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The Windows User’s Dilemma: They Hear But Do Not See

Imagine if the world were turned upside down, and you were forced to use Windows everywhere, just as some of you are now at the office. Consider how things would be. You’d be forced, for example, to confront a “Wizard” to perform such basics as file sharing, or even configuring a printer.

Worse, malware would be commonplace. If you didn’t stay ahead of the curve with the latest and greatest security software, your PC could become a spam-bot just minutes after getting online. Over time, your computer would run slower and slower, even if you didn’t install any new, more powerful software to drag it down. Eventually, you’d just give up and buy a new model, only to go through the very same vicious circle.

But the manufacturers would love each and every dollar they earned from selling you new hardware. Maybe they should make those boxes obsolete every single year, so you’d replace them more often. What about a hidden self-destruct time bomb that would fry the logic board?

This is perhaps the Mac user’s worst nightmare. In the real world, of course, things aren’t so bad in the Windows environment, and things are far from perfect with Macs. Although there’s no central meeting point — at least not yet — the real differences aren’t as drastic as you might believe. In fact, I dare say that if you use the same applications on both platforms, you may feel just as productive, once you grow accustomed to the interface differences.

At the same time, however, if you face trouble all the time, you believe it’s normal. All PCs behave that way, and maybe those Mac and PC ads are just a load of hype. It’s just a couple of comic actors bantering and you shouldn’t take it seriously, any more than you are expected to believe that one detergent is better than another. Just fast-forward the TiVO past the ads, and get back to your favorite episode of “Desperate Housewives,” “24,” “Heroes,” or whatever show you prefer.

I even think back to some of the silly arguments I’ve heard from Windows users over the years as they make excuses for sticking with that platform. For example, the Mac is a plaything. You can play music and make home videos on it, but you need Windows to get “real work” done, as if creating documents in Microsoft Office for the Mac and editing TV shows and movies in Final Cut Pro isn’t real.

After all, work is hard. Using a computer shouldn’t be easy. You need to break a sweat, feel the burn, and all that stuff, to show that you have really accomplished something, even if it involves recreating the document that got trashed when your computer crashed on you because it was overcome by a virus.

But aren’t Mac’s virus-prone too? I mean, that’s what they tell us, and if it was all that safe, why is Apple releasing so many security updates these days?

Maybe I’m letting myself be lulled into a sense of security here. I mean, my vintage Power Mac G5 Quad was last restarted only 44 hours ago — as I write this — and my MacBook Pro hasn’t seen a restart in four days. That’s not a lot, right? I must be losing a whole lot of work time waiting for those restarts.

Oh right, the Power Mac was only restarted because I updated the drivers for my Microsoft (yes, Microsoft!) wireless keyboard and mouse. The previous restart was just to install that security update; ditto for the MacBook Pro.

Of course, you can tell the Windows user all this, but they will either ignore you or provide more excuses to explain why they won’t switch platforms. So what if you can find a few applications on a Mac where you can get work done, what about fonts? When you open a document on a Windows box, they look different. Doesn’t that prove that Macs are bad?

Yes, I actually heard that argument a few years ago, while I was over at a Kinkos having some business cards printed. This was after another customer, who claimed to be a Mac user, gave me the infamous “Macs aren’t business computers” complaint.

The other customer said she worked at a company that was having fits with fonts because of the differences. I gently reminded her that the problem wasn’t due to computing platform choices, but the need to use the same fonts, from the same vendor, on both. That way, you could be reasonably sure your documents would translate without any ill effects.

She looked at me as if I had just told her there was no Santa Claus. It was a stare and stunned silence, and then she picked up her cell phone to take a call and promptly forgot her dilemma. I suppose I could have shown her then and there what I was talking about, but they have to be willing to listen first. And therein lies the biggest problem of all!