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Why Good Enough Isn't
Truth about Windows

By: Steve Kayner
Associate Information Systems Analyst
Some Obscure Government Agency

A common phrase heard from those who buy Windows-based computers is that they are "good enough for the average person."

I have to agree that with enough time and effort, you can get a Windows computer to do most anything that can be done on a Mac. I know this because even though I am now a Mac user, I have considerable experience with Windows-based PC's. My first computer was a Gateway 2000. I was doing DOS and editing .INI files with the best of them.

Then in 1991, some Macs arrived at work. Within a week, I knew that these new computers were much better than "good enough." Money was tight, but I started plotting to get a Mac of my own.

Now, seven Macs later, the urge to do Windows has been purged from my life completely. I still have a PC and still use one when no Mac is available, but it's never by choice. Whenever possible, I choose the excellence of Macintosh.

Which brings me back to this business of Windows being good enough for the average person. If all you strive for is "average", then Windows probably is good enough. But what if you are doing something on the computer at which you wish to excel? Can good enough ever produce excellence?

Can two mutts ever produce a purebred collie? Probably not in this lifetime.

The Mac is Different

Apple is running an ad campaign called "Think Different" in which they associate the Apple brand with famous people who have demonstrated excellence in various fields.

One of the criticisms of the Think Different campaign is that many of those famous people died long ago and never used a Mac. The point of the campaign is not that they used a Mac, but that they would not have settled for "good enough". Good enough won't earn you the Nobel Peace Prize. Good enough doesn't win you an Oscar. Good enough isn't good enough when you've chosen to excel.

Even Microsoft now knows this. In 1995, they used some shortcuts to convert the Windows version of their MS Office software suite to the Mac, thinking that it would be good enough for Mac users. The result was rejected by the Mac community because it was slow, crashy and ugly.

Microsoft acknowledged this failure by putting together a large team of real Mac programmers for the next version. The result is a vastly improved Office 98 for Mac. And while there is still room for improvement, Mac users have embraced this new version. It has those elements of excellence that Windows users might enjoy in a distant future version.

A PC user may protest that they only use their computer for word processing and web surfing, so they don't need excellence in their computer and are willing to make do with something cheaper.

OK, let's look at another limited purpose tool: the screwdriver. You could buy a cheap screwdriver that will work reasonably well, but for a few dollars more you'll get one made of better steel, with a stronger tip and a better handle. It will be less likely to bend out of shape, less likely to strip out the head of a screw, and less likely to break in your hand, or slip out and cause injury.

Sure, you could buy several cheap screwdrivers for the price of one good one, but why bother? More trips to the store, more damaged screws, and perhaps even injury from the cheap model will end up costing more in the long run. It's the same with computers. No matter how many cheap PC's you buy, they always cost more in the long run.

There are plenty of examples of more expensive products whose only advantage is name brand. Name brand aspirin, for example, costs more than generic aspirin, but they are exactly the same. In computers, it's different. Generic Windows computers (any brand) are sometimes cheaper than Macs, yet there are real differences between the products that go well beyond marketing.

Microsoft has improved Windows over the years, but Apple remains several steps ahead in both hardware and software with the Mac. Three years after Windows 95, Windows 98 doesn't add much in the way of user-friendliness. It's still the same kludgy, inconsistent Windows 95 interface.

In the meantime, Apple has released numerous upgrades to Mac OS, including 7.5, 7.6, 8.0, 8.1 and 8.5 expected in Sept. '98. All of them are tightly integrated with the Apple hardware in ways that Microsoft can't even approach with the thousands of Windows clone-makers. And next year, Mac OS X (ten) puts the excellent Mac interface on an underlying operating system that is better than Windows NT, which is the best Microsoft has been able to muster.


In short, buying a Windows computer that's only considered "good enough" is selling yourself short. It's not good enough for students. It's not good enough for home users. It's not good enough for business. It's not even good enough for government work. Good enough is ultimately only good enough for those who actively resist excellence -- those whose upper limit is "average."

I've tried to be subtle in explaining the difference between good enough and excellent computers, without going into the technical details. Allow me to be blunt about it: Quit wasting your time and effort on Windows PC's. Get a Mac and give yourself the opportunity to excel.

Created: 07/06/98
Updated: 11/09/02

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