I've spent the last couple of days ponder a new workstation with which to take my projects to the next level. It's a strange ritual that has been easy in the past because I just needed something that can make text. A $250 Netbook worked fine for what I needed with a little oomph for games, but only maybe.
In 2009, I sprung for a MacBook Pro and a Cinema Display. They have, and continue to, serve me very well. My Lenovo E420 worked in tandem with them for most of my work on the Windows Phone 7 platform, but visual rendering and color sync between all the various platforms in which I worked had been a real challenge. I spent a lot of time getting that as right as I could with my only minimal amount of self training.
Fast forward to the last couple of months and I'm suddenly serious as a heart attack about Windows Phone 8 development, far more than I had been about 7. I want to build beautiful things for the platform and my old partner in crime is similarly afflicted. Working 8-5 M-F on my novels leaves only nights and weekends to work on Windows Phone, and my time is more constrained even though I need more of it.
My gracious wife has allowed me, in the past, to pull long hours, after hours, because she was working on her Master's. Now that she has her various degrees (I framed them a couple days ago), she will probably want to actually spend time with me again. At least that's my working theory.
It was fine to spend time juggling Windows Phone development between platforms before because it was more of a side project and I had time in the evenings to burn. Normally I'm so sure about gear when I make a purchase, but this feels like I'm making a bigger decision than just buying a new workstation.
I feel like I am committing to a path. I felt like Windows Phone development was just a fun thing before, and it still is, but to commit to several hundred frames of animation, and probably a thousand still images, all as good as I can possibly produce is the minimum investment I can make.
I need a workstation that can let me write, render visuals with accurate color, stand up the WP8 SDK & Emulator, run Photoshop, Office, and a host of other applications that are part of my workflow. I've tried looking at HP's Probooks, but their site is unnavigable and none of the models seem to have any customization. Dell's site is a lot better, but none of the models have a color sensor built in and calibrated at the factory like Lenovo's W530. No one else even manufactures a contender from what I've seen.
These machines do not appeal to my technological vanity. I love my iPad, and the MacBook Air, and Microsoft's Surface. Sadly, none of those have the horsepower or all the capabilities I'm looking for in a mobile workstation. The one thing the W530 lacks, I'll be able to add when Lenovo's mobile touchscreen monitor is released in the spring. I really thought I would always be a Mac guy after my bitter battle with Asus in the Fall of 2009.
I've looked at new MacBook Pros (my current one won't work, no SLAT support) as a possibility, and they offer some pretty nice options in that regard. The retina display models are pointless for anything but video or photo editing. Building visuals for video games just works better (for me) with a 1:1 pixel mapping, which can be simulated in most apps, but I like seeing things as they would probably be seen on the target device, without scaling, etcetera.
However, from what I've read online, there may be no way to (currently) get the Windows Phone 8 development tools to run on a Mac. Parallels and BootCamp don't work (near as I can tell), so I'm buying a Windows machine most likely. I'd be okay with waiting for a workaround if I thought one was on the horizon, but I doubt there's a bunch of Windows Phone 8 devs beating on Apple's door to produce one.