Mac Metamorphosis

Supporting the Cause or Arrogance?

- 2000.05.01

I have been reading on many of the Macintosh oriented websites and magazines how people are removing all Microsoft software on their Mac. Some columnists boast about how they are very proud not to be running the "Evil Empire's" software.

The writers say that their Microsoft software crashes very often, and others say that they just don't like the way it feels. Then there are others who are doing it just because they have some illogical gripe with Microsoft.

Okay, so maybe Microsoft stole certain elements of the Macintosh operating system, but if you are that adamant about it, then you should not be using IBM software or hardware either. As certain recent movies, and other forms of media, forget - Windows was originally OS/2 and was OS/2 until version 1.3 (which is still in use in most ATM machines today). How about a boycott on all ATM machines because they may run OS/2? (I would ask you to boycott the Windows NT based ones, but they are always blue screened whenever I walk by them.)

It's just plain "brandism," as I call it. Like racism, I find a nice sized percentage of the Macintosh community shunting Microsoft products just because they come from Microsoft. Either that or they refuse to use them because they are afraid of being ridiculed by their peers.

Did anyone ever consider that this anti-Microsoft movement might be bad for Apple's image and sales? Think about for a minute. There are a lot of users who are just plain fed up with Windows, like myself, and are looking to move onto another platform, but they don't want to give up the programs they use on a day-to-day basis. Now with some of the online forums and magazines telling their readers not to use Microsoft products, what do you think a Windows defector, or new computer user for that matter, is going to think? New computer users want to use Microsoft Word and Excel. Why? Because all their friends, and coworkers do. (Really. Word and Excel have about 94% of the word processing and spreadsheet market. They dominate on both Windows and Macintosh.)

Okay, the magazines aren't saying, "Don't use Microsoft based products," but they are saying how they exterminated anything Microsoft. Let me tell you something - connected to my brand spanking new Power Mac G4 is a Microsoft Natural Keyboard and a Microsoft Intellimouse. I am using Internet Explorer 5, and I am typing this in Microsoft Word while looking at my expense report to Be in Excel. These are very well made products, in my opinion. Now let's see if I can sell you on some them and cast off some of this prejudice.

I find the Microsoft Natural keyboard very good to type on, and it helps me with my carpal tunnel syndrome, which I contracted a few years ago. I also appreciate that they kept the slim Enter/Return key, and didn't replace it with a big huge Enter key/tiny backspace key while moving the back slash (\) key to some insane location.

The Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer with the optical sensor is top notch. No more cleaning the inside of my mouse! I use the scroll wheel to browse everything from folders to web pages, and I have been using it for years now on my PCs. Compared to Apple's current "hockey puck" mouse, this thing is a real champion.

Microsoft Word is an excellent word processor for two reasons: its spell checker and its grammar checker. I am not very good at spelling, and definitely poor at grammar.* (I guess I should have paid more attention in school, rather than playing with my computers all the time.) Microsoft Word's spell checker is great because, not only does it correct simple words, but it even knows many company names that I may misspell. It also knows when an abbreviation is taking place, such as when I type 2.4 GB. So my benefit is that I don't have to add a new word to the dictionary every two seconds like some other programs I have used. It's not that I am against other word processors; I just like Word.

Microsoft Excel is a great spreadsheet because I am clueless about spreadsheets. Excel allows me to actually make and edit one with ease. It also ties into Word's dictionary, so I never have to worry about spelling errors. About the only thing I really need a spreadsheet for is expense reports. Everyone I know uses Excel, and I only need a spreadsheet program once a month.

Internet Explorer is a great browser, and I bet if you didn't know that it came from Microsoft, a lot of anti-Microsoft folk would be using it. The first web browser I ever used was Netscape, and I used it because there was nothing else out there at the time. When Internet Explorer 3 came out, I started using it, and I found it much better than Netscape 3. Okay, so Internet Explorer 4 Macintosh Edition was a little bloated, but 5 really kicks. I definitely can see why Low End Mac's publisher, Dan Knight, switched to it. It's fast, has a "light" feel to it, and runs oh so smooth. I hear from some Mac oriented websites that a lot of people are switching to IE 5.0 because the new Netscape browser is such a disaster. I haven't tried Netscape 6 yet; that's just what I hear.

In closing, don't be a brandist. Microsoft has grown up in the last few years, and it is a little bit less of a bully than it used to be.** They are not targeting Apple as the enemy because Linux is Microsoft's biggest enemy in the operating system/software arena. I doubt we will ever see Microsoft products on Linux, especially Internet Explorer. (Can you imagine how much of a terrifying experience it was for the Solaris team at Microsoft to port Internet Explorer to Unix?)

Apple is not Microsoft's enemy, so let's play nice in a peaceful unbiased technical playground.

* Don't look for spelling and grammar errors here. Dan Knight, the publisher of Low End Mac, edits everything before it's published.

** That's not quite what the Department of Justice found. dk

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