Five years after switching from Windows to Apple

This month marks the fifth anniversary of me switching platforms from Windows to Apple and I wanted to mark that with a brief assessment of how things have gone.

Back in the early 90s I left the world of mainframe computing after a decade’s work on the platform and switched to a career in Windows programming. Shortly afterwards I bought my first Windows PC. I seem to remember it was a 386 running Windows 3.1 and I was fascinated by the mouse because we didn’t have such things on mainframes at the time.

I stuck with Windows — both professionally and personally — for 20 years from then on. I think the best effort from Microsoft was Windows XP, although Windows 2000 and even Windows 7 weren’t too bad either. The low point was Windows Vista, which appeared to be designed to make life as difficult as possible for the user. Indeed, if that was the design aim it worked superbly.

What made me switch platforms, though, was Windows 8. Microsoft were dishing up what appeared to be a touchscreen OS on my desktop and it had the look of something designed to make life easier for the developers rather than the users.

I’m well aware the line between devices is blurred these days, what with Surface-style machines, which are both laptops and touchscreen devices, and people attaching a stand and a keyboard to tablets in order to emulate a laptop-style machine.

I have no objection to this cross-purposing of devices unless my use of the device for one particular purpose is compromised because the OS is trying to be all things to all devices. Surely, I thought, even if we’re using one universal OS, it can be clever enough to detect the sort of device it’s running on and make adjustments specific to that device to fit the user’s needs. Windows 8 didn’t seem to do that and I quickly developed a deep, almost psychotic hate for it.

I knew Apple were running two operating systems — MacOS (or OS X as it was then) for laptops and desktops, and iOS for mobile devices — and this seemed like a much more accommodating idea, so I decided to look at Apple MacBooks as an alternative. I had already used a phone driven by iOS and even played around with iPads before, but I was still very much an Apple newbie.

Anyway, I ended up with an early 2013 15 inch MacBook Pro. I specced it up to the maximum I could get at the time: 2.8GHz i7 processor, 16GB memory, retina display, Intel 4000 graphics card and a 768GB flash storage drive. I also purchased Parallels and installed the hateful Windows 8 in case I needed some Windows stuff during the transition. I did, as it turned out, need Windows once or twice but I haven’t booted it for so long now I could quite happily do without it (and certainly will the next time I reorganise my hard disk).

Apple hardware is indeed expensive but the fact that my MacBook is still alive and running well after five years is a testament to the quality. Most PCs and laptops I’ve had have been showing the strain after five years of heavy use; in particular I used to have a problem with laptops starting to overheat around the three or four year mark.

I have had one hardware issue with my MacBook. Last year, the keyboard started to develop a mind of its own occasionally and it even stopped working entirely for a few hours. I never really got to the bottom of why that occurred but the problem disappeared (touch wood) as mysteriously as it arrived.

When I first got my MacBook there was obviously a period of learning. I needed to find out where things are in MacOS and switch to an Apple way of thinking, but that didn’t take anywhere near as long as I thought it would. For the most part, MacOS is extremely reliable — far more reliable than I remember Windows being.

Put it this way, I have absolutely no desire to switch back to Windows and I am 99.9% certain my next computer purchase will be Apple-flavoured. Yes, Apple stuff is expensive — sometimes ludicrously so, particularly for peripheral items — and there’s an arrogance about Apple I don’t like, but I can’t fault the reliability of the hardware and the efficiency of their software.

Listen, I’m no Apple evangelist — I spent a decade earning a living by programming Windows — but Apple stuff is just better than Windows stuff these days. That’s all there is to it.