More Productive on a Mac?

The FinderIt’s been quiet here for a while. Not sure anyone really noticed (or cared), what with the Thanksgiving holiday last week and all. Hope you enjoyed it, by the way.

Anyway, I’m emerging from a week-long flu fog courtesy of H1N1. That’s right, yours truly caught swine flu, and let me tell you, it wasn’t very fun.

That’s why it’s been quiet, in case you wanted an update.

While I was out, someone posted a comment to Connect about a video that caught my attention. I didn’t find the video terribly interesting, but the comment definitely was.

In a nutshell, the video is about how a guy used Lotus Connections as a support group to learn how to use his sexy new Macbook Pro at the office. I guess it’s clever, but I’m so over the characterizations of Macs as sex with no sizzle. Yes, Mac are sexy, but the superiority of their design goes way beyond looks, as I’ve covered in the past.

So, the commenter liked the video but disliked the message, i.e. this guy wasted his time making his Mac work and worse, soaked up other people’s time on non-work issues related to his Mac, thereby lowering overall productivity. The video makes this seem like a good thing.

Further, the commenter posited that the man was no more productive on a Mac than he was previously on a PC.

This caught my eye because, I’ve heard Paul say many times in the past that he is more productive on a Mac, in so many words.

And yes, this comes up more often than you’d think. Since we are an all-Mac team, we tend to stick out in mixed company. The first question people ask is if Oracle paid for our Macs. Oracle did not.

Then, they usually drill down on why we’d use personal assets for work, which prompts Paul’s answer about productivity.

My answer is different. I usually cite personal preference, dislike of MSFT products, or similar.

But productivity is difficult to quantify. I feel like Paul’s assertion fits me, but it’s impossible to prove.

Thinking about it, I guess the productivity gain boils down to work vs. knowing how something works.

On a Mac, I just work. On a Windows box, I know how things work, but I had to learn that over time.

An example is PowerPoint vs. Keynote.

To Paul’s point, I can crank out beautiful presentations and mockups in Keynote in a fraction of the time the same tasks take in PowerPoint, and I’ve used PowerPoint for 13 years, Keynote only two.

Granted, some of what I learned from PowerPoint translates to Keynote, but using them both really underscores how much easier Keynote is to use.

I used and supported Windows for many years, therefore I know a lot about it and can usually fix my own issues. However, those who don’t know as much ask IT, which is a variable cost.

So, keeping them productive carries the additional cost of IT, which should be in the overall calculation of productivity.

Community support is not a cost. If I spend time answering questions about how to configure Macs, I am still responsible for my work duties. If I don’t complete them on time, I lose my job. Therefore, if I commit to helping people with non-work issues, I understand that I must also complete my work duties, and I commit the necessary time to doing both.

So, yes, I may be less productive because I spend more total time on these tasks, but my lower productivity does not affect the company.

You could argue that my community support actually boosts overall productivity by providing IT services at no cost, thereby freeing IT resources for other projects.

That might be a stretch, but having been in IT, I know there are always projects competing with regular support for time and resources.

Yeah, this is a very broad generalization and doesn’t apply to everyone equally. Yada, yada, disclaimer.

So what do you think? Have comparisons to share between your Mac and Windows experiences? Do you work on a Mac? If so, why? Are you a Windows person who thinks we’re full of drop shadows and rounded corners?

Are Paul and I right about being more productive on a Mac? Can you prove or disprove?

Find the comments.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

19 comments

  1. Wish I could assess my productivity quantitatively, but since I can't, I'll note that one of the big bonuses for me when using a Mac for work is that it's just less aggravating than other things I've tried. I like to assume that happier John == more productive John. And that's not a straight Windows bash, either; my workstations during the early days of my career were mostly Digital and Sun boxes, and I used Linux desktops for a while, too. Not much to add there beyond what you and Paul have stated.

    Using my Mac for work at my last gig also led to questions about using personal assets for work. My response ran along these lines:
    1) I'm happier this way
    2) splitting my computing life between a personal machine and a work machine is more trouble than it's worth

    Time “lost” to community troubleshooting seems a bit bogus to me. There are always inefficiencies when using a new system, starting a new job, etc. Enlightened IT folk often encourage user empowerment/self-help/peer-help anyway, to a degree. Who wants to explain the process of capturing a screenshot over and over again, after all? 🙂

    Also: Yikes. Bummer about the H1N1, glad you're mending.

    Huh. The order of my comments implies LIFO processing of your post. I may need to have that checked out. 😉

  2. I've switched to an iMac about 18 months ago. Hadn't actively used a Mac anymore since the SE. Since I had strong Unix skills and hated the fact that I did not have native X11, I decided to attempt a Mac because of OSX. And it has been a very positive experiencing. I don't go into the office anymore simply because I have to use my Dell Laptop with XP over there. Each morning I get behind my Mac in my home office and love the fact that it is there.
    I am still waiting for Oracle to consider Macbooks.

  3. I have a Macbook pro for about a month. By any standards it is by far the best laptop that I've ever had, but still when I have to do some serious work (e.g. coding, analyzing data etc) I resort back to my Ubuntu box. In any case, I cannot seem to be able to find any use of MSFT powered PCs/Laptops for practically anything…

  4. I have a Macbook pro for about a month. By any standards it is by far the best laptop that I’ve ever had, but still when I have to do some serious work (e.g. coding, analyzing data etc) I resort back to my Ubuntu box. In any case, I cannot seem to be able to find any use of MSFT powered PCs/Laptops for practically anything…

  5. I suppose I should have added to the post that Linux tends to make me less productive too, not just Windows. Black arts are tough to learn.

    Thanks for the wishes. Glad to be back among the living.

  6. Sounds similar to my own story, although I did wipe my Dell and put Ubuntu on it to keep it functional (vs. a paperweight). Macs are making inroads at Oracle, slowly but surely.

  7. Interesting. A lot of developers I know use a Mac, but that's partially a function of the Rails community. I would think the MBP would have the power to blast through your serious work tasks. Is it missing software, or are you just accustomed to the way you work on Ubuntu?

  8. Jake,

    Yes, it's missing software. Even though most of the Unix tools are installed by Xcode and many more can be installed using Fink, I still find it inconvenient to have to compile everything from scratch. For example, yesterday it took me more than 2 hours to compile gnuplot (using Fink) whereas in any Debian system an “apt-get install gnuplot” would suffice. So it's basically an apt/yum repository type that I'm missing on MacOSX, plus of course the fact that you're right: I'm more accustomed to working in Ubuntu for a series of tasks and the transition is not that obvious in some cases.

  9. Yeah, so I guess that sunk cost of learned behavior on Ubuntu makes you less productive on Mac. I have to believe there are good ways to do what you do on the Mac. Someone out there has to have been there already.

  10. I am all mac at home (even for working from home) but when I come into work I use a PC but its like the car license plate of a blue angels pilot that says 'my other ride is an F18'. Yeah I do find myself that fast on a mac for whatever reason, even though I have been using PCs for 10 years and a Mac just about 3 years.

    For the stuff I do at work I end up having to install our software on windows, OEL and some unix flavors. Our group has not yet migrated but many teams internally use the 'cloud' linux servers for development anyways. So the laptop/desktop really becomes a front end for accessing these servers, management tools, office, email etc
    I have done hack projects for Google Wave using Eclipse, Google Java App Engine on the Mac and I did not face any limitation.
    I guess for me Macs are more productive but at the end it might not be Mac vs PC rather what one is comfortable with.

  11. I'd put it a different way…

    In the past, I have gone on multiple hour-long rants about how much Windows sucks… and I have actively engaged other employees to avoid work and join in the cathartic bitch-sessions. Total loss of employee productivity during the lifetime of one windows box? Probably a man week…

    I have done this only ONCE on a mac… when a security update broke my computer, and I was 1500 miles away from my backups. I made do with Knoppix, and fixed it after hours by going to an Apple store and staying 'till 9:30pm. Total loss of employee productivity during the lifetime of a MacBook? Nearly zero.

    If you love something, you won't ever waste company time complaining about it… which is something productivity experts always miss.

  12. Sure, but comfort is directly proportional to productivity. I've never heard anyone say “I'm more productive on Windows”, although I do know a few diehard, non-conformists who are Windows guys with Macs and like to complain about things the Mac won't do.

    The problem is when you go the other way, i.e. from Mac to Windows, the complaining never stops b/c there are so many things you need to do for yourself.

  13. Very true. I had a similar experience with a security update (think I blogged it here); those can be dicey.

    The productivity loss argument is bogus; I've been hoping the commenter would reply to my reply, but nothing yet. I almost feel like there's emotion behind it. Oh well.

  14. My wife was keen to get a mac in Jan this yr. when our PC died. She loves it, but I found it v. annoying to get used to new things. There are things that don't work the same, like keyboard shortcuts for starters. I had issues with image editors not working like my old ancient copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements, and the lack of a text editor to compete with TextPad meant I was pulling my hair out using the Mac. So I got a PC, and my wife uses the Mac. It also seems v. slow, but that's probably because the HDD is getting clogged already.

    Macs look nice, and I guess if you're an IT professional, and know what you're doing, they would be good. As someone who tinkers with making websites and using Flash and doing a bit of photo stuff in my spare time, I found I was much more comfortable using a PC, because it was familiar.

  15. Lack of a text editor to compete with TextPad? There are tons of text editors for Mac, e.g. I sometimes use Smultron for coding b/c it supports markup.

    Obviously productivity comparisons only work if you can get equivalent functionality from a Mac. I must say I'm very surprised to hear someone who builds websites say he prefers a Windows box.

  16. We've been all Mac in my house now for a little over a year. Yes, I do have a solid productivity increase: the time I was spending in maintaining both my PC (antivirus, defragging, etc.) and my wife's PC (where most of my maintenance efforts were spent) is now spent on productive work. I figure with this change alone my productivity is up about 5%.

    Flipping over to Mac at the office after the first of the year…can't wait!

  17. Excellent point about maintenance tasks, totally spaced on that one. Solid gain too b/c it frees up time directly for work. 5% is a big number. I haven't really put any thought into how much I gain, but I know it's substantial.

    You must be stoked to get Macs at work. Fingers crossed that we'll get an option for Mac sometime soon. My Dell is nearing its amortization milestone, although I must say I'd miss having an Ubuntu box for fiddling.

  18. We've been all Mac in my house now for a little over a year. Yes, I do have a solid productivity increase: the time I was spending in maintaining both my PC (antivirus, defragging, etc.) and my wife's PC (where most of my maintenance efforts were spent) is now spent on productive work. I figure with this change alone my productivity is up about 5%.

    Flipping over to Mac at the office after the first of the year…can't wait!

  19. Excellent point about maintenance tasks, totally spaced on that one. Solid gain too b/c it frees up time directly for work. 5% is a big number. I haven't really put any thought into how much I gain, but I know it's substantial.

    You must be stoked to get Macs at work. Fingers crossed that we'll get an option for Mac sometime soon. My Dell is nearing its amortization milestone, although I must say I'd miss having an Ubuntu box for fiddling.

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