Shopping for a Mac: A Journey (2)

Okay, a decision is made. Now I've got to figure out the most painless transition. I've been told that a Mac-Windows move used to be difficult and a new Mac convert had to give up all the old data -- e-mails, Word and Excel files, address book and schedule items.

Not any more, asserts lots of recent Mac converts and the book titled "Mac Bible for Windows Users" (subtitle: "Answering your questions and clearing up your concerns") as well as Apple. On the company's snappy webpage titled "Why your next PC should be a Mac," where they give "It's gorgeous. Inside and out" as the top reason to buy a Mac, they tell me:

"(T)he easiest way is to let us do it. If you buy a Mac at an Apple Retail Store and bring in your old Mac or PC, a Genius can move all your files for you. Or you can use a USB or FireWire hard drive or a local network to transfer photos, music, documents, and more."

The Japanese Apple site has a tutorial video on how to do all that by yourself. Does make it look easy, but I'm still unsure. It doesn't show me a step-by-step process of how to move stuff on the applications I use -- Word documents, Eudora e-mails, and "Notes" items on Palm Desktop.

Palm Desktop? Yup, you read that right. Since my then-boyfriend/now-husband gave me a PalmPilot -- that little guy with the now-defunct US Robotics logo on it -- for Christmas 1997, I have lived with and on a Palm. I've since changed models probably 5 times, and I have been with the sleek m505 for several years now.

Back in the 1990s, when the Palm technology emerged, Japan was one of the early adopter countries. We love little electric gadgets -- look at the Walkman (whose producer, Sony, came up with Clie, a cool, stylish version of a Palm in 2000).

At times I wondered if I was too dependent on a Palm. The Datebook was my journal; I pud down not only appointments but also the movies I watched (and with which friends) and the books I read (and what I thought). On the Note, I punched in all notes-to-self -- where my parents kept their house keys to which stocks I should buy. I checked edits of my articles and wrote a couple of chapters of my first book.

Then the cell phone came. Everything you did on Palm, you could do on a much smaller and much cuter cell phone, and much more easily. Japanese love for little gadget that helped Palm in its early days now forced it out of the market. The Palm OS (Japanese) hasn't been upgraded since 2001 and there hasn't been customer service in this country for about the same time. Sony stopped marketing Clie, too.

But I couldn't give up on my m505. Since the company -- I lost track of what they call themselves these days -- will not give us any new handheld, at least not in Japan, I buy it every time I see an m505 offered on an online auction -- now I have four. (It's a common practice among members of concerned Palm users' community on mixi.)

That's how invested I am, and I spent hours and hours online, searching for an answer. But nobody could tell me 1) whether I can continue to use my Palm on iMac, and if so, 2) how I can move my Palm data to the new Mac.

So one Saturday afternoon my husband took me to The Apple Store in Ginza. He grabbed a bright-looking, if somewhat chubby, young guy in an orange T-shirt to talk to me.

I said I have been on Windows for 15 years and was planning to switch to a Mac. "I see," he said. My major issue was about Palm Desktop, but I began with easy stuff (I thought) and asked about e-mails. I've used Eudora for all these years, and was in the process of switching to Thunderbird in preparation for the big switch. He didn't look impressed.

"But there is this built-in e-mail program... it's very easy to use, and you can sync it with an iPod Touch, and an iPhone, if you are planning to buy it. You should give it a try," he said.

"Ah, the only iPod I have is the old version of iShuffle, and have no plans to buy an iPhone. I need to keep the old mailboxes," I say. "I just want to make sure that works, and I was told I can do that with Thunderbird..."

"But if you are switching to a Mac, why don't you take advantage of..."

"Never mind," I cut him off. "What about Palm?"

"What about Palm," he repeated.

"I have been using a Palm handheld for 10 years and I would like to continue using it, so I need to export all the data to a Mac. Do you know if iMac supports Palm Desktop?"

The guy did not have an answer for it.

"But you should use iCal, which is very easy to use, and it syncs with an iPod...."

Haven't I heard that already?

He was too young to have known Palm at its prime, too young to have a 10-year worth of journal entries. He was telling me how to start processing data, syncing data among different devices, but he couldn't give me anything on how to move the old information to a new computer.

I gave one more try. "If I brought my computer here, one of the geniuses could move the files to a new Mac, right? You say so on your website."

"Well, yes, if you really want to go to that much trouble," he said. "But it's really easy to move the files yourself, if you have a USB memory stick."

"I read on your website..."

"Yeah, but you don't have to, if you have a memory stick. Even if you don't have a memory stick, you might want to buy one. It's fairly cheap these days. For 4,000 yen or so you can get a 4GB memory."

"But your website says..."

"It's just 4,000 yen and all you need to do is copy all the files onto the memory stick and..."

This was going nowhere. I told him that I'd be back, and began to leave. He looked a bit worried, for the first time sensing I was unhappy with his service.

"Please look at this," he said, typing. As I watched, he typed "www.google.com," bringing the Google top page. "You can do this on a Mac, too. You can use Google, or any other websites on a Mac, just like you have been on Windows for all these years."

It took a while to sink in. He correctly understood that I was concerned about continuity. So he showed me I can do a search on a Mac. Did I look like an ignorant old bag? Obviously. Dennis had to drag me out of there and calm me down with a cold beer in a nearby izakaya. I'm not sure which was worse: That the guy didn't think I understood the concept of the Internet, or that he suggested I was too cheap to buy a 4,000-yen memory stick. "Who does he think he is?" I wailed.

The thing is, I've always been a bit annoyed by the smugness of the Mac users. They have an attitude. Like they are superior. They appreciate style over cheap prices. Like they are siding with Don Quixote going up against the giant. I mean, a Mac is a computer designed and produced by a company that's arrogant enough to force their potential customers to call their employees "geniuses."

There are plenty of people who share my skepticism. Among them are the "I hate Apple" group on facebook.

It wasn't supposed to be this way, but now I wonder. Do I really want to be one of them?

(To be continued)

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