Mac or PC? For people who came of age with computers in the nineties, there was no argument more compelling. To the minds of young techies, the choice represented two fundamentally different world views.
In the past, Mac users have said that PCs are insufficient for design work and slow, while Windows users have claimed that Macs are not practical computers. But as design styles converged over the last several decades, much of the heat from that debate has died away.
Microsoft's Windows operating system evolved away from a graphic shell running over DOS and adopted many of the interface elements that made the Mac OS so appealing. Manufacturers developed stylish form factors for their high-end laptop models designed to compete on look and feel, areas that had typically been the strengths of the Mac.
The differences between the two have narrowed considerably to the point where much of the debate centers on the needs of specific users. Need to run a lot of third-party enterprise software? Go with a PC. Doing design work? Stick with a Mac.
But with the launch of new devices by Microsoft and Apple this week, the relationship between the two may have just changed forever. The new Surface Studio (pictured, front) makes a strong case that Microsoft has stolen the hardware design mantle away from Apple. While Apple announced a trio of new MacBook Pro (pictured, back) models, the latest design innovations of which seem incremental, at best, compared to the Surface Studio.
That is not to say that the new MacBooks are inferior machines, by any measure. From the promotional material available, it appears that Apple has continued to focus on producing well-designed user experiences in a sturdy but highly portable chassis.
But after lying essentially fallow for four years, the improvements Apple is touting seem underwhelming. Each of the two high-end MacBook Pro models features a customizable touch-enabled interface that sits above the keyboard. The speakers are supposed to be louder. The process is better. Each can be charged through any of its four USB hubs.
But the essential design remains unchanged. Compared to some of the design innovations in the laptop market in the past few years, the new MacBooks still don’t have touchscreens, and are unable to switch between tablet and laptop modes the way many PC products now do.
The Drafting Table of Your Dreams
And when comparing the new MacBooks to the Surface Studio, it really starts to look like Microsoft has stolen a march on Apple. The Surface Studio seems to most resembles Apple’s desktop version of the Mac, with the same svelte and sexy shape.
But the new desktop is making a serious play to be the device of choice among creative professionals with its ability to transition into an enormous, touch-enabled, flat surface device that resembles an artist’s drafting table. The new desktop can be paired with a stylus and a new, hockey puck-shaped input device that can be used either as a standalone input or placed directly on the touchscreen to become a customizable dial.
With the latest generation of computers introduced this week, Microsoft appears to be making a play to be the more innovative company while Apple seems to be playing it safe.