As a technology user, brand loyalty is something that I don’t frequently indulge in. Primarily because it can be a pretty expensive choice in the long term. With the speed at which technology evolves, there is always some new player with the better, faster cheaper offering compared to established players. Old players that don’t adapt are frequently falling by the wayside and ones that we consider dead also manage to resurrect themselves. This is why my primary criteria (and surely yours) when I’m making buying decisions have been performance, flexibility, support and value.

Obviously, it’s not easy for any one brand to continue to meet these criteria for a product category over many years. Which is why I’ve used both Intel and AMD processors (about 50-50); ATI and Nvidia graphics (about the same); LG, Viewsonic and Samsung displays; Nokia, LG, Samsung and Sony-Ericsson phones; and with laptops it’s been IBM, Compaq, HP, Acer and now Dell.

The One Desktop Os
However, there is one computing product though, where I have displayed uncharacteristic loyalty (or inertia). And that’s my desktop operating system. I’ve been a Windows user for over 15 years, and that’s primarily because it’s delivered on the criteria I’ve mentioned above. Of course I’ve still tried out several other operating systems, which I thought could be an improvement, but I’ve never been convinced there was a better choice. Windows always scored better in the one parameter that I consider important beyond all the others – flexibility. Simply put it has provided a wider range of hardware support and software availability than any other operating system, and these two reasons have been at the core of my not wanting to make the switch to another operating system I’ve had a lot of interest in – Apple’s Mac OSX.

Recently however, I’ve begun to re-examine my loyalty to Windows – if you can call it that.

The KING of the OS'

The King of the Jungle

A Backdoor On The Mac?
My interest was initially piqued when Apple announced its shift to Intel hardware about five years ago. This opened up the intriguing possibility of building a Hackintosh (Apple lawsuits be damned). But at the time Windows still scored much higher in two critical areas – just no comparison on the software front (which means low fiddle-ability in my book) and also the huge personal adjustment I felt a single-click mouse would require. The latter issue may sound trivial, but when the user-interface is really embedded into your consciousness over more than a decade, it’s a real issue.

The recent release of Lion has made me think about my OS again – because a lot has changed in five years.

Apple’s New Era Of Flexibility
Thanks to the proliferation of the iPhone and the more recent iPad apps, the software availability on the Mac platform has also grown considerably. And thanks to Apple’s new approach to pricing and the Mac App Store, there’s more flexibility for fiddling potential, than I will ever have time for. The population of cross-platform software applications has also been steadily growing and OS X is a part of the party too. Windows, Linux and OS X support is becoming standard for many.

The hardware support for OS X is also improving steadily and the interest in Lion will mean that a new generation of community-written drivers for current hardware will soon become available. Manufacturers are also slowly getting used to the fact that they need to invest in driver development because their hardware needs to work with Apple computers, and not just Windows. The process of getting OS X installed on x86 hardware is also reasonably well documented though it can be made even easier.

But my most compelling reasons for shifting to OS X are now two-fold.

Firstly, I’m completely fed up of the number of updates and patches that Windows 7 now shoves down my throat (and broadband connection). I mean, it feels like there is an update nearly every second day on average. Don’t believe me? Just check your Windows Updates history.

The second reason is the cost of the operating system itself. There seems to be a new Windows edition out every couple of years now, at a price that really pinches and precious few improvements in features or performance. With yet another new version (Windows 8) due next year, there’s a lot to think about, especially since I have more than one computer to upgrade. At another Rs. 7,000 (at least) for each OS license the cost and the crazy perpetual update cycle that will follow isn’t worth it.

To the ‘looking to be disloyal’ there’s nothing more enticing than opportunity. And the recent arrival of Apple’s OS X Lion — for just US$69 (Retail USB thumb-drive) it’s half the price of even the base Windows Home Premium edition —provides a very tempting opportunity to switch over.

Change can be painful, but at some point it can become pretty much inevitable.

The World's Most Advanced Os?
Of course the Mac OS X operating system has always been out there, but the attractive pricing and Apple’s shift to Intel hardware has provided a unique opportunity to switch for WINtel users like me. The compelling features of Lion, the thought of minimal updates, easy networking and a more secure environment make it a really sweet option. And the fact that it can run reasonably comfortably and reliably on Core2Duo and newer Intel hardware means I can try it without fully going Mac. 

Looking deeper, with BSD at the core it’s as robust as UNIX, with Airport and Bonjour Apple’s made networking easier than on Windows, with the OS X GUI, it’s more intuitive than anything in the world today. But probably the most important change is that that as the Apple software universe has matured immensely and there’s now an incredible choice of built-in and 3rd party applications and other software available just a click or two away on iTunes and the Mac App Store.

Now Just Seems Like The Time
Sure, there are some worries – drivers, support, the single-click mouse and so on – but it seems much less painful that the alternative (Windows 8) which has a lot of baggage and overheads. I know Apple comes down hard on businesses building Apple clones, but there seems a fairly safe way forward for individual Hackintoshes in case you’re worried about this (I know you aren’t ;-). 

So I’ve resolved to exercise my first REAL choice in OS for years and try to shift to OS X Lion now (at just Rs. 3,000 or so) on home/media server system. And if all goes well, I’ll also make the move to Lion on my Desktop. Once that’s done I’m forgetting about Windows. And who knows, my next computer may even turn out to be a REAL Mac.

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