I received the following e-mail from Jason Boutwell a couple of days ago (published here with his permission).
I'm in the market for a new development laptop, either a P4 or a G4. I
see from some of your older blog posts that you went through the same
thing last year. First you went with a P4, then ended up with a
PowerBook, so you've done both.
Since we seem to have similar professional interests (jobs where you BYOL, developing J2EE apps with tools like Hibernate, Struts, XDoclet, IDEA, etc.), you seem an ideal person to ask.
It's as simple as this: you can't beat the form-factor of the
PowerBook. The fact that it's so small and light really make it a
killer laptop. iPhoto, iMovie and iTunes are all killer apps and make
digital photography and video so much easer. However, as a development
environment - it sucks. It's sooooo much slower that my Windows XP
desktop (that only cost $800).
My perspective of the speed difference might not be fair though - desktops (most likely) will always be faster than laptops. However, to run "ant deploy" for AppFuse takes 23 seconds on my 2.6 GHz CPU / 1.5 GB RAM desktop and 36 seconds on the PowerBook (1.33 GHz CPU / 1 GB RAM). It is difficult for me to develop on the Mac after developing on my PC for awhile, it's just so much slower. That being said, I don't think I'd be happy with a PC laptop - they're too ugly and bulky (for the 17" models) and don't offer the slick digital hub integration that the Mac does.
Don't expect the PowerBook to be a desktop replacement. And if you've never used a Mac, prepare to be frustrated. I've been a Windows user for 10+ years and getting used to the way a Mac works is not easy. It's been most frustrating for me because I can navigate around and do stuff on Windows really fast - it's almost like second nature. On the Mac, I have to think about how to do stuff. I think that Mac or Linux users migrating to Windows would feel the same frustration.
Above all else, you need to experience a Mac first hand. Go to your local Apple Store and play around with one. Download your favorite IDE and checkout an open source project from SourceForge. Download and install Ant and try compiling the project. You're gonna love the feel of the Mac, but you might find it's a bit slower than you're used to.
The one problem with not buying a PowerBook is that you'll always long for one. ;-) Would I buy a PowerBook again? Definitely. Would I give up my Windows desktop for a Mac desktop? No. Why should I give up all my years of becoming an efficient Windows user to be a slow-ass frustrated Mac user - it just doesn't make sense.