(Okay, before I get into this post I'll admit that I'm a Mac user. I've been a sysadmin for over a decade and have had to maintain all variety of machines and OSes (From Suns to PCs to Macs). Up until the release of Mac OS X I honestly wouldn't have considered getting a Mac, but now that I have one I am immensely happy with it. So my response to this is both as a sysadmin and as a Mac owner. Okay, on with the post.)
Rich Brooks over at the Herald Tribune wrote a column about a FL school system's decision to switch from Macs to PCs running Windows a week or so ago. At the time I read it and just kind of shrugged it off. He's now written a second article talking about all the mails he got from the people in the Mac cult. So I thought I'd chime in (that's what blogs are for, right?).
As I read it, his original argument boiled down to this statement:
But with PCs locking in 97 percent of the market, deciding what kind of computers to use in a school system is a no-brainer. [Rich Brookes]
On the surface I agree that it looks to be a no-brainer. But I think there are more issues to look at than that. First off, the cost of this project is $7 million. I'm assuming that's just the price of the hardware (though he doesn't say). You've also got to figure that if your existing support staff don't understand PCs they'll either have to be retrained or replaced. You need all new versions of software. There may be various educational apps that have been in use that don't exist on the PC, which means more spent on finding alternatives. I also believe that support costs for Windows are higher than OS X. I don't have any data,this is based purely on the amount of times I've had to spend dealing with issues on each OS. And the number of sleepless nights each has given me.
My biggest gripe with the first article is that he has no idea as to what the capabilities of the Mac are. He's heard they don't require as much maintenance, and that they are better for graphics and video. But he doesn't know for sure.
Needless to say, the Mac community went nuts over this article. Prompting Mr. Brooks to write a followup column: Revenge of the Mac user cult (and why they missed the point).
Woe unto anyone who publicly questions the efficacy of Macintosh computers.
You will be set upon by the cult of Mac users. They will call you names. They will tell your boss that you should be fired. They will write long letters and e-mails detailing the history of home computers. [Rich Brooks]
Now I'll be the first to admit that Mac users tend to be very zealous about their computers. I'll even admit to a bit of it myself. I think they've done a great job breathing life back into the Macintosh line in the past few years. I'm someone who always hated having to give into the graphics people and go mac for them. But, I do agree that a lot of Mac users sometimes go a bit too far with their comments.
While I don't excuse that kind of behavior I can understand it. I can work with any operating system. Most do at least one or two things better than other operating systems. The problem I run into is that people refuse to even consider Macs most of the time. They don't even want to think about trying it. So I think a lot of Mac users get annoyed when Macs are just dismissed without a second thought.
I do think it would make for an interesting article if Mr. Brooks were to try out a Mac for a month and report back. I can't say that there won't be issues. I'm just as critical of OS X's problems as I am with Windows. But I would like to think he'd be pleasantly suprised by the Mac.
Oh, and floppy drives are dead. With those little USB drives being so cheap these days I can easily see the floppy drive becoming nonstandard on the PC within a year or so.