I wrote earlier about the lower price of the new iMac, but didn’t discuss how I’m able to spend less money on software, and yet get more, as opposed to a PC.
To explain this I’ll recount the primary software on my current Windows PC and the new Mac.
On the PC…
For photos, while Picasa and Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition are free, and quite nice, they’re not enough for me. I don’t need the features (or price) of Photoshop, but I clearly needed more than the freebies available. I ran 30-day demos of Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Photoshop Elements, and chose Photoshop Elements. Aside from sluggish performance and the organizer and editor being separate applications I’ve been happy with this choice.
For movies, none of the freebies for Windows XP were even passable. Awful stuff, really. I had run Pinnacle Studio, which I was happy with (Pinnacle is now a part of Avid), but for my latest PC I looked at Adobe Premiere Elements and opted to switch products. Like it’s photo sibling, I think its performance is weak but it’s otherwise a fine product.
Finally, there’s the obligatory productivity suite. Like most PC users I chose Microsoft Office. In my case, Office Basic Edition (Word, Excel and Outlook; no PowerPoint but I downloaded Microsoft’s free PowerPoint Viewer). Not having PowerPoint for editing was occasionally an issue, but I used another machine for those times.
The cost? Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements bundled for $149. Office Basic was also $149. That’s $300 for the “basic” software I needed right away, and I didn’t have PowerPoint.
On the Mac…
For photos, the previous iPhoto was better than the PC’s freebies, but still came up short for me. I may not use all of Photoshop Elements’ controls, but iPhoto’s editing functions were pretty spartan, and keywords were a bit weak. Since Adobe doesn’t care about the Mac’s Elements (still at 4.o when the PC’s had 5.0 for months) I was looking at Aperture. But iPhoto ’08 has changed all that. It borrowed from Aperture, with new controls for Shadows, Highlights, Noise Reduction and White Balance that are invaluable. There’s also a “gamma” slider in the Levels control, and you can Copy and Paste photo adjustments. Further, working with keywords is greatly improved. Those changes, along with other new functionality, will allow iPhoto to fill my needs. Score one for the freebies.
For movies, iMovie had some limitations compared to Premiere Elements, primarily only one video track, but I’ve never used multiple video tracks. It’s extremely capable for home movies, and iMovie ’08 looks even better. The new paradigm of easy clip selection/editing without resorting to a timeline appeals to me. So does the single library for all my shot video. Further, iMovie HD 6 is still available, so I can use both as needed. With iMovie I see no need for another movie app at this time. Score another for the freebies.
For productivity apps, I use spreadsheets and Apple’s suite didn’t have one. For that reason alone I was likely Office-bound. However, like Adobe, Microsoft doesn’t care about their Mac product, but now Apple has a bona-fide competitor. The new iWorks ’08 includes a spreadsheet and has Office document compatibility including 2007’s Open XML formats. Office costs more, is several years old (and won’t be upgraded for at least five months), does not support 2007 Open XML formats, and is still not a universal binary application. In my opinion this makes it a poor choice for anyone for which it isn’t mandated.
The cost? Photo and movie software included with the Mac. IWork ’08 for $79 (compare to $149 for Office Student and Teacher Edition).
If you’re keeping score, it’s $300 for my current “basics” PC software and $79 for the same thing on the Mac. Only it’s not “the same thing” on the Mac, it’s much better! It includes iWeb, Garageband, iDVD, and Keynote for which I currently have no direct PC equivalents. Sure, maybe I can buy PC equivalents, but then the software price delta becomes even greater. Simply put, the Mac is providing much more software, for much less money, and they all share data seamlessly!
Apple has worked hard to make software a key differentiator on their platform, and it shows. Not only the OS (which is just a means to an end when you think about it), but applications that people really use. This clear advantage took a huge leap forward with the new iLife and iWork suites. Software is yet another reason to strongly consider a Mac.