This is going to get embarrassing. Today, I received notice about my 8th Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award, and I read the message on my brand new MacBook Pro. Are you wondering how this could possibly be your concern? I think if someone like me is now forced to work on a Mac, some profound changes are going on in the computer industry that might soon also affect your workplace.
Latest posts by Michael Pietroforte (see all)

The fact that an MVP owns a Mac is not the embarrassing part. If you are a long-term follower of this blog, you know that I am an outspoken Apple opponent. I have also been accused numerous times of being a Microsoft fan boy, and I can’t really argue about that.

I also haven’t been brainwashed overnight. My views are still the same. (Well, almost. More about that later.) I still don’t like Apple as a company. I don’t like lifestyle brands. And I don’t like the arrogance of many of the company’s top executives (including Tim Cook).

MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro

So how is it possible, then, that I am typing this blog post on a Mac? I swear I am innocent! The culprits are a spider, the PC industry, and Satya Nadella.

The story about the spider is quickly told. One Sunday morning, I noticed a spider the size of my hand (and I have unusually longer fingers) on the wall. I was used to sharing my place with such long-legged visitors because my apartment was located opposite a little jungle in the Philippines. However, when the spider suddenly dropped right in front of my food, I instinctively took a step backward where a mug of freshly brewed coffee was waiting for the arrival my hand. A second later, my Samsung laptop enjoyed my Starbucks Kenia blend. Unfortunately, the strong coffee didn’t go down well through the Ultrabook’s keyboard. I noticed with horror that I now needed a new laptop.

The spider unlikely will have further influence on the development of the computer industry because it is now in spider heaven. The PC industry is still alive, but it—in contrast to my spider—is dying a slow and agonizing death. The reason I was horrified is that I knew that I would have serious problems finding a new laptop that would be a match for my three-year-old Samsung computer. I hate to step backward in time, and buying a new laptop that is four or five years behind what is now technologically possible was out of the question.

I already outlined why I believe that the PC industry is in trouble. PC makers have been paralyzed by the post-PC blah blah in computer magazines and stopped to invest and to innovate. The only computer vendor that has the engineers who can currently compete with Apple’s is Samsung. And the Korean hardware builder has essentially abandoned the PC market. (Which is a big mistake because I am now also considering replacing my Note 3 and my Gear 2 with the Apple counterparts. I believe computer makers have to offer all possible form factors.)

The latest data shows that Windows 10 won’t be the rescuer. Its adoption rate has slowed considerably. The apparent success in the first weeks after its release was mostly caused by the fact that the upgrade is free for the first year and that Microsoft essentially pushed the upgrade on every PC, whether users requested it or not.

It was naive to believe that Windows 10 could help the PC industry because nowadays people don’t buy operating systems, no matter how good or bad they are. Computer buyers only want sexy devices. The only hope left now is that PC vendors can successfully copy Microsoft’s Surface Pro, the only device that shows that innovation in the PC market is still possible.

However, it becomes more and more obvious that Microsoft no longer counts on the PC market anyway. It appears that the Redmond software giant is returning to its roots. In the beginning, Microsoft didn’t have its own platform and it built software for any operating system that had enough market share.

The story of Bill Gates trying to convince Steve Jobs to license Mac OS to other hardware makers is legendary. Windows only exists because the Apple founder wasn’t interested in becoming the richest man on the planet. All he wanted was “to leave a dent in the universe.”

This is the main reason why Satya Nadella made peace with two of the main OS builders, Apple and Google. And that brings me to my third reason. I am also making peace. The camp fights of the Ballmer (and the late Gates) era are over. Windows will continue to exist for quite a while, but it will never again be the dominating operating system.

As an IT pro, you have to adapt to these changes. Being an expert in one operating system isn’t enough anymore. Just like Microsoft shifts focus from Windows to other platforms, you need at least a fundamental understanding of Android, Linux, iOS, and OS X—and, of course, the cloud.

You say that you don’t care because in your organization it is still all about Windows? You probably heard the news that IBM, the PC inventor, has now become a Mac. IBM is still one of the biggest IT companies in town. If such a large organization can replace the majority of its computers with Macs, then any organization can.

The first weeks with my Mac confirm this. When Windows still dominated the computer market, switching to Mac OS was difficult because most software vendors only built applications for the PC. These times are definitely over. I need quite a few applications for my work, certainly more than the average user. I must admit, I was quite surprised that I could find all I need for the Mac.

Actually, the main reason I now can’t imagine switching back to Windows on my work device is because of software, not hardware. OS X has become a really nice operating system. One of the things I really like is that it has a Start screen (Launchpad) instead of a Start menu. This comes in handy if you work with as many applications as I do. My productivity certainly jumped after the switch, mostly because the programs I am working with now are better than the ones that I used under Windows.

It appears to me that software makers in the Mac world have a different attitude than those in the Windows world. Apple’s hardware always has to be high-end, and software vendors adapted to this stance. Of course, this comes with a cost. Many of the programs I worked with on my PC were free or comparably cheap. In the Apple world, you rarely get good applications without paying for it. However, I don’t regret any of my purchases. The money spent was well invested because time is money, and my increased productivity already paid off the purchases.

But even if your organization requires a few applications that are only available for Windows, it is no longer a reason why PCs can’t be replaced with Macs. Two technologies exist that make things fundamentally different now than they were in the past:  virtualization and SSDs.

Virtualization software (Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion) for the Mac focuses on users who switched from the PC. Windows applications appear to be fully integrated. An average user wouldn’t even notice that Windows is running in the background.

Thanks to the speed of SSDs, you also rarely notice a delay when a Windows application starts. For instance, Outlook for Windows on a Mac with SSD starts faster than on a modern PC (if there is such a thing) with an HDD. This is perhaps not a good example because Microsoft Office 2016 for the Mac can replace the Windows counterpart in the vast majority of work environments.

Of course, I don’t have to tell you that the hardware of the MacBook Pro is excellent. It is also true that it is hopelessly overpriced, which explains Apple’s obscene profit margins. This business model works because no PC maker is currently able or willing to build high-end computers. Trust me, there is none. I searched for quite a while and what the entire PC industry currently has to offer is embarrassing. The MacBook slogan “Light. Years ahead.” is perhaps the first true claim that Apple’s marketing ever made.

So now you know how an MVP, a Microsoft fan boy, and an Apple hater became a Mac.

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32 Comments
  1. Michael, I think you are wrong about the high-end market. If you want proof, check the Mac sales numbers. Just because the majority of PC users, don't need high-end devices, it doesn't mean that not enough potential buyers exists for absolute high-end computers. I am one of them. Considering Apple's profit margins, it is safe to say that the entire PC industry just messed up. Samsung has the engineers to compete with Apple. It's just that Samsung's top management is not as smart as Apple's.

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  2. Daniel 6 years ago

    Michael,
    I stood at the exact same spot as you, and for a while I toyed with the idea of getting one of the high end Surface Book laptops. However, considering their outrageous pricing (almost $3000 in the US), I went for the next best alternative I could find at that time: An HP Spectre 360 with and i7 (6th gen), 512 GB SSD, and 8 GB of RAM. Yes, it doesn't have 16 GB of RAM, but I'm ok with that at this moment - I use a stronger laptop for my labs, and I utilize the cloud for the ones I need on the road. Disk should be 1 TB, but again, I spent another $100 and got an external 2 TB drive that lets me travel with the stuff I need. The best part was that it cost only $1400 in the US, and the battery life is amazing - over 11 hours, more than enough for a trans Atlantic flight. For now, Apple can shove their overpriced devices up other people's throats (and I guess they did in your case).

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  3. Daniel, no offense but a 13'' device with 3.26 pounds is yesterday's technology. That was the weight of my more than 3 years old 15'' Samsung. Besides, I became a Mac because I wanted an high-end device. Thus, 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM is minimum. And are you still using laptops with "disks"? Seriously?

    Yes, Macs are all hopelessly overpriced. Apple can do this because they have absolutely no competition. However, as an IT pro who uses the computer all day I want the best device that is available because this certainly pays off in the long run. There is no room for compromises here.

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  4. Lee 6 years ago

    I bought a used Macbook Pro 13" that was 2 years old so I can have the skills to integrate / manage / deploy MAC OS X based systems into a Windows 2008-Windows 2012 R2 Infrastructure. I didn't want to spend a ton just to "learn" so I spent $500 and added my spare 1 TB Samsung 850 SSD, and replaced the 8 GB to 16 GB memory. I have 6 laptops that have pro / ultimate editions of Windows 7,8.1, 10, and Ubuntu 14.04. Now, I use primarily the Macbook Pro 13" due to excellent touchpad, Mission Control, and overall responsiveness of the system and VMs running. From this experience, it is the first time I went in a store (Apple) to buy new devices for my kids. The products and tight knit seamless work just work. Windows still rules the network infrastructure of my clients, but when it comes to the productivity - Apple's Macbooks is hands down the best. If Windows based machines had the trackpad responses, gestures, Mission Control features, Space, etc - I would switch back immediately! For now, my productivity is on a Macbook Pro 10.11.1 - latest clean install a few days ago - love it.

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  5. Lee, you can get everything that is available for the Mac also for the PC. For instance, there are Mission Control apps for Windows and if you search long enough, you might find a PC with a really good touchpad. The point about the Mac is that every component, including the OS and the available apps are high-end and these components are excellently put together. You end up a with a device that is beyond compare. This result is an excellent user experience after you worked with a Mac for a while. You try to put the finger on one or several features, but the true is that it is about almost every feature.

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  6. Lee 6 years ago

    Michael, I know all about those features that are similar to the MAC. For example, a few years ago I used the Expose functionality and Multiple desktops using several apps. Those apps are just not like the MAC in terms of fluid ease of use. The trackpad alone is a killer. I use a mouse for all my other laptops but the MAC. Why can't PC vendors relicate the smooth as butter flow of the hardware / software combo. This guy summarized it quite well about the features I mention - https://pando.com/2012/06/24/why-does-every-pc-notebooks-trackpad-suck-or-why-microsoft-is-building-its-own-hardware/ - if these hardware and software features existed on a PC, I would be there - including seamless integration of all the devices / software.

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  7. For some features, like the trackpad the OS and hardware maker have to work closely together to create this "smooth as butter flow." In the PC world this is simply not possible. Thus hardware makers often stop when a component "is good enough."

    This is the point where the Apple engineers pull up their sleeves and get to work.
    For Apple "good enough" is the worst case scenario. This general attitude reflects on the entire ecosystem for hardware and software.

    Of course, if every component has to be high-end, things get expensive. Thus, the PC ecosystem will stay for good because for most people if a PC is cheap, good enough is just good enough.

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