One small step for Mac. A giant leap for its bottom line...
Apple Macs? The preserve of macchiato-swigging designers and web developers, right? PCs? The preserve of science labs and offices. Or so we thought. But pictures of the Nasa scientists controlling the Mars landing of Curiosity rover showed them all hovering behind Macs. What gives?
Things have changed, explains Adam Banks, editor-in-chief of MacUser magazine, says. "Macs and PCs used to be different," he says. "You could do some things better on one and some on the other. Today, the technical differences are negligible; a Mac is just a really neatly designed PC with an Apple logo on it."
The Apple-focused blog TUAW.com also wondered the same thing as us and discovered that Macs had crept into the Jet Propulsion Lab (where the project is based) when scientists had started bringing their own computers in after the 2006 launch of the Macbook Pro, which was much more powerful than its predecessors and ran on processors reliable enough to make the computations necessary for a project as complicated as the Curiosity rover.
"The phenomenon of 'bring your own device' has been huge for Apple," Banks says. "And it's no surprise to see it in action at Nasa. The computers for the Apollo programme were screwed to the floor, but nowadays there's all sorts of kit floating around. In a geeky environment like JPL, of course people are going to want to use their own laptops for work, not some crap that their boss bought in on the cheap."
And they'll still do a fine job if you're just playing Farmville in Caffè Nero, too.
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