowledgement that Apple has out-innovated them on the desktop. To capitalize on all the features of Vista, graphically speaking at least, one will need to buy a newer, expensive computer. I expect that when we see the first real Vista-capable (not all "Vista-ready" ones will support the graphics) machines they will carry price tags that are not very different than what Apple is offering.

So next year the cost difference between getting a standard Windows Vista machine or a Mac will not be as significant. And with the power to still use Windows software on your Mac, the decision becomes a lot easier. Macs used to be viewed as an exclusive group of machine, but I think consumer views have changed a lot with the popularity of the iPod. Christmas should be very good for Apple, including its Mac unit.

So my next question is, if Macs can play with Windows, will we see iPods that play with Windows Media? Unlikely in the short term. The recent legislation in France may move things along though. And eventually to continue its dominance, Apple will probably have to adjust. They may not need to open up iTunes though, they just need to make a dual boot iPod or some way to play both file formats. Fight Microsoft on your home turf. Anyway, I am a closet Mac fan and this certainly has me considering buying one soon.

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Broken Windows

Last week my family’s main desktop computer crashed and I spent the next couple days helping get it back up – both long distance from State College and here when I got back for Spring Break. It was the first time I had to restore a machine in a while and it brought to mind a lot of thoughts. So without further ado, my ranting…

  • Technical support people deserve much more credit than we give them. No matter what part of the world you are in, it is difficult to understand to support a machine over the phone. Phrases like “it crashed” and “it won’t come back on” may be true but do not help the diagnosis. It took me about about an hour to walk my tech competent mother through finding out what was wrong.
  • Even once you figure out what’s wrong, most of the help files are located on the computer or on the Internet. Fortunately we still had Internet on our other machines, but that would be a major hang-up for other people.
  • Most manufacters give you a System Restore CD rather than just the Windows XP operating system. This is just laziness on their part and a cheap attempt to try to force their stupid apps down your throat. Moreover, some repairs (like the one I tried to do) require a Windows disc.

At this point I should note that we were unable to repair the Windows installation for some reason and through an unfotrunate accident my Mom went ahead and wiped the whole machine.

  • Back to the restore CD rant. They may be useful if it weren’t for the fact that all those programs are usually available on the manufacturer’s website. And you’ll need to download them there anyway because most are outdated by the time you reinstall them.
  • It would be nicer if Microsoft had a simple way to download all your Windows updates in one lump sum, rather than spend the rest of the day updating the fresh copy of XP you have. I guess they do this a bit when they re-release the software with the service packs, but that doesn’t help most people.
  • Most pre-installed software is not only crap, its redundant. My Sony Vaio came with a dozen or so music programs that don’t do much (none even use Sony Connect) and are no match for Windows Media Player or iTunes. They included a copy of Photoshop Elements and Premire LE, but thought it necessary to also give us a copy of their own photo and video editing programs. Guess which one’s are left now.
  • While I did not use it, the concept of a Google Pack or other frequently used freeware is a novel idea since there are so many apps to install once starting a new computer. Perhaps an independent source, like CNET would set up something where you could do this with any product.
  • I love the look of a new desktop – even if it doesn’t have all the visual bells and whistles I like. I swear even IE looks good when it comes out of the box.

I feel good getting all that out. The computer is up and running again after about 12 hours of work altogether (including some missteps). If anyone else has computer restoration thoughts, be sure to add them to the comments.