Why I use Mac OS X as my primary OS

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A fine gentleman attending Apple's WWDC expressed some surprise yesterday when I told him I was working exclusively with Macs at work. His assumption was that working for a big IT company, I had to work on a Windows PC.

Indeed, Macs are not exactly the cup of tea of corporate IT departments. But confounding the needs of the average corporate citizen (e-mails, memos, presentations, time-sheets, expenses reports) which are very well embraced by Microsoft's Office suite and an average hardware configuration, with those of someone who needs to develop web sites for the widest audience, is an unfortunately common stupid mistake of many IT folks.

The reason I'm now working exclusively on Mac is simply because Mac OS X along with the fine Apple design of both hardware and UI make them the best IT platform for me on the market, by a long shot. Here are a few main reasons:

  • It's obviously handy to make sure a site works well for Mac users
  • I've neverrarely had to add any extra hardware to do advanced work such as complete digital video workflows, wether on my desktop machine or my portable (correction: back in the time when I had a PB3400, I bought a FireWire PCMCIA card to hook a digital camera)
  • All my production environment being based on Unix and Linux, I can prototype everything on my Macs before moving it to production, even with my portable. This is Just Great™!
  • Everything I need for multimedia web development exists for Mac OS X and offers more often than not a better UI and productivity than their Windows counterparts
  • I can still be a perfect corporate citizen with Microsoft Office on the Mac, actually no one in the company has ever been able to tell that I was using a Mac without actually seeing it
  • I can use the hardware much longer than a PC (three years is my average hardware life, while the productivity of my colleagues on "standard" PCs falls dramatically after two years)
  • No lost days because of virus, patches gone wrong, registry gone south, system degradation and crashes, you name it. In the past 12 months, I remember seeing colleagues doing nothing for days until the IT folks figured out how to cure a company-wide infection
  • I'm the one they come to see in order to open all those fancy files that the creative agencies send us. OK, that's not a reason I should list, but the IT mono-culture has ironical side effects
  • Apple happens to be the first supplier of Unix OS in volume, and it's simply the best desktop Unix that exists today (I find Linux nowhere near in that respect)
  • I can always emulate Windows on the Mac, should I have to (the temporary absence of Virtual PC due to the conjonction of their acquisition by Microsoft and the incompatibility with the G5 made me realize that I don't have a vital need for this anyway)

Translated into corporate speech for CxOs, it boils down to this: with a Mac and for my particular job, I have a system that is more efficient/productive/capable/secure/resilient with a lower TCO than an equivalent PC. "Don't tell me that you'd prefer that the company spends more money so that I can be less productive!". I've actually served this several times to a few top managers, and it has worked very well so far, since they can't challenge it (two of the last three CIOs I've seen have tried, they're not with us anymore but I doubt I've had any influence on that ;-).

This said, there are tons of excellent web developers out there who do a great job with Windows PCs. The TCO calculation in my particular case includes the fact that I had no software legacy to replace nor any training for switching, being already a long-time Mac user. In terms of money, and change of habits, switching has a significant impact. But if you have no strong ties with Windows, and lurk around Linux, you should give Mac OS X a try, you will not regret it.