Mac and Windows Face Off

The most recent Apple ad campaign depicting Macs as young, hip, and streamlined, next to tired old Windows is representive of years of bickering between Apple and Microsoft. Much like the blue state/red state divide, most of us are aligned as either Windows or Mac users. Our political and technical leanings define our identities, and we are quick to defend our choices and slow to change our minds.

It is for this reason that a report published by Pfeiffer Consulting claiming to show that Mac OS X scores consistently better than Windows in terms of what they call “User Interface Friction” is quite controversial. Diehard Windows users claim the report to be biased and subjective, as Andreas Pfeiffer is a known Mac user and contributing editor for MacWeek.

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This would be like Rush Limbaugh accusing Al Franken of being biased because he is a known Democrat. Sure, everyone has their biases and personal opinions, but that does not necessarily refute the points of a well constructed argument.

Andreas Pfeiffer attempted to quantify and analyze what most Mac users always say about their user experience: “Macintosh users stated that they found their computer “more fluid”, more productive, easier to use.” Sound familiar?

As technology continues to advance at a staggering pace, Pfeiffer Consulting believes it is important to analyze computers and other electronic devices not just for what they are capable of doing (graphics, speed, power) but by how easy they are to use. If we waste time learning how to use new features, toggling through menus, and clicking at unfamiliar jargony words trying to get a device to do what we want, we are wasting time and lowering our productivity. This loss in productivity is what Pfeiffer calls User Interface Friction (UIF).

As a Mac user, I was certainly convinced by Pfeiffer’s report. The reason? It confirms the intuitive feeling Mac users have that Macs are somehow “better” than Windows. I can understand why Windows users may be somewhat suspect of it, this is only natural. I have to agree however, with one point made by a critic of Pfeiffer’s report: “the smartest route is to stay with what you know. Any saving you get from fractions of a second saved from actions count as nothing compared to working with a “foreign” platform.”

On the other hand, I switched from Windows to Mac OS X in 2002 and it was indeed a foreign platform. I was frustrated at first, and everything felt like it took longer than it should. After recovering from the learning curve however, I got that warm and fuzzy feeling that most other Mac users experience…Mac works with me, it makes sense…everything falls into place. And I have never looked back.
So what is going on in our brains? If we take out all the biases we have towards Mac and Windows, which one really works better with our brains…in other words…which operating system is more ergonomic? Does Pfeiffer’s report prove that Macs are more ergonomic than Windows? In any case, I believe we still have a long way to go in truly aligning our bodies and minds with computer technology.

Not to get too sci-fi, but until we have made the evolutionary leap to becoming cyborgs, I imagine using the latest computers and other electronic devices like phones, cameras, etc., will always be somewhat of an uphill battle.