The Differences Between Windows and Macs -- Interview with Tim Robertson

Tim Robertson is the founder and publisher of Mac-mag-gone-culture, My Mac magazine. However, in his secret identity, Tim is a mild-mannered Information Technology manager for one of the largest graphic houses in the world. So few people would be better to ask when we are curious as to the differences between Macs and Windows machines, and what they each are best for.

The Mac Observer (TMO): Tim, what do you do in your day job?

Tim Robertson: In my particular role, I provide graphics to other graphic designers, keep our 40+ computer network operating correctly (mostly Mac on an NT network) creating needed databases, and any other thing my task my computer and design skills can help out with.

TMO: How long have you worked with Macs, and with windows?

Tim Robertson: I have worked on and off for over 8 years with computers. Before my current profession, I ran my own business doing consulting computer work for a company. I started to support our digital magazine, My Mac Productions. While I loved working for myself, it is harder than punching a clock for someone else. But on and off, over 8 years of working in the computer industry in one capacity or another.

TMO: Please describe how Macs and windows machines are used, respectively, in your office.

Tim Robertson: Starting with the Mac side: Mac are, by a HUGE margin, still the number one tool for most graphic professionals. Each one of our creative talents uses a Mac, the lowest model right now being a G3 400MHz, the best a G4 500MHz. They use the Adobe suite of graphic products 90% of the time, so one of my jobs is to keep those programs and computers running smoothly. (A down computer or program acting up means lost revenue, which management frowns on. I am also management, and I frown on it!) Other programs used include Quark Express (though less and less), Extensis Collect Pro, Macromedia Freehand, and a smattering of others, including two people learning 3D programs such as Strata 3D.

On the PC side, our network is run on an NT server with a LOT of memory and superfast and large hard disk drive arrays. People ask me why I choose to go Windows NT [instead of], say, a Macintosh server. First, let me reiterate that I am a Mac guy 100%. No question about it. But I also believe in using the best tools for the job. In the server market, for performance and support (as well as price) NT is still the way to go. We use Dell PCis, and their customer service is first rate. This may surprise people, but Dellis customer support is FAR better than Appleis. Then again, for those who had to recently contact Apple with a problem, maybe this is NOT such a surprise.

TMO: Can the Windows machines do anything the Macs absolutely canit do, or how is it?

Tim Robertson: They do make better servers. Of course, an NT server just sits there, no one actually "uses" the machine at all. It just does what it sounds like, serves information to the other Machines requesting the information. For us, that means graphic files stored on the servers, as well as DNS functions, TCP-IP domain handling, file sharing, database hosting (both FileMaker server and 4D) and a few other things.

TMO: And vice versa?

Tim Robertson: The Macis are much better for creative functions. They are MUCH easier to keep running correctly. Upgrading is a thousand times easier on the Mac platform. Adding functionality (programs or hardware) is much more simple on a Mac. And the list goes on. If you want to USE a computer, the Mac is a better way to go. If you just want to start a computer to handle mindless everyday tasks which require no human interaction (or at the most, very little) the PC is the way to go.

TMO: What are the differences in networking?

Tim Robertson: Depends on the type of networking. Macintosh has also, pretty much, been fairly easy to connect to a network. Today, each and every Mac made is network ready. On the PC side, things are a little more murky, though getting help setting up a PC for a network is easier to find than on a Mac, but this seems to be slowly improving.

Here is a prime example. We recently purchased an iBook for our creative staff to take home if they want to do work from home. Right out of the box, the iBook is set to connect to a network. I simply started the machine up, plugged in into our network via the Ethernet cable, and mounted the needed server volume on the desktop via the Chooser. (Mac OS X will make this an even simpler prospect, believe it or not) With a PC, I have to spend at least five minutes setting the machine up before it will even see our network.

TMO: Are Windows far behind in graphics, for instance because of ColorSync or other issues?

Tim Robertson: Yes and no. The underlying graphic technology on a Windows PC is years behind the current Mac OS, and light-years behind where we will be with OS X. PCs very rarely ship with enough of a powerful graphic card for creative houses to run Adobe products or 3D product on. Upgrading graphic cards is a huge business on the PC side of things. On the Mac side, the machines are ready to roll right out of the box. I think the only people in the Mac camp buying graphic cards are those looking to play games.

TMO: Are Macs slower today than the fastest Wintel machines?

Tim Robertson: Than the fastest Wintel machines? Sure. But who can afford the fastest Wintel machines at 1.5GHz? Those super-fast chips are over a thousand dollars themselves, let alone the cost of the rest of the computer. But speed is a relative thing. The Windows OS (consumer variety) is not designed with that sort of speed in mind, so most of the speed is wasted anyway. Also remember, how is all that extra speed helping you browse the net faster, read your email faster, or play a game any better than on a Mac?

The real help with a 1.5GHz PC would be in the server market.

Now, looking at the fastest Mac out there right now, the dual processor G4 500MHz model. (I happen to use just that machine at home) This is a FAST machine. In fact, it is SO fast, a few PC users who have fast PCis (one at over 800MHz) are simply amazed at the speed. They cannot believe this is "only" 500MHz. Now, next year when I am running OS X on the machine, I will be able to take advantage of the true power of a Dual Processor machine.

TMO: What do you think OS X will change?

Tim Robertson: Honestly, I donit know. Too early to tell. I do think it will help sell more machines for Apple on the showroom floor. A new computer buyer will look at that and just WANT it. I mean, it makes the Windows OS looks stupid. And have you seen the proposed look for the next generation Windows OS? It is a joke! It looks like demented webpage on your desktop. Microsoft seems to think that people would be more comfortable using a PC which operates like a webpage, but I disagree. I think users want an OS which is "cool" looking, something that FEELS like the 21st. Century. The new Mac OS is just that. They want these pulsating buttons. They want to be able to quickly find what they are looking for. They also want to be able to customize the OS to their needs and wants (which OS X will let you do, donit believe otherwise. Whether it be Apple or an outside vendor, you WILL be able to make the OS X look and feel like the current Mac OS, as well as new looks and feels which we have not even thought of yet)

Mac OS X will change how we use and think of computers.

TMO: soon?

Tim Robertson: OS X will NOT be a huge hit the day it is released with the general public. It will take a while, at least a year, before people start to recognize it for what it is, and want to have it on their computer. A few movies showing close-ups of, say, the genie-effect windows, or the pulsating "OK" button, will make a big difference, as well as the barrage of advertising Apple will spend to promote the new, next generation operating system.

Eazel and Windows will look like joke next to Mac OS X.

TMO: Do you think that platforms may be becoming less of an issue? How and why?

Tim Robertson: No, people want diversity and choices. If they did not, all these websites would all look the same. People want something different. They want something the guy next door does not have. They want color, style, and the "cool" factor. When the platform no longer matters, things will get boring. People will loose interest in it. People want to be able to choose. They want something they have not seen before. They want competition. Most people want to know when they are online, and when they are not. They donit want to do the same thing the same way as everyone else.

There will always be those who are willing to spend a little more for a Rolls Royce or a Corvette, the same as there will also be those who will suffer a family sedan because it is all they can afford, and they just think of an automobile as a means of transportation. But a Corvette IS different than a Pickup Truck, everyone knows, but it really does the same thing: gets you from point A to B. So why a buy a Corvette that cost three times as much as a Ford F-150? Because people want something better, something different, something which they feel connected to. They want to "think different" and for others to know they are different.

There will always be a market for a computer that is outside the norm. Whether in ten years that means Apple or a different company, whether at that time a "computer" is a different beast than it is today, there will always be that want and need in the consumer.

Eolake Stobblehouse is a contributing editor to the Mac Observer, specializing in cultural matters, and comes to us by way of MacCreator. Send your praise and suggestions tohim.