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Apple Strikes Back


A Bite of Nostaglia

The blood feud of the tech world is the Mac vs. the PC.

It's been decades of fear, loathing and nighttime attacks, duking it out over which computer does what better; but with Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) fortunes fading and Apple (AAPL - Get Report) on the rise, it may be time for this little nerd fight to take a cue from Belfast, Ireland: Getting along is now in everyone's interest.

Last week, I had the temerity, impudence and crudeness to recommend a mere PC -- in this case an Alienware m5550 laptop -- over a comparable Apple product.

From what I then heard from Apple fans, you'd have thought I was boiling children alive.

"Blatantly false," said one. "I was disappointed to see you hinge your entire article on an ill-informed shot at Apple Computers," growled another. "Please explain to me what limits in Apple software you are 'plagued' by," barked a third. And my favorite: "Your review comes across as biased and amateur."

Oh, I really love this job. You see, though I'm sure there are other people out there who've owned and used more Macs, I have yet to meet them.

I bought the original Apple II more than a quarter-century ago, and I've used the machines steadily ever since.

At Columbia University, in the 1980s, I used the first Mac and the first outboard 20-megabyte hard drive to run the early iterations of desktop computer-aided design tools.

I worked on the first generation of desktop Avid editing systems while at VH1 and MTV in the early '90s. I created award-winning programming using Adobe After-Effects video tools and Digidesign's ProTools audio software while I was at "ABC News." I hold TV ratings records with content made on Photoshop and Quark Xpress. I often spent 17 hours a day sitting in front of a Mac Quadra. In fact, I owned a Mac Quadra -- and the first outback portable Mac laptop.

And although I don't use a Mac at home now, the designers and some of the word shufflers in my shop do; we swear by them. The studio that produces my radio show uses Macs. And I will probably pull the trigger on a new MacPro sometime soon.

Given this history, I believe I can safely say I know what Macs do -- and what they don't do.

Pick of the Crop

Back in the day, Apples really were superior. After all, Apple Computer was the first to snag -- er, commercialize -- the elegant, noncommand-based, pull-down-menu concepts developed at the Xerox Palo Alto, Calif., Research Center in the late 1970s.

Sure, back then you grotesquely overpaid for a Mac, but it was worth it. While Windows and Unix machines were lucky to print a page, a few grand spent on an Apple and -- zap! -- you became a member of an elite club: The desktop publisher, movie maker, graphics shop and music studio in one. Having a Mac back then was heady, glorious, iconoclastic stuff. I lived it. And I loved it.

But alas, those days of Apple's idiosyncratic greatness are over. Apple is now a mainstream brand. And a rather bland one.
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