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Anti-Mac Media

I heard yet another anti-Apple media piece, this time on Jon Gordon's "Future Tense" on National Public Radio, yesterday. Gordon's guest was talking about the high price of Mac products compared to comparable PCs. It was the usual spiel, comparing processor speed and memory and various hardware. According to this news piece, the price gap has been increasing recently, based primarily on the "cachet" of Mac ownership.

The issue of usability was never once mentioned.

To me, the far superior user-friendliness of Apple products, in addition to superior overall construction, is well worth the price difference.

As an example: I occasionally take my Powerbook laptop to work. When I fire it up, the Powerbook notifies me that my "trusted wireless network" is not available, and asks if I would like to join an available network. I click on the network of choice, in the case of the network at work I type in the password, and I'm connected.

The PC laptop which I was assigned by work is the antithesis of user-friendly when it comes to wireless connectivity. Changing locations requires considerable fiddling through various levels of menus both in the Windows OS and in the proprietary software. Just a few days ago, due to a change in the wireless router at work, it took me over half an hour to reconfigure the PC to connect to the network. The Mac required about ten seconds. I have never been able to get the PC (a Lenovo) to connect to the internet via my home wireless router.

In physical construction, the PC laptop is a piece of plastic junk. The lid creaks, the keys are clicky-clacky little toys, and the trackpad buttons are sticky and unresponsive. Aesthetically, the edges are sharp, the whole thing looks clunky, and it's nearly as heavy as the Powerbook even though the PC is only a 12-inch screen and the Powerbook is a 17.

There's a lot more to consider than processor speed when comparing computers. I can't help but feel a trace of contempt for "technophiles" who can't admit that there's a level of quality and user-friendliness to most Mac products that's missing in most PC-based systems. These people are living in the past; their egos leave them stuck in the day when you had to "know how to use a computer" before you could do anything useful with that computer. Just like a driver doesn't need to know how to overhaul a V-6 to drive a car to the grocery store and back, a computer user shouldn't have to know how to reconfigure the hardware components of the box just to type a letter or log on to Twitter.

With a Mac, I feel I can turn the key and get to where I need to go. With a PC, I have to change the spark plugs, adjust the distributor timing, and flush the cooling system before I can go for a drive... and I'll probably have to do it all again before I can turn around and drive back home.

No, Macs aren't perfect. Granted, I'm a long-time Mac user, so I may harbor a bias. But there's a reason for that bias. Macs, straight out of the box, just work. I have never had that experience with a PC.

Call it "cachet" if you will. But PC makers come and go... whatever happened to Gateway anyway? Is Dell still the most popular PC? Honestly, I still hear people talking about how "my son-in-law can build you a much better computer than you can buy anywhere else." But Apple hangs on, and (for the most part) keeps turning out good products that do what they're supposed to do... to the point where they can afford to put big shiny stores in big shiny shopping malls, which are always packed with customers. The "cachet," if there is indeed a cachet to Mac ownership, is based on lasting quality and ease of use. Unless you're an engineer who lives to tinker with your computer, like street-racers live to tinker with their hopped-up Honda Accords, Mac products offer value beyond mere "horsepower" and "top speed." If "cachet" means wanting to get the job done with as little fuss as possible, well, I'm willing to pay for that.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 9th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
Macs are way more expensive than bottomline PCs. Macs are a litle bit more expensive than comparable PCs.
But of course (PC) magazines compare Macs with cheap Pacards or Dells.
But compare a Mac with a Sony or Toshiba and the price difference typically melts down to double figure levels. Of course the quality difference melts down as well then. The only difference remaining is between OS/X, Windows or Linux. I don't see much difference between those three. Not even in usability. I have plugged PCs and Apples in foreign networks without problems or need to fiddle around with obscure settings. Most problems occur when you hit something that doesn't work and you have to do tricks to get around it. With a Mac, if it doesn't work you can forget it. With Windows, if it doesn't work you try again (3x) then start to change settings randomly till it goes. Of course then the normal things don't work anymore and you are off in Windows hell as you mention. With Linux, you read the error message, change what is indicated and it works.
Aug. 11th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
"With a mac, if it doesn't work you can forget it." Ha ha! Yes, that is pretty much the case. There have been a few times when I have encountered this problem; most annoying is a work web site I must frequently use which was designed specifically for, and works properly only with, Internet Explorer on Windows.

I am happy to learn that I am using the Windows strategy employed by the professionals: try three times, then start to change settings randomly until it goes. That's so funny... and so very true! It's how I got the internet to work on the Lenovo!
Aug. 11th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
The problem with the Windows technique is that you change 26 things before it works. But only 7 things actually needed to change. But you don't remember all the other 19, now nonstandard set, things so you leave them. After two years so many things have changed that not even Bill gates recognises it.

Aug. 10th, 2008 12:42 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that for every anti-Mac fanatic there is the equivalent pro-Mac fanatic to counterbalance it. (Not implying you are either, here; just saying . . .there are people who can't seem to accept that Mac isn't absolutely perfect in every way.)

I should mention (hope it doesn't jinx it) but two weeks after I purchased Nari's Vaio for Kurii, he built his own gaming computer and didn't have much use for it. My computer subsequently died, so I took over the Vaio (within a month of purchase).

Nari's Vaio has been used almost continuously since it arrived, has been back and forth on numerous road trips and works flawlessly.

Her Vaio's Windows wireless connection looks for available networks almost exactly as you describe . . .I go into a hotel or coffee shop and connect easily and effortlessly.

re: flexibility I have a Windows classic media player with good codecs installed, and so far (knock wood) have never thrown anything at it that didn't work. I like the huge screen for watching movies, too. (I think Nari liked her Mac speakers better, though . . . better sound.)

Perhaps it is the magic of Nari that continues to hover over this computer, but I would buy another Vaio without a second thought.
Aug. 11th, 2008 02:55 am (UTC)
It's the magic of Nari, obviously!

Were I to own a Windows machine, it would definitely be a Vaio. The Sony Vaio is somewhat like the Mac, I've found, in that many Windows users dismiss it as being extremely overpriced. Your experience with the Vaio suggests the extra money actually buys you something: functionality!

Plus, the Vaio has always had nice styling.

At $3,500 for an 11-inch screen or $3,300 for a 17-inch model, I don't understand how the so-called "experts" in the media can accuse Apple of creating over-priced machines. A straight-up comparison based on functionality and quality indicates that, by a few dozen dollars, the Apple product is actually less expensive.

I think the real debate should not be Mac vs Windows, but rather, Quality vs price. Most people, or at least the people I encounter, IRL and in the media, focus primarily on price, with complete disregard for usability.

Thank you for the update on your experiences with "Nari's Vaio."
Aug. 11th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
The Experts are experts because they know that, when something in Windows breaks it's because they did something wrong. (But they cannot admit that in an artickle so they don't write about broken stuff.)

I think Nies Bohr said something like this : You become an expert in your field by making all the mistakes in it.

(That's why there are so many Windows experts)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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