Dude! I’m Getting a Mac!

Tower Above
Apple’s Flagship Manhattan Store

Well after many years as a PC user, in August of 2006 I pulled the plug and switched from a Dell laptop to a 15” MacBook Pro. For the last three years I’ve been using this MacBook Pro as my primary computer. I was really worried about switching over back in 2006, but actually it was a lot more painless than I thought it would be.

As it’s going on 3 years now, lately I’ve been thinking that it’s time to upgrade to my next primary computer. I have a desktop Dell machine at home that handles my Media Center stuff and I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not to buy another MacBook Pro or go back to a PC for my primary laptop. The PCs seem a little bit less expensive, but overall I’ve been happy with my MacBook Pro experience. And I think a lot of times you get what you pay for.

Today’s decision by Apple to reduce the prices on the MacBook Pro (the base model on the 17” is now $2,499) combined with an increase in the standard hard drive size from 320GB to 500GB and an increase in the processor upgrade option speed from 2.93GHz to 3.06GHz finally pushed me over the edge and I pulled the trigger. Supposedly it will take 5-7 business days to ship me my new Mac (I really hope it gets here before I go to L.A. a week from Friday) but at this point it is ordered and on it’s way. Dude! I’m getting a Mac!

Here is the configuration on the new MacBook Pro I ordered:

3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2X2GB
500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm
SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
MacBook Pro 17-inch Hi-Resolution Antiglare Widescreen Display
Backlit Keyboard (English) / User’s Guide
Accessory Kit

So in addition to today’s price decrease on the MacBook Pro, here are the other reasons that I upgraded today and why I went with a Mac over a PC for the second time around.

1. Bigger hard drive. The current hard drive on my existing Mac is 120GB. Especially with larger file sizes from the Canon 5D Mark 2 space is at a premium. I do have a 320GB USB powered external Maxtor drive that I travel with, but it will be nice having that extra disc space, especially when going out in the field for long photo trips, for storing my images. Also, given that Adobe Lightroom seems to like a lot of scratch disc space for photo processing, having this room on the drive is going to be very helpful. My drive on my current MacBook Pro is 5400 RPM, I ordered a 7200 RPM drive on the new MacBook Pro, so hopefully this will help with Lightroom’s performance as well.

2. Increased processor speed. I’m hopeful that I will get a significant performance boost out of Adobe Lightroom (my most important software) with the faster processor on the new MacBook Pro.

3. The antiglare screen rocks. Frequently I’m processing photos on BART or in a lighted room at home or work and the glare on my current MacBook Pro makes it very difficult. I went into the Apple store and checked out the antiglare screen in person vs. the standard display and for me at least the decision to upgrade to the antiglare screen made all the difference in the world. Check it out at the Apple Store sometime yourself in person.

4. The 17” display looks amazing. Even though it is only a little bit larger than a 15”, the 17” display felt significantly larger to me when checking it out in person. The 17” is still small enough as well that it fits comfortably into my LowePro camera backpack that I use daily. Having the extra space will make it easier for me to process photos on it. The 17” MacBook Pro is one sexy beast. I couldn’t stop petting it when I’ve visited it on recent stops off at the Apple store.

5. I’ve been very happy with the support I’ve received at the Apple Stores. My hard drive went out on my MacBook Pro just a week or so before it’s warranty ran out and Apple replaced it free no problem. They’ve also been very helpful with the iPhone issues that I’ve had. I’ve needed to replace the headphones and they’ve done this free for me twice and also helped me figure out that a piece of lint was inside my headphone jack a few months back when I could only hear sound coming out of one speaker on my iPhone. I like the genius bar approach where I can set an appt and have someone experienced help me and I *love* that even when I have to wait I have access to fantastic Mac machines with super large displays at the store that I can surf the internet on while I wait. The free wifi in the stores is a cool thing too.

Knowing that a physical Apple Store is there if I have problems with my computer is a big plus in my opinion, especially one with such good service that I’ve consistently received at both the Emeryville and San Francisco stores.

6. More and faster memory. I’m hopeful that the 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM that I’ll be getting will help improve performance over the slower 3GB (upgraded) memory in my current MacBook Pro today. It’s also nice knowing that I can upgrade this machine to 8 gigs when the price of the upgrade comes down a bit and that Snow Leopard should allow Lightroom to recognize all 8 GB of RAM.

7. It’s about time I got on Leopard. I never did upgrade my current Mac to Leopard. Apparently I’ll also be eligible for a $10 upgrade to Snow Leopard when it’s out on the new machine.

8. It’s about time I get my kids on a Mac full time. At home my kids use the two Dells that we have today. My old Dell laptop which is in the kitchen and the Media Center Dell in the attic. Even with these two other computers available though they are constantly jockeying for my Mac. Especially my older son Jackson (who is 8 now) seems to always want to be on it. He’s going to be thrilled to be able to have more access to my current Mac.

9. Longer battery time. Much to do has been made about the new and improved battery time with the new MacBook Pros. It will be nice having more battery time, especially because I use so many battery intensive programs like Lightroom. My biggest complaint about my current 15” MacBook Pro has been the battery life.

So there you have it. The new Mac is on it’s way. More to report when it actually shows up! I’m excited.

The Picture Quality on Apple’s new Apple TV is Not Good Enough for Me

The Outdoor Type

Yesterday I wrote a blog post entitled “10 Reasons Why the iDongle is Not for Me.” In the article I gave 10 reasons why I’m not crazy about Apple’s new Apple TV initiative.

The biggest thing for me is the picture quality of the TV that I want to watch.

The TV on my HDTV TiVo is just breathtaking so I’m kind of spoiled.

This morning I headed up to the Apple store to check out the picture quality for myself and was very disappointed. On the demo model that they had there (and I’m assuming as a demo at their store they are using the best possible TV and video content they can get) the TV picture quality was just not good enough for me. It’s not HDTV quality.

They were playing this “terra” channel thing as part of the demo and although it was “DiscoveryHD like” the picture quality is much worse. Maybe this picture quality is “good enough” for most people, but it’s not “good enough” for me when compared to the picture quality I get on my HDTV TiVo.

TV picture quality is a subjective thing of course, but I’d encourage anyone who is considering buying an Apple TV to first head down to an Apple store and see the picture quality in a best case scenario yourself and see if you think it’s good enough for you before plunking down $300 on this thing.

How to Turn Microsoft Around

Time, Walk, Step, TurnTime, Walk, Step, Turn Hosted on Zooomr

[Disclaimer: Arm chair quarterbacking is easy, execution is a heck of a lot harder]

John Furrier, CEO of Podtech, is out with a post saying that Microsoft needs new blood. He says that Bill Gates is off saving the world and that Steve Ballmer doesn’t seem hungry enough. He says that although he’s been a Windows user for many years that a Mac may be in his future very shortly. His post is in response to widely reported news yesterday that Microsoft’s top search executive, Christopher Payne, is leaving Microsoft.

I guess Payne leaving Microsoft doesn’t really surprise me. Microsoft continues to lose market share in search to Google. What is more surprising to me though is what seems like an almost daily slate of negative news on Microsoft. Yesterday I noted that influential analyst Michael Gartenberg was leaving Microsoft as an “enthusiastic evangelist” after less than a month (he says there is no story here but it’s still surprising to see this), also this week you had another “enthusiastic analyst” Stephanie Quilao leaving her post after 9 1/2 weeks. Stephanie was a bit more candid than Gartenberg blogging that there was no Microsoft product beyond a wireless mouse that she felt she could blog about.

Add to these recent defections Chris Pirillo’s post last week that he was going to “upgrade” back from Windows Vista to XP (not good when you are spending over $600 million to try and promote your new operating system).

More than all of this though is the informal anecdotal evidence I’ve been seeing of a shift from the Windows operating system to the Mac. I wrote about my own conversion last year. In the past few months I’ve been completely surprised at some of the names of people that have privately emailed me saying that they were switching as well. And then earlier this week over coffee with one of the top technology journalists in the world (no, not Walt Mossberg, but close up there) what did he pull out of his bag? A brand spanking new sleek black MacBook Pro less than a week old.

Now the numbers are not necessarily going to reflect this yet, but when your key influencers, bloggers, journalists, etc. begin abandoning Windows and moving to the Mac it’s like a wave and over time this wave can actually threaten Microsoft’s monopoly on the operating system. Look for Apple’s numbers to continue advancing here in the months ahead.

So the question becomes how should Microsoft turn this around?

1. The problem with the PC is the user experience. It’s not good. Especially when compared to a Mac the PC does not provide a good enough quality of experience. The main reason for this is the whole nature of how Macs vs. PCs are built and sold. The Windows operating system is an open system vs. Apple’s closed system on the Macintosh. What this means is that there is a near infinite number of hardware / software configurations for the PC.

Microsoft took a little heat earlier this year when they gave a bunch of bloggers free high end Ferrari PCs with Vista on them. Why did Microsoft give these bloggers these PCs instead of just mailing them free Vista upgrade discs? To ensure the quality of their experience. If they didn’t these same bloggers might have ended up having experiences like Chris Pirillo did and writing that Vista was crap.

They say a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and the same is true of computers. Apple has the luxury of being able to test limited and known configurations on their products. Combine this with an almost manic commitment to user experience and you get a better product.

Microsoft of course can’t just reverse course and piss off all of their OEMs and start building their own PC, but what they can do is create a Microsoft certification whereby thoroughly tested systems receive a special Microsoft seal of approval. This would be reserved only for PCs that met the most rigorous testing requirements. Microsoft should even offer to provide the actual customer service and support for these PCs (if they are built perfectly enough there won’t be many calls, eh?). These certified PCs *can* cost more money. People will pay a bit more for a better experience.

2. The problem with Live.com is that it lacks compelling content. Robert Scoble says that he told Microsoft to buy Flickr three weeks before Yahoo actually did. Flickr is compelling content. Flickr was one of the best buys of the decade. For $35 million Yahoo got something that now has over 7 million registered users, over 20 million monthly uniques, over 400 million photos (and the best organized photo library in the world), and something that is going to actually (eventually) provide Yahoo a big leg up in image search.

But there are so many other great companies out there still to buy (hint Yahoo, Google and IAC have been buying a lot of them). I don’t use live.com because I don’t give a crap about having a homepage that shows me the news and weather and stock quotes. Live.com *had* a lot of potential. Now it is pretty much dead.

Given the choice between building or buying Microsoft almost always chooses to build. And yet where is the Flickr of Microsoft? Where is the digg of Microsoft? Where is the Pandora or Last FM of Microsoft? Where is the upcoming.org or Involver of Microsoft? Where is the Podtech of Microsoft? Where is the Twitter of Microsoft? Where is the TechMeme of Microsoft? I don’t know if it is just too bureaucratic a place to build cool things that I want to use but they are not being built. These social networks have particular application in search that has not even been realized yet today.

Microsoft is sitting on $29 *billion* in cash and short-term investments. Rather than buying sleepy little companies, Microsoft needs to begin beefing up it’s arsenal with properties that people will actually use and love.

In the next year Microsoft should spend $3 billion buying everything cool that it can get it’s hands on irrespective of the busness outlooks of the individual internet properties. By combining these properties into something cool they *can* build a presence yet on the net.

3. Open an incubator in San Francisco. As part of spending $3 billion to buy a host of great internet properties the key thing is to let them run independently. What Microsoft should do is just create this kick ass campus in San Francisco. They should have a cafeteria like Google does and feed these people and encourage them to spe
nd 24 hours a day there. It could become a think tank of sorts producing some of the best stuff on the internet. Why San Francisco? Because this is where these things are being built these days.

4. Get their evangelism back on track. Scoble was a big loss for Microsoft. Gartenberg would have been an interesting choice to try and fill his shoes but now he’s gone as well. Microsoft needs to, in conjunction with the above efforts, get the right evangelists in place to then promote their new initiatives. Top bloggers, journalists, analysts, etc. should all be considered. Rather than one or two top evangelists though they should hire about 30 of these connectors and also give them direct access to the executives making the business decisions at Microsoft.

Fundamental to the four changes above is a realignment of how Microsoft views businesses. It means going from a structured corporate environment where each purchased company must have a compelling profit/loss case made to an environment where the vision of the future takes as compelling a seat as short term profitability. It also means adopting a new spirit that not only accepts but encourages and rewards self criticism. Less the company line and corporate mantra and more innovation. Roadblocks to innovation (including short term profitibilty) need to be removed. Processes need to be streamlined and Microsoft needs to redefine itself as a place where talent comes, not where talent leaves.

Honestly I’m not sure that any corporation can turn itself around the way that Microsoft needs to. Even Yahoo while acquiring the right internet properties still can’t seem to integrate them in the ways that they should. Like I said before arm chair quarterbacking is frequently a lot easier than executing.

You can digg this story here.