Mac Monoculture vs. Device Diversity

April 23, 2015 •

On this week’s ShopTalk (162: Rapidfire 42), Chris and I received a somewhat frequently asked question, “What do you guys think about Linux as a developer environment?” Our answer devolved into a discussion about the Mac monoculture (which Chris and I are bought into) that seems to be pervasive in the web design industry. Here’s a clip from the show:

ShopTalkShow Episode 162: Rapidfire 42 – 9 Minute Clip

I’ve shared with a few friends my growing uneasiness/boredom with our apparent device monoculture. The monoculture is so embedded that when we present websites in portfolios they exist exclusively on an iPhone, an iPad, and an iMac. I’m starting to believe that our collective addiction to Apple products might be damaging the Web. Inadvertently advertising on behalf of a single native platform buries away the Web’s greatest strength; Ubiquity.

ShopTalk’s audience is near a 52/48 split on Mac vs. Windows (nearly 80% Chrome users, btw) but Windows is rarely considered when dispensing advice on how to build modern websites. It gets worse, of all of our 100+ guests on ShopTalk I can only recall one Windows user. Furthermore, at the past two conferences I’ve attended every speaker used a Macintosh. Windows, Android, and Linux begin to fade away in the periphery.

So, we created a hashtag: #davegoeswindows

Switching to Windows?

I proposed an experiment on ShopTalk: I switch to Windows for a year. All Windows hardware: phone, tablet, desktop, Zune tattoo, whatever. I’ll experience a different device eco-system, I’ll share that experience on ShopTalk and my blog, and Microsoft gets their products and browser in the mind of front-end developers every week (to the tune of ~100,000 downloads each month).

Maybe sponsorship money is involved so I’m incentivized to not bail at first sign of trouble. I’m interested in having an honest discussion about transitioning to Windows. As far as demand for this experiment goes, the feedback on the #davegoeswindows hashtag seems to validate the idea.

Update: I’ve pitched this idea to some friends at Microsoft and there’s actually some forward progression! Wow. Nothing set in stone, I’ll keep everyone posted as things progress.

Meanwhile, I’m still working out the cost-benefit analysis. My development environment is heavily tooled towards a Mac setup. Retooling my environment (thus, a third of my company) could pose a serious setback. Sharing photos with my family is the second most heartbreaking challenge. What is all that trouble worth to me, especially given its essentially a marketing opportunity for Microsoft?

To calm my worries, I’d love to hear stories about people who have switched or even switched back. What challenges do you feel front-end developers on Windows web developers face? Are there any disconnections between what’s written on tutorials and StackOverflow and how things work on your system?

Full disclosure: I’ve worked with Microsoft in the past and I think there are a lot of great people and interesting changes happening in Redmond.