May 22, 2009

Personal Heresy: What OS You Use Is No Longer Critical

Last September, when Google's Chrome Web browser was first introduced, I told you how I spent the day on Windows, just to use it. While Google is making headway in bringing their Web browser to the Mac platform, or so I've been told, it just hasn't happened yet. In the interim, Apple introduced Safari 4 Beta with many of Chrome's much-awaited features, and Safari has remained my browser of choice, as I tend to find Firefox too slow and too bloated, especially as extensions are added.

Today, I came across an article by Rick Klau, who works at Blogger for Google, saying how he was using Chrome on his Mac, also through VMware, but most importantly to me, as a result of Microsoft's new Windows 7 evaluation program, which lets you gain access to the operating system for free for a year. With my nose in the air, I've watched from my Mac laptop the struggle Microsoft has had with Vista, and how users are begging for Windows 7 to arrive. I've seen Steven Hodson and others talk excitedly about what's planned from Redmond, and largely, I haven't cared. I didn't think it applied to me.

But think of what Rick told us. Any Mac OS X user who has VMware Fusion (or Parallels, I assume), can get access to Windows 7 today, just by downloading the 32-bit version of the .ISO file from Microsoft and getting started. No CDs. No hassles. Just an evaluation key, and letting VMware do the work. The geek in me overruled my Mac bigotry today, so guess what? I'm writing this post in Chrome on Windows 7 in VMware on Mac OS X. It just works.

What? Windows 7 installing on my Mac?

Windows 7? Mac OS X? Does It Matter Any More?

So - back to the focus of the post. For the better part of two decades, I have ranted and raved that Macs are superior, whether it be for the hardware or the OS. The Mac vs. PC commercials on TV are very amusing and help cement the belief I've got a better product. I can largely ignore malware, and know I can get a consistent experience from Mac to Mac for the most part.

Logged Into Windows 7 And Checking the Computer

Sharing My Desktop Between Both Mac and Windows

But I'm starting to think more and more that it really doesn't matter any more. I won't be ranting about the cloud and saying all software is dead, but within an hour, I've got my Web browser set up to all the bookmarks and social services I constantly use. I have iTunes in VMware on Windows 7 seeing all my music from the Mac. I have an FTP client I can use to post to the blog. Practically all I really need the Mac for is the Adobe Photoshop family, Microsoft Office and the comfort of knowing my e-mail is saved locally as well as through MobileMe.

A Typical, Active Web Session, But On Chrome and Windows 7
(Click for a larger image)

I don't feel I need to go feature by feature of Windows 7 and see if it has all the bells and whistles that Mac OS X does. Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. But with very few exceptions, I could switch to Windows in this environment, and not lose too much sleep - something that would be made even more possible were I to push all my mail to GMail and take my word processing to Google Docs, for example.

Also in September of 2008, I speculated that the new world of browser choices is all about the hooks, especially from each company's mobile platform. The iPhone loves Safari, as you know. But Safari is also available on Windows, and the iPhone can be synced on iTunes on my Windows 7 partition. Hmm.

The line between what is an Operating System, and what is a Web browser, is getting increasingly blurry. And the traditional benefits of the Mac that always had me red in the face and starving of oxygen when trying to convert non-believers are going away. Maybe that's why I stopped caring about Apple rumors, as I told you last week.

If I do run into somebody willing to listen about what operating system they should choose, I can without hesitation say the Mac, because it's still what I know best, and I have had such a good track record with Apple. But Windows 7, so far, is good enough for most people, provided they can avoid bugs, malware and other irregularities.

So you tell me, am I out of my mind, or finally seeing the light?