Eight years ago today I bought my first Mac. It was a £299 Mini and I decided to get it for experimental purposes because it was relatively inexpensive and I could use my existing monitor and keyboard. I fully expected to have to put it on eBay within a week or two. Instead, before the week was out, I had decided that Macs were for me. It wasn’t long before I was back in the Regent Street Apple Store to buy a new PowerBook G4. I soon transferred everything over from my old PC and really haven’t looked back. In terms of productivity and peace of mind it is one of the best steps I have ever taken.
Things were a lot different back then. Apple was a niche computer manufacturer, despite the success of the iPod in widening the appeal of the brand. There was very little software choice and a Windows switcher had to be prepared to make compromises. Microsoft was the big bad wolf of the computing world and everyone seemed to be gunning for poor Bill Gates and his domination of the field. Now roles have been reversed and it is Apple that is king of the heap and coming in for barbs from every direction.
Never never phone
In 2005 the iPhone was still two years away. I remember opening an Apple discussion thread on the need for a phone that would synchronise seamlessly with my new Macs. I was still running a Compaq PDA before moving to a Palm Treo. Synchronisation of contacts, calendar and notes was a nightmare, thoroughly unreliable. There was no cloud, of course, and everything had to be done by cable after returning home. On the Apple discussion board I was shot down in flames: Apple would never, ever, definitely never make a phone. It was totally out of the question.
Two years later it was the iPhone that set in motion the great rivival in Apple’s fortunes. The new phone was a wonderful ambassador for Apple and brought millions into the Mac fold after they found out just how easy it was to cope with a touch-screen device. When it came time to buy a new computer they headed to the Apple Store where the standard of service and staff knowledge was far ahead of anything they had previously experienced in the Windows world. The iPhone also paved the way for the iPad. Because of the millions of iPhone users out there, Apple had a ready-made market for the new tablet.
It isn’t just Apple’s products that impress. The eco-system, which started in a modest way with Dot Mac and then Mobile Me, has turned into a unique selling point for the Apple brand. Many owners of Apple devices have now invested hundreds of pounds in applications and they find themselves firmly glued to Cupertino’s flypaper. It’s a painful experience to change to another system and no other platform offers the sort of integration you find between iOS devices and Macs. After eight years of owning Macs and five years writing regularly for MacFilos I cannot imagine moving back to Windows or adopting Android. Other systems impress from time to time: I like the large-screen Samsung phones and only yesterday I was seduced briefly by a Surface Pro tabley in the Microsoft store at Pentagon City. But in the cool of the evening I always return to the fold because I value ease of use and the productivity that comes from having a reliable cloud system.
Apple isn’t without faults and its products are sometimes outclassed (for a time) in individual aspects. But if you look at the whole, the excellent products and the eco-system, owning an Apple device is a comfortable, satisfying and safe option. So tonight, the start of year nine, I shall raise a glass of wine to Apple.