Why I care about this Apple vs. PC business


Freddie deBoer used to blog at lhote.blogspot.com, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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44 Responses

  1. Dan says:

    Interesting read Freddie.

    I’m a Mac user myself. I don’t do anything really complex with a computer so my criteria when choosing was basically will it burn CDs and DVDs well, will it allow me to surf the web and read entirely too many blogs, and will it be secure against malware, spyware, bugs etc. Based on some reading and reviews of trusted friends I ended up with a Mac, and have been very happy, especially in regards to the security aspect.

    However despite being a recent Mac convert I couldn’t agree with you more about the annoying fan boy nature of many Mac users. Even worse than that is bizarre cult I feel like I am walking into every time I go to the Apple store at my local mall to ask a question or purchase an accessory. On two separate occasions I have had employees point out the total inadequacy of my Windows Mobile smart phone and try to shame me into buying an iphone (no thanks by the way, I’ll keep my windows mobile phone with almost all the same functionality at about a third of the monthly cost demanded by the ATT-Apple pricing scheme)

    I don’t enjoy the in store marketing approach of now that I’m “on the team” so to speak I should try to bring the corporation into every aspect of my life. Not only is it creepy, but it is insulting as well. Of course as is the case with many creepy corporations products I will still continue to use and enjoy them……..I’ll just complain in the comments section of a blog about how I don’t like certain aspects of their marketing scheme. That will show them!Report

  2. Freddie says:

    And there’s nothing wrong with you both disliking Apple’s adds and yet using a Mac. I own an iPod; they’re fantastic MP3 players. My personal instinct, and it’s wrong of me, is to associate Apple users with Apple the corporation. I’m trying hard not to fall into that lame temptation.Report

  3. matoko_chan says:

    In a world without walls or borders…..who needs Windows and Gates?Report

  4. Roque Nuevo says:

    You’re getting all worked up about nothing… an ad campaign, for god’s sake! Apple wants to sell computers and I guess they found a way to do it. That’s about the size of it.

    These people really must know what they’re doing to spend so many millions of dollars on an ad campaign. The depressing part is that they’re right and their idea works. People like to think that they’re superior to others somehow and if it’s as easy as buying a certain computer, then…

    If you want to rant about something, how about the idea that people define themselves by the products they buy? Everything about advertising is “personality based.” You probably don’t remember the “Virginia Slims” ad–“You’ve come a long way, baby!”. It was for a cigarrette, for the love of Pat! It’s a hip and feminist way to stink up your house, hair, clothes, etc etc and probably die early. I always wondered who could possible take this stuff seriously. I always figured it was kids, since they’re the ones who want to be hip, feminist or whatever. Once the marketer gets the kids to buy, then the adults will as well, if only because the kids turn into adults some day. That’s why it works. Marketers are really the best psychologists out there today. They get results…out of kids!

    You’re not a kid anymore, are you? Who really cares about these ads except kids? Everyone else will just laugh at the humor, or not, and then won’t remember the ad from one minute to the next.Report

  5. EngineerScotty says:

    A pox on both the houses of Gates and Jobs. Use Linux. 🙂

    Seriously–Microsoft is still making boatloads of money (zillions of computer makers won’t sell a computer without Windows on it); however their new technology is increasingly irrelevant, and their attempts to branch out beyond the PC have been mostly failures. Apple, like many high-end brands, does use snobbery as part of its cachet to some extent; part of the reasons people buy luxury items is to feel superior to those who don’t–there’s nothing new here.

    The biggest problem MS has is that they don’t know their customers very well (and are more isolated from them by the same OEM arrangements that get them lots of money). Windows Vista is proof of this–the OS is, in many ways, actively hostile to the user. Their current response to the Apple campaign would be like Toyota running ads saying “Why buy a BMW when you can have a Toyota for half the price?” For one thing–such ads reinforce the perception that Apple is the upmarket brand, and MS (and PCs) the econobox; given the presence of Linux (which is free), this isn’t a market MS wants to corner. And given MS’ past corporate behavior, they have much pennance to perform before they can regain the street cred needed to be an attractive consumer brand. (It can be done, just ask IBM).
    The advantage that the PC has over the Mac is the opposite of the disadvantage–the open architecture. It’s a heck of a lot easier to upgrade a PC than it is any Mac, other than the high-end PowerMac. If Microsoft were to focus on this, and on better apps, rather than continually looking for ways to lock in the corporate crowd, it might be able to make more inroads in the home space, and reclaim the mantle of cool. But MS, for the past decade plus, has generally been opposed to openness, and views it as a threat.Report

  6. E.D. Kain says:

    Hmmm. This whole identity branding is the natural extension of any advertising, I suppose – and is especially effective in a hyper-consumerist society. I have an Apple and a PC – so what am I? A technohermaphrodyte? I use Linux as well, which essentially kills the whole “Microsoft” side of things. I don’t know, it strikes me that these are both Really Big Companies, and neither one really deserves any of our respect beyond the performance of their machines and software.

    Yes, a Windows PC is cheaper and can do plenty, but there are advantages to a Mac as well, including security advantages (which are mostly due to its low market share) and of course, in the end, it’s all a matter of taste and marketing.

    I suppose I never really felt like Apple was calling me a loser with these ads; I thought they were kind of absurd given the breadth of high quality games available for a PC compared to a Mac. Then again, the “I’m a PC” ads are also kind of absurd, since who on Earth is their computer?

    Such is capitalism, such is marketing…and in the end, your safest bet is to ditch your TV altogether. I haven’t seen one of these ads in years….Report

  7. E.D. Kain says:

    I also have a special bond – love/hate – with Apple. As a kid we always had those old B&W models with the screen built in to the box. I wrote many, many a story on that old thing. Of course, there were never any games for them, so I was always jealous at the store when all the games were Windows-only. Then, later after I had wasted countless hours on games, I recalled how nice it was to have a computer that confined me to my writing…Report

  8. Roque Nuevo says:

    ED Kain: “your safest bet is to ditch your TV altogether. I haven’t seen one of these ads in years….”

    That’s another of the beauties of capitalism–anyone can just opt out with relatively low hassle.

    Just so you know we have something in common, I opted out of TV before you were even born and my kids were raised without it. They learned to fight with each other and whatever instead of watching TV. They hated us for it then, but now, they’ve all told me they’re grateful we gave them the opportunity to develop their imaginations.

    It’s not all that easy, since most people will reference TV all the time and these things stump me, like hearing people use words from a foreign language or slang I don’t know. For kids, it’s even worse.Report

  9. I think this phenomenon was on full display in that video of the end of the NYU “protests.” In one breath you had this hipster ranting about the evils of “corporate water” and expressing his fear that some lackey of said evil corporations would steal his iPod.

    If enough people become anti-establishment, they become the establishment. And buying a product solely because it’s not the product of the “establishment” does not make you a unique individual or nonconformist. In fact, it’s every bit as conformist as someone who buys the “establishment’s” product primarily because it’s the “establishment’s.”Report

  10. chrismealy says:

    You’re not the PC. The PC is a computer. Hodgman says, “I’m a PC.” He doesn’t say “I’m a PC user.” In the commercials the PC crashes, gets viruses, spyware, etc. People don’t. (Unless … unless … Freddie IS A COMPUTER!) People with PCs have to put up with all the PC problems. I the regular viewer identifies Hodgman with the gray box on their table, like the commercials obviously intend.Report

  11. Max says:

    “problems white people have”Report

  12. Eric says:

    … but there are advantages to a Mac as well, including security advantages (which are mostly due to its low market share)

    I don’t think that’s entirely accurate, E.D. Certainly the lower market share is a factor, but the UNIX architecture must be a more significant reason. How often is your Linux box compromised?Report

  13. cwk says:

    Freddie, where exactly do you get the idea that Windows is more “versatile” or “powerful” than MacOS? With the one notable exception of running the majority of commercial video games, I’m curious what it is you think MacOS can’t do? And even this isn’t a failing of MacOS technically, it’s game developers deciding the Mac gaming market isn’t lucrative enough. Then there’s the legions of IT professional types I could name who’ve bought Macs specifically because they find them yes, more powerful and versatile than Windows.

    Windows is cheaper? Clearly. If PC gaming matters to you, that’s a big reason to avoid Macs. Apple’s legions of media fanboys can certainly be annoying. Anyone who bases their computer-buying decision on what makes them feel hip, edgy, and counter-cultural is a co-opted fool who needs to read Thomas Frank’s pre-“Kansas” books. But your assertion that MacOS is somehow less versatile or powerful than Windows is just an egregious error of fact. I remember back when the old conventional wisdom that Macs were toys and PCs for “real work” was still somewhat accurate, but that hasn’t been remotely true for many years.

    Before I get accused of being an Apple fanboy myself, there’s two computers on my desk. One’s running Ubuntu and the other’s running Windows XP. As an IT professional I think there’s a lot to admire about MacOS technically, but I’m a cheap bastard. Oh, and the “I’m a Mac/PC” ads don’t bother me because I have a sense of humor. 😉Report

  14. Freddie says:

    As far as power goes, it’s all about price point. Compare the power of the processor, the cache memory, the RAM, the video card… I can build you a machine for $1200 that will absolutely slay a $2000 Mac.

    As for versatility, there remains dozens if not hundreds of freeware programs that have no Mac support or analogs. And if we’re talking games, the gap is vast. Game support for Macs remains spotty at best.Report

  15. Freddie says:

    Let me be quick to say, though– I get a lot of friends asking me for computer advice. I tell people to buy Macs all the time.Report

  16. cwk says:

    Ok, fair enough. I got so focused on the capability of the OS, I forgot to take into account that cheaper = more powerful in a way.

    I do think that I can find a Mac freeware utility to do just about anything a Windows freeware utility can do though. It will likely be different software with a learning curve that one may or may not find worth it, but the functionality exists. The open source community embracing MacOS as they did after v10 makes this possible.Report

  17. E.D. Kain says:

    The one problem with these Apple vs. PC posts that lament some aspect of the Apple PC flame-war is that you inevitably invite more of the same arguments (though this thread has remained very chill). I think it’s a lot like Israel/Palestine in that regard.

    Oh – and Max – bingo!Report

  18. Max says:

    ED are you flame-baiting me?

    I just wrote a thirty-page essay on why the Palestinians are like Macs because they are overpriced, and why the Israelis are like Macs because they are chalk-white European colonists.Report

  19. Max says:

    You must see it like that, it is like politics, when Conservatives and Democrats (they are no liberals) fight each other on blogs and websites and radio or tv. It is the same idea, the same sequence with similar emotions and actions.

    They cry at each other and paint one blue and the other red because of their differences. There it is too a choice of values (though a tad bit more important than Apple and MS – though Democrats and Conservatives are both pro-state just with different emphasize.).

    So, I think it is completely understandable that it would end like that. I mean, it is just a transition from politics to company politics…Report

  20. E.D. Kain says:

    No flame-baiting Max, just an observation on the sort of arguments that get loosed when discussing these two very oddly similar topics. Then again, the one seems a bit more vital than the other….Report

  21. Don says:

    Freddie write: “It is amazing how many of the supposed problems with PCs are solved by not being stupid and doing a tiny amount of learning about your computer.”

    That comment is just weird. I don’t have to know how to fix my car. I don’t have to know how to fix my TV. I don’t have to know how to fix the washing machine. I just spend time using them effectively. But according to Freddie, the only way to avoid problems with a computer is by learning about it and not doing stupid things with it.

    Personally, one of the BEST ways to learn about something is to try to do stupid things with it. I want to run a dozen programs at the same time. I want to go all over the internet without worrying about hundreds of thousands of pieces of malware. I can’t do that with a Windows-based computer. I can do that with a Mac.

    I don’t want to have to put AV software on my computer to slow it down. I don’t want to have to reinstall Windows…again. I don’t want to have to struggle with the registry. I just want to use the computer. I want to surf the web. I want to design 3D images. I want to write appealing articles and books. I want to track my stocks. I want to design a house. I want to do everything without having to worry about BSoDs, hangs, crashes, and malware. That’s what I can do on my Mac.

    Oh, and I can, if need be, run almost every other OS and piece of software that is out there, including Windows. So my Mac is far more versatile and more powerful than any other computer out there.

    Well, Freddie, you go out there and spend MORE time learning about your computer because you have to. I’ll be out there doing what I want to with mine.Report

  22. Jaybird says:

    Would Mac be Israel? Encroaching on the rightful property of PCs?

    Would Mac be Palestine? Trying to enjoy what tiny marketshare it has and then Windows bulldozes its proverbial olive trees?

    Redhat could be Egypt, I suppose. BSD could be Saudi. HP-UX could be Lebanon. Solaris could be Jordan. AIX is Al Qaeda.

    Would the solution really be to force PC and Mac into one platform?

    Or, perhaps, we could force either PC or Mac into the sea and we’ll finally have peace.Report

  23. Max says:

    Seems like ‘the sea’ needs a metaphorical representation as well, yes? Nationalization maybe?Report

  24. E.D. Kain says:

    I think we need a two-format solution, Jaybird.

    But in all honesty, the metaphor was only meant to extend to the bloody debate itself, not the situation… 😉Report

  25. Barry says:

    I think you have missed the point of the ads. The ‘fat sweaty guy’ does not represent PC users, he represents the PC itself. Unless you identify with your computer far more than is really healthy then I don’t see how you personally could take offence at Apple suggesting that PC’s are a bit clumsy and, well, comical. By the way, John Hodgman (the nerd, a geek, a dolt, a fat and sweaty little dork) as you so kindly put it is quite well known to be an Apple user. Anyway, just to point out that perhaps it isn’t quite such a personal attack as you seem to have taken it.Report

  26. matoko_chan says:

    Pfft…its simple elitism, Freddie.
    Stratification by coolth.
    If you can afford the price, you buy coolth.
    If not , go without the meat and curse the bread.Report

  27. matoko_chan says:

    And freddie…….macs are liberal and pcs are conservative.

  28. E.D. Kain says:

    Pfft…its simple elitism, Freddie.
    Stratification by coolth.
    If you can afford the price, you buy coolth.
    If not , go without the meat and curse the bread.

    I hereby dub this my favorite matako quote ever.Report

  29. Steve says:

    I’m not just a Mac I am a Mac software developer. The whole debate over Windows/Mac to me is really last decade, especially when one considers the cross platform capability of most major software brands today and the emergence of web-based applications – ever check out Google docs, it eliminates the need for MS Office on your desktop. Spending, what, 3000 words or more to cry that you don’t like how Apple is portraying PC users in their ads seems, well, a waste of 3000 words.

    Do you not understand the basic concept of advertising or Apple’s basic corporate view – they see themselves as a lifestyle, not a computer company. And if the campaign wasn’t working and striking a nerve would MS have countered with first the abysmal Gates/Seinfeld series, then the “I’m a PC” series (which I thought was quite clever and actually liked a lot) and now their recent one showing folks on a quest to get a cheap computer, with the requisite dis of Apple being too expensive.

    Really though, you’re insulted by an ad? It is your column, feel free to chew on whatever bone you like with it, this one just seems silly.Report

  30. habadabeer says:

    Freddie et al.
    To me, the “PC vs. Mac” debate is analogous to car ownership, and no, I’m not referring to the old Pinto/BMW argument. What I mean is that there are generally 2 types of car owners: those who like to drive, and those who like to tinker. I’ve got a neighbor who owns a couple of classic Thunderbirds, his pride and joy. Every weekend he’s up to his elbows, lovingly restoring, customizing, modifying and fine tuning his babies to get his idea of optimum performance. He enjoys doing this, doesn’t look at it as work. I assume he gets a lot of satisfaction out of knowing how, and a sense of accomplishment when he finishes his latest upgrade. I, on the other hand, know just enough about my car to keep it running. I put in the gas, change the oil regularly, keep the tires inflated and the fluids filled, and pay attention to the “idiot lights”, but that’s about it. I realize I don’t know enough to try and take on what my neighbor does, my eyes glaze over like jelly donuts when he starts discussing auto mechanics. I just want to drive. And that’s the key difference. If my car stops performing the way I think it should, I get annoyed; I see a problem that keeps me from driving. My neighbor gets excited; he sees an opportunity to solve a new challenge. When someone says a PC offers more versatility than a Mac, I assume what is meant is that you can tinker with it; modify components, adjust performance parameters, etc. For some (the computer geek version of my car geek neighbor), this is important. For others, being able to just do stuff hassle free is important. That’s what makes the Mac platform appealing to this “fanboi”; while I can appreciate the “skillz”, I think computers should just work, and that convenience is well worth the price of admission. To me, the difference between Macs and PCs is the difference between being able to delve into the depths of the system, and having to. I shouldn’t need to be an auto mechanic to drive into town to pick up milk and eggs.Report

  31. Fred says:

    Hey Freddie, after buying dozens of Macs and PCs over the years, I find it a simple fact that a Mac offers more versatility and power than a PC, and for significantly less TCO. Yes, I might sometimes pay a bit more up front, but as every survey shows, my Mac users are more productive and the machines are more reliable, with much lower downtime and repair frequencies. Plus, they avoid the virus/spyware hassles and costs! So what’s not to like? Lack of games? OK, you’ve got me there.Report

  32. Alfiejr says:

    Geeze Freddie, get over yourself. it’s just trash talk on both sides. throwaway stuff. it’s not all about you.

    there is just one seminal fact that no one can deny: if it were not for Apple, MS Windows would be world’s only consumer OS (sorry Linux folks). and without any real competition, do you think it would be even as good as it is? Answer: No. every Windows user owes Apple big props for forcing MS to improve Windows – unless you think XP SP2 is the best thing that will ever be done.Report

  33. Freddie says:

    Again– I invite anyone to buy a $3000 Mac, and give my $1500 to build a PC. Then we’ll benchmark both systems. The PC will slay, destroy, dominate the Mac. No doubt about it, no ifs, ands or buts. You simply cannot credibly argue that Macs are as powerful.Report

  34. The guy on the left is supposed to be a PC (personal computer running Windows), not a computer user, A$$HOLE!Report

  35. E.D. Kain says:

    Idiot #34 – we have a Commenting Policy and it would be nice if you followed it. Thanks.

    Oh, and really clever use of the $ symbol. I’ve never seen that before….Report

  36. Wayne says:

    “I find it a simple fact that a PC offers more versatility and power than a Mac, and for significantly less money.”

    You could have made your point in a single sentence. You start with this assumption (“fact” to you) and end up spending a lot of words that basically repeat your assumption.

    Many of us Mac users find the Mac to be versatile and powerful, and with a sense of style — mainly in the software design, but in the hardware design as well — that makes a Mac a joy to use. I run everything from Final Cut Pro to R, from Firefox to Virtualbox (under which I have Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Ubuntu Linux). Pretty powerful and versatile, I think.

    For the features and form-factor I prefer, a quality PC is not significantly less expensive, though usually klunkier. (News Flash: I also wear comfortable, versatile clothing, and I also pay attention to its appearance. Same with my car. Same with the neighborhood I live in. Same as most people, except PC bigots who insist that their concept of “powerful” and “versatile” override all else.)Report

  37. Jan says:

    Bull like the artitcle you just wrote is the very reason why Apple is doing the ads they are doing. I have been using Mac since 1995 and PC since 1987 and have preferred macs since I started to use it. All the time I have heard craps like what you write filled with untruths about how you can do noting on mac’s and how much better a pc is because you can buy more hardware for it. Yes you can buy more hardware especially graphics gaming cards, but appart from the better gaming experience the PC doesn´t do anything better than the mac. According to friends who have switched to mac’s within the last 2 years the mac does things better than windows. Your I can build a pc, that faster at half the price is rather silly and has been debunked time and time again. But good luck building a Xeon 55xx Dual cpu system for 1500USD with the same amount of option and bit the Mac Pro running the kind of specialized software you would run on a 8 core workstation. The mac just works better like the add says, the only thing they are doing is magnify how the work better (Its not as much as the adds indicate, but it was the mac haters who started it way before Apple started with the apps)Report

  38. Max says:

    ED said: “Oh, and really clever use of the $ symbol. I’ve never seen that before….”

    But credit where it’s due for the use of url to hammer home the point yes?Report

  39. E.D. Kain says:

    True, Max. That is pretty creative…Report

  40. Monroe says:

    I don’t like how Apple assumes I’m physically incapacitated. Yes, I can drive a car. Yes, I can ski down a hill. Yes, I can walk and chew bubble gum. And yes! I can click buttons with two or more fingers, independently and at the same time. Unless I’m using a Mac.Report

  41. mike mcc says:

    “I can build you a machine for $1200 that will absolutely slay a $2000 Mac.”

    I’ll grant your figures as true, because they are irrelevant. It’s not about raw power, it’s about functionality and utility. Using your numbers above, if I bill $100/hour for my services but it takes me an entire day to assemble my own machine from parts, the cost savings evaporates.

    If I bill $100/hour and I’m eight hours per month more productive on the Mac, then I’ve earned back the difference within a single billing cycle.

    Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all, or even most, Apple consumers are spending for the privilege of being hip. The number of pot-bellied, bearded unix sysadmins (like me) who use Apple laptops disproves the “hip” claim to my satisfaction. Rather, many people are willing buy Apple hardware because that alleged extra cost is as much a marketing fiction as are the “get a mac” ads.Report

  42. Les Posen says:

    Farhood is a an Apple booster? I don’t think so: http://www.slate.com/id/2198535/pagenum/2

    And I think it might be time to check your dictionary, because apart from a number of confusing sentences, this one sticks out like the proverbial:
    “If you ask me, Stevenson’s piece is a dramatic failure of neutrality and common sense, though I am a biased observer.” Huh?
    And this: “I’ve enjoyed Stevenson’s writing in the past, but as with Majoo’s piece I find this article simply lacking any of the necessary incredulity (sic) that a professional writer should demonstrate towards any company.”
    What’s incredulous is that you probably think you write well. No. You don’t.Report

  43. Excelent post, sir! I couldn’t agree more.
    I’ve made a reference to it in my own blog (http://techhoje.blogspot.com/2009/04/microsoft-vs-apple-sou-um-pc-nao-sou.html).
    Antonio MarquesReport