The divide between Macs and PCs

Like it or not, Apple is leading the way with innovative products that Microsoft incorporates as its own.

Quynh Nguyen

It took me long enough, but I now feel sorry for personal computer users. I used to be a PC user and had a token Macintosh friend who would always rant how awesome Macs are. He wouldn’t be loud or obnoxious about it, but would occasionally lower himself to a Mac vs. PC debate. Naturally, we parted from such debates with a heightened sense of superiority of our favored system. Ten years, two PC towers and three Mac systems later, I am a confirmed Mac geek who can acknowledge that her old Mac friend was right all along. And, boy howdy, did I go around proselytizing about the wonders and beauty of the Mac. It finally dawned on me that walking around and extolling the superiority of the Mac was just plain offensive and far from convincing.

PC users not only have wandering Mac prophets to berate them on their poor choice of computing system, they have to deal with the noxious presence of Apple. Apple iTunes, iPods, MacBooks and iMacs at the Bookstore. Those Mac vs. PC ads that poke fun at PC’s expense. The sheer concentration of students wearing white Apple earbud headphones. You can’t swing a dead cat at the Coffman Union without hitting someone using an Apple product.

To further add injury to insult, the newest version of Windows is leaving legions of dedicated Windows users roiling in agony and considering other operating systems. Some users don’t mind and will update to Vista when they absolutely have to, just like they did for XP, ME, 2000 and 98. Others are upset at the way Microsoft dropped XP, a product that took many years to refine and had finally become much more stable and secure. And a scant few others are making the leap across the gulf to Macs.

Is it really that big of a leap? All the new Intel Macs can run Windows, just like a $500 Compaq or Dell computer can run Windows. If a person really wanted to, they could install Windows on their Mac and never have to deal with Mac OS X again, which has somewhat of a learning curve to get used to. New Macs can run Windows games like “Neverwinter Nights 2,” “Dungeon Siege II” and “World of Warcraft” at superb speeds, all without the need of an emulator like Virtual PC. I made my Mac leap back in the days of the G3 blue-and-white and OS 9; those who make that leap now will have a much easier time getting used to a Mac.

If we turned back time about 20 years, we’d see the big ugly divorce between Apple and Microsoft where they fiercely competed with each other for market share. (Microsoft won.) In the wake of the divorce, most users sided with one OS while building a resentment of and denigrating the other. Now Microsoft and Apple have come around with flowers, reconciliatory statements and prospects of getting back together with software for each other’s systems after 20 long years of being separated.

Why this, why now? Both Apple and PC can benefit from each other, ensuring mutual survival. We, the users, the consumers, the dispossessed children of this divide, are left confused and scratching our heads. Can PC users embrace the Mac as part of the family again? Can Mac users set aside their self-satisfaction and accept PC users as they are? Will we see better computer products in the future? Most likely.

Like Apple or hate it, Apple is leading the way with innovative products that Microsoft incorporates as its own. Honestly I can’t think of a better model for Microsoft to pick than Apple. The one thing that sucks amid all this is that Windows users will have to change or adapt their concept of what it means to be a Windows user, as their OS becomes increasingly like Mac OS X. Between Vista and Mac OS X, there isn’t a lot of room to run.

Quynh Nguyen welcomes comments at [email protected]