In August and October of last year I wrote two blogs on my experiences with the then new Ipad. In summary, this is an excellent device geared primarily towards reading/browsing functions, and less towards data input, though it is certainly functional in that regard as well. On a recent 12-day trip away from home I made the decision to leave my trusty old Dell Latitude laptop at home and try to do everything I would need to do, including reviewing and editing my five PowerPoint presentations, keeping up with a flood of e-mails and reviewing journal articles for AJSP on my Ipad. I was a little nervous about this, but the Ipad proved to be more than up to the task. I returned home nearly completely caught up on my internet tasks. I should add that my Ipad has the built in data modem which I had not activated until this trip. On the first part of my journey the hotel WiFi was so bad that I was forced to activate the ATT 3G data modem ($25/mo for 2 GB) and it functioned perfectly. I have thus far resisted the urge to upgrade to a new Ipad 2.
As good as the Ipad his, however, it is not a true laptop, nor was it meant to be. It much closer to a large Iphone, without the phone. There are some functions that I really miss. Typing in the screen keypad is certainly do-able, but not optimal and I miss the tactile feel of real keys. More importantly, the Ipad, like the Iphone runs "Apps." Many of my favorite software programs in Windows or Mac OS do not have, at least yet, corresponding "Apps." In short, I still need a good laptop and some Windows programs for some of my favorite functions. For example, I still prefer good old Eudora for my e-mail client and HP PhotoShop for image manipulation.
So I set out to find a replacement laptop for my trusty 10-year old Dell Latitude 400 MHz machine. Being a long-time Windows user, and happy with my former Dell machine, I looked at a replacement Dell laptop. The new ones certainly blow my decade-old model out of the water. But even the 13" machine was heavy, a bit bulky, and considerably slower than I expected. One of my colleagues suggested a MacBook.
"You don't understand," I said, "I'm a Windows fanatic. I'd like to eventually learn 'Mac' but I don't want to buy a laptop that's only a Mac machine."
"Fear not," said my Mac-o-phile colleague, "A MacBook runs Windows better and faster than a Windows machine, and it also runs the Mac OS."
"How can this be?" I asked.
I did, and the rest, as they say, is history.
First, I had to decide which MacBook I wanted. I ended up getting a 13" MacBook Air because of its thinner profile and all solid state memory compared to the MacBook Pro. The 11" MackBook Air is also an excellent choice at a lower price that is close to that of a fully equipped Ipad. In terms of its construction, the MacBook Air is a thing of beauty. But there is much, much more to love. It boots to the Mac OS from its solid state memory in a matter of only a few seconds. It comes with many of the Mac programs already installed, though the Mac version of Office needs to be added. Skype runs much better on this machine in Mac OS than on my desktop Windows computer. All in all I was quite pleased with the beauty, ruggedness, small size and blinding speed of this laptop.
...but it gets even better.
I installed the Parallels Desktop software (about $90) followed by a copy of Windows 7, and I had a Windows machine that was MUCH faster than a dedicated Dell laptop. Honestly! Windows boots on this machine in seconds as well. Switching between Windows mode and Mac mode is as simple as a single click. Futhermore, in "Coherence Mode" you can run Windows programs directly and seamlessly in the Mac OS environment. Installing all this software was a snap. The entire Windows 7 OS installed in less than 15 minutes! This is much more than a Windows emulator. It is real Windows running on the MacBook processor. One of my major concerns was how peripheral hardware would function in the Parallels/Windows/Mac environment. The short answer is, "perfectly." Plug in a USB memory stick, DVD drive, or any other hardware device and Parallels asks you if you want this hardware available in Windows, Mac OS, or both. So far every piece of Windows-based software that I have tried to install on the Macbook Air has installed quickly and run perfectly and as fast or usually much faster than on a dedicated Windows machine.
I've always admired the look and quality of the MacBooks, and now I have the best of all three worlds, the quality of Apple/Mac hardware and the ability to run both Mac OS and Windows programs on the same laptop, faster than on a new dedicated Windows machine. I seriously doubt if I will ever purchase another dedicated Windows laptop, and I may well carry this philosophy over the my desktop machines when their replacement comes due.