Confessions of a Mac Switcher at Microsoft


Hi. My name is Blair and I’m a switcher.


I guess it all started around OS X. I’d been working in a Linux shop for a little while. On DOS and Windows before that. I was already hooked on the command line, but couldn’t find a windowing environment that kept me satisfied. That’s when a friend of mine first turned me on to OS X. All the power of the command line that I was used to from Linux but with the tastiest UI I’d ever seen! I was hooked after trying OS X just once. I’ve been using Macs and OS X ever since.


I knew I’d need to get my own Mac if I was going to use OS X the way I wanted to. A friend sold me his used 500 MHz G4 TiBook for $500. The thing was all beat up: Cracked hinge, broken latch (replaced with Velcro), missing command key, combo drive that made a lot of scratching noise (not to mention scratched up discs), and a downgraded 2Gb hard drive. I was sold. I upgraded the hard drive and bought an external CD-RW drive. I had to install OS X from another Mac with my PowerBook in Firewire mode, but that’s all the work I had to do and that first PowerBook is running great even today.


My roommate and I used to joke about what a perfect Switcher ad our house would make. We counted the retired PCs in our attic: 14 in various configurations, but every last one of the powered down. We were doing all our work on one PowerBook each. We didn’t need the recognition or the fame of an Ellen Feiss. Running OS X was all we really needed, and one PowerBook each to keep us happy.


I ended up being recruited to Microsoft for the pizza. True story. I’d gone back to college and wouldn’t normally have attended the recruiting event, but I was hungry and, hey – free pizza. I told everybody at Microsoft that I use Mac OS X. It was cool. Nobody judged. Everybody seemed to think it was all right. I even met a few other Microsoft people that use OS X the way I do. I went ahead with a 3-month internship and by the time I was done with that internship I was hooked on Microsoft as well. It’s just an amazing company to work for. Whenever I’d talk about OS X, or Apple, or my PowerBook, people would just be interested in hearing another opinion. Microsoft’s been super cool.


I worked on Visual Studio for a few years. My old roommate kept sending me Microsoft job postings for MacBU. “If you’re going to work at Microsoft, at least work for these guys,” he’d say. “No way, man. I’m happy where I’m at,” or, “It’s cool here,” I’d say. But my situation changed after a few years and I decided to give the MacBU a shot. Now I’m a Program Manager working on Mac PowerPoint. It’s been great! MacBooks, Mac Pros and PowerPCs everywhere you look, and all the OS X I can handle. I’m hooked.

Comments (21)

  1. Jeremy Combs says:

    "…Now I’m a Program Manager working on Mac PowerPoint."  *wink* *wink* I get it; "Mac PowerPoint" is really code word for "Visio for Mac" right?  I can’t wait to see you guys unveil that super secret Visio for Mac application with Office 2008 suite that will make those people who waited in line for Vista jealous.  It’s like tabbed terminal for Leopard.

    Good job to the MacBU though you guys deserve major kudos.

  2. bwwaaaaahahahahaha….now we have a name for PowerPoint 😛

  3. Pat Kitchen says:

    I know a guy who works Active Directory support for MS and he’s a recent switcher (me too, haha)

    DUGG!

  4. Morten Dreier says:

    Nice story! Now can you please convince the people that work on the windows version of PowerPoint to use a proper QuickTime video library that isn’t made in the mid nineties so that we can interchange presentations with video between OSX and WinXX without either have poor video or recompressing it?

    And while I’m on it – what about some more fancy media management for images and videoes? Now, if we move the images og presentation to a new place on our harddrive, we get a dialoge for _each_ missing image or video. And that is a little annoying. :-)

    Ok – I’ve gotten that off my chest. Keep up the good work! The competition isn’t that great – Keynote lacks a lot features that PowerPoint has, and with some cool managemena and mindmapping tools the next versions of PowerPoint will be great!

  5. Okay Blair,

    You should make sure the next version of Mac Office supports Unicode and Arabic and Hebrew before it hit the shelves ..

    for GOD’s sake ! .. Unicode !

  6. Jonathan says:

    Excellent post. I’m a recent switcher (at home) to the Mac too – and aware that I am becoming something of a Mac bore. Having to be careful how much I talk about it :)

  7. eric.paquin says:

    Nice one Blair! Talking about switchers… I’m also a switcher… Well before switchers were even mentioned! It goes back to my college days! As a summer job, I needed to write up some documents and print out some graphs… All that on DOS with WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3! After that summer, I discovered the Mac (System 4.1 or 5… My memory is getting corrupted 😉 with Word and Excel)… Needless to say I was hooked too! I wouldn’t even have dreamt of working for Microsoft then! The rest is history (for some!)…

  8. SD says:

    No you work for Powerpoint, will we have someday a thumbnail "slide view" as in Windows?

  9. Amen Brother, Amen! Let me hear a halleluiah! :-) Nice information BTW…

  10. infinitelooper says:

    PowerPoint?

    Think about updating the so-called superb artwork in PowerPoint? Even Grand-Ma is tired of them!

    Read some Guy Kawasaki evangelism… Always better than the "Developers, developers, developers" motto!

    I can wait for next Keynote version, really.

  11. symonty says:

    Sorry blair about that first mac, it had a hard life.

    I am impressed that you kept it for so long.

    PS. don’t take crap from the uptight MAC Office users, robin hood has to eat so he has the energy to fight the good fight.

    Peace love and mung beans.

  12. Nathan says:

    I was recently in the market for a new laptop… my brother had just got a loaded MacBook Pro at 15% discount because he has a friend who works for Apple.

    The thing looked awesome – Apple has their fit & finish down to an art-form.  Very sleek, light, and nice to look at.

    But soon the grumbling started, photoshop is still dog slow… the bootcamp drivers don’t always work… there seemed to be trouble connecting to the wireless network… and a few other small quirks.

    I should also mention that my brother is somewhat of a computer god; he eats, breaths and sleeps coding, and prefers to use the terminal console more often than the GUI.

    So, when it was time for me to make the plunge into laptop land, I made an exhaustive evaluation between the Apples and Dells.

    Long story short – the Dell ended up being cheaper / easily configured the way I wanted it.  I really wanted to get an Apple… but it wasn’t in the stars.

    Someday… someday…

  13. Jonahan says:

    Psst … Photoshop is PPC code still.. wait until the new one comes out .. it won’t be "dog slow" as you call it.

  14. Lots of great content for a Friday show almost felt like a Tuesday podcast. Lots of Vista news and I talk some on Linux as well. Sponsors: [Save 10% off on any order at GoDaddy.com!] Use Code Todd [Try GoToMeeting…

  15. Bryan says:

    Weird comments so far, I have to read them twice just to understand their point.

    Anyway, just a note to say how much I enjoy PowerPoint.  I love that I can color-pick the fill colors using Apple’s color picker.  The Formatting Palette is the best I’ve ever used.  Keep up the great work.

  16. I switched a few years back but still actively use both Macs and PCs… so I’m a fan of both.  Can’t wait for Office 2008 and really hope to see Expression Web and Blend in the future.

  17. Mac PowerPoint, aka "The Blair Switch Project"… sorry, it had to be said.

  18. Rich C says:

    Blair!  I just happened to pop by this blog as I was bouncing around some news articles…After seeing a few keywords (mac switcher, blair), I knew it had to be you!  Sure enough, blairn’s to blame.  Great post!  Strangely enough, I’m considering the switchover as well, for three reasons: 1) aesthetics, 2) parellels ("you mean I can run OS X, linux, and XP *simultaneously!?"), and 3) TextMate.  How do you think the latest MacBooks (non-pro models) fare for power users?  Everything looks good except for the dismal upper-limit of 2GB of memory.  Sure, that’ll do the job for now, but what do I do 18 months from now?

    Drop me a line – Interestingly enough, I’m considering the Mac BU in my future with MS…

    t-rich (blair.5.rinogo@xoxy.net)

  19. Simon D. Yates says:

    I recently switched too. And a good mac friend of mine told me of mactopia. We can all appreciate Office, but you know, its the little things like MSN that make a huge difference. It is still my messenger of choice. I just hope you guys add the video and voice capability as their is for windows. After all, you only need to worry about drivers for the built in mic and cam :)

  20. I hear all kinds of similar stories about Switching to Mac on our site, my personal favorite is when my IBM server technician friend finally broke down and got a 24 inch iMac, he loves it and yes he runs windows on it too…

    http://www.switchingtomac.com