You'd think that, with Apple's incredible sales growth and product explosion in recent years, most of the lingering doubts about the success of the company would be history. Yet a few of the old myths still persist and, despite all the great press Apple receives in the mainstream media, there are still some misconceptions. Some might even come as a surprise to you.
When recording an interview with John Martellaro, of The Mac Observer, for this week's episode of the tech radio show, he mentioned that lots of people don't realize, surprisingly enough, that Mac OS X is a Unix-based operating system. Their conception of Macs is rooted in the 1990s, when things got pretty bad, and they haven't caught up with the changes.
But that takes us to all the other myths that arose then, which are still resurrected by people you'd think ought to know better.
This is not to say that some of those myths had no core justification to them. I mean, there are still loads of people who used a Mac at one time, got disgusted with the operating system, the lack of a specific application or some other negative situation, and vowed to go to Windows then and there. They may have seen all those Apple ads about how great Macs are these days, but they are just ads, after all. You can't take those things seriously.
I remember, for example, when a local dentist, a long-time Mac user, ditched the platform in the mid-1990s when the vertical market software he needed for his practice failed to work properly on his network of PowerPC-based Macs. I know I tried to help him, but almost every day a new problem arose. Finally, the company that developed the product told him that they were abandoning Macs and he had to switch to Windows. Since he had years of accumulated financial and patient records that he needed to access, he sold his Macs, migrated to Windows and never looked back. Now if I recall correctly, the publisher of that product has, in fact, since returned to the Mac platform. No, my friends, I haven't explored the situation in recent years and whether that dentist could or should become a Mac switcher and keep all his data and settings intact.
That's the microcosm folks. There are loads of former Mac users that still harbor grudges against Apple for the loss of the software they needed for their business, bad service, or a host of other reasons that have nothing to do with the Mac of the 21st century. Maybe they know Mac OS X is Unix-based, maybe not. But that's just a geek term that means nothing to them. They have become accustomed to the peculiarities of Windows and don't want to have to deal with the devil they don't know.
There is also the assumption, no doubt buttressed by Apple's consumer orientation, that the Mac is just not a serious work computer. It's great for managing your music library — although iTunes for Windows is near-identical — and certainly iLife helps with your photo album, personal site and other casual pursuits. But how can anyone believe that this "toy" is actually a serious work computer that you can use to run your business.
The other day, I talked to a friend, a freelance writer, who has been using Windows for years. He writes in Word, uses Internet Explorer and Firefox for Web surfing, and whatever miserable email app Microsoft provides for his messages. Most of the time, things work all right, but he can't get Skype to run without quitting after a session or two. Yes, he uses the latest version, but there's clearly something amiss with his two-year-old Windows box, but he's not inclined to want to change setups that otherwise function for the sake of one broken app. That's understandable.
I've mentioned Macs to him, and perhaps he used them at one time and wasn't impressed. I remind him that there's a Firefox and Word for the Mac, and who cares about Internet Explorer? Besides, Skype for the Mac is fairly reliable, most of the time already. But he still bears a bit of that prejudice about Macs not being serious work computers and I don't expect him to change. Well, not unless his Windows PC develops a real serious problem that stops his daily workflow in its tracks, and I don't wish anything negative upon him.
This, however, raises the critical issue for Apple in encouraging Windows users to move — or return — to the Mac. It's all about first impressions. I complain frequently when Apple releases a new OS and there are serious bugs that need to be fixed after a few weeks. Releasing new hardware with defects is also a matter of serious concern. While my Late 2009 iMac has worked flawlessly, most of you know about the problems with screen flickering and that yellow discoloration that afflicted an unknown number of users. Yes, Apple has evidently fixed most of the problems, and even replaced computers one or more times to satisfy customers.
How many of those iMac owners were Windows users getting their first exposure to a Mac? And, of those, how many encountered a serious hardware or software defect and decided to return to Windows? That lost customer may not give Apple another chance, and, in addition to continuing to dispell myths about the Mac, I hope Apple will work harder to make sure new products are as reliable as possible. Certainly they'll get another chance with the iPad. Let's see how that works out for them.
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