Cory House

@housecor

Why Do Developers Run Macs?

I spoke at Fluent conference in San Francisco in March of 2015. I looked out in the crowd as I was setting up and saw this:

See all those glowing Apples? Nearly every machine at Fluent Conference is a MacBook Pro

At every front-end oriented conference I attend, it’s a sea of glowing Apple logos. Can you spot a single PC in that room?! After taking this photo, I literally hid my Windows machine behind the lectern because I was concerned I wouldn’t be taken seriously in a room of JavaScript developers who were running 99% Macs.

Up until this point, I considered Macs to be a silly waste of money. But after this experience, I decided to purchase my first Mac to understand what, if anything, I was missing.

Codemash 2015: PC And Angular. Codemash 2016: Mac and React. Seasons change!

So Why Do Devs Run Macs?

Here’s what I’ve found:

Bash

I prefer the Bash command line to Window’s alternatives like Powershell. Yes, you can run Bash on Windows, but obviously the filesystem underneath isn’t the same, so it’s ultimately not the same native experience. If you spend much time on the command line, a Unix-oriented OS is a win.

The Unix philosophy of small composable tools never goes out of style.

Hardware Quality

The MBP is the nicest laptop hardware I’ve found. While there are many impressive Windows laptops, none I’ve tried quite match the build quality of a MBP. The force touch trackpad is a luxury I’d never want to leave. Mac screens handle glare better than the mirror-like touch-enabled screens on most of today’s PCs. This is a win for outdoor coding and working in the car. And the thermal qualities of the Mac’s aluminum chassis combined with the efficiency of macOS means Apple laptops often run cooler than equivalent PCs.

Battery Life

MacOS is more efficient than Windows, so battery life tends to rival the best Windows laptops.

Reliable DPI Scaling

DPI scaling is flawless on Mac. This is still not so on Windows 10, where some of my favorite apps have yet to add support. 4k on a Mac just plain works.

Managed Ecosystem = Reliability

Apple only supports macOS on a small list of devices that they alone create. In contrast, Windows must support literally 1000’s of devices that Microsoft didn’t create. This tends to make the Windows experience less consistent. Apple’s model typically leads to a more cohesive, efficient, and reliable experience (though admittedly my issues with the brand new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar are concerning).

Long-term Support

I know many people happily running old Apple machines on the latest version of macOS. That’s harder to do on Windows. For example, Lenovo never released an updated Windows 10 compatible video driver for my 3 year old Yoga 2 Pro. Windows laptop manufacturers often produce a device and then ignore ongoing driver upgrades and bug fixes.

Apple’s small manicured hardware ecosystem helps assure long-term driver support. That said, it’s great to see Microsoft expanding their Surface line — it’s likely to enjoy the same long-term support as today’s Mac devices.

Peripherals

Superb peripherals like the Magic Trackpad 2 provide rich gestures that mimic the MBP’s trackpad. This means I have the same powerful experience when docked as on the go. Thunderbolt supports daisy chaining displays. The new MacBook Pro boasts a compelling story: Dual 4K displays via a single cable. And the monitor provides power to your machine via the same USB-C cable. Slick.

New MacBook Pro running dual 4K via a single USB-C cable

Resale value

When you factor in resale value, Apple hardware may be cheaper to own. Macs tend to hold their value better than Windows PCs. For example, I purchased a Yoga 2 Pro in December of 2013. What if I’d purchased a MacBook Pro three years ago instead?

2013 Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (i7/1.5ghz/8GB/256GB):
2013 Retail: $1,299
Used value today on eBay: $400 (30% of retail)
Cost to own for 3 years: $899

2013 MacBook Pro (i5/2.4ghz/8GB/256GB):
2013 Retail: $1,499
Used value today on eBay: $800 (53% of retail)
Cost to own for 3 years: $699

So the Mac would have saved me $200 over three years, despite being more expensive initially. This shouldn’t be too surprising. It happens in the automotive industry as well.

Well-respected luxury brands can be a bargain when you factor in resale value.

Windows and MacOS on a Single Device

I run Windows 10 on my Mac via Parallels. Windows runs beautifully on a Mac with sufficient power like my new i7 MBP with Touch Pad. The inverse — running macOS on a Windows machine — isn’t possible. By buying a Mac, I’m free to enjoy the best software for both Windows and Mac, on a single device.

Summary

So outside of initial hardware cost, there’s little downside to running a Mac, but a lot of upside. Today’s Apple hardware is admittedly pricey, but when it comes to hardware that makes me money, I believe in buying the best equipment money can buy. When Windows eclipses Apple in these areas, I’ll happily buy another Windows machine.

Are there other reasons to continue to choose a Mac today? Are there unique benefits to Windows today that I’m overlooking?

Cory House is the author of many courses on Pluralsight, and principal consultant at reactjsconsulting.com. He is a Software Architect at VinSolutions, Microsoft MVP, and trains software developers internationally on software practices like front-end development and clean coding. Catch Cory on Twitter as @housecor.

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