Switching from Windows to Mac: What I learned

IMG 9244 520x245 Switching from Windows to Mac: What I learned

Apple announced new Retina display-equipped MacBook Pro laptops at its event last month, as well as the launch of the latest version of OS X, Mavericks. For this PC user, it was enough to finally make the jump from Windows to Mac for the first time.

Almost everyone I know slowly switched to Mac in college, but I stuck it out with Windows. For a long time I thought it was the best choice of platform simply because purchasing a Mac seemed to be extortionately expensive compared with buying a PC desktop or laptop. I was wrong.

The Good

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After booting up for the first time it stood out to me that there wasn’t a longwinded setup process, nor was there any pre-installed junk on the machine. No advertising links on the desktop, no “free” Norton antivirus and best of all no drivers to install. The machine was ready to go out of the box, which is a nice change from setting up a Windows PC.

The applications that are bundled with Mavericks are pretty fantastic, Mail and Calendar work great. Messages integration with iMessage is perfect – especially if you have an iPhone – as is the Notes application and Reminders, which all work well together. For the last year I’ve been using Windows 8, which is a great OS but the bundled ‘modern’ applications aren’t anywhere near as well-rounded comparatively and really require a touchscreen to make them useful, so having beautiful built-in apps is a nice change.

Unified notifications and the Notification Center are well-built pieces of functionality that leave me wondering why Microsoft still hasn’t added anything similar to Windows yet. I’m bad at clearing alerts from it, but at least I can catch what I’ve missed easily rather than going hunting for it.

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Spotlight search is extremely powerful and gives you access to everything on the computer in a second. It’s lightning fast and the indexing engine behind it is extremely fast, whereas I’ve found Windows’ search to be slow and generally disappointing (especially when searching large folders of documents).

On the productivity front, it’s liberating to be free of Microsoft Office altogether. I’ve never been particularly fond of the slow, bloated feel of the desktop applications and barely use many of the more advanced features. The OS X mail application works with my Microsoft Exchange email, Pages can open any Word documents I’m sent and Numbers is perfectly fine with Excel spreadsheets. Occasionally there’s a snag converting a document but it’s nothing Google Drive can’t fix.

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Spaces are literally changing the way I work on my laptop, too. They’re great for helping separate projects from each other or work apps from personal apps. I keep one open with Mail, Twitter and other social networks and others for work and just switch between them as required. Being able to separate work applications from personal ones is powerful for helping focus on the task at hand.

I’m extremely impressed with power management more than anything else. Apple says that the 15 Retina MacBook will last around eight hours on battery and have found that Apple’s estimates are pretty accurate; I can get just over 8 hours when using Safari instead of Chrome for browsing the web and avoiding heavy energy draining applications. Mavericks makes this easy by pointing out which applications are using ‘significant energy’ in the battery menu.

I’ve never had a Windows laptop that’s managed to get such extreme battery life out of a single charge. It’s changed the way I work; I no longer need to carry a laptop charger to the cafe when I do remote work.

IMG 9244 Switching from Windows to Mac: What I learned

One of the biggest concerns I had with switching to Mac was that the broad collection of games I’ve gathered wouldn’t work. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how many exist for Mac, especially with Steam’s recent push to get app developers to write for both Windows and Mac. A good half of my collection has an official Mac version of their game, but for the other half I’ve taken to running them in a virtual machine, which works surprisingly well.

In my very unscientific tests, I was able to install Civilization V in a Parallels virtual machine and play at full graphics quality without any issues with frame rate, which was impressive. I’d guess other games such as first person shooters wouldn’t work quite so well, but there’s always Apple’s own Boot Camp to help with that.

It’s often said that Apple devices ‘just work'; something I’m finding to be true with OS X. AirPlay is especially powerful and works perfectly if you have other Apple devices (like an Apple TV) for quickly duplicating the screen with the TV for watching a movie. Other simple touches in OS X, such as having a centralised contacts directory that other applications can access makes using other applications seamless.

The bad

There are some oddities that are painful at first. I struggled to figure out how to rename a folder (after becoming accustomed to using F2 in Windows to do it) and only discovered how after pressing the enter key to open a folder resulted in it being renamed. There’s also the jumbled keyboard keys – instead of CTRL, for example – screwing up 20 years of shortcuts that two decades of muscle memory will struggle to forget.

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The other thing that I found confusing is the way that applications are installed. On Windows, everyone is accustomed to using a setup wizard but I’ve found it’s rare to encounter those on Mac. Instead, you have this odd metaphor where you mount a fake drive (DMG files) and then drag the app to the applications folder. Of course, this isn’t actually explained to you and at first I was just running everything out of my downloads folder.

That said, applications that are installed using the Mac App Store simply install themselves without requiring any drag-ad-drop or DMG mounting. Obviously this is Apple’s preferred method of distribution but I’ve found many application developers aren’t using it yet.

I’m still yet to figure out how to manage windows properly without Windows’ “snap” functionality which allows you to drag an application to the side of the screen and it will automatically take up half of the screen. The OS X “maximize” button doesn’t seem to actually work properly and infuriatingly tends to just stretch an app up and down. There is a full screen button, indicated by two arrows on the upper right of a window, which essentially maximizes the window but hides all others behind a type of ‘stage’ view.

I also ran into trouble with Boot Camp since it doesn’t support Windows 8.1 yet and was unable to install it. Apple is notoriously slow at updating to support new releases. In the end, I got it working by installing Windows 8 then upgrading to 8.1.

Read on for the best Mac apps I’ve discovered so far…

Applications

Having become accustomed to Windows’ options, this was perhaps the hardest part of switching across. I didn’t know every great app off the top of my head anymore, nor is there a solution like Ninite to install all of the basics I required. Now that I’ve settled in and found a few, I have come to the conclusion that the quality of applications on Mac compared to those on Windows is much higher in general, especially in the UI/UX department.

Developers seem to put more time and thought into how users will use them and the community surrounding many of them is extremely supportive, often willing to pay a good price for a quality application.

I’m only using a handful of apps so far, but here’s the ones I’ve fallen in love with:

Airmail

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I’ve fruitlessly searched for a good quality email application for years on Windows but have never found it. Outlook is terrible and the alternatives such as Thunderbird really aren’t that great.

Airmail is the first email application that I actually love using, especially since it’s got full Exchange ActiveSync support on top of proper Gmail integration. It works great and is a steal at just $1.99 on the App Store or for free if you don’t mind using a slightly unstable beta.

Airmail

Twitter for Mac

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After religiously using Metrotwit for years on Windows, it was time to find something new. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Twitter’s official application for Mac; it’s really good. Not only is it good, it’s also free on the App Store!

Twitter for Mac

Bartender

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It’s a bit strange that Apple doesn’t really offer a sanctioned way to hide applications from the menu bar, I quickly found it cluttered with icons I didn’t want to be seeing all day long. Thankfully, there’s Bartender which allows you to hide icons in a submenu or remove them altogether which helps manage clutter.

Bartender provides a free trial for four weeks but then requires a $15US one time purchase.

Bartender

Anvil

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It doesn’t have ton of features but it’s extremely useful for local web development. Anvil helps manage multiple development sites on your local machine by creating local ‘.dev’ websites you can access. Rather than mess around with config files, Anvil does the work for you and is completely free.

Anvil

Sublime Text 3

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When it comes to writing code or simply editing text, the consensus seems to be that Sublime Text is the best tool for everything and I’d agree with that statement. It’s simple but extremely powerful.

Sublime Text 3 has a free, unlimited evaluation but you’ll be nagged occasionally unless you buy a license for $70 USD.

Sublime Text 3

Brackets

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I’ve been using Brackets on Windows ever since the first publicly-released builds, and since it’s built in CSS + HTML, it’s a truly cross platform app. Brackets is an up and coming code editor for building any sort of web application. It’s supported by Adobe and I couldn’t recommend it enough, especially since it’s free.

Brackets

Transmit

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On its homepage, developer Panic calls Transmit the “ultimate” FTP application and I couldn’t agree more. It’s extremely powerful and does so much more than just FTP, with S3 and other cloud storage supported too. It’s the best FTP app I’ve ever used, I didn’t even hesitate to buy it.

Transmit has a free trial but a full license is $34 US.

Transmit

Cloudup

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I find sharing files with others a little painful, but Cloudup is the perfect solution for that. If you want to quickly share a photo, video, application or anything else, Cloudup is the best tool bar none. Because it’s based on NodeJS, it’s lightning fast and you can actually send a link to your file before it’s even finished uploading. Even better, with OS X’s awesome built in screenshot tool ( + Shift + 4) it automatically uploads screenshots as you make them and copies the URL onto your clipboard.

Recently acquired by Automattic, Cloudup is invitation-only until it launches, but we’re giving away invites to the first 500 readers who sign up using this link. If you miss out, Cloudapp is a similar tool that’s also free.

Cloudup

Parallels 9

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If you’re a Windows refugee like me, you’ll want to buy Parallels’ virtualization software to run any applications or games that aren’t available on Mac. The VM runs in its own “space” when in full screen mode but you can also choose to run Windows apps on the Mac desktop natively using Coherence mode, which I love. I chose Parallels over VMWare Fusion for better graphics performance and more frequent updates.

Parallels is $79 US and is well worth the money.

Parallels 9

Going forward

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There’s lots of other modifications I’m learning about right now for OS X such as dot files, so keep an eye out for future posts on my journey from PC to Mac. Now that I’ve switched, I don’t think I could ever go back.

Top smartphone dog Samsung’s explosive growth period is over

Samsung 520x245 Top smartphone dog Samsungs explosive growth period is over

Despite posting record net profit for the second quarter of 2013 that was up 50 percent year-on-year, Samsung spent its earnings call assuring investors that the company is poised for further growth with its “competitive” line-up of products.

The reason for its defensive stance? There have been lingering concerns that the Korean company simply cannot maintain its explosive pace of growth any longer. In fact, Samsung warned that growth in its mobile business will slow in the third quarter due to the onset of more competition as more products are being rolled out.

Record profit not enough

Samsung announced its 2Q 2013 earnings today with KRW57.46 trillion ($51.7 billion) in revenue, in line with its earlier estimate of KRW57 trillion. Operating profit stood at KRW9.53 trillion ($8.6 billion), also in line with the guidance of KRW9.5 trillion, while net profit was seen at a record-high figure of KRW7.7 trillion ($6.9 billion).

Samsung has experienced phenomenal growth to date over the past year – its revenue increased by 21.9 percent from 2011 to 2012, while its operating profit jumped 85.9 percent and its net profit surged 72.5 percent. This was largely attributed to the roaring success of the Galaxy S3 phone – which hit 40 million channel sales in just seven months. Back in January, the company announced that Galaxy S shipments had topped 100 million, with the Galaxy S3 alone contributing 41 million units.

According to a Guardian report in 2011 citing IDC figures, Samsung shipped just 7.3 million phones in Q3 2010. Fast forward to Q2 2013, and IDC estimates that Samsung – which hasn’t provided figures publicly since Q3 2011 – shipped 72.4 million smartphones during the quarter.

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The Galaxy S4 and marketing expenses

This piled on expectations for the Galaxy S4 phone, which has not disappointed – it became Samsung’s fastest shipping device ever when it topped 10 million “channel sales” (aka shipments to retailers) within a month of its launch, and reports from Korean media claim the device has already tipped the 20 million shipment mark.

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However, how much goes into pushing these products? A lot, it seems. Samsung acknowledged in its earnings call that the increased expenditure related to promoting its products and tie-ups with distribution channels has taken a toll on the company’s financials, though it did not disclose any figures.

In 2012, Samsung spent $401 million advertising its phones in the U.S. compared with Apple’s $333 million, according to ad research and consulting firm Kantar Media, the Wall Street Journal reported in March this year.

The Korean firm is known for aggressive marketing and advertisements whenever it rolls out a new phone. For the launch of its flagship Galaxy S4 phone, Samsung held an over-the-top press event at New York’s Times Square featuring a live orchestra and a long series of skits.

Worries over market share

Many analyst firms have pegged Samsung as consistently having the greatest market share in smartphones. Strategy Analytics noted that Samsung was the world’s number one smartphone seller for the first quarter of this year in terms of revenue, while IDC has just pinned Samsung’s market share at 30.4 percent for the second quarter of this year according to shipments. However, in its latest report IDC noted that Samsung’s share of the market has receded slightly, going from 32.2 percent last year to 30.4 percent in Q2 2013.

During its earnings call, Samsung executives acknowledged that they see intensifying competition among vendors, resulting in “a certain amount of uncertainty.”

An ABI research report released today noted that feature phone shipments declined 20% year-on-year in the second quarter to 195 million units, as low-cost manufacturers continued to penetrate the up-market with increased device specifications. Senior Practice Director Jeff Orr says:

The second half of 2013 will be defined by fierce competition between price-aggressive OEMs moving toward the middle tiers for increased margins while at the same time top tier OEMs are diversifying portfolios into the middle in search of continued growth.

It is not only Apple that Samsung is facing off against – that analysis would be much too narrow-minded. Indeed, IDC noted that LG’s record haul of 12.1 million smartphone shipments represented a 130 percent year-on-year improvement, while Chinese firm Lenovo charted 130.6 percent year-on-year shipment growth.

Samsung said it would be likely rolling out more mid-to-low-end smartphones during the second half of this year, which may be targeted at keeping its hold on emerging markets. In the first quarter of 2013, Samsung sold a record 12.5 million smartphones in China alone.

Samsung has already been taking steps to cover as many aspects of the smartphone market as possible. Its Galaxy S4 has been rolled out in various versions – the Mini, the Active, the Zoom and the LTE-A.

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Concerns over stock price

Samsung executives also addressed the worrying issue of the company’s stock price, which has underperformed the market recently. The Wall Street Journal has reported that brokerages have been downgrading the company’s stock and revising downward their shipping and earnings forecasts, with Samsung’s market value since mid-March declining by nearly $30 billion.

They argued that the current situation is a reflection of global macroeconomic issues that have affected the Korean stock market rather than company issues and that industry experts believe its stock is undervalued, but that the management will closely monitor the stock movement and strengthen its competitive advantage to improve the stock performance.

Future growth opportunities

With the smartphone market approaching saturation, Samsung executives identified the tablet and business-to-business (B2B) market as future growth opportunities. Samsung’s tablets have been posting solid mid-10 percent range growth, with 30 percent quarter-on-quarter growth expected for tablet shipments in 3Q 2013, according to the company. IDC noted that Samsung grew its share in the tablet market to 17.9 percent in the first quarter of this year, taking second place after Apple.

Samsung has also been on a drive to garner more market share in the B2B space, launching a global marketing campaign for business users and getting security approval for the Galaxy S4 from the US Department of Defense (DoD), clearing the way for the device to be used as part of a new policy for US government staff.

Samsung says it has one further flagship device to launch this year, and that’s almost certain to be the Galaxy Note. New versions of the tablet-cum-smartphone device has typically been launched at the IFA trade show in Berlin in previous years, and it is expected that the latest version will be unveiled at IFA 2013 which takes place next month.

The firm says that with this planned launch, it expects to see demand for its products increase and growth to sustain in the third quarter. Will Samsung’s growth ever be as rapid as the past year though? That could be hard to achieve given the amount of competition in the smartphone sector – what with Apple rumored to roll out a lower-priced iPhone and other players coming up with more products.

Samsung may just have to settle for slower growth – which is actually a natural progression after its spike over the past year, but this means investors will have to adjust their expectations accordingly.

Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian via Getty Images

European startups need to be valued higher – in more ways than one

europe 520x245 European startups need to be valued higher - in more ways than one

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kevin Cornils, CEO of UK-based, venture-backed European eyewear retailer Glasses Direct.

Why should a startup Silicon Valley business be valued at up to five times higher in the US, than its Silicon Roundabout equivalent in the UK?

As a Californian-born entrepreneur, who has chosen to spend the last decade working in London, I am struck by the huge difference in the way that the US and Europe values startups and early stage businesses.

Finding the next Facebook is as much the goal here as it is in California. There, it really seems a possibility. Yet here we focus too much on why it won’t happen.

To my mind, the history of tech success stories in the US – Microsoft, Google, eBay, Twitter – means it is second nature for a US investor to think that they might have the next Facebook on their hands.

In Europe, companies like Skype, developed in Tallinn, and Spotify, in Sweden, have been global groundbreaking ventures, but there has never been the same hype around them or their founding teams as there has been around US startups like Twitter, Google and Amazon.

In Europe, we talk about the lack of an “ecosystem” for start-ups. In the US, the founders and entrepreneurs that started and drove these businesses, create the ecosystem through their inspiration.

This huge difference in attitude feeds directly through to valuations of startups.

Last spring, JustEat.com – the takeaway food website – was very pleased to receive its third round of venture capital funding funding of $64 million ( 39.8 million). Meanwhile, Yelp, a US restaurant review site that is a smaller business than JustEat, was making its stockmarket debut with a valuation of $1.47 billion.

In the retail sector of my business, Glasses Direct, we have also seen a disconnect from our leading US rival, Warby Parker, which recently received a valuation rumoured to be 8 to 10 times revenue. European businesses are more likely to attract funding closer to two-to-three times revenue.

It is a pattern that continues as companies grow. Listed European technology firms valued at more than $100 million are on average 32 percent cheaper than their North American peers. Bloomberg says they trade at an average ratio of 15 times earnings compared with 22 times earnings in the US and Canada.

Behind this, there lies a lack of financial and market support for start-ups in Europe.

In every year from 1995 to 2010, venture capital investment was higher in the US than it was in Europe – reaching four to five times the European level in many years (BVCA report [PDF], page 29).

In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, investment reached $23,263m across the Atlantic, compared with $4,978 million in Europe. Meanwhile, a report in 2009 by the British Venture Capital Association, showed that Silicon Valley funds around 300 mid to late growth companies each year at levels of 5 to 20 million, whereas the UK only funds about 60 (CBI report [PDF], page 28).

While the US VC sector is worth more than $30 billion a year (CBI report [PDF], page 29), the UK’s is far smaller.

Even the press act differently. In the US, a whole media sector exists to chart startups and is eager to tell success stories, whereas in Europe, journalists are keener to write about the difficulties startups have.

Progress has been made with the LSE and Downing Street initiative to make it easier for high growth companies to float. However, the fact that there is no Internet category for institutional investors to cover might continue to make this a challenge.

Here in the UK where we lead the G20 in terms of the internet’s role in our economy, isn’t it time that we learn to celebrate startups?

This is not just a plea for US-style valuations. It’s a humble request that startup businesses are valued in all senses of the word – and praised as much for what they have achieved so far, as for the future businesses they might become.

Image credit: Thinkstock

8 things your VC won’t tell you

8 520x245 8 things your VC wont tell you

Venture capitalists, especially those investing at the early stage, could be described as “relationship capitalists”. You’ll often hear how investors approach their commitments like a marriage, and that they think long and hard about with whom they want to go to bed. Avoid picturing that second part.

But the VC mystique can be inexplicable at times. Why do they send such curt emails? What the #%$! do they mean by “traction”? Are they even paying attention?!

Here are some things they might be thinking (but probably won’t flat-out say) during the courtship process, and how you can prepare, take ownership, and rock the pitch.

1. “I can’t remember what you do.”

VCs have countless meetings with entrepreneurs, and review even more pitches remotely. Chances are, you’ve scheduled a meeting weeks ahead of time due to a jammed calendar and travel itineraries. Or, you got turned down before, months or years ago, and are having a follow-up discussion.

Don’t take it personally if you’re met with a semi-blank stare. Start the meeting with a brief sentence or two that subtly describes your business and background. It’ll help prevent confusion (and potentially glazed eyes) deeper into the conversation.

2. “I don’t get your product.”

Speak simply, and get to the point. VCs understand that you’re 1,000% excited to be tackling the problems you’re tackling, but stick with one storyline at a time. Reading between the lines is a little too much work. Treat them as if they were a valuable customer. At the very least, it’s great practice for when that is the case.

Moreover, ensure that the investor does, in fact, understand your business, rather than just thinking so. One approach might be to say, “Now that I’ve told you what we do, I’d be very interested in how you describe the business from your perspective.” You’ll likely gain some enlightening feedback on your pitch.

Of course, the above implies that you know your business and market inside and out. The less you understand, the less value you’re likely to provide to your startup, and the less an investor will want to get involved.

3. “I know I’ve heard of others doing this…”

Have a clear handle on your competitive set and address them outright. Entrepreneurs should be fluent in the goings-on of their industry, and have a firm understanding of how their business differentiates itself. Unless the VC is very familiar with your space, they may withdraw temporarily as they rack for comps.

This is also a common test. Either way, be prepared to knock it out of the park.

4. “Can I add value to this business?”

Illustrate how your VC can provide value to your enterprise. Every VC wants to feel like s/he can offer more help than signing a check; your investors want and should be a part of your braintrust. Demonstrate that you know the firm and profile, and can explain how this will take your company to the next level (which, with any luck, will reap benefits for them too).

5. “You’re not solving a real problem.”

Answer this: How is your business changing the world? Put in other words: Why would anybody (or more importantly, many people) care? Hopefully, it’s not another rendition of the ice cream glove.

“Real” is often a measurement around market size; how many customers are out there, and how much are they dying to pay you?

6. “I don’t believe you’re right to lead this business.”

Now that you’ve convinced your VC that this is a market going after, make it undeniable that you’re the dream team to go after it. Explain why you have the perfect blend of skills, knowhow, network, and passion that no one else can flaunt. If your investor had to make only one bet on your market (as investors frequently do), why should it be on you?

7. “I’m not sure if I can afford this.”

VCs allocate their funds towards new investments and follow-on rounds. Your terms must make sense in regards to their financing ability and equity interests. “Affordability” also refers to time; investors may simply pass because they’re stretched thin with their existing portfolio companies.

Do your homework. Potentially save yourself some time by looking into the VC’s investment stage, investment size, and board commitments.

8. “It doesn’t feel right.”

You may very well be something like a 90% Match, 10% Friend, 0% Enemy for your VC. You’ve checked every box, made them laugh on numerous occasions, and shown them a good time or two. But sometimes, the chemistry falls short of science. Don’t sweat it and move on. There are many opportunities out there.

(Special thanks to Brad Gillespie (IA Ventures), Steve Schlafman (Lerer Ventures), and Michael Klein (Canaan Partners) for their thoughts and contributions to this post).

Image credit: Comstock / Thinkstock