Tag Archives: PC Pro

PC Pro: The Average Home User Should Get a Mac

So six months ago they were doing their annual Mac attack, now the schizophrenic PC Pro has swung back the other way again. On the cover of issue 157, one of the headlines is “Apple’s New iMac – Run OS X and Windows on this stunning £799 systemâ€?!

Flip to the review and you’d think you were reading a Mac magazine at times:

This tightly integrated all-in-one offers plenty of performance and fabulous looks, yet it costs less than £1,000. And we can’t name a system by a PC vendor that does all of that.

The review finishes off with this paragraph and a ‘Recommended’ award:

The iMac offers some significant improvements over the old model and good value for money. We’d love to recommend a system from a Windows OEM, but until the rest of the industry takes a slice from Apple’s pie, the iMac remains the most impressive all-in-one on the market.

Later on the magazine reviews VMWare Fusion, the latest piece of virtualisation software for Intel Mac’s. This gets a recommended award, and the review even details what utility you need to download from the VMWare website to package up your old PC as a virtual image to use on your Mac.

That’s not the end of it, the very last page of the magazine has an opinion piece by Jon Honeyball declaring 7th August 2007 as the day the music finally died for Microsoft. The by-line makes Honeyball’s point clear – “With the launch of its spreadsheet, Apple has defined the home appliance of computing.â€?

In case you still haven’t got the significance of 7th August 2007, it was both the day that Apple revealed iWork ’08 which for the first time included a spreadsheet application, Numbers. It’s also the day that Microsoft announced that the next version of Microsoft Office for Mac OS X would be delayed for six months. This is going to prove a point that Honeyball first made last year, that Microsoft are not oriented towards the needs of the home user.

Honeyball contends that the average home user wants to just walk into a store and get a computer in the same way as they get any other commodity like a TV or a dishwasher, and they want to take it home plug it in and it just works. Whilst Numbers is no Excel killer, it does everything the average home user does with a spreadsheet, more than that the iWork suite can open all the latest Microsoft Office better than Microsoft can under Mac OS X for at least the next six months. So the average user can walk into an Apple store, and walk out with a machine that a PC magazine describes as the most impressive all-in-one on the market, more than that it will include iLife which will allow them to work with their digital pictures, home movies and upload them to the web, and for an extra £60 they can get iWork which integrates seamlessly in with the other applications to provide Microsoft compatible word processing, presentations and spreadsheets.

With the launch of its spreadsheet, Apple has completed the circle. It’s now defined the home appliance of computing. There’s no reasonable task it can’t do out of the box or with a few extra purchases while in the shop. And it all works together in the way an appliance should.

Whilst obviously I’d agree with Honeyball, it does come as a major surprise to find PC Pro – them of the “32 reasons why PC’s are Better Than Macsâ€? – essentially saying that the majority of home users would be better off with a Mac!

The Annual Mac Attack from PC Pro

Last year it was Vista v MacOS X that compared a shipping version of MacOS X with a beta version of Vista, this time around, PC Pro has rolled out “32 Reasons Why PC’s are Better Than Macsâ€? as it’s annual cover article bashing the Mac, and what a pretty pointless waste of paper it is too – however it is a further example of PC Pro’s schizophrenic relationship with the Mac.

Point number one is “Service Packs Don’t Cost £90â€? which is wheeling out their argument from last year that the MacOS X upgrades are service packs, and it then rolls through the familiar selection of PC owner grumbles including the one button mouse, which of course isn’t, but Apple defaults the Mighty Mouse to a single button configuration. Insecurity pops up too, with the standard PC retort that PC’s are perfectly secure if you get hold of a decent anti-virus application. They also pad out the list a bit with grumbles about the Mac startup sound, version numbers of MacOS X, and one whole item of the 32 is devoted to a whinge about Steve Jobs! In terms of the interface grumbles and ‘it’s not intuitive’ arguments that pepper the list, most boil down to the fact that it doesn’t work the same way as Windows – which means that anyone with a lot of Windows experience is still back to feeling like a novice trying to use a Mac. For example, the single mouse button doesn’t bother long term Mac users as everything that is on the right-click menu is able to be carried out elsewhere anyway. The menus being at the top of the screen is seen as consistent to Mac users, and so the list goes on. The article also waves Office 2007 as an advantage because Mac users are having to wait for Office 2008 for compatibility with some features. Of course as a look back over the releases will show, Microsoft always operates like this, and Office 2008 will bring new features that aren’t available on Office 2007 that will be included in the next PC release. Some of the points are just plain wrong. Number 28 compares memory handling, unfortunately taking a pop at the Classic MacOS memory handling and claiming that Mac applications crash from lack of memory. Certainly the old MacOS Memory Management was lousy, but certainly I’ve had no such problems with MacOS X.

To find the reason for this latest effort, you have to take a look at the editors column at the front of the magazine – it seems that Tim Danton is a little upset by the Get a Mac adverts, and is finding that the office Mac’s used to put the magazine together are crashing. I have to say that some of the Mac faithful are getting a bit fed up with them too, with even the occasional Mac magazine suggesting that a change in advertising would be a good idea. With regards to his unreliable office Mac’s he doesn’t say what they are actually running, or what age the machines are, certainly they could still be running MacOS 9 which is still widely used in the publishing industry. As to why they bother with these periodic efforts, I really don’t know. It’s true to say that the numbers of Mac owners are rising, but the numbers are millions behind the numbers of PC’s, and there isn’t any real chance of the numbers overtaking. Maybe it is this PC Pro Schizophrenia, as the magazine finds themselves giving good reviews to Mac’s they have to do these big Mac bashing articles to balance out!

However, whatever the article may say, it doesn’t change my experiences. Sat in front of me is a recent PC, and a similarly aged Mac. Both are running the latest versions of their respective operating systems. This, like most things I do at home is being done on the Mac because it is just plain more reliable, and just works. Compare this to the PC’s. As you know, I’ve got a love hate relationship with Vista on my laptop. Driver wise it is better supported, but the machine is noticeably more sluggish since I installed Vista, and, as I discovered on the Time and Talents day, more unreliable too. What I need in a home computer is something that is reliable and stable, and I’ve got that in the Mac. True I could probably build a PC that is as reliable with a bit of work, and by picking the right combination of hardware and software, but why bother when you can buy a Mac off the shelf that meets my needs?

To round off though, even PC Pro has to concede the one thing that sets the Mac apart. The article finishes off with highlighting the one thing that a Mac can do that a PC can’t, and the reason why a number of Microsoft staff are now running Mac’s. Whilst there are hacks to get MacOS X running on a PC, the Mac is the only official way to get the current big three operating systems, Windows, MacOS X and Linux running on the same machine, and schizophrenic to the last, PC Pro shows you how, even trumpeting the stability of of MacOS X when running four virtual PC’s and three virtual Linux boxes simultaneously…

Update: PC Pro are already starting to get feedback over this on their forum
– expect more when this issue hits news stands! It is worth noting that last time around they ended up defending themselves on their letters page.

Also, for a more detailed analysis, take a look at a point-by-point rebuttal over at themak.org. The first part is here, with the second part here, and the third and final part here.

PC Pro Schizophrenic Over Apple?

I’ve commented before over the changing attitude of PCPro to the Mac. Since then, the MacBook has even turned up, and done relatively well in a comparison of budget laptops in the magazine. However in the November issue, that turned up in the post this morning, they are getting increasingly schizophrenic. Of course this is quite obviously because they give their columnists a large degree of editorial freedom, but it still makes interesting reading.

Leafing through the new magazine, the first indication was a big two page advert for the MacBook, with the black version on one page, and the white version on the other. It is a typical Apple minimalist creation compared to most PC adverts, in that it doesn’t have masses of machine specs, nor does it even have a prominent Apple logo. In the past you’d occasionally find adverts for Apple products like the iPod, but I have rarely seen adverts for the computers in PC magazines, perhaps it is an indication that Apple is looking more seriously at going after PC owners as a potential market.

The next thing I came across was an opinion piece by Ross Burridge, the magazines reviews editor. Now if bits of this had turned up in a Mac magazine, I would have regarded it as sarcasm, but as it is in a PC magazine, I’m sure he is quite serious. The point of the article was to counter the complaint that Microsoft hasn’t really done much with Windows XP. It is a familiar practice to look at the Windows platform, highlighting that the last major OS release was Windows XP back in 2001, and then compare this with the multiple OS releases that Apple have released over the same period. Not surprisingly he turns this argument around, pointing out that there have other versions of Windows XP released in the intervening period, for example the various tablet and media centre editions. He compares this with the ‘nominally improved’ versions of MacOS X that have been released over the same period. Whilst you could argue that only nominal improvements were needed because the original was pretty good anyway, his statement is incorrect. The version of MacOS X that was around when Windows XP was first released was version 10.1, Puma which was regarded by many as not being stable enough to use as a main operating system, and missing a number of key features. Indeed at that time, Apple were still shipping Macs with MacOS 9 as boot up default. Certainly I’d challenge anybody to compare Puma with a current version of MacOS X and only find nominal improvements. Finally he caps it off by quoting £400 as the amount that a Mac user will have spent on upgrades over the same period which is also somewhat of an exaggeration. True the more frequent big number upgrades will cost more in the long run, but £400 certainly seems like he’s including iLife upgrades too, something which the same magazine said wasn’t part of the OS for the purposes of their comparison article. Oh and he also uses the classic argument that Windows is safer because it has lots of anti-virus software, making it safer if some mythical really bad MacOS X virus comes along.

However the schizophrenia really kicks in when you get to the Jon Honeyball Advanced Windows column. He quite frequently mentions his Apple machines in the column anyway, but this month he starts off talking about his visit to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, where he was asking questions about the upcoming version of MacOS X, Leopard. The two features he particularly picks on are Time Machine and the updated Spotlight. With Time Machine he raises concerns over the frequency of full backups as opposed to incremental backups, something that is controllable through the backup software included with Vista, however he concludes that because Time Machine is so well integrated into the OS, whilst the Vista backup solution is hidden away (backup software is not even installed as part of an XP Home install, you have to manually install it from the CD) and so is unlikely to be used by an average home user. Moving on to Spotlight he focuses in on the new network search functionality, and concludes that it will be unlikely to scale well, however for the home market with a small network of machines it is fine. He then uses this as a starting point to compare the attitudes of Apple and Microsoft to the home/SoHo user. Interesting points he makes are that Apple have a straightforward policy whereby everybody gets the same version, whilst Microsoft have an array of options, with some features missing from the cheaper versions. Indeed he quotes one of his friends as saying that the Microsoft attitude is to “make it so complicated that hopefully they’ll all buy the most expensive version out of fearâ€?. Ultimately he concludes that the battle for the home market is about to heat up again, and that in his opinion the wining product is not the one from Microsoft, indeed he even goes so far as to highlight that he is advising home users to upgrade to Apple machines – something that is quite a surprise from an Advanced Windows column!

So can we expect PC Pro to become a Mac magazine any time soon? I doubt it – PC Pro has a primary focus on business computing. However, if Jon Honeyball’s predictions about who will win the home market come true, it will certainly be interesting to see how the magazine changes…

Estate Agents Behind the Times?

Paul Ockenden made some interesting comments in his regular Mobile and Wireless column in PC Pro this month about how estate agents, and even the online sites are not keeping up with some of the demands for certain sorts of information. I’ve commented previously about the inaccuracy of the searches, although I’ve got round them by having multiple searches for each individual area, so I won’t comment on that further. However Paul highlights another issue I’ve encountered, finding information about the broadband availability.

At this point I should mention firstly, that broadband speeds are affected by distance, so in terms of a regular BT connection, you could get 8Meg broadband if you lived close to an exchange, but someone living a long way could only get 0.5Meg. Our current house is in a relatively small village, a few miles outside Reading, and we have a Reading phone number, so many people could conclude that we have slow broadband. However that is incorrect, as the village has it’s own telephone exchange. Whilst having the small exchange meant a long wait for broadband to be enabled, when it came, it was fast. We live on the opposite side of the village from the exchange, and the connection runs at 8Meg.

It transpires things are a bit different in Finchampstead, where although the exchange was enabled early, the exchange itself is in Eversley, as a result the various bits of the village vary between 3Meg, down as far as 0.5Meg for some properties we’ve looked at. It has to be said that currently this makes them decidedly less attractive as potential places to move.

Anyway, over the past couple of days, I’d been looking for details of the location of the Eversley exchange, and Paul’s article pointed to a great site that I hadn’t come across at www.samknows.com. The site includes a whole raft of information on broadband, including a fantastic availability checker that shows the cable and various flavours of broadband over phone line availability. It also has a section detailing each exchange which includes location maps. This page has the map for our local exchange at Arborfield, which also clearly shows the issue with Finchampstead, where the bulk of the housing sits almost equidistant from the exchanges at Arborfield, Wokingham and Eversley. It also easily allows you to spot other villages in the area that may have trouble with fast broadband – a great resource for guiding a local house search.

Having said that, none of the local agents seem aware of this. I’m mentioning it when we show people around here, as for at least some of the people who would be interested in a house like this, and in this area, broadband is important. Of the three viewings so far, we’ve had one who was an IT consultant, and another who spoted our Sky+, and whose face positively lit up when I mentioned the speed of the broadband.

So if you’re in the market for a new house, and broadband speeds concern you, I’d certainly suggest taking a look at www.samknows.com for any house or area you’re considering.

Vista vs Apple – The Comeback

Last month I commented on the PC Pro Vista vs Apple comparison article, highlighting the fact it compared a Vista beta with a soon-to-be replaced version of MacOS X. I also mentioned the fact that they down-marked MacOS X for having a poor selection of included software by ignoring the iLife suite.

Anyway, this month they have published two, of the apparently many e-mails and letters they received criticising the article and accusing it of bias. Needless to say they aren’t giving any ground, they again justify the comparison by blaming Apple for not releasing Leopard beta code to them for review – bear in mind that they haven’t shown Leopard to Mac magazines, so they’re hardly likely to let a PC magazine see it. With regards to iLife they make the comment ‘and some people may have received bonus software such as iLife with their iMac‘ – lets just make this clear, whatever PC Pro may think, iLife ships with every Mac that Apple sell, just go through all the machines on their web site and it is listed. Microsoft maintained to the EU that software such as Windows Media Player and the like was no part of their operating system – it has to be said that they weren’t believed – but the only real difference is that Apple charge separately for the upgrade versions of iLife whereas upgrades to Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker are free upgrades, or come along with the OS upgrades.

The final point they address is the accusation of bias, which is effectively an agreement, but justified by saying that everybody else would be biased anyway.

To the credit of the magazine, despite their acknowledged bias, they have reviewed all the new Apple hardware in recent months, and although they review it from the point of view of putting on Windows – something Howard thinks is a bit of a waste of time – all the hardware has got pretty good reviews, with this month them conceding that the MacBook is a better compact laptop than many of the PC’s in their group test elsewhere in the magazine. So whilst they admit to being biased, even they are starting to succumb to the nice new Apple hardware!