Rob Galbraith's pitting of two Macs against two PC's on digital photography performance is interesting. Not because of the results, though. They repeat that PC's are faster and cheaper than what Apple can produce. Anyone with half an eye on Apple knows this.
It's interesting because they bubbles the whole issue of performance and makes it explicit for debate. What does performance mean and how much does it matter? These are fundamental questions that a lot of people are having a hard time evaluating the answers for.
Timing RAW-to-JPG conversions on 6 megapixel pictures is one, highly quantitative, method for measuring performance. But the meaning of the answer isn't as straight forward as you'd might expect.
First of all, you need to determine your bottlenecks. For a select minority of computer users, raw performance (as measured by benchmarks such as Galbraith's) is essential. If all you need to use a computer for is rendering 3D scenes or converting RAW 6MP pictures or cracking DNA codes, then price/performance is the most important characteristic to base a purchase decision on.
Benchmarks are very important to this group of computer users. To the majority, it's significantly less. Even though we tend to think otherwise.
Between August and December, I didn't make the switch completely because I worried that the lower performance of my 700mhz iBook vs my 1.4 Ghz Athlon would cripple my productivity. This was very much a perceived fear.
I learned that my bottlenecks in more cases than not are not in performance as measured by quantitative benchmarks of CPU's, RAM access, or HD load times. My bottlenecks are first and foremost me and my interactions with the programs I use the most.
The bottleneck in program interactions lies mostly in the interface, and I find the Apple interface to generally be a much more productive environment than what I was used to on the PC side. Some tasks still suffers, of course. Java programming springs to mind since IDEA and other IDE's are yet too buggy and slow. But they're definitely in the minority.
Yet a bottleneck and interaction analysis is still only strokes on the bigger picture: The Experience (TM). Working on OS X presents me with an experience that's composed by a plenitude of composite feelings, observations, and perceptions.
To list a few:
- I don't like Microsoft because of their monopolistic position and how they've abused it to the peril of others (so choosing anything but Microsoft is a plus — including Linux and OS X)
- I like Apple's commitment to open or de-facto standards. They use MP3, PDF, XML, and even contribute back to the open source community (with Safari and Darwin)
- Apple has a beautiful graphical and hardware design
- I (perceive that I) don't have to work as hard to get my MP3-player, digital camera, and other peripherals to work
The above is a mixture of many things. Some relating to the values of the company that produce the machine. Some relating to the alternatives. And some to the actual user experience.
Considering this complete picture, I couldn't recommend a switch more warmly (unless you're in the hardcore performance/price minority). And I'm actively doing that by pitching the switch proposition to all that I perceive would stand to gain as much as I have.
But since I'm not around in person to argue all the merits, I'd hope that you would consider the complete view yourself. It's more than likely that quantitative performance measures matters much less than you currently think it does.
Have you ever had problems getting your digital camera to work under WinXP? My experience with digicams is that, as long as they use USB, Windows XP handles them flawlessly.
Dunno about MP3-players, as I've never had one, and I'm inclined to say that any problems you might have had with Windows and your iPod don't count, seeing as it was officially a Mac-exclusive until a month or two ago :)
You can certainly get digital cameras to work on the PC. Of course, you can. But the whole digital camera computer experience just feels significantly different on the Mac with no effort on your part. iPhoto is an excellent tool that can talk to just about any camera out of the box. You don't have to install a thing.
And that's much the point, actually. You can get anything to work on the PC. It just rarely approach the comfort and joy of doing the same on the Mac.
I also seriously doubt that the PC offers an package that comes even close to the level of integration going on between the iPod and iTunes. Apple controls the hardware and the software. Like with their computers, this gives them a significant edge in providing the better experience.
Well, all the digicams I've tried worked with WinXP out the box. Just plug the sucker in and Windows offers to extract the pictures for you.
Your point with iTunes and the iPod is valid, but I don't think anyone expect the same kind on integration on the PC front, where anyone can be a contender.
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