Apples and Oranges – Are people really comparing like with like on the question of Mac versus Windows?

A couple of weeks ago, I had occasion to spend some time on a 4-5 year old MacBook Pro that my daughter had been using, and immediately noticed how sluggish and clunky it felt compared to my Windows 7 notebook that has an i5 processor, loads of memory and an SSD.

So what? That’s pretty much what you’d expect, isn’t it? The hardware running the Windows machine is so much more capable, so the experience is bound to be better.

Then penny then dropped on something.

I have been trying to figure out for about four years now (ever since I got the aforementioned MackBook Pro) why Mac users seem so convinced that OS X and the whole Mac experience is so much better than Windows. It’s something that has totally eluded me. Compatibility to one side, Windows and OS X have always seemed pretty much equivalent to me, and nothing any Mac user has said when trying to support their claim of superiority has ever stood up to cross examination .

But then I realised that I am the kind of person, because of the job I do, that is pretty much always using the latest high spec machines, so when I have been comparing Windows and OS X, it’s generally been on equivalent kit.

I would imagine, however, that most people experience the Mac for the first time when moving from their aging Windows machine that has reached the end of its life – otherwise why would they be investing in something new? They therefore end up comparing an old PC running Windows XP with limited memory, a two generation old processor, and a cluttered and clogged hard disk, to a shiny new high spec Mac running a nice clean install of OS X. They then assume the difference is down to the fact that they have switched from Windows to Mac.

And, or course, having just spent a huge amount of money on a premium machine with a premium brand, they obviously need to justify their decision to themselves, their spouse and to the world in general, hence the “Mac is so much better than Windows” line.

Firing up the old MacBook Pro and noting the (relatively) poor experience it delivered compared to my current Windows notebook made me think of the above explanation. Apologies if this is obvious to a lot of people, and sorry if you genuinely believe that OS X is better, but at least it’s a mystery solved as far as I am concerned.

Having said this, I am still interested in hearing further justifications for claims made of Mac superiority from a user experience and productivity point of view. A few months ago I spent two months using one of the latest i7 MacBook Pros (again with an SSD and loads of RAM) as my main business machine, and while I thought the hardware was great, and I became pretty comfortable with OS X, I still couldn’t see what all the fuss was about; and life was still easier and my productivity better when I returned to Windows.

Anyway, feel free to ping me with you thoughts, or flame me if you are that way inclined 🙂


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Dale is a co-founder of Freeform Dynamics, and today runs the company. As part of this, he oversees the organisation’s industry coverage and research agenda, which tracks technology trends and developments, along with IT-related buying behaviour among mainstream enterprises, SMBs and public sector organisations.