Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Mac or the PC?

A professor of this College has simple words to say about the immortal debate, which, for tech-enthusiasts anyway, rival the rhetorical question surrounding the age-old chicken and her egg: “Mars, once you go Mac, you never go back.” A recent convert of Apple’s growing cult, he excitedly slips into a discussion about its comparative ease of use, its architecture, and how he no longer has to concern himself with viruses. To hear him describe the experience, it would seem that Apple has heralded the dawn of tech civilization - a far cry from clunky, old-fashioned Windows with its once prominent ‘blue screen of death.’ I sit in the room amazed at how his assessment mimicked my own thoughts not too long ago when I first unboxed, held, and experienced the beauty obviously inherent in the Mac. The PC, I declared then, was a relic of an Age gone by. It was now Friendster of today’s Facebook. The girlfriend, a staunch devotee of the Cult, casually refers to Windows as “the dark side” of the Force. Though I find myself reassessing that statement today (for reasons which will require a separate paper altogether), I surprise myself in recommending the public sector’s wide-spread adoption of the Mac for the very reason that I’m starting to shy away from it.

As an underlying philosophy, the Mac favors the use of its own internal applications and discourages the user’s attempt at tinkering behind its custom-built operating system. As opposed to the PC’s open (even challenging) question of “What do you prefer?”, the Mac calmly says: “Use this. Look, it’s pretty. Don’t worry about anything else. See? It just works.” The PC, to use Justice Cardozo’s words, is simply “delegation running riot.” Considering that Juan de la Cruz has been using Windows since grade school, that he cares not a whit for government-owned property under his temporary stewardship (see the tragedy of the commons), and that there is an unrivaled selection of third-party applications in the PC ecosystem with its troubling deluge of viruses and malware, I posit that giving the public sector employee a PC is akin to giving him Pandora’s box.

In sum, the PC is open, the Mac is “closed.” The potential for harm, mismanagement and loss, therefore is more potent in the former rather than in the latter. I find it heartening then that Apple is making some headway in the mainstream with customers like my professor. Though the suggestion that the public sector utilize these for everyday tasks doesn’t seem likely considering the present state of government coffers, my opinion is that the eventual use of a custom-built system, one resembling Apple’s walled garden, would be best for government information systems. Until then, however, Steve Jobs will have to settle for ready and willing customers -people like the girlfriend and the professor who adore the simple intricacies of something that "just works."


adrian arugay said...

for me.

PC - proletariat
MAC - bourgeoisie

AT said...

Why you blogging about me?!?!?!

-Sent from my awesome Macbook.

Marcelino G. Veloso III said...

Because I'm switching to the Dark Side as soon as you buy me the Sony Vaio Z. Full upgrades please. Okthxbye.

Nik said...

How is a mac os "closed"? What do you mean when you say a system is closed? People are free to install any application they want. OSX doesn't control what software is loaded into the system. In fact, major parts of osx is open source and anyone can view the source code. Windows is not.

An example of a closed system is the iOS platform since apple controls what applications are allowed into the app store.

Marcelino G. Veloso III said...

The code is based on Unix. The Mac OS, I think, isn't completely open-sourced since the proprietary code prevents people from building from the same (unlike the various builds of Linux). But that's not what I meant. Note that when I used "closed" it was with quotes. Let me explain:

Picasa experience: iPhoto is sluggish. I want to use Picasa. iPhoto won't allow you to import edited photos from Picasa so if you do import, it takes the original unedited photo instead. Why? Because iPhoto did the editing. Not Picasa. iPhoto. What iPhoto makes, therefore, belongs to iPhoto.

Browsing: Prior to Safari's very recent implementation of extensions, third-party plugins had to be literally hacked into the browser in order for them to work. The reason being? Apple doesn't like you playing with their toys - even if it's already yours. Now that it's created another version of the App Store, it can play the god-king again and determine whether an extension meets their demands.

Third-party Devices: If you use an iPad, an iPhone, an iPod, an i-something, working with a Mac is fantastic. If you use something else, using iTunes with the same is often a headache since programmers have to move hell and high-water to code synching mechanisms outside iTunes, allow iTunes to play with the same, and format it according to how iTunes wants it formatted. iTunes is made the gatekeeper. Direct contact with third-party applications with third-party devices is discouraged by the OS itself.

Windows - want to use Windows through Bootcamp? Sure. Will Apple make the system as interoperable so that device drivers for various Apple-made equipment start working well with Windows running on a Mac? Eventually. It's in no hurry.

There's probably a ton of other examples to use but this has gone long enough. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Apple-based hardware and software work well with each other. Try introducing external components and it becomes a trial - it's doable but without the relative ease that comes out of just using Apple's system. Interaction with third parties is discouraged. In this sense, the system is closed.

AT said...

In that case, you may buy me a Magic Mouse that will work very well with my MB!

Marcelino G. Veloso III said...

/palm meet face.