Guest Post – Make a Complete switch, not just a switch

When I called for Guest Posts a few weeks ago, I had no idea what that week was going to bring me. It brought me some great articles, and it also brought an accident to my family that took me away from the site for several days. During that time, I got the following post from frequent AG reader and commentor Blair Liikala. You can find more out about him by clicking here to check out his online portfolio, including a regularly updated blog.

Dear New Apple Community Members,

Since 2005, we have rejoiced in the “transitions” to the Intel-based Macs, allowing us to finally run Windows on our coveted systems. Since, Apple has grown more popular than ever selling more Macs to PC users with the comforting line that “yes, you can now run Windows on a Mac.”

But is a Mac running Windows still a Mac? What is Mac? Fifty percent of sales are to new Mac users this quarter, and with over a quarter million copies of VMware’s Fusion. So why would people buy a Mac to run Windows?

We Have A Problem Here

While emulators and native boots offer a smoother transition to the Mac, I believe it fundamentally hurts the Mac community since Microsoft switchers don’t actually take off the training wheels and spend time learning how the community operates, how the OS operates and how they can use OSX to better their productivity and workflow. While Boot Camp/Intel has given more reason then ever to switch, the switch should be complete and not halfway. Simply put, stop using Windows/VMware/Boot Camp as a crutch and try new software.

Jason Snell wrote in 2006,
“One of the reasons Apple’s products are so good is because the company controls both the hardware and the software; allowing Mac OS X to run on a generic Dell PC wouldn’t only gut Apple’s hardware business, but it would potentially reduce the quality of the Mac OS X user experience…Fundamentally, Mac users are Mac users because they want to use the Mac OS. And developers realize that if Mac users wanted to run Windows apps, they wouldn’t be Mac users.”

And remember the 2005 Keynote by Jobs, “we want to be making the best computers for our customers moving forward”. They were not able to make a G5 Powerbook due to heat problems, and Intel had better performance with less power consumption. “As we look ahead….we can envision amazing products but we cannot build them.” OSX is processor independent, and every release in the last 5 years of OSX has been able to run on Intel. Nowhere in his initial Keynote speech did he advertise a bullet point for Windows; it’s just a side effect.

Philosophy Difference – Fundamentally Why Macs are Better
The Mac and Windows are separated not just on an operating system, but on a philosophy that apps are made to do one thing very well instead of everything “Ok.” Take the example of Outlook vs. iCal, Mail, Safari and Address Book. For others, think of Dreamweaver (which yes, does run on a Mac) vs. CSSEdit, Transmit, Taco, BBEdit, TextWrangler, Textpattern, etc. Smaller apps mean only the functions you wish to be loaded are displayed, and with more thought and effort to a specific app results in better functionality. Native to the OS are features like Expose, Spaces, the Dock, Finder, Spotlight, Widgets, Screen Capture and Stacks [as well as countless more under the hood], all designed to get to the information you want now. The Mac community is obsessed with making functional software with beautiful interfaces allowing users to enjoy their work and be more creative.

The absolute best example of the Mac community philosophy is found in the app Quicksilver made by Nicholas Jitkoff. Quicksilver is a zen-app designed for “fast universal access to find anything on the computer or web instantly”. Jitkoff also said, “search for people and use them to find things is really important,” and “getting me to that object as fast as possible is the goal”. In short, it’s an app controlled by keystrokes with a Spotlight-type realtime search to not only find, but take action on just about anything the OS can do.
I would recommend watching his explanation of the app on Google Video below.

But this can be ported to Windows like everything else (widgets, spotlight..etc). Not according to Lifehacker “I gotta tell ya: none of these truly come close to the big QS [Quicksilver].” Or we get 15 copycats that try to do the same function but just don’t. This what the Mac community are faced with, Windows philosophy on a Mac. Yikes! As as new Mac user, if you bought your new computer to make your life easier and creative then let go of your old methods; let go of running Windows and thinking Windows and find newer, better ways to work.

Looking at Leopard and the progress of Bootcamp, hardware such as the trackpad, iSight and illuminating keyboard functions are beginning to work in Windows. Why is this bad for the Mac community? Let’s look at a not so distant future. Why would we need the Mac OS if Windows users want Windows? After this occurs, what separates Apple from Dell but better design of where existing hardware goes? We know Apple made a valiant decision to keep the OS and hardware together, and to keep stability it should stay that way.

As Wall Street Journal writer and Mac enthusiast Walt Mossberg wrote,
“Apple makes beautiful hardware, and, in my experience, it runs Windows quite well….However, what makes a Mac a Mac is primarily Apple’s OS X operating system, and the software Apple bundles with it, the iLife suite. If you don’t intend to use that, I don’t see much point in buying an Apple computer. You won’t get the advantage of the Mac’s lack of viruses and spyware, which stem from the operating system, not the hardware. And you can buy a Windows computer for less than the least expensive Mac.”

Quicksilver :

The Golden Excuse to Run Windows
As buyers make the financial decision migrate to the Mac, why would they want to install Windows? Everyone knows it’s to run applications not found on the Mac. However, the problem is not the availability of a specific application but the resistance of the Windows user to try an alternative approach to their work.

The excuse I hear all too often is the use of MS Office. While Office has been ported to the Mac, it’s clunky and has that all too familiar Microsoft “every function is here, you just have to find it” feel. Further, expect this support to change as iWork improves and Macs gain more market share, especially in the college student demographic. [Why the poorest demographic can afford the more expensive computers is another topic.]

Hitting a few larger points in the Office suite, I find new Mac users do not realize that iWork software can import and export to Office formats. iWork is easier to use and allows more concentration on the final outcome than the journey to get there. If Office is still a requirement, consider using the Mac version. Files are indexed by Spotlight, can be referenced and opened in Finder’s Cover Flow, and continue to work in a stimulated environment. To have to reboot or emulate Office just adds time, energy, a loss in stability, and adds complication to finishing a project. As Mossberg said, you’re better off returning to a Windows machine.

Time to learn the technology is a given, and another complaint I hear. Not only is the time you wait to learn more time wasted with another package, but many computer enthusiasts say Macs are for people who don’t know how to use a computer. In other words, that argument suggests the learning curve is much less than you realize. Time spent managing multiple operating systems, including exchanging files and rebooting, installing or reformatting is not as efficient as one desktop.

And Yes, You Can Play Solitaire on a Mac
And it looks incredibly better too.

The Best Way to Completely Switch – Isolation
In my switching days of 2005 I had no emulators. I took my new Powerbook to a summer job where that’s the only computer I had. It forced me to change my workflow, and the way I used a computer. Since then I use more shortcut keys, read news and information faster, spend less time organizing files and folders or ‘tweaking’ my system’s performance and just about everything else you hear about why Macs are so good. As an audio engineer I can keep up with my father, a veteran in the mortgage and real-estate market, with business and technology news from the intelligently designed workflow of the Mac.

I can go on with stories from Broadway shows to huge presentations where my Mac has saved the day, but it did take time learning those features on a basic level. One of my friends refers to me as an “Apple Fanboy” and like many, I strongly support the use of Macs.

One Last Thought
There are legitimate excuses to run Windows, specifically in the professional arena. In audio, there are several packages that are worth using Windows for, however keep in mind the need for Windows is to run an application that could well be in either OS (another argument, and not the point of this one). With that said, I’m sure the strong success of the industry standard Pro Tools has nothing to do with it being the only audio software package that runs on both Mac and PC.

So here’s the bottom line. If you’re running Windows on a Mac, you’re not using a Mac.


  1. this has been a very interesting article indeed (being a recent switcher myself). however, I believe that the possibility of running windows on macs is ingenious. I personally have bootcamp installed for those occasional gaming sessions with friends (let’s face it games just run better in windows) but primarily because there are some programs (very specific ones like logistics and statistics programs) that I really need for my classes at my uni which just don’t exist for the Mac. True, there might be alternatives like pointed out in the blog entry but that’s not the point. When you are forced to use these programs (exam: programming a model in this specific software in my case; or on a company level) running windows on a mac doesn’t make it any less a mac in my opinion. I especially like the tip on isolating yourself to get to know OS X and Mac better but complete isolation forever is always something that can’t be good. I am convinced that most switchers will spend more time in OS X than in Windows eventually anyways and maybe even ditching windows completely.
    personally, I don’t think I’ll be able to ditch windows completely because I love technology and computers and I think that being open regarding the OS can be very rewarding.

  2. jadedcritic says:

    Good thoughts, but I guess I’m just not there then. One reason. Games. As much as I hate windows I couldn’t give up my video games, and I fail to see how running windows in Paralells or Fusion is any better or worse then using boot camp.

    I guess all I can suggest is that take comfort in the fact that allot of people may not cannonball off the deep end, so much as ease in slow. That’s how it was for me anyway. Started with an Ipod. Favorably impressed. Fast forward a year, and I’d been complaining about windows, but unable to get motivated enough to learn about linux and change over. Eventually my father stepped in and gave me old powerbook he wasn’t using. Started using it to do odd tasks. Every now and then, I’d notice something I liked about it. Eventually my father threw more wood on the fire with an old Powermac he had in the basement. Finally leopard pushed me over the top. Next thing I know I’m ordering one of my own, and ordering Iwork on the side just so I can get rid of office. Next thing I know I’m scrapping my old MP3′s and re-encoding the CD’s in Itunes. (always used to use windows for that). I probably would get an Iphone if my wireless company wouldn’t crucify me for it. (Fricking cell phone contracts.)

    Can honestly say, I don’t know where I’ll be in 3 years. Maybe I’ll quit using boot camp. (Although I doubt it. I’m pretty much attached at the hip to video games.) My point is this, if people have legitimate complaints about using windows and windows apps on a mac, that’s fine, but give those of us with boot-camped macs a LITTLE credit. We could just be making the same transition more slowly.

  3. You are impractical! says:

    Why buy new software if you don’t have to. Many switchers already purchased Windows and lots of software on their last PC. They already regularly work with programs like MS Money, etc. that don’t exist for Mac.

    At work I have an Apple G5. However, I also use a Windows-based tablet laptop PC because unfortunately Apple hasn’t developed a tablet yet. And guess what, I can’t fully switch for this reason alone. (This pisses me off if you can’t tell!!)

    Also, if you can have the great OS of a Mac while still being able to enjoy the ease of migrating your data, why not?!!!!! You the writer have no issues with spending $2000 on a MacBook then the additional dollars on all the upgrades to add or the replace any non-Mac compatible software?

    Guess what, the world is realizing that OS X rocks. Apple is great and that will continue. However, most people are practical and don’t have the budgets to live in your dream world.

    Sorry dude.

    Wake up from your Mac slumber and realize that Microsoft isn’t the ultimate evil in the world. They may not have as much originality, blatently rip of Apple most of the time and have the BSOD every once and a while. Remember, Microsoft, along with the rest of the PC-developers have been successful at standardizing and keeping most of the world’s networks running for more than two decades.

    If Apple’s popularity continues at the rate it seems to be, which I believe it will, the “Community” will eventually have some lessons to learn that PC world already has. Eventually there will start to be Mac viruses etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, Apple rules! All I am saying is that you should remember, people do have more needs than OS X and Apple offer sometimes.

  4. in my opinion, the ability of using Windows on a Mac definnitly is a Feature of a Mac! Yes, Mac OS is a fantastic OS, and it is a fact, that it has features, that windows doesn’t. But it is a fact too, that windows has features, that Mac OS doesn’t. Combining both worlds is not possible on any other computer than a Mac – not in such an easy and effective way. I’m using a PowerBook G4 since two years, and yes it is a better computer than “IBM-PC’s” but i have just purchased a new iMac and the ability of using nearly all normaly used operating systems, (Mac OS, Windows, Linux) makes it an OUTSTANDING computer.

    in my opinion.

  5. oh, and sorry if my english is sometimes bad. English is not my native language.

  6. oh, and i forgot to mention another positive effect of using windows on a mac.
    What about innovation? Using one Thing everytime does not cause new ideas.
    A verry usefull side-effect of having more than one OS available is that different worlds get connected. That also means that different thoughts come together and that is a wonderfull base for new ideas.

  7. Sergio Carmona says:


    Office was introduced by Microsoft in 1989 on the Mac, and then ported to Windows in 1990.

  8. @Sergio – this is a guest post – I did not write it.

    I’m actually very much into the Pro-Windows on Mac camp – but I also appreciate Blair taking the time to express his opinions with the well thought out article he submitted.

  9. I like paying games on a PC too. However, World Of Warcraft works perfectly on my Macs. Crysis looks sweet but I am not going out and getting a $500 video card to run it. If a game doesn’t play on my Mac I play it on my 360, Wii or PS3. An excellent guide for switchers can be found at


  10. jadedcritic says:

    I can understand why some folks might have some concerns, and I don’t necessarily dismiss them as illegitimate. I just don’t want to get into an us-versus-them mentality you know? For that to work, you have to accept the idea that there’s only one correct way to use a mac; and that’s a dark place. Frankly, that’s one of the reasons I started getting fed up with Windows in the first place. All that DRM nonsense, and them trying to get more and more control over how I use my PC. Didn’t sit right.

  11. In the last sentence of the article, you say “If you’re running Windows on a Mac, you’re not using a Mac.”

    I totally disagree with that stance. I consider running Windows on a Mac no different than running any application on a Mac; it’s just another tool to accomplish a particular task. Granted, the Windows Operating System is a sizable ungainly beast of a tool that is frought with issues and not as friendly in many respects, but it’s a tool nonetheless.

  12. Sorry for the late rebuttals. Had my last interview for a job that’s taken a bit too long to get and hits nice and close to home for us :) As I’m sure Michael can backup, the hits to comment ratio is probably way skewed and people either freak out when they see that much text, or don’t have much to say. So I appreciate the time to read the article, and for Michael to post it.

    @All comments
    Its not that I oppose Windows on Mac hardware blatantly. Its the use of software for Windows when there are perfectly better alternatives on the Mac made by the community. Helping new Mac users I found using Windows to be like a crutch for them when trying to make the transition to the Mac-way of thinking [about workflow]. To me, bringing the PC methodology and theory on things like Folders and FIle Structure as well as broader topics of user interface and design is a bad idea. The core of the argument is to ask why people switched to Macs… or is it just an expensive machine that does the same thing as a $300 Dell.

    @You are impractical!
    Yes, I expect people to buy cheeper software that does the same thing but better, and uses open-source standards instead of proprietary MS “standards.” They spent the money on Office instead of Open Office right? I consider it a poor decision on the user end. I hope the “Community” does not take any lessons on PCs. That’s part of the article.

    And not to turn this into a bashing rebuttal, but come on… MS and standards? Internet Explorer and the Box model? Padding bug? CMB? Do some research on standards before making that argument.

    I think you have better English online than most who do speak it natively. Innovation is a good point. Combining features would be nice, though “You are impractical” seems to think it’d unfathomable for consumers to spend money on two operating systems.

    Blizzard has been good about keeping their games compatible on both platforms. Its a tough sell in this market – games on computers – so I give them props.

    I was waiting for someone to attack that statement. It doesn’t come fro me, it comes from Apple. They decided (as stated in the article) to bundle hardware and software together, and that’s what makes a Mac.

    “only one correct way to use a mac” Wow, I hope I didn’t give that impression because there really isn’t. And yes, we all know Games are an issue on the Mac. Competition is good for the industry and I hope both companies never try to take over people’s computers like DRM.

  13. “Since then I use more shortcut keys, read news and information faster, spend less time organizing files and folders or ‘tweaking’ my system’s performance and just about everything else you hear about why Macs are so good.”
    Perfectly my experience!!! I use Spark (shortcut application to launch folders and applications, control iTunes) and LaunchBar to launch applications or open files which I’ve selected in Finder in some specific appliation. I can’t imagine life without these two apps!

  14. Folks can go as fast or as slow as they want when switching platforms. And no one says you have to throw out your old PC.

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