Switching from Windows to Apple: My experience: a UX war that isn’t

I did a lot of research and found good suggestions when I needed and it is time to pay back. It has been a few months since I walked into the Mac world, for everyday work and I am using a MacBook Pro. I have been a Windows user through and through ever since I joined the professional world in 1992. I have worked on literally ‘ancient’ systems like cyber-mainframes and programs like WordStar. I have seen all the versions of Windows evolving as a user and lived through the clichéd frustrations when people around me (designers and otherwise) were swearing by the Apple experience. As a designer and later as a business strategist, I professionally help organisations understand innovation and user-experience. I have read about erstwhile Nokia’s phenomenal work on user-interactions and have been part of their research teams a few times. However, I resisted turning to Apple’s ecosystem till one day, it just fell in place. Here is a pure USER review, completely agnostic to the ‘cults’.
Reason for sticking to Windows was more out of ecosystem concerns rather than personal preferences. In the early years I had seen fellow designers struggling with format clashes in files, hardware compatibility (i.e. simple thing like connecting to the projector and frantically searching for the converters) while sending the files from their Mac to the clients who invariably had Windows. Simple things like email, when sent from Mac to Windows platform earlier, had issues in readability. As we speak of this I can tell you that I have been using Mac in the ‘hybrid mode’- means, I have installed Microsoft Office 365 on it but have kept the OS intact (El Capitan). This provided me a smooth UX transition of the everyday programs that I use — Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. So apart from learning the basic ‘intuitive UI’ of Apple OS, I didn’t have to switch my mental model too much.
So a whole lot has been written about intuitive UI of Apple. No one really writes about the inertial push one needs to get into the ‘matrix’. Today a simple operation I am not able to get my hands on is AirDrop files from iPad to my Mac. Getting the hard-drive icon on the desktop was tough and got accomplished because I had assistance. And yes, did you know that Mac also hangs? How to kill a hung process….what is the counterpart to Control-X, Control-C and Control-V, How do I use FTP on Mac…. several small task shortcuts, that one needs on the fly, I had to learn (reliable and free FTP counterpart of CoreFTP, that I am used to, is still not found. I dislike paying for simple services like FTP app). It is only here I realized that things are INTUITIVE, if you KNOW them. If a engineer turned designer turned semi-pro-computer geek who can fix network IP clash issues and solve father’s computer problems remotely using TeamViewer, needs assistance in understanding the Mac’s famed intuitive interface, I am not sure what really must be called ‘intuitive’. Simply put, you are either within the ‘Matrix’ or you are not.
Given all this, what worked in my favor? I switched to Mac with a specific problem nagging me- hardware reliability. I had been an ardent fan of Sony Vaio laptops. My 11” T- series laptop was a beauty, though it cost a bomb (USD 2.3K, 7 years back). It was small, thin and handy laptop with 8 hour battery backup in the times when tablets were not in. It is still active, though it can not support latest windows version any longer. Sony, I could see, used to put much more user-thought in its products than any of its counter parts. A simple pen-drive from Sony would be better looking and better to use. But Sony slowly lost the business plot. My last laptop was Samsung as a replacement to the Vaio. It was a 13inch ultrabook (Samsung has stopped making laptops now). It cost me nearly USD 900 two years back and worked well. It was thin and mimicked the MacBook Air well. One gets mesmerised by the mammoth influence Apple has cast on global styling of computer and other products. One day, right after the warranty period was over suddenly the hinges gave way. Service center changed the entire LCD panel for 1/3rd the cost of a new laptop. A few months passed and the battery died. I spent more money only to know that now hard-drive has crashed. Samsung service center advised that I rather buy a new laptop, because parts are difficult to get and the company does not make it anymore. Remember, it is just 2.5 years, since I purchased it. I needed the reliability of Sony in my work-laptop. Buying Dell or Lenovo or Acer was an option but then too many confusing choices was unsettling. A colleague literally coaxed me to purchase the Mac citing the RELIABILITY it will offer purely as a hardware. Support in the buying decision also came from our in-house hardware engineer who managed to convince me about possibility of switching to Windows platform on Mac any time I wanted (dual-boot). Issues like if my back-up backup data on the external hard-drive from the previous laptop will be readable on Mac or not, were ultimately settled (Mac requires different formatting of the pen-drives for WRITING on them). So after all this, I must say that it has been now 3–4 months since then I have been using MacBook Pro.
What has been my experience with Mac so far? It is good. Battery is predictable and there is no noise of any kind when I work on it (hard-drive, keyboard etc. in other brands tend to have different eccentricities like noise). Keyboard and the touchpad are class apart. Apple has really worked and mastered these two elements. My initial question was will a regular mouse work with MacBook- to this my colleague told me that I may not need the mouse once I get hang of the MacBook touchpad. And yes, she was right.
Hinge did develop a strange squeaking noise for a few days which has now subsided. One of the advantage of coming to the Apple ecosystem is that even if a tiny squeak somewhere, there would be another user in the world, who had this issue. Secondly, unlike Windows and the other laptop makers’ world, where every year there is a new model and the user does not know what all continuity can be expected as a product, Apple stands apart. MacBook Pro was launched in 2012 and there have ben hardware and software updates to that. But neither the product styling nor the UX have changed. There is predictability in the user-experience. And THAT, makes it ‘intuitive’. Here is a deep insight and learning for other companies on what really bugs a USER, in the game of innovation. MacBook does not have any direct hot-air-vent at the bottom unlike other laptops, which makes it a better product for real ‘lap’ top working.
As far as Microsoft Office usage on Mac is concerned the equation is simple. The programs continue to crash on Mac OS as well, as they do infamously on their home OS of Windows. Now that Windows 10 is out, which I have installed on other laptops at home and office, difference in UX between Apple and Windows OS is reducing everyday. Microsoft’s Cortana is doing well and Siri is taking a clean beating from Google Now.
Overall, the intuitive UX currency Apple had earlier, appears severely diminishing to me as a user. Hardware reliability and solidity of construction is an important part of the Apple experience which remains hidden in most conversations. A switch, if someone wants to make, is easy and costly (Windows to Apple). My rating 7/10.

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