C64 vs. Atari 800

The thing about boys and their toys is we’ve just got to argue about whose is bigger. Microsoft employee Mike Fullerton has had it with his Mac because all software for the Mac sucks. Meanwhile, over at Mac and Back, an intrepid ex-Mac user sold his Powerbook and has replaced it with a Dell Inspiron, and has discovered that all software for Windows sucks.

Really, this shouldn’t surprise anyone: all software sucks. Yes, you there in the back. Emacs sucks, too.

I use Macintoshes and Windows boxes every day at work (I use Unix workstations also, but let’s factor those out for now). I pretty much have identical functionality between them. Really, now that the Mac has an actual operating system rather than a glorified program loader, the differences between the platforms are fairly minimal. Basically, if you can’t find programs that perform adequately for whatever major platform you’re using, you’re a whiner: both Apple and Microsoft platforms have a plethora of software that will do what you need. In the amount of time it takes to write a screed, you could do a Google search to satisfy your need.

One difference between the platforms that is significant, in my experience, is sleep and wake. I’ve never used a Windows laptop where sleep and wakeup wasn’t an unmitigated whirling nightmare of hatred, pain, and misery. This isn’t rocket science, boys – it’s pretty simple stuff. It’s the year 2003 – why does it take a modern Thinkpad running your latest OS 20 to 40 seconds to wake up from sleep and be ready for use, even when restoring from RAM? (Apparently, the answer is because Windows muffs power management by presenting a stupidly baroque interface). When I open my Powerbook, it’s ready in under 5 seconds. My friend Mr. Hardwick says that tablet PCs do better, but frankly, no one outside of Microsoft actually uses a tablet PC.

The other arena where it’s fair to point out a difference is in development environments: Visual Studio is light years ahead of ProjectBuilder/Xcode, which is one of the reasons that developers are so loyal to Microsoft. Give someone a good development environment, and they’re yours for life. Promise someone a stable development environment and then play bait and switch and make it practically impossible to support legacy systems (meaning “the last version of the OS”) without maintaining two completely separate build trees and you’re…well, let’s be honest: you’re Apple.

But I don’t use my Mac for development anymore (I don’t use Windows, either). Like most users, I’m just a user. I use my Windows and Mac PCs for content management and creation. And in this arena, Apple has Microsoft down on its knees and whimpering like a date-raped cheerleader. There’s just no reasonable comparison: one of these environments is transparent, and one of them is kludgy. One of them focuses the user on her content, and one focuses the user on the unimportant minutiae of applications.

It’s surprising to me that Microsoft, a company that is usually so effective at focusing on what the user wants, seems to have a huge blind spot in this segment of the market. Look at iTunes, for example: MS just doesn’t get it. All of the synchronized complaints about how WMA sounds so much better than AAC miss the simple fact that every Windows user I’ve ever known – at least, those who don’t work for MS – who has used iTunes has immediately recognized it as the best, most transparent solution to the problem of music management.

And hey! It runs on both platforms.

How about that? I guess there’s at least one piece of software that doesn’t suck, after all.