There was a day when you plugged a printer (or scanner) into a Mac, and everything just worked. That was back when Apple sold us printers. In those days, Windows printers were not very high on Apple users' lists.
The decision to not make printers probably gave us access to printers that we would never have had the chance to use. Depending on your experience that is either a good thing or a bad thing.
On balance I would rather have access to some of the more complex printers than be stuck with just Apple hardware. I say that even with the knowledge that buying some Windows centric printers is a little bit of a gamble.
There still is some magic left in the world of Apple printing. I am not sure I know how it happened, but I do know what transpired, and it is just one more thing that makes using Macs easier for most of us.
Over a year ago I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if the HP C6180 was the right printer for my mixed environment. In the end I had to make a leap of faith. Based on the number of visits to my posts on the printer, I am not alone. Even some Linux folks were interested.
Since I hated the HP software on both Windows and Macintosh, I finally ended up using the USB connection to my Mac desktop and VueScan for any scanning needs. I only used the C6180 for printing on my Windows machine which used Ethernet and a wireless network to connect to the printer as did my MacBook laptop.
What I found out was that when we would have a power outage (somewhat common while they were running some new hurricane proof lines here on the coast), I could not print from my Windows machines. I even had to reinstall the HP printer once on my new HP Vista Laptop.
While my son, my sometimes computer rescue net, was visiting over Christmas, I mentioned it to him. He quickly suggested that we give both of my main Ethernet printers static IP addresses. He figured out their current IP address and hit them with a web browser which allowed him to configure them.
He then set up my new Zonbu computer so that it would print correctly. Since I do most of printing except legal forms on the Macs, it was a few days before I checked my Windows printing and figured out that I had to tell my new Vista laptop the new static IP address of my printers.
The strange thing is that I did not have to tell my MacBook. It found the printers with no intervention on my part. That is a small thing, but if you are in a hurry to print a document and might have forgotten the IP address of a printer, it is a really big thing.
I rank it with installing software on the Mac which is so wonderfully straight forward compared to the Windows world.
I will always maintain (iPhone & iPod aside) that Apple's true genius when it comes to computers is software not hardware. Still I am not holding my breath for OS X on my HP laptop though it would be a real relief from some of the quirks of Vista.
While I appreciate the suggestion of trying a Vista pre-release service pack, I think I will pass on that.
Happy New Year to everyone.