Mossberg: If you’re old, average, and fearful, stick with Microsoft’s Windows until this summer

Walter S. Mossberg answers readers’ tech questions for The Wall Street Journal in a feature called “Mossberg’s Mailbox.” Here’s one from yesterday:

Reader’s Question: We plan to buy a new computer running the XP version of Windows, not Vista. We are afraid to take the step to the Mac since we are in our 70s, and are just average on the computer. We rely on our children for help when we get into a jam, and they have no experience with a Mac. Would you recommend we venture into Mac land, fear and all?

Mossberg: No. While I believe Apple’s hardware is very good, and the Mac operating system is better than either version of Windows, I also believe that average users whose operating system works well for them, and who can buy new hardware that runs the same system, shouldn’t feel pressure to change. That’s especially true when they have a ready source of support.

MacDailyNews Take: A Mac would be “new hardware that runs the same system,” Windows, while also letting new-to-Mac users acclimate themselves to the vastly superior Mac OS X. It’s beyond us why Uncle Walt fails to clearly point out that buying a Mac — and only a Mac — gives users the capability to run any OS and application they desire.

Logic dictates that the correct advice for these people is:
You are planning to buy a new computer anyway, so buy a Mac. Run your familiar Windows XP and you’ll also have the Mac’s better-designed hardware and the capacity to learn the superior Mac OS X and Mac-only apps at your own pace. Buying any other PC would be a mistake as you would be needlessly limiting yourselves, regardless of your age, ability, or confidence.

More info about slumming it with Windows natively on your Mac via Mac OS X’s built-in Boot Camp can be found here. More info about fast virtualization on your Mac (have Windows side-by side with Mac OS X — it’s like Roseanne Barr standing next to Heidi Klum) via Parallels Desktop for Mac here and/or VMWare’s Fusion here.

Mossberg continues: However, that course of action will become more difficult this summer, when Microsoft plans to stop licensing Windows XP to computer makers for preloading on new machines. That will make Vista the only version of Windows available to new computer buyers. Buying a new Vista PC does require users to learn new techniques and to cope with hardware and software incompatibilities.

MacDailyNews Take: So, by this summer, according to Mossberg, even old, average, and fearful people should buy Apple Macs. As we’ve always said: Macintosh. Because life’s too short.

Mossberg answers more questions in his full feature here.


  1. We old geezers are jes’ fine with our old beige PC’s. Why I ‘member the good old days when we had to walk three miles in the snow to learn how to program command lines in DOS.

    These young snipperwhappers can have their fast and flashy Macs with their beautiful Aqua desktops. We geezers are old and afraid. Anybody got a Commodore 64 they want to get rid of? Now THAT was a computer you could sink your teeth into. If I could just find my teeth….

  2. I sell Macs for a living and one of the questions I get is, “how hard is it to switch to the Mac”. This question is usually easy to answer, but with older people like the ones described in Uncle Walt’s article it becomes a bit tricky. I usually tell customers that if they are pretty well versed in using a computer whether it be a Windows XP or Vista they should become pretty acclimated to the Mac in a short time. If they have quite a bit of trouble with using computers in general they are going to have a harder time understanding the Mac. Not to say that once they do understand the Mac it will be a much happier experience for them altogether. The question is how much are they using their current computer right now and is it worth the expense and time at their age.

  3. With personal shopping assistance and one-on-one training at Apple stores, not having relatives who know Macs is not an excuse if you are anywhere near an Apple store.

    As for age, My parents are mid 70’s and are in the midst of transitioning to Mac’s from many many years of windows frustrations, they are excited at the prospect. Age is not a limitation!

  4. @Leader. The question is how much are they using their current computer right now and is it worth the expense and time at their age.

    My motto is, “Do it now, you’re going to be dead a long time”.

  5. The people are in their 70s… give ’em a break! Change is hard regardless of OS X being “easier.” I had a hard enough time teaching my mother to send email and surf the web let alone try to teach her how to change operating systems.

  6. Hate to say it, but I’m siding with Scheduler on this one. Mossberg’s advice was sound. There is no reason why those 70-year-olds shouldn’t simply continue with what they are familiar with.

    When MDN rags on schools that force Windows on students, I’m with them. We want kids to have exposure to Macs. But old dogs at the tail end of their computer using lives? Please, give them a rest.

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