A Few More Thoughts

Google I/O will be opening later today, too late for me to watch the “What’s Coming” presentation and write a post. So I’ll save that for next week–there are definitely going to be things I want to talk about–and for today, a few thoughts about Apple versus Microsoft and why I got a Mac instead of a new Windows laptop.

I hesitated a bit before I bought the MacBook. I mean, cost aside*, it was a big jump. I’ve warned a lot of people against switching from Windows to Mac or visa-versa because of the learning curve. And even though I was already fairly well versed in the Apple Way of Doing Things, it still took me a while to get into the swing of it. (There are still things I’m having trouble with, most notably remembering to use the Command key instead of Control; muscle memory is second only to olfactory memory in persistence.)

* To be fair to Apple, now that I’ve been hands-on in real world scenarios instead of looking at specs and benchmarks, I’m confident that to get similar performance in a similarly sized Windows machine would have cost even more.

But what really tipped the boat in Apple’s favor was the realization that right now Apple respects its users more than Microsoft.

Think about that for a moment. I thought about it for more than a single moment.

After all, Apple has a reputation as a “My way or the highway” company. But if you think about it, many of the moves they’ve made lately have been in the direction of giving users more choice and more flexibility. Just to name a couple: the phones have gotten the ability to customize the home and lock screen in ways they’ve never had. iPads and Macs have gotten a whole new UI organized around multitasking–without Apple making it mandatory.

On the other hand, Microsoft has, since the release of Windows 11, been all about reducing choice. Remember how much outcry there was when people realized they couldn’t put their Taskbar on the side or top of the screen? Or that they couldn’t show seconds in the clock? It took Microsoft a year to fix the latter, and the former is still unchanged.

Or consider the setup process.

On a Mac, when it’s time to create your user account, Apple lets you choose a name and asks if you want to sign in with an Apple ID. Asks. You can decline. Yes, Apple will nag you about it from time to time, but you can quite easily run your computer without ever getting an Apple ID. Further, even if you sign in, the Apple ID is, by default, only used with Apple’s interactive services. The user name and password you chose remain untouched.

Contrast that with the Windows 11 experience. In Microsoft’s world, you don’t get to choose a user name and password. You are forced to create or sign into a Microsoft account*. Microsoft then creates the account on the machine, choosing your user name and forcing the Microsoft account password onto the local account. Want a different password for security? Tough. Want no password at all, for convenience? Too bad. Don’t want your data getting stored in the cloud? What a pity. By default, OneDrive will move your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents into the cloud. Yes, move.

* Yes, there are ways around this. But the point is, you need to be aware that you don’t have to create a Microsoft account, and you need to be geekly enough to hunt down the workarounds.

In fairness to Apple again, Apple also requires you to have a password–but Apple has a checkbox you can set so that computer won’t ask for the password when you sign on. Admittedly, you have to hunt for it, but given the security implications, that’s not unreasonable. Unlike Microsoft, Apple lets you make that decision. They also let you decide if you want your data in the cloud. iCloud is installed, but you have to opt in to using it, even if you sign in with an Apple ID. Perfectly fine, because after all, it’s your computer.

And that’s where the essential difference between Microsoft and Apple lies: Apple, despite their desire to lock you into their walled garden, recognizes that you own the computer, and you can use it the way you want to. Microsoft, on the other hand, clearly believes they own your computer.

Think I’m exaggerating? Consider how difficult Microsoft makes it to set any browser other than Edge as the default. Consider how they continue to nag you to switch to Edge–generally about once a month, whenever they release an update. Consider how they keep breaking the “set default” functionality–and how they ignore your choice within their own programs.

Wait–it gets even worse. Current versions of Windows in public beta test include advertisements. Open your start menu and find a recommendation to buy Microsoft Office. Visit a popular website in Edge and get an ad suggesting you try a different site. Heck, this time last year, Microsoft was testing ads in the File Explorer. Yes, that yellow-and-blue folder icon at the bottom of your screen that you use to find your files.

I don’t expect Microsoft to change their ways. And I recognize that there’s no escape from Windows and Microsoft; I fully expect ads to start appearing in Word–even Word on the Mac–at some point in the not-so-distant-future.

And I also expect that I’ll be thinking very long and hard before I buy another Windows computer.