Aliza Ben-Arie

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Mac vs Windows OS: One Size Fits All?

With regard to the Mac and Windows Operating Systems, it is clear that designers make assumptions about your values, choices, and the ways in which we relate to our interfaces.
What assumptions about you are embedded within the program? As a user, how are you affected by these designs?
How do the designs (aesthetics as well as usability) of the Apple and Microsoft Operating Systems affect the way you relate to the OS?
How do the designs of these Operating Systems affect the way you interact and communicate with others in the physical world?

  • May 12 2013: The general assessment of Mac vs. PC is that Mac is generally overpriced compared to the parallel PC, but it does give you slightly better function. However, my decision to go PC is not only based on cost savings, but my perception of the company. Mac has been known for incredibly bad practices, treating their customers like sheep. For example, you aren't allowed to crack their phone to use an app you made, you need to go for their approval first. They refused to use the worldwide mini USB port, preferring to create their own brand instead (and of course making you buy their ridiculously overpriced charger). This forces you to live within their world, buying their own products. Yes, they get better quality control, but they are killing what makes computing great in the first place!!! They are killing user contributions. Even as someone who barely programs in this field, I refuse to support a company whose mission statement depends on isolation and brand creation rather than improving the world of computing. I don't see a "Steve Jobs" foundation.
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      May 12 2013: Thank you, Vigi, for your response! Not only because I am happy that you contributed, but also because I could not agree more! The "worldwide mini USB port" situation is hugely frustrating, and goes against a pivotal aspect of the Hacker Ethic (, that code/technology should be open for everyone to impact/improve it. In short, I use Windows because I like it better, but now that I've gotten more into coding / exploring the computer and interface, I appreciate so much that I can see the back-end of my Windows OS, which is not available for the Mac OS.
  • May 12 2013: The assumption behind both the Mac and PC interfaces is that UIs should be intuitive - when you click or double click on something, the resulting functionality should intuitively be what you expect. Both interfaces are very consistent - for example, click and double click mean the same thing, no matter where you click. The goal is to minimize the learning curve; while the Mac has a reputation for being easier to use, in fact the interfaces are similar.

    The interfaces attempt to hide the complexity of the operating system, allowing you to accomplish desired tasks without having to understand what actually is happening "under the covers."
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      May 12 2013: Arnie - thanks for responding! Can you expound more on what you mean by intuitiveness in User Interfaces? Why should there naturally/intrinsically be a response that we expect from clicking or double-clicking? I understand that now we expect those actions to bring certain responses, but certainly that was not the case before modern interfaces were introduced, right? What other examples of actions do you think have expected responses?
      On your second point, I am of the belief that the Windows OS interface actually allows the user to see and change or modify what is happening "under the covers" much more so than the Mac OS, and I think this speaks volumes to the nature of each of these companies, as well. What do you think?
  • May 9 2013: Personally, Aliza, I was brought up in a Mac environment and know it as if it were my mother tongue.

    I have worked in PC environments, and was able to 'get by', but my lack of knowledge and familiarity with the operating system actually did have an effect on my performance. Using a PC to me, if I may use the same analogy as above, is like speaking a foreign language and not being able to detect the nuances that would otherwise allow me to fully express myself in that language (read: OS).

    I notice a lot of prejudice as a Mac-user in a predominantly PC-user area. If I am sent a PC file by e-mail, I can always manage to open it, but the other way around (a PC trying to open a Mac file) is often impossible. Whether that can be attributed to the user, or the operating system - I don't know!
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      May 9 2013: Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Lizanne!
      I am coming from the exact opposite end of the spectrum, so I appreciate being able to hear your perspective. I was brought up in Windows environments, and find the Mac environment to be foreign, strange, and almost hostile. I have a lot of trouble with a few specific aspects, such as right-clicking, and the fact that I can see the desktop behind my PhotoShop files instead of a gray screen (which I find distracting). But moreso, when on a Mac I just feel out of place and awkward, and I am used to feeling comfortable and competent with computers.
      I have definitely noticed the prejudice you mention as well, but it is interesting because as a Windows user, I have always thought of the prejudice as coming from the Mac end. "Why can't Mac allow their files to be easily opened and read by Windows users?" I always thought. I think this is because I 'came of age' (so to speak) in the computer environment as Mac was getting its edge and all of my friends had Mac computers except for myself.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! This was definitely insightful for me, and I hope for you as well.
      • May 9 2013: It really is a question of what you're used to, isn't it!

        A tip about Photoshop - on the Mac, you simply press "F" to switch between the transparent background, the grey screen, or the black screen.
        Haha, Now I feel like I'm helping you with a grammar nuance!
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          May 12 2013: HAHA THANK YOU FOR THIS! Wow, actually so helpful. I still feel to be in a strange land on the Mac, but this certainly helps.
      • May 12 2013: That's wonderful to hear, Aliza!
        I know the feeling. When I worked in a PC environment, I felt like I was embarking on an adventure through uncharted country... but I got there in the end! Glad I could help out with this little trick!
  • May 9 2013: I am an Apple user, so I'll speak from that perspective:
    It assumes, first and foremost, that I am somebody creative who cares a lot about visual presentation. It believes that being meticulous and careful will make me more likable (cool or otherwise, but definitely creative) to other people. It is somebody who values hands-on approaches (especially with iPads, and even the new Mac mouse, there is an emphasis on being one with the machine)...
    • May 9 2013: Hi Francis,
      I get what you're saying. Society has a sort of pre-conceived notion of the sort of person a Mac-user is, as opposed to a PC-user? A Steve Jobs as opposed to a Bill Gates?
      I find it interesting that you say, being an Apple user, "It assumes...I am somebody creative who cares a lot about visual presentation".
      My brother is an industrial designer, is extremely creative and visual presentation is not only his passion, it is also his livelihood. He uses CAD (computer-aided-design) which is designed specifically for the PC, so although he too grew up in a Mac environment, his creativity and passion for visual presentation led him to becoming a PC-user.
      My other brother is a senior graphic designer. He is also extremely creative and visual presentation is also not only his passion, it is his livelihood. He uses Adobe, which is just as accessible for PC as Mac, despite the fact it was first picked up by Apple, but for some reason his choice ended up the Mac.

      I get the impression Apple is more accommodating when it comes to implementing a dual platform environment, but at the same time has an overrated, expensive and rather elite reputation. It is more intuitive, and innovative, but the majority of the world uses PC for a very important reason - it's more affordable and more accessible.
      • May 9 2013: I would absolutely agree with you, Lizanne. I too began as a PC user but switched to Apple when I started college.

        To me, it seemed at the time Apple was about sophistication. I still remember when I first saw my friend having a MacBook Pro and how cool it looked. Of course that was before having any experience with it, and I was expecting a "difficult to use machine," as my parents have said. But I quickly found found that its setup is simple and intuitive. With a simple pinch I can change screens, whereas on the PC, I have to manually click buttons. I'd venture to say the touch approach is perhaps why Mac's are so successful today because the machine literally becomes an extension of man. What Apple offers then is the appearance of sophistication yet simplicity of use.
        • May 9 2013: I think, it's important to have experience using both platforms, before suggesting one is 'better' than the other. My dad, (who actually had to argue to his superiors in support of computers in the industrial design department at the University of Washington back in the 80's) brought home a Classic Mac that was I can only describe as my 'best friend' for many years. Just the happy little computer face that welcomed me at start-up was enough to personify it!
          I thought the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials were pretty enlightening!

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      May 12 2013: Thanks for your response! What we're doing here is less scientifically-based and more conversational. I'm just looking to see what people think about the way this works.
      I definitely don't like design changes either- it throws everything off!