If you could have back all the time you have spent waiting for your computer to finish booting, or wake up from sleep, or for it to apply the patches that are needed because yet another exploit (or 10) has been identified, how much time would you get back?
How much money would not have been wasted as you waited?
In 2003 a good friend convinced me, finally, to move away from using Windows on my personal computer. He was very in to Linux, especially Mandrake. I spent the better part of 5 years thereafter using Linux in one form or another, mostly because I learned a ton about how computers actually work through using Linux.
I bounced through dozens of different Linux distributions, at the end mostly using Ubuntu or Linux Mint. In 2006, after having grown tired keeping my wife’s very good Dell desktop available for her to use, I purchased her a 1st generation Intel iMac (first generation Intel Mac). She is still using it. It works better today than it did the day we bought it (save for some screen problems that are hardware related and not OS related).
In 2009, I decided it was time to leap out of Linux and into Mac OS X. I purchased a 13in MacBook Pro. I could not be more pleased with the decision.
I should indicate at this point that prior to my current position at my employer I owned my own computer repair shop. I made a living off of Microsoft. Not by selling their products; by keeping people’s computers up and running (in many instances just months after they were purchased). It is still a very lucrative business for a lot people.
So, I write this post with a breadth of experience, not simply as a user, but as a technician; as a professional. And though they cost less to purchase, PCs of any stripe with Microsoft Windows cost more to run than any Mac, any day (or year). Read on to discover why: It’s the Microsoft Time Tax. The time tax is really very easy to grasp. It doesn’t take complicated math. It is simply the number of minutes you have to wait to get your computer back to a state you can actually use it.
You see, too often the average user assumes that keeping a computer in a usable state is the same as using the computer to be productive.
Or, we assume that learning to do a task or a set of tasks the way a software engineer designed the flow of work in Windows is the most intuitive, useful or efficient. We get conditioned to think that set of key strokes or that mouse click (or set of clicks) is the only way to accomplish something.
But if that were true, there would never be major release upgrades (as opposed to bug fixes). Software would have simply become static if the best way to do anything had already been discovered.
By the way, those changes that come through software upgrades are disruptive to our behaviors because they force us to change how we have done something for a long time (say, in Windows XP since 2001).
Why We Wait
So, if you will, please look again at the premise of this post: Waiting for a Windows computer to get back in to a useable state, one where we are doing the actual work we want to do instead of the work of keeping Windows working, is something many Windows users assume to be normal (even productive) computer use.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We spend so much time waiting because of the design of the Windows operating system.
That is not to say that Microsoft designs their software to break or be buggy intentionally (though how many people have bought a new computer 2 or 3 years after they bought their last one because some employee at a big box store explained that their computer is slow because it is old, when the truth is their computer is slow because Windows gets increasingly slower by the week?).
No, we wait for our computers to get to a usable state because of design decisions made by software engineers. In the case of Windows, it has been a decision to maintain backward compatibility in the OS for hardware that may be 5, 10, perhaps 15 years old (in the case of some printers). That effort leads to constant and increasing conflict.
A Classic Example of The Time Tax in Action
I have a good friend named Mark. Every day he brings his computer to work, and every day he spends the first 15 minutes (yes, 15 minutes every day) waiting on his computer to boot to a usable state.
He doesn’t have a piece of junk computer. When it was purchased, the notebook was a top of the line Lenovo ThinkPad notebook.
He hasn’t had slouch people attempt to get the computer fixed or set up in a way that would not require the first 15 minutes of every work day waiting.
There have been at least 3 IT professionals from outstanding IT support firms in Austin that have worked on this laptop, as well as the two smartest computer guys I personally have ever worked with.
None of them can get it to work right. In fact, one of them set up the only scenario to get the device to only take 15 minutes to reach a useable state.
The conflict is between the drivers installed on that particular piece of hardware and some unknown bug deep inside Windows 7.
The crazy thing is, that particular notebook was one of 4 purchased at the same time, and the only one with this problem. Same hardware. Same software. Major difference.
Doing The Math
My contention is that the cost of a Windows computer, even a new one with their newest OS, is greater than a similar Apple computer. Let’s look at some math to understand the contention.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s use a salary of $100,000 as the salary of my friend (I honestly don’t know what he makes).
If he waits 15 minutes every work day. 15 minutes times 5 days = 75 minutes a week, or 330 minutes a month (22 work days). That equals 3,960 minutes per year, or 66 hours of waiting each year.
52 work weeks per year works out to 2,080 hours (at 40 hours/week). $100,000 divided by 2,080 hours is roughly $48/hr.
$48 times 66 hours (the wait time for Mark per year as he waits for his Windows 7 computer to become useable each day) = $3,168.00
So, to recap, my contention is that a Windows 7 computer costs more than the price tag on the device. If you bought even a $1,000 Windows 7 notebook, at the end of a year the total “cost” of the computer would be $4,168.00.
Of course, some of you will argue that this is just one outlier.
But you also know that I have only told you about the first wait of Mark’s day. I haven’t talked about the amount of time Mark spends waiting on his Win 7 computer to patch once a week.
Or, in six months, when he has to wait for his system to respond after he does something as simple as want to copy a file. Or the time he has to wait for the antivirus software to check a file he downloads (because there are tens of millions of Windows malware variants; yes, there are some that affect Mac OS X, but they are minuscule in comparison to Windows).
Or perhaps we have to bring in the cost of support related to keeping a Windows computer functioning in any environment. There are tens of thousands of IT support specialists whose role in companies is to keep a network secure and company’s systems functioning. If you factor in the cost of keeping a Windows environment functioning, the cost grows even more.
My fundamental assumption is that the costs of keeping a Windows computer functional, actually working and being used by the owner/user of the computer is far greater than the purchase price of the computer. Yet the major argument many people make is that Windows computers are cheaper than Apple Macs.
That is only true if you exclude the time you cannot use your Windows computer because it isn’t available to you for a reason caused by the operating system.
A cheaper computer that cannot be used an equal amount of time as a more expensive computer is in fact more expensive. That’s added cost. Time is money.
And time is what Microsoft makes you pay. That’s the Microsoft Time Tax.