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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Windows Maven: "Why Windows Has The Edge Over The Mac"
September 25th, 2002

Kim Komando is the host of the nation's largest talk-radio show about computers and the Internet, heard on more than 400 stations in the United States. She writes a weekly column for more than 100 newspapers and a Q&A column for USA Today. She also publishes a free weekly e-mail newsletter. To subscribe, send e-mail to subscribe@komando.com. To send e-mail, visit Kim's Web site.
Kim Komando's bio at bCentral.com

Kim Komando hosts a radio show which she claims gets 50,000 calls per hour for computer tech support questions. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem all that qualified to handle those calls, at least not for the Mac, judging by a column she penned titled "Why Windows has the edge over the Mac." The problem isn't with her opinion, but rather the remarkable level of ignorance she displays in supporting those opinions.

Ms. Komando starts her column off by pleading with the reader not to flame her, without taking into account the fact that her piece was glaringly inaccurate, largely unsupported, and misleading in some cases. This would be like me writing a piece about Ford cars, asking my readers not to flame me, and then spouting off a bunch of nonsense about how Fords don't come with engines. Of course I am going to get flamed, and I would frankly deserve it in such a circumstance. My example may be a tad extreme, but I'll let Ms. Komando's words speak for her.

Have you seen those Apple commercials about people who switched from Microsoft Windows? I especially liked the woman who described her Windows-based computer as "that horrid little machine."

I could have been that woman. But after using an Apple iMac for two months, I'm not. And that's what this column is about. I know there are people out there struggling with Windows. Computers are complicated machines. I get more than 50,000 call attempts per hour on my national talk-radio show, the majority of which are questions from Windows users.

Actually, I considered not writing this column, regardless of the test results. Writing about Windows versus Apple is a no-win situation.

But if you disagree with my conclusions, please think twice before flaming me. My opinions are honest, I promise. I tried hard to be very fair to both sides. And just to set the record straight, I was not influenced one bit by the fact this column runs on a Microsoft-owned site. In fact, I started my testing months before I began contributing weekly columns to Microsoft bCentral.

Those last two sentences are amusing to me, but I am a tad on the cynical side. Note that what I just wrote is an example of assassination through innuendo. I include it only as an example, and I feel that Ms. Komando makes ample use of that technique in her piece. The rest of her no-flame pitch seems reasonable, until you read what she has to say.

She starts off describing the iMac Apple sent her, at Apple's request according to Ms. Komando, in very glowing terms concerning the design of the machine. I encourage you to read the full piece for yourself, so check out the article for that description. From that piece:

I have had some experience with Macs, but it had been a while. So I had to learn the iMac, which was running the OS X operating system. My productivity immediately plunged. The iMac will do most of what Windows does, but it often does things differently. The Help system was somewhat sketchy, similar to Windows.

But once I got to know the iMac, I found more similarities between Windows and OS X than differences. The filing systems are alike, to a great degree. Windows Explorer's counterpart is Macintosh HD. There are differences in the ways files and folders are manipulated, but they are minor.

One of the great things about Windows is "Alt+Tab," with which you can jump from window to window. On the iMac, it's "Cmd+Tab." Instead of showing the selection of windows in the middle of the screen, the selector moves through them at the bottom of the screen. The thing at the bottom is the Dock. It took me a little while to figure out what was happening. But it's actually very similar to Windows.

Ms. Komando, like the majority of the world, doesn't seem to realize that the Windows task bar was modeled on the NeXT Dock. Then again, the majority of the world isn't carried by 400 radio stations, blah, blah, blah... Also, I am curious as to what the iMac *won't* do. Ms. Komando insinuates that there are things that the iMac can't do, but doesn't back that up with anything concrete. Word count limitations are one thing, but it's no excuse for failing to back up your assertions.

Ms. Komando then goes on to talk about compatibility between Office for Windows and the Mac. She is most fair, and accurate, in this section, but she states that though she didn't try out PowerPoint and Excel, she is willing to "bet they would have been equally flawless." In this case, her untested opinion is spot on. Microsoft has done a very good job with file compatibility between Office for Windows and the Mac.

"Speed can be an issue," says Ms. Komando. Indeed it can. She says that in general, her test iMac "was just a few seconds slower than my Windows machine." She backs this up with, now wait for it, the fact that Photoshop filters were much faster on her Windows machine than they were on her iMac. We (as readers) aren't privy to her tests, but she says her 1.5 GHz AMD Windows box was much faster with Photoshop filters than her 800 MHz G4 iMac. That's fascinating, to be sure. It's her thoughts on speed in the abstract, however, that I found particularly irresponsible.

My Windows machine is not the latest and greatest. This particular machine has a 1.533-gigahertz chip from Advanced Micro Devices. With Intel chips approaching 3 gigahertz, my AMD machine is at the bottom of the Windows heap. Nonetheless, it is nearly twice as fast as the iMac's 800-megahertz Motorola chip.

Apple buffs argue that chip speed is a misleading measure. AMD, which trails Intel in chip speed, makes the same argument. I agree, up to a point.

The quality of the hard drive, memory, bus, video card, etc., also affects a computer's speed. But, golly, 800 MHz just isn't very fast today. Given the difference in chip speeds, though, the iMac did pretty well. My hat's off to Apple's engineers.

Earlier she tells us that the iMac "wasn't particularly slow," and that some things were just a second or two slower. Without arguing that scientific measurement (if you have an 800 MHz G4 at home, see if it takes your Mac a couple of seconds to switch between IE and Microsoft Word), we'll move on to her saying that MHz ratings don't matter "up to a point," but that 1.5 GHz is "twice as fast" as the 800 MHz G4. Which is it? Does MHz matter, or doesn't it? She goes from one side of argument to the other, and back again, in the space of three paragraphs. That's just plain sloppy on her part, and really not very well thought out.

Next, she offers three bullet points for other problems with the iMac.

* A one-button mouse. Actually, the entire mouse is the button. I'm used to using the right button and scroll wheel on my Windows mouse. Really, Apple, you could do better than this.

* The 15-inch monitor. Apple has begun shipping iMacs with 17-inch screens. I'm used to using a 21-inch CRT monitor, and the 15-incher was just too small.

* No floppy drive. I know 3.5-inch floppies aren't used much anymore. But the need does arise occasionally. The iMac should have a floppy drive.

I'll give her the one-button mouse. That's a subjective point, but I personally agree with her. Her comments on display size, on the other hand, are almost bizarre in their irrelevance and misleading nature. She compares an LCD display to a CRT display, without pointing out that the two are measured very differently. As for her 21" CRT preferences, is she suggesting that Apple should include 21" CRTs in their consumer machine? Almost all of the consumer Wintel PCs on the market that include an LCD display come with either a 15" or 17" LCD. I, too prefer a 21" CRT (or a 22" Cinema Display), but when looking at a consumer machine, I am not going to compare the two. Ridiculous.

Oh, and a complaint about not having a floppy drive? Where has Ms. Komando been since 1998, when this subject was settled? Ms. Komando hosts a radio talk show on computers, presumes to judge the iMac, and yet has the audacity to say that it needs a floppy drive? I am guessing that she is too used to having to have a floppy boot disk for her Windows systems. Ms. Komando should have at least been responsible enough to ask Apple for comment about the floppy issue. Had she done so, she might have found out how silly she sounds. If that just wasn't possible, she should have withheld comment.

Now we get to the closing comments in the piece:

But the biggest setback is the iMac's price. Depending on the configuration, you'll pay anywhere from $800 to $2,000 for one. You're going to pay hundreds less for a comparable Windows machine. This has always been a problem for Apple. For the extra cost, you get a lot more style. Only you can decide what that's worth.

I challenge Ms. Komando to put together a name brand PC with the iMac's features for "hundreds of dollars less." She should have put her presumptions to the test before spouting them out. The one exception to this is the US$799 iMac G3, where one can indeed put together a comparable PC for less. The iMac G4, however, is very competitively priced when considering all the features.

Lastly, Ms. Komando commits the ultimate sin, in my never humble opinion. She says:

The iMac comes with some highly touted multimedia software. That wasn't important to me — I used the iMac as a business computer. There is a great deal of multimedia software available for Windows, too. I doubt that the iMac software is a great advantage.

Once again, without testing the software, she proclaims that in her opinion, it is not likely that Apple's multimedia software is better than Windows offerings. Wrong. Utterly wrong. I challenge her to find any Windows offering that stands up to iMovie, iDVD, iTunes, or iPhoto, but even if she was able to, she is wrong to spout an opinion without having cracked open the apps. It would have been far more appropriate for her to say something to the effect of: "Apple's multimedia apps are highly touted, but because I am not interested in such applications, I didn't test them." That's a very legitimate position to take, while Ms. Komando's published approach is blatantly unprofessional.

Taken as a whole, Ms. Komando's piece is amateurish, and very surprising for someone with her broadcasting credentials. It dumbfounds me that someone so entirely ill-equipped to handle this type of review is in the position of answering tech support phone calls for a national audience. I'll have to listen to her show to truly be in a position to have an opinion on that. It's possible that she does an outstanding job.

You see, that's how it's done. You can read Ms. Komando's full piece at bCentral.com.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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