In 1995 I was ten years old. Back then, Mac’s were for artists and scientists while Windows-based PCs were for enterprise and gamers. The Internet hadn’t taken off yet, though it was starting to make waves. And mobile computing was really a joke. You could find laptops in the wild and many people liked them, but by today’s standards, you were lugging a fragile piece of plastic around that had to be babied if you didn’t want to lose files or worse.
When I was twenty in 2005, the Internet was exciting. Mobile computing was fun and music players were stealing attention away from desktop work stations. But one thing had stuck with us from the eighties through the nineties and into the new century: desktop Windows personal computers were mainstream and Apple’s Mac line was a niche for artists, a few professionals and loyal fans that valued Apple’s platform.
But the majority of our American culture was a PC culture. You had to have passion and nerve to use a Mac and tell PC users that it was a better experience. It was difficult to prove that the Mac was useful for anyone that wanted an alternative from the Windows world. Apple’s playful Mac vs. PC commercials helped lighten the debate between fandoms but they couldn’t prove that the Mac was a PC’s equal or superior. Of course, if you were creative and liked the arts, the Macs were often more suitable. But that hardly made the Mac platform a good one for everyone.
I have always enjoyed and worked on a Mac. I learned how to type, keep a schedule, browse the web, and all the other essential computery tasks on Macs. In fact, it was with Macs in high school that I learned video production, photoshop, and how to write a blog. It wasn’t just the prosumer or amateur that got things done on a Mac. Movies were made with Final Cut Pro. The Adobe products started with Macs. A minority of professionals got real work and play done with a Mac in spite of fierce competition.
And a lot changed between 2005 when I was twenty and 2015 when I was thirty.
The Post PC Era
You know the rest of the story. The iPod was such a hot product that Apple looked for ways to capitalize on handheld computers. The iPhone was the real winner; so much so that the success of the iPod was dwarfed and all but forgotten.
The iPhone stole the limelight from Macs and PCs as well. Sure, most of us work on a notebook computer or a desktop for the majority of our desk jobs, but smartphones quickly became the most personal of computers. If the platform wars were objective, we’d call iPhones and Android sets our PCs.
Even though the debate between Mac and Windows PC still lingers, for the most part nobody cares whether you get work done on one platform or the other. If you’re industry is well supported, you have credible applications and you know how to use them, nothing stands in your way. The Mac has been popularized and recognized as the Window’s machine’s equal not because of its own merit but because the iPod, iPhone and iPad convinced the market that Apple was a legitimate mainstream computer company.
And while PCs remain important, they’ve taken the backseat. Smartphones drive the computer industry to the point that innovation doesn’t really seem to happen for notebooks and desktops anymore. Sure, a new high definition display technology comes out every few years, and battery technology in mice has improved, and the app interface for that OS has flattened, but where’s the innovation? Where’s the new tech that makes a state-of-the-art Mac or PC indispensable?
What’s your PC?
Mac and PC users now have it relatively easy. The controversy is over and the dust has settled. You needn’t fear that your platform will fade out of existence or that the industry’s titan computer company will be bankrupt when market demand plummets. Or do you?
Apple is the company I watch closely. Many a Mac user has noticed that Apple doesn’t update their computers annually or even every other year. Some have given up hope on different Mac lines, like the Mac Pro. Perhaps Apple will cut the assembly line completely because… Well, no one is really sure why Apple would do such a thing, but no one understands why Apple has been so very slow to update their computers to simply maintain their market value. And, oddly enough, Macs are still selling.
And in spite of the Mac’s success, iPhones and iPads have received so much attention that the Mac feels abandoned. Apple’s marketing has suggested that the iPad Pro is this generation’s personal computer. Is it possible that Macs really have been marginalized? As a matter of fact, I’ve been writing this post on my iPad Pro with a great keyboard cover. It practically feels like a MacBook at times (though it clearly isn’t one). Does an iPad Pro surpass Mac Pro standards? In some ways, yes.
And even though we all know that a ‘personal computer’ is simple a computer one uses primarily for his own pleasure or work, in the past, the term typically represented the Windows’ computer platform. Macs were Macs, not to be confused for PCs. This was an ambiguous terminology convention that we’ve accepted for decades. And in recent years it seems that more people have finally understood the terms. Macs and Windows computers are both PCs.
But what is a computer, really? Isn’t your iPhone your most personal computer and your Apple Watch your most intimate compu—um, device? Because platforms are more complex than they were ten years ago the factions have changed. It’s not really a debate whether you’re a Mac or PC but whether you’re a Mac or an iPhone/iPad user. Or a PC and an Android.
Earlier this year, I took a client that wants me to use their computers, servers, and offices to produce videos (This is why I’ve been preoccupied and blogging less). Theirs is an all Windows-based production studio.
When I wake up, I stop my iPhone’s alarm. I carry it to the kitchen listening to podcasts and use a coffee recipe timer while I get ready in the morning. Then I slip on my Apple Watch to track my activity. I carry my 12” MacBook to the office just in case I need to respond to my design clients. All of my design work is done on macOS with Adobe CC. At the desk at the video company, I’m mostly using a powerful Windows 10 desktop editing station. It’s very “truck-like.” When I return home, I use my Mac to serve my design clients. Then in the evening, I spend most of my time on my iPad and iPhone—listening to podcasts and music, watching YouTube videos or reading a book, or following a recipe in Paprika.
I don’t have complete control of the Windows PC at the office. I’m the only person using it but it’s setup the way the administrator orchestrates the business. I’m accustom to the keyboard shortcuts and basics of the interface, though I hardly spend anytime tinkering in the system or learning new tricks specifically related to Windows. I spend a good deal of time in iCloud.com writing notes or scheduling on the PC.
In all my cross-platforming, the one observation I’ve made is that desktop computers are really boring. They are old school—powerful work engines that serve business objectives. There isn’t a lot of innovation in the interface, app features or the hardware. If you were born in the nineties and missed the Mac Versus PC Era, you might wonder what was all the fuss about?
Apple’s announced an event for October 27. Everyone has good reason to believe that they are introducing the next generation MacBook Pro and then some. New Macs are long overdue and I’m looking forward to what they have to reveal. I wasn’t impressed by the rumored MacBook Pro with touch screen key(s), but I’m sure Cue and Schiller could sell it to me.
I hope this puts Mac fans’ minds at ease; maybe they would indicate that not only is this a refresh but a sign of growth in the Mac platform to come.