I’m about to commit heresy, but I can’t stand Apple’s overpriced kit any longer.
My first new computer was the Low End Mac described road apple, Apple Macintosh Performa 5215CD, purchased on sale at Best Buy for $1,995. I also bought an Apple Color StyleWriter 2400 color inkjet printer to accompany it for $299. For around $2,300 give or take, what a steal of a bundled deal, right?
Hardly. Although the StyleWriter 2400 was a decent printer, the Performa was truly a road apple and was donated to “Savers” about five years later in favor of a used Power Mac 7500 purchased on eBay.
The good thing about the Performa was it allowed me to explore the innards of computers as I was constantly tweaking software and hardware in search of better performance.
If you own Macs, you know they retain their value much more so than comparable PCs from HP, Dell, Asus, Acer et al. There is quite the thriving market for used Apple hardware on the internet—Craigslist always has used Macs for sale at inflated prices, for example.
I purchased the Performa as it was the most Apple computer my money could buy at the time. The Performa was part of Apple’s consumer line of Macs and was on the market just prior to Steve Jobs’ second coming at Cupertino.
Apple’s professional line then featured Power Macs with Motorola and IBM PowerPC processors. These were priced out of the question for me, as I would have had to pony up at least another $1,000 to get into the Power Mac 7500 I truly coveted. Although I enjoyed the relative speed of Power Macs during the day at the ad agency I worked at, it was the Performa for me at home or no new Mac at all.
While tinkering with the Performa, I began to grow curious about Windows 95 and its big release featuring the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” anthem that accompanied Microsoft’s marketing blitz.
Apple seemed to be in a state of inertia back then and was kind of on the ropes as Microsoft Windows became the predominant computer operating system for both businesses and consumers.
Windows NT superseded Windows 95 for business use, but on the consumer/small business end, Windows 95 was followed by Windows 98, the panned Windows Me, Windows 2000 (last NT-based OS release without product activation) and then, gloriously combining business and consumer operating systems, Microsoft released the most venerable operating system of all time, Windows XP, at the end of October 2001.
Windows XP changed everything. Apple was forced to abandon its Classic operating system in favor of OS X in an attempt to compete with the stability and speed that XP offered.
This was when I started picking up used PCs and began experimenting with Windows. I appreciated that XP was stable and fast on most any hardware, once you were sure you had the drivers for your particular rig at the time—whether it was an HP, Dell, Compaq, eMachines, Gateway or whatever.
Apple began releasing mostly not ready for prime time versions of OS X—slow and unstable. It wasn’t until Jaguar OS X 10.2.8 and really, Panther OS X 10.3.9, where Apple had an OS that could compete with the stability and speed of XP.
By then, though, Microsoft and XP had already won the desktop wars. Apple was reduced to a niche player, sinking to less than three percent overall market share. Once Jobs returned and saved Apple fanboys like myself a lot of embarrassment by transitioning to Intel processors in all Macs, for me, it was too little, too expensive and too late. The iPods, iPhones and most recently iPads that saved and ultimately catapulted Apple into most valuable company status, cannot sway me from the fact that whenever I need to do any heavy CPU lifting, it’s most often a PC and XP or now Windows 7, which is doing the job for me.
Although Microsoft would never admit as much officially, they made XP too good. That’s the reason it’s still on most desktop systems worldwide. It’s also nice that they have maintained it with regular security patches and updates over the years. This is another problem I have with Apple and their proprietary hardware/software model.
Apple’s OS releases eliminate some Macs from eligibility every three years or so. In other words, that shiny new iMac you buy today may not run Apple’s latest OS release four years from now.
Microsoft has extended support multiple times since XP was released. Yes, I know you can still run the same OS you have on your Mac five years from now, but modern security updates won’t be released for it, and it won’t likely run more recent versions of software. If you want that, you need to pay the Apple premium and buy a new(er) Mac.
XP has afforded modern browsers, office productivity suites and secure system software on ancient PC hardware with Pentium 4 processors, for example. For G5 Power Mac owners with PowerPC processors, however, OS X 10.5.8 Leopard is the end of the line. You can’t run the latest versions of Adobe Flash, Firefox, Chrome or many other software programs, either, as they are for Intel processors only.
In this era of planned obsolescence, Microsoft Windows XP soldiers on.
Yes, there are viruses and malware out there in abundance that only affect PCs. Yes, you can run Ubuntu or any number of Linux flavors if you want a free, alternative desktop experience minus, let’s say, Microsoft Office or Apple’s iTunes. Yes, you can buy a new Mac every three years so you can run the latest version of Apple’s OS (will they ever run out of (they haven’t aged well and now sound dumb) silly cat names?).
And yes, you may have a need to utilize the multi-core and 64 bit computer processing power that Windows 7 and newer PC hardware offer. The bloatware released these days disguised as software, requires ever more hefty hardware specifications on which to run.
If your needs are more modest, however, an adequately secured Windows XP on your old P4 tower or laptop, with a free anti-virus and free anti-spyware/malware solution, may be all you’ll ever need.
Sorry, Apple, but over half of the computer using planet that won’t pay up, can’t be wrong.