Why I won’t buy an Intel Mac (yet)

Bi PlaneA farmer and his wife visited the fair each year. One of the attractions was a pilot who would give passengers a short ride in his bi-plane for five dollars. The farmer wanted to ride the plane, but every year his wife would say, “five dollars is five dollars”. After 7 years, the pilot offered the farmer a deal. He said, “If you and your wife can go the entire ride without making a sound I’ll give the the ride for free.” The farmer and his wife were delighted with this offer and climbed aboard.

The pilot took them on tight turns, barrel rolls, and loops, but the farmer and his wife never made a peep. When they landed the pilot said, “I can’t believe it, neither of you made a sound, so the ride was one me.” The farmer said, “It wasn’t easy! I almost said something when my wife fell out, but five dollars is five dollars.”

Intel Logo

I’m getting ready to buy another OS X based machine so I was very interested in the new Intel based Macs. For me it is a business decision. If the new computer can provide something allows me to work more quickly I’m very interested. If not, “five dollars is five dollars”. After looking closely I’ve decided that my next Mac will not be an Intel based machine. Buying the Intel machine just doesn’t make good business sense for me. Here is why:

First, my computer is directly tied to my income. If my computer goes down, I lose the ability to make money, so uptime is very important to me. This means I have to be able to be up and running in short order if my laptop is stolen, broken, or sent back to Apple for repairs. Currently the way I protect myself from these types of issues is by imaging my machine to an external hard drive. If my machine becomes unusable, I can simply boot up my Mac Mini or Strawberry G3 and be up and running with all my applications and files just like I had on my 17 inch Powerbook. If I’m traveling and my Mac needs repair (but isn’t completely broken) borrowing or buying an external hard drive lets me back up my machine and use it on any of my friend’s or family’s OS X based PPC machines.

If I were to buy an Intel based Macintosh I would lose this capability. I could back up my drive in the same way, but it wouldn’t boot on any of my existing machines. There aren’t any old Intel based machines just laying around that I can beg or borrow if I need to keep up and running if my primary laptop goes down. This may not be a big deal to someone who only uses their computer for sending email and browsing the web, but for a business user uptime is very important.

Second, the MacBook Pro hasn’t been out long enough to know if there are any problems with it. For play, I like to be bleeding edge. For work, it isn’t worth the risk. Last time I checked the space shuttle was still using 486 Thinkpads because they were proven. I not quite that extreme, but the same principle applies. The risk of a new unproven computer is too great for what I do.

Third, one of the biggest benefits of an Intel based Macintosh would be to run Windows. Some people don’t understand why anyone would want to run Windows on a Mac, but when you get emailed a Viso document, need to create a Windows based installer for clients, want to use Quickbooks, or run many other programs that are currently only available on Windows, you need a machine that can run a Microsoft operating system. Until someone finds a way to install Windows on the MacBook Pro, it isn’t any more useful to me than one of the older PPC models.

Fourth, for my usage the raw speed of the computer isn’t incredibly important. Yes, I like having a fast computer, but when it really comes down to it waiting a few seconds to open an application doesn’t significantly impact my productivity as long as the application itself is responsive. If I was doing a lot of video editing or heavy Photoshop work, speed might be more important. Since most of my work is done in productivity applications, IDEs, or at the command line a slightly faster computer won’t help me get more work done.

Fifth, most of the applications I use will be running under Rosetta at first. Even if it works perfectly, this will negate most of the speed benefits of getting an Intel based machine. As vendors make universal binaries this will change, but many of the upgrades are going to be part of a version upgrade. I’m not expecting Microsoft to come out with univesal versions of Office for free. I’m guessing it will be part of the next version of Office. Since what I have works fine, I want to delay that purchase as long as possible.

Sixth, with the new MacBooks out people are more likely to sell their existing laptops for a good deal. Since the PPC line does everything i will probably need for the next 6 to 12 months, I can buy a computer at a discount from someone who is upgrading to a MacBook Pro. Since there there isn’t a real business reason for me to buy an Intel based machine, I’d rather leave the money in the bank. Later on when there is a business reason to upgrade to the Intel platform, I can sell the PPC machines without incurring too much of a loss.

Seventh, I have a lot invested in existing accessories. For example, I have 4 or 5 power supplies for my existing computers that will work with the PPC model laptops but not the MacBooks. I know that someday I’ll need to upgrade, but for now I want to leverage this investment as much as possible.

Eighth, Apple usually releases their high end product first and over the next 6 to 9 months fills in the less expensive models. Sometimes the lower end models quickly catch up with some of the specs of the first high end model. It wouldn’t surprise me if in 9 months there was an iBook replacement with the same speed as the current MacBook Pro, but $500 to $800 less expensive.
15 inch powerbookSo what will I buy? I haven’t completely decided yet. Apple is selling refurbished 15 inch G4s for $1500 and I can probably pickup an older style G4 Powerbook for $500 to $800 from individuals. Either way I get a computer that will meet my needs for the next 12 months without paying a premium for the latest and “greatest” computer available.

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One thought on “Why I won’t buy an Intel Mac (yet)

  1. Myself on the other hand stand on some sort of opposite side. I have liked Macs for a while, but find them a tad too expensive for my budget. What I like the best is OS-X, so I can hardly wait to put my hands on such OS and get it into my PC-Intel box… Inetresting times we’re living, looks like offer is broadening; Windows, OS-X, -nix systems….

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