I feel like I’m becoming something of an advocate for Apple machines these days, which is not something I ever saw coming. I hadn’t even used one until almost 12 months ago, and like many long-time PC users am guilty of having poked fun at them in the past (hur hur, one mouse button, hur hur, poor game support) but now that I’ve had one for a while, I’ve changed my tune. I’m finding that I can heartily recommend them for quite a wide cross-section of users, particularly when it comes to a portable machine.
My parent’s XP-based Dell laptop keeled over and died recently and while they’ve managed without a PC for a little while (!), they’re missing it. They’re faced with being forced (in practice) to switch to Vista if they buy a new Windows laptop, and they’d heard bad things about it (and not just from me I might add, their friends bought a Vista machine recently and have complained to them a lot about it) so were wondering what to do. My parents aren’t particularly technical but know their way around a computer, so long as nothing goes wrong, and aren’t looking for a gaming or power machine, just something that does email & internet, office tasks etc. Someone else in the family ‘knows someone at Microsoft’ (join the club ;)) and suggested to them that if they were reticent about Vista, the sequel would be out next year so they could always look forward to that, but of course that got me chuckling. I explained that not only was Vista several years late, so predictions about the release of a sequel are somewhat premature, at this point we have no idea of what it will be like.
They even asked me what I thought about desktop Linux, since they’d seen it as an option in one or other shop they went into - something that surprised me actually. However with no on-site support from me (since they’re now 3+ hours flight & train time away) I considered that to be a recipe for disaster, given my experiences even with the latest Ubuntu. Great if you’ve got a tech you can call when things go wrong, not so good otherwise, so I ruled that out.
So, my advice? Although they’d probably be ok with Vista, particularly since SP1, given they would have to re-adjust to Vista’s changes anyway, and given the kinds of things they want to do with it, I really think a MacBook would be a better fit for them as very casual, relatively non-technical people. I didn’t recommend this lightly, because they’re not made of money (being retired) and they will have to save up a little more than they would have to buy a budget Vista laptop, but I honestly think it will be better in the long run for them. There are no drivers to worry about, OS X is definitely easier for regular people to use even counting the adjustment from Windows, and in general everything usually just works with considerably less faffing about. The software to do most of what they want is already there as standard, and works in a consistent fashion. I also think face-to-face support is more readily available if they can find a Premium Apple Reseller; they had been shocked at the outrageous prices they were quoted just to *look* at their slowly dying Dell to see if it was economically fixable. Small Apple specialists seem to be better at providing that kind of more personal service if our local premium reseller is anything to go by, certainly more so than unit-shovellers like PC World / Currys.
Simply put, I honestly think people like my parents will have a better experience with a Mac longer term. I’ve advised them to find a decent reseller first and play with one to make sure they’re happy with the idea of making the transition, and that they’ll have some local hardware support to make them feel comfortable given I can’t be there to organise it, but I think if they get over that bump it’ll be plainer sailing for them.