I've been doing a lot of research lately because I'm looking at buying a new laptop. I've got this terrible dichotomy in my head. On one hand, I love Macs, and I'd love to get a Mac, but on the other hand, most of the work I do (web development stuff) is still handcuffed to Windows. It's not minor stuff, either: Access, SQL Server, ASP, ASP.NET.
Yes, I know, I can run Windows on the Mac with Boot Camp now, but have you taken a look at the caveats? Apple's had to write the Windows drivers for the Apple hardware, and certain things simply won't work. Among them are: the Apple Remote Control, the Apple Wireless Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, Apple USB Modem, the sudden motion sensor, the ambient light sensor, and, most importantly, the built-in iSight camera.
The very reasons I want to get an Apple – fantastic design, tight integration when it comes to software and hardware, obsessive attention to detail – are stopping me from getting one. Since I'll need to run Windows on it, and my cool Apple hardware won't work with Windows, what's the point? I'll be forever shutting down either Mac OS or Windows XP in order to use the features I want out of each system. Want to use iChat to talk with my wife? Oops, need to boot up in Mac OS. Need to do a bit of development work? Oops, got to boot up in Windows. Got to use Skype Video Chat? Double oops there, since only the Windows version can use a webcam, and iSight doesn't work in Windows!
As if laptop hard drives aren't small enough, I'll need to partition the drive and share it with Windows. Not cool! On the one hand, I want to handle photos, music, and videos on the Mac, filling up the drive with that stuff. On the other hand, I need to do development work and create large graphics in Photoshop and sites in Dreamweaver, both of which are Windows licenses, by the way. I work with large files there as well, and I know I'll fill up that drive. What am I supposed to do? Shuffle files between the two operating systems using an external drive? Sounds easy enough, until you realize that Mac OS doesn't read NTFS partitions and Windows doesn't read Mac drives. Huh? Yup, it means you can't copy files bigger than 4GB to that external drive, since it needs to be formatted in FAT.
Oh yes, let me not forget about virtualization software…or rather, let me forget. I still shudder at the dismal performance of VirtualPC on my ex-PowerBook G4. Yuck! Everything crawled, including the web browser. Copying files back and forth between the operating systems, although it was only a drag-and-drop operation, was excruciatingly slow. Running software like Dreamweaver took forever, needless to say. Although the speed should improve if virtualization software is run on the new Intel Macs, I don't hold high hopes for it. There are plenty of caveats with virtualization, other than performance. Software doesn't always behave as expected, because it's not a real computer, and certain things simply aren't available.
Then there's that always disappointing jump between the real OS and the virtual OS. Although it's as easy as Alt+Tab on Windows or Command+Tab on the Mac, the performance hit is depressing every time one needs to use the virtual machine. I tried other virtualization software as well. Q, was one of them, and although the interface was nicer than Virtual PC's, it still disappointed. No, no thanks. I'll let Parallels brag about how fast their virtualization is all they want. I'll believe it when I see it encode video and run Photoshop at near the full speed of the CPU. Meanwhile, I've had enough of virtualization. It may be good for servers, as VMWare is proving with their Enterprise suite of products, but it's not good when one's computing needs involve lots of high-availability graphics, memory, and processing power.
It seems like I'm hopelessly caught between Scylla and Carybda, not knowing where to turn, part of me wanting Mac OS and part of me needing Windows. What to do? Nothing to do but to hold off for now, and hope either Apple or Windows get their act together for people like me.