The first computer I ever bought with my own money was an Apple Macintosh in 1984. Before that, personal computing meant sharing a computer with other people – at school, at work or some other place (like a college dorm room). We had a small townhouse in inner-suburban Melbourne, Australia and an even smaller desk to put it on. I was a road-warrior IT guy and a university student. Macs were an ideal computer – mobile, useful and fun.
We did everything we could to learn about the technology deeply. We went to Apple in the US for developer education, we participated in local and overseas user groups and I read everything I could get my hands on. When Steve Jobs left Apple to form NeXT, we knew something was up and we followed him on his journey. At a shop near Stanford University in Palo Alto, we saw NeXT make it’s retail debut and almost bought one. Some of our friends & colleagues bought NeXT cubes and workstations, but we stayed faithful to the Macintosh.
In 1991, we made the decision to switch everything to Windows. It was a traumatic experience. We became VB developers and refocused our business on the Microsoft ecosystem. Some years later, I went to work for Microsoft after over half-a-decade in their Partner community. I bought my last Motorola-CPU Mac in 1992 and never touched that platform again – until recently. I left Microsoft 5 years ago and exited their ecosystem a couple of years ago. It just wasn’t what we wanted to do any more.
Now, at IBM, I see some of my colleagues in Australia using Macintoshes as their work computers. It’s a supported platform inside the corporate infrastructure, although much of the software we use is still in beta on Mac. I even have one of the Solution Architects in one of my projects using a Mac everyday. Back in 1984, I never thought I’d see Apple Macintosh behind the firewall at IBM. The guys at Lotus are hard at work supporting Macintosh and the iPhone from their whole family products – Notes, Sametime, mobility and so on. Those betas have either gone public or will do so very soon.
For their part, Microsoft have continued and extended their support for the current-generation of Macintoshes and iPhones. Office 2008 for Mac is out and I see my colleagues at IBM using it everyday. The iPhone 3G has ActiveSync natively supported in the software stack. Seems like Macs and iPhones are headed to become first-class corporate citizens sanctified by both IBM and Microsoft!
Of course, Apple has changed remarkably in recent years to make this all happen. Apple’s Mac OS/X is an evolution of NeXT’s software. Steve Jobs has been back at Apple for over a decade and continues to do a great job. The iPod phenomenon has brought Apple back to commercial health and Macintosh has become a technologically respected platform. Ironically, the Macintosh did this by using IBM’s PowerPC CPU for over a decade and more recently by morphing into a great Intel PC. Apple, NeXT software & Intel hardware have come together to produce what Macs are today.
Lately, Intel announced some new CPUs – some mobile processors for notebooks and the "Nehalem" processor dubbed Core i7. I’m waiting for Apple to announce a 17" MacBook Pro. That’s the Mac I want to use everyday at work. For my private software development efforts (particularly for the iPhone), I want an Core i7 Mac desktop with a big screen at home. I’m excited and I’m anxious at the same time. I haven’t read so much technical literature at the software development and technology infrastructure level for 20 years.
Going back to Mac is about going forward. 5+ years of using a Microsoft Smartphone on a 2G network and over 15 years of using Windows, Office and Exchange on slow Ethernet connected to a ever-growing Internet are over. I stopped using Outlook a couple of years ago and that was the beginning. Using an iPhone on modern 3G network is wonderful. Apparently, using a recent Mac on a fast (100 Mbps 802.11n) wireless network is fantastic. I’m looking forward to it.