Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Mac vs PC Late 2019

Apple’s latest Mac notebook, the Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro, seems to be doing many things right. It’s good enough to be even winning back some ex-Mac users who have turned to Windows. Is Apple’s Mac finally coming around?

Apple makes great hardware. The MacBook Air which Steve Jobs unveiled in 2008 was absolutely stunning. The last couple of years, however, Apple seems to have lost their way. Mac sales have clearly taken a hit. According to the most recent Gartner report on worldwide PC shipments, Mac shipments in Q3 2019 declined year-on-year by 3.7%, amid an overall global growth of 1.1%.

In their pursuit for ever thinner notebooks, Apple introduced new butterfly switches in their keyboards with the 12-inch MacBook in 2015. These switches have been a source of much troubles for many users, but Apple continued to use variations of them until 2019. I had to replace my keyboard twice.

Their Touch Bar is also of questionable utility. It still exists today, but Apple has at least recognised that users prefer typing on real keys. The new 16-inch MacBook Pro reinstated a real physical Escape key. It’s only one key, but it’s a start, I suppose..

That new 16-inch MacBook Pro also brought back the old scissor switches, to much delight of many users. For these and other simple reasons, such as thinner bezels and that sort of things, this 16-inch MacBook Pro has become quite well-liked.

The very professionally-targeted Mac Pro seems to be doing a great job too. It’s not something for regular consumers. It is, however, more proof that Apple is listening and finally doing something that users want.

In the last couple of years, Apple lost quite a few hard-core users, i.e., users who had invested a lot of time (and maybe more in other ways) on the Mac platform, but whom have given up and switched to a Windows notebook. I’m one of them.

However, in the last month or so, it seems some of these defectors are switching back, or at least giving some serious thoughts about it, to return to a Mac, notably for that 16-inch MacBook Pro.

So the question I have is whether the Mac is getting back some of its lost fans.

As you can imagine, the Mac and PC are different enough that switching platforms isn’t something that happens on a whim, not even after some casual thought. These kind of switch would very likely involve tough decisions after lots of exploration, research, and deep-thinking.

Is the new 16-inch MacBook Pro really that good? Or is there something wrong with PCs that are pushing users to jump ship? I think neither.

I switched to a PC for a couple of reasons:

  • Office software. I’m quite certain that office applications just work better on a PC. My work environment revolves around Windows. Everyone uses Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, Skype for Business, and all sorts of Windows software. There are no doubt Mac versions of all of these, though not all the software that I need, but they almost always work better in Windows. Skype for Business in macOS, for example, is a joke. Of course, if your work environment revolves around Mac, then your situation will be different.
  • Touch and pen support. Unbelievable, but to date, macOS still does not support touch and pen. It seems Apple is quite determined that touch and pen support should be features limited to the iPad. Meanwhile, I need a desktop-class operating system, and on that, I the have occasional need to annotate with a stylus. It may be occasional, but in those instances, using a stylus would have been so much more productive.

Those were the initial reasons. Along the way, I started to enjoy many things about PCs. Like, for example, that there were so many choices in software, hardware, and accessories. While I once always had to look out for “Mac compatibility”, living with PCs was much simpler. I’ve to admit, however, that at one point, it was precisely that the PCs had more choices that was a bit of a problem. The issue wasn’t with having choices per se, but that there were too many choices, and that they were mostly all bad options I had to choose from. With Macs, there’s usually only one go-to option for anything, and it’ll be a good one.

More choices also mean that prices are generally more competitive. PC hardware is generally cheaper than Mac equivalent. The argument for Mac used to be that they include the operating system and a bunch of built-in applications. Windows 10 is pretty much free nowadays, and most people really do need Microsoft Office anyway, rather than Apple’s office suite, and if not, they would probably use Google’s office suite. Photos? Maybe Google Photos? My point, though, is that after you consider your total cost of ownership, these days, the PC is really more value-for-money.

You’ll also find that 3rd party software and hardware accessories, generally, have better first-class support for Windows than for Mac. The PC was much easier to live with. When I used a Mac, I had to constantly work with software and hardware accessories where Mac support was mostly an afterthought. Or, I had to look out for those that were specifically designed for Mac (and which will likely command a premium price).

None of those are directly Mac problems per se. Just on the Mac vs PC hardware level itself, my main gripe is that the Mac hardware hasn’t made much progress. Apple probably thought the Touch Bar would be revolutionary, but it wasn’t. ASUS took that Touch Bar to a whole new level, bringing two legit dual-screens to the ZenBook Pro Duo and ZenBook Duo notebooks.

PC manufacturers have innovated with many new form factors and hardware designs. Some have really excellent build quality and premium finishes too. Microsoft, for example, has led with many fine examples from their various line up of Surface devices.

The Mac may have a certain distinguished look and feel, but I think PC devices are fast catching up, if not already caught up, in that department.

I think the biggest missed opportunity for Apple is recognising that there is a market for two-in-one convertibles. Users want a flexible desktop-class operating system, not a souped up tablet platform. Apple’s prowess in designing the best user experiences could have produced an absolutely amazing two-in-one convertible macOS device. However, they seem more interested in ensuring that the Mac won’t cannibalise their iPad sales. As a result, Apple left a gap in their hardware line-up that PC manufacturers are now thriving in.

The latest 16-inch MacBook Pro may be quite cool, but it should have been something that launched in 2017, if not taking the place of the fourth-generation MacBook Pro launched in 2016. It’s overdue, and, unfortunately, still hasn’t brought about any revolution in the Mac hardware. It won’t do much to the Mac vs PC battle.

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