UPDATE: Today at WWDC Apple announced a new Mac Pro. We don’t know when it will ship. We don’t know what it will cost. We don’t know what configurations it will come in. We don’t know if it will work. But we do know Apple has promised it. Without a commitment to pro apps, this is too little too late for me, even if it is a computer that causes your heart to flutter. Meanwhile, I am going fast NOW – not waiting. Good luck to all of you who are willing to spend months on the promise that the new Mac Pro will be the computer of your dreams. If it turns out to be the bomb, I’ll take a look at it. But doubt it will be enough to cause me to change my mind.
As a photographer, I’ve spent most of my career (well the part where computers were around anyway) using Apple products. I bought the first Apple II, the IIc, the Lisa the first Mac, the Mac II, the first Powerbook, the G3, the G4, the G5, the first Mac Pro, the first iMac and every Mac thereafter in both portable and desktop form. I’ve built many businesses using Apple products. (While not an Apple product the Next was a Steve Jobs product so that counts too and yes I even bought a Next.)
Before I used Apple, I did have brief stints using an IBM (yes the original IBM personal computer running DOS.) And I used Osborne (CPM) and Epson’s Valdocs. And even after I started using Macs I did buy some very powerful UNIX machines for my business from Silicon Graphics and Sun.
But personally, as an individual photographer, I have almost always used Macs. The early versions of Photoshop were optimized to run on Macs. Most of the early graphics software and printer drivers were optimized for Macs. And for a very long time, I feel that I got more than my money’s worth using Macintosh computers and their laptop counterparts.
I didn’t just use Apple products. I immersed myself in Apple culture. For a while I owned lots of Apple stock. And I was a co-host, host or guest on Leo Laporte’s famous MacBreak Weekly podcast more than one hundred times. I spoke at MacWorld often. I was a member of every Apple User Group that mattered. I subscribed to and even occasionally wrote for some of the Mac-related magazines.
When Aperture came out, I was a very early adopter. I was asked to co-teach the very first public Aperture class taught anywhere on the planet (at MacWorld in San Francisco.) The product was so new that we just had a partial manual in the form of a very skinny PDF and a few days to learn what we were expected to turn around and teach.
I went on to attend one of the first Apple-sponsored training classes on Aperture and ended up becoming one of the first Apple T3 Certified Aperture trainers (T3 meaning not only could I train end users but I could train the trainer.)
I started the first Aperture blog and podcast and served as technical editor on a dozen Aperture books. I also recorded Aperture training for lynda.com and other online sources.
I bought the first iPhone and ran the first podcast and blog devoted to the iPhone. My picture was on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle holding the first iPhone.
Most years, I’d be at the Apple WWDC conference in San Francisco today, eagerly awaiting news of new Apple products and software.
In other words, my Apple/Mac credentials are pretty darn solid.
But recently, there have been big changes in Apple and the world for that matter. Mobile and portable devices have taken the place of most desktop computers. Apple dropped the word “computer” from its name, because it’s long-term plan was to become a consumer products company centered on mobile.
Apple has turned Final Cut Pro into iMovie and Aperture into iPhoto. I’ve bought 19 new cars since the last Mac Pro got a major refresh. Many of the people I used to know who worked at Apple in their pro apps section are gone, and as far as I can tell so is that part of the company.
I also started experiencing major quality control issues with my Apple products. I went through five iPhone 5 units before I got a good one, the first bunch all had screen issues. My brand new $4100 iMac was defective right out of the box. Apple did fix it, quickly and well but it was still inconvenient. My last two MacBook Air computers had screen issues. I got one replaced by Apple and sold it. I still have one left that I haven’t had time to fix it but eventually will. In the past I never experienced this many Apple failures. And yes I buy AppleCare and yes Apple has great support, but my time is worth something and waiting on a repairman or taking a machine to the Apple Store costs me time which costs me money and they don’t reimburse for that. Poor quality control is not acceptable to me.
Then there’s the constantly evolving software. Everything from iTunes on has been revamped so many times and dumbed down so many times that I find it virtually unusable. I could go on but you get the point. It boils down to this. When Steve Jobs died, in my opinion, so did the company. It may have been on its way downhill before he left but there’s no doubt about what has happened since he left. They put a bean counter in charge. Need I say more?
This left me with few choices so I did the unthinkable for me. I started exploring Windows. Even now as I type that sentence, I find my hands shaking. I am not ashamed to say that I was a Mac fanboy. But times change and so do my opinions. Steve Jobs himself said only perpetually stupid people never change their mind. And just because I thought something was perfect 10 years ago doesn’t mean there’s a law that says I can’t adapt, find new products and change my mind. So I have.
I found myself tiring of the slow response I got out of my fully-loaded, very expensive Macs when compared to my pals who had Windows machines. I didn’t like the changes Apple made to its software or business model and the fact that it hasn’t kept Aperture up to date compared to Lightroom. I was tired of waiting on the Mac Pro to be beefed up. (No that tiny speed bump Tim Cook sold as an “upgraded Mac Pro” doesn’t count.) But then again, the Windows OS has been a nightmare for a very long time, so I wasn’t sure I could move that way and end up any better off. Then a bunch of stars aligned.
Microsoft came out with a stable (enterprise-level) version of Windows 7. HP started to aim its marketing for its workstations at photographers. A few of my employees were devoted Windows fans. These things led me to give Windows a try. I got a fully-loaded HP EliteBook 8770w Mobile Workstation, a fully-loaded HP Z1 (sort of like an iMac form factor) and a separate HP DreamColor display. I asked HP to build me the computers with just the clean OS and no bloatware. They complied. This is an expensive set of computers to be sure, but not much different than the same set of Macs. The one difference that WAS immediately noticeable was speed. It’s one of my favorite words – SPEED! These babies are F A S T!
No more spinning beach balls. No more two hour rendering times. Just blistering, incredible, pop-your-top-off speed. What I am talking about is watching Lightroom previews render in about half to three-quarters of the time they were on my new iMac. My iMac is no slow computer. It has every option Apple sells and is fully loaded with Apple RAM and their fastest processor, GPU and HD combo. When comparing the two, it’s not even close. There’s no need to buy one of those fancy benchmark programs. You can see it with your naked eye. It’s just plain fast.
One of the reasons the HP is so much faster is the graphics card. Much of the photo software we use today runs on the GPU not the CPU so a beefy graphics card is essential. Unfortunately, Apple’s architecture leaves it unable to compete. They can’t offer the latest, greatest, fastest graphics cards. This is a major factor in my decision to switch.
On the OS side; Windows 7 is stable. No blue screens. No crashes. Everything just works. I admit to being totally lost in the Windows interface but it isn’t as big a problem as I thought it would be because I spend 90% of my time using Adobe products on that computer. And once you’re inside the Adobe eco-system, you see the same things you see on the Mac. There are a few keyboard changes but that’s it. I also now get to use the most advanced version of Office. While I have always enjoyed Pages, etc., when you’re working in a business environment everyone else is using Word. So it just makes everything easier.
As I considered this switch some other things aligned for me. Adobe came out with Creative Cloud. Yes I know some of you hate it. But here is an example of why it’s such a great deal for me personally and anyone else who finds themselves in my position. Had I switched two years ago to Windows, it would have meant buying all new software for the Windows machinethousands of dollars down the drain. Since I am a CC user, I simply de-authorized my Mac and re-authorized the Windows machine and POOF! There it is. The Adobe software now lives on the HP Z1 and all is well.
The DreamColor display is hands down the most accurate and useable display for photography I’ve ever tested. It comes with calibration tools built for HP by x-Rite and it just works. My monitor is calibrated and oh yeah, it tilts so I can look at vertical photos vertically. It’s mind-blowing. I know there have been monitors around that do this for a while, but this is the first one I’ve owned that does.
I did have to make a few concessions. I am used to the Apple keyboard and mouse so I substituted those for the HP products (nothing personal HP I’m just too used to the others to switch.) I have had zero fault/failures in the HP gear in the six months I’ve owned it. It’s been reliable and did I mention fast?
When I got the Microsoft Office version of Creative Cloud (an incredible bargain in my opinion) I was able to install it on five machines. And you know what? It works. Skydrive works better than iCloud. I was so impressed I took even more steps into the Microsoft eco-system. And you might want to sit down, because this may shock you. I bought an HTC Windows phone and a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. And I love both of them. I use both of them. The tablet has a USB port. Imagine that!!!
I am sure some of you are reading this thinking, “I can’t believe Scott just did that.” Believe me I am right there with you. But what’s the point of hanging onto something that isn’t working for you just because of brand loyalty? Apple is a huge company that won’t miss me. So I won’t miss them. And as I said above, the change is not 100%.
I still have so many Aperture libraries that it will take me at least another year or two to migrate all my Aperture files into Lightroom on the HP workstation. For that I am keeping my last iMac. And while I love the HP laptop, it’s too heavy for some of the trips I take. So I am (for now) keeping one MacBook Air. HP has shown the press some new lighter, more MacBook Air – like laptops that will ship sometime later this year presumably. When they do ship I’ll dump the remaining MacBook Air.
As for the tablet and phone? I still need one iPhone because there are certain apps that don’t run on the Windows phone and that I need for my business. Likewise, I kept my old iPad 2 for the same reason. But I don’t carry either regularly. I own the iPhone but have it with me less than 20% of the time. I use the HTC Windows phone as my primary cell phone now. Likewise the Surface Pro. Which brings me to the next change. Both these devices run Windows 8. I heard many horror stories about Windows 8. But based on the HTC phone and the Surface Pro I can’t see a problem. In fact, it makes each more Apple-like. I love the interface. It’s designed for people like me who just want stuff to work. I know the cool kids want stuff they can program. But guess whatI’ve never been cool and never will be. And I used to program. For years was a big geek myself. I can stand with the best of you as long as we’re talking BASIC, 6502 Assembler, Fortran, RPG, Pascal. Yes they are old and so am I. I now hire geeks. I no longer have to be one. So when I’m at my desk I want simple interfaces that disappear and leave me doing the productive things I want to do. Windows 8 seems to be geared that way so when I get my upgraded HP machines I am going to install Windows 8 on them. I am even more excited to do this because I have seen info on Windows 8.1 which looks like a nice upgrade.
At the end of the day, I’ve managed to stay competitive and relevant (even though I am older than almost everyone reading this post) because I made the decision to never tie myself to one set of vendors, products or services if they weren’t productive. Whether it was the switch from using a typewriter to a dedicated word processor to a personal computer, the switch from chemical printing to digital printing, the switch from film to digital cameras, and now the switch from Apple/Mac to Microsoft Windows, I have lived my personal and professional life based on the great Wayne Douglas Gretzky quote”I don’t skate where the puck is – I skate where it’s going to be.”
I’ll use this current set of tools until I die or something comes along that’s better – whichever comes first. I have taken a bunch of flack (what else is new?) over the change from the Mac fanboys. I’m okay with that. I understand. Nobody is more sorry than I am about the changes at Apple. If I were still a shareholder, I’d probably applaud them. As a user, I feel like I’ve been left behind. So I switched and am very happy with the results. You can now all go down and get the free ice cubes they are offering in Hell.