Macintosh vs. Windows 95

I ran across this memo on my hard drive at work. It was written in late 1996, when Windows 95 was making serious inroads by claiming to be “almost as good as the Mac.” This was not a good time for Apple: Between authorized Mac clones dividing the Mac OS market and Win 95 siphoning off business users, Apple was about to earn the label “beleagueared”.

I share this as an interesting bit of Mac history. My favorite part is Stewart Alsop stating, “Windows is good enough, but just barely.”

Some things never change.



To: Company managers
From: Dan Knight
Date: September 6, 1996
Re: Macintosh vs. Windows 95

The September 5, 1996 issue of The Wall Street Journal had an article emphasizing the corporate switch from Macintosh to the Wintel standard. They did not interview anyone who was sticking with the Macintosh or switching to it, which would have led to more balanced reporting. The article is obviously written with an anti-Mac bias, demonstrated by listing corporations reviewing the status of the Mac with those that have abandoned it. Some very large companies, such as FedEx, are still big Macintosh users.

The article contends that Macintosh is no longer state of the art, which is simply not true. Apple is the primary user of the PowerPC family of microprocessors, which consistently outperforms the Pentium and Pentium Pro from Intel. The Mac OS is tightly coupled to the computer itself, allowing a Mac to automatically recognize a new hard drive or see an inserted floppy disk, things the loosely coupled Intel/Windows world cannot do, since Windows is only a pretty face hiding DOS from the user.

The Journal article points to Stewart Alsop of InfoWorld as a bright example of one Mac user who successfully made the switch. After using Macintosh since 1984, Alsop switched to Windows 95 in July. He has progressively shared his conversion with his readers, as documented in the attached articles. He went from saying, “…I am giving up some things . . . but the plain truth is that I am also getting quite a lot from my transition for giving up what amounts to very little” (July 8, 1996), to “It’s good enough” (July 22), to “Windows is good enough, but just barely.”

Alsop discovered that he has given up more than he bargained for, as documented in these columns. The first shows the “new toy” syndrome: This is as good as my old one, no matter what you say. The second and third columns show a more realistic approach to Windows 95 – but The Wall Street Journal completely ignored these more recent columns.

The only way Windows 95 works is to buy a brand new computer completely set up for your specific needs. Adding a drive, modem, network card, different monitor, memory, and even software is playing Russian roulette with your system. I’ve heard too many horror stories (Jerry Pournelle tells them very well in Byte magazine) about Wintel users making a simple change to their system, then investing hours or days to make everything that had worked before work again.

Or, if you really need a reliable Windows 95 platform, there’s always the add-in card for the Macintosh. Users claim it is easier to work with and more reliable than free standing Windows computers.

Any change from one computer platform to another is a nightmare, as noted in some of the attached articles from the EvangeList mailing list. In the long run, it is far more expensive to run a Windows network – if only because the number of IT employees increases five-fold.

The Macintosh is working very well for all of us. I’m grateful there is no compelling reason for us to look into the chaotic world of Wintel computing, with several different versions of the operating system (Windows 3.1, 95, and NT), multiple chip manufacturers and families (Intel 386, 486, Pentium, Pentium Pro; Cyrix; IBM; and others), and hardware incompatibilities among the multitude of clone makers.

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