So here I am trying to figure out whether or not I want to buy a MacBook Pro. I'm certainly not going to order one for a few months, but I am starting to think about my next laptop as my PowerBook approaches two years of age. After all I'm down to one memory slot at this point with the recent failure of my bottom memory slot. The real question in my mind now that I'm working in a company that is essentially Windows with a couple of Mac users and a similar number of Linux users sprinkled around is whether or not a Mac laptop is worth the extra hassle.
Now it's easy to say that everything is seamless. I have no problem with our Samba file server. It's true that all the platforms can work together without any problems if you really work at it. It works that way in my basement office because I went to a lot of trouble to figure out how to do it.
Now I'm in a different environment and many things work great. Printing isn't one of them, and there is no one who has the mission to make my Mac work seamlessly. We have a Dell 1600N printer which shows up as a Xerox Bonjour printer on my Mac which also seems to have the right drivers. Yet when I print to the 1600N the Mac always thinks the printer isn't working. I can rotate 30 degrees and use my Dell Laptop to print to the same printer without any problems.
There are some other things that I need to factor into my consideration. Once in a while there is something a little odd on a spreadsheet, perhaps just the background color on a cell I want someone to fill out, nothing big, just something irritating. Also for our fast transaction based business, I'm considering moving the sales people from Salesforce.com to ACT! Salesforce is web based but we're experiencing some terrible problems with Salesforce availability, and we use only a small subset of Salesforce's features so the ACT! client based solution might be better and cheaper for us. The problem is that it only runs on Windows machines.
The other software that I use is pretty simple and available on both platforms. MS Office, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, the Firefox browser, and Filemaker Pro are the products I rely on these days. Right now some of these packages will likely run on the Windows platform a little better until developers get everything ported to Intel for the Mac.
Then there's is the big important feature for small businesses, price. Right now the Sony VAIO® FE590PB Notebook is significantly less expensive than the MacBook Pro. To start with the Sony comes with a gig of ram while the MacBook Pro comes only with 512 megs which borders on ridiculous these days. When my current Powerbook had to live on that little memory while I was waiting for a 1 gig dimm, it was not a very fun system. The Sony also comes with a 100 gig drive, and you can order a dock for it. The MacBook Pro has a little better screen resolution but the Sony has the XBRITE-HiColor™ Technology. The MacBook Pro is a little lighter, but the Sony has three USB 2.0 ports compared to two on the Mac. The Sony comes with on site repair, and the MacBook Pro has Apple's standard PowerBook depot service. The Apple specifications are impressive but so are the Sony's. They both are also very nice looking systems.
When you add memory and hard drive size to make the systems relatively similar along with a modem which I still use a couple times a year in strange spots like the Outer Banks, the MacBook Pro ends up being priced at $2,348. The Sony's price is $1,899. So the price differential is $449 for buying a Mac. Put in other words, the Mac is 23.6% more expensive than the Sony.
I would have to buy a $69 subscription for Virus protection for the Sony, but you may have to start doing that for the Mac. I'm not sure how the OS "upgrade" prices would factor into the equation. I haven't lived long enough in the Windows world to comment intelligently on that. You could probably give the Mac an edge on software, but until I have used the Sony software suite, I'm not willing to concede that point, especially based on my needs.
Of course the biggest problem for the Sony is that it isn't running OS X. However, given the software and printing challenges, it might make more sense for me to move to the Sony especially given what may be a long and protracted schedule for making my favorite software Mac Intel native. I remember how long it took the last time around. Even then I'll still be missing ACT! and hoping someone figures a way for it to run on a Mac. Some of the website analytic software I'm considering for the company also only seems to come in Windows versions, and then I already went to a small business version of Quicken that only runs on Windows. There are ways around all of those challenges (like carrying a second laptop) but do they make my life even more complicated?
I am disappointed that Apple seems to once again have made the decision to take its loyal customers to the cleaners on price. It's just going to reinforce all the subtle price comments that I've heard since joining a basically Windows world. My favorite is "Not all of us can afford to run a Mac." I've given up pointing out the obvious that iMacs are pretty competitively priced.
As to Apple software included with the MacBook Pro, the only item in the iLife suite that I really use is iPhoto with iDVD and iMovie distant second and third place apps. I like Keynote and what it can do, but it's really an app that I won't die without or pay extra for consider I end up with Page which I don't use. I'm convinced that the replacements for the iLife suite in the Windows world aren't so bad these days. They've come a long way. For my one or two iMovies a year, there will still be a desktop Mac at home. Also as is usual these days, most new interesting technology comes out first for Windows machines. A good example of this is the new Photomatix HDR photo product which is already shipping for Windows.
I would be very interested in hearing pro and con arguments on the Sony and MacBook Pro products. I'm certainly on the fence right now. Of course it will be interesting to see both products reviewed by the same person. I'll be glad to volunteer.
I'm just not certain that I'm willing to pay that much extra to be a Mac user. Even with the unknown cost, challenges, and potential benefits of Vista on the distant horizon, it doesn't necessarily make the Mac a better choice. The little challenges in being a Mac user in the almost all Windows business world just make it that much easier to finally give up and buy that Sony and all those Windows versions of my favorite software and be done with it. Carrying two laptops to work each morning isn't a very exciting long term prospect.
Of course if I bought the Sony, I wouldn't get to agonize over the decision whether or not to stay a Mac user every two years.