The anti-buzz: Mac part one

by Andrew Emmott on July 13, 2010

in Anti-Buzz,Software

This week I will tackle an onerous topic – the great operating system schism between Macintosh and Windows, with a dash of Linux/UNIX discussion for good taste. This is a hard thing to approach for a number of reasons, so let’s stay focused and remind everyone why I’m here and what I want to do for you:

  • Investigate some highly technical ideas, but make them accessible to the lay person.
  • Help you make practical decisions.

Everything I say here, also, has two ends. Most readers here are dentists and looking for professional advice, but this does not preclude you from using what I say and making personal computing decisions based off it as well. I was going to give the “buzz” treatment to each operating system individually, but I think such an approach is too broad. I’d rather tackle this issue-by-issue over a couple of weeks. So here we go!

The buzz: Macintosh is hip, nice-looking, easy to use and will make a better impression on my customers than Windows will.

The anti-buzz: Choosing the right practice management software should be a higher priority than choosing your operating system.

Why: Because nobody sits down to play a rousing game of Windows 7. Or Mac OS X. Or Ubuntu.

If you are just starting out or starting over and are going to buy a whole new slate of computers and management software, your first question should not be which operating system you are using, but which suite of management software you would like to use. It might sound like I’m side-stepping the Macintosh/Windows debate, but no, really, if you only take one piece of advice from this article, this is it: Choose the right practice management software for your business, and then commit to the operating system that it runs on.

None of the operating systems out there, including Linux and other Unix-based systems, are so hard-to-use that they will hinder the use of your software.

The question of what is the best practice management software is another matter, and one that I can’t speak to with very much personal experience. My father has been a Dentrix fan for a long time and I’m pretty sure that’s no accident. When I asked him, he said that the best software was on Windows, but that Mac had some decent options, and I’d be willing to trust his assessment. Considering that Mac systems are significantly more expensive than Windows systems, “merely decent” options are a tough sell. But my original statement still stands:

Choosing the right practice management software should be a higher priority than choosing your operating system.

If you genuinely like the Mac offerings better, then go with them. If the game ever changes and the best options in the future are only available on Mac, then that should be your target.

The buzz: I can use virtual machines or other emulation options to use any software on any operating system.

The anti-buzz: You can, but this is a waste of resources most of the time.

Why: Installing two operating systems on one machine costs the price of owning legal copies of both those operating systems, (or legal copies of the emulator), and it is a huge resource hog on your machine.

Dental practice management software is not trivial – it might not be Halo 3, but it demands a pretty healthy amount of processing power, and when you get into imaging it demands even more. In terms of performance, usually running one OS is a bad enough drain on your speed. Recall how a lot of the publicity from the Windows Vista-to-7 transition was on how Windows 7 got rid of a lot of Vista’s chaff. As I already joked, nobody sits down to play a rousing game of Windows, and Microsoft finally faced up to that.

As more things become web-based, the operating system has increasingly less impact on your user-experience – the best operating systems are the ones that stay out of your way as much as they can. If you use a virtual machine, you are putting two operating systems in the way of what you really want to do: run your management software.

Put more bluntly, if you want to use Dentrix and you want to fill your office with Macs – you can do it. But you pay a premium to own a fistful of Apple computers, then you spend more on all those copies of the emulator or virtual machines, then you either live with poorer performance than you paid for, or you spend even more to have higher end Macs that can negate the performance dip.

The savvier readers might feel I’m being dishonest because since the switch to Intel CPUs you have been able to install Windows directly onto Apple computers. Doing this definitely addresses all that performance concern. You are, however, still paying extra for an Apple computer, and then paying even more to get a copy of Windows. It seems more cost effective to just spend less on a non-Apple computer that comes with Windows pre-installed. I’ve come off as critical of Apple so far, but in truth there are a lot of good reasons to use Macs over Windows machines – but just installing Windows and avoiding Mac OS X entirely would just sidestep the issue and leave your wallet empty to boot. Put another way, if you are a Apple person, how much are you willing to spend on brand loyalty?

The buzz: Macintosh is hip, nice-looking, and will make a better impression on my customers than Windows will. And this counts for something.

The anti-buzz: It does. And because of this I can recommend Macs for certain types of businesses – but I don’t feel a dental office is the right place.

Why: You sell dentistry, not computing technology. Computers in your office need to facilitate you before they facilitate your customers.

I’m not going to belabor my first argument, but I did feel it was worth revisiting this to address that Apple technologies are both aesthetically and ergonomically superior to most everything else. My father jokes that the biggest reason to invest in a Mac is that it will give you a couple extra hipness points. Thing is, those hipness points are worth something…

What are they worth? How about security, value, hardware and overall quality? Check with us next Tuesday for more Mac – PC Anti-Buzz. Part Two Here:

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