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  • Things Change!

    March 12th, 2005

    Lots of you probably cherish the fact that, in using a Mac, you’re someone special. You stand apart from the crowd, in the spirit of that famous “Think Different” commercial Apple presented some years ago. As far as Apple is concerned, though, it’s in business to make money for its employees and stockholders, so being too special is not a good thing.

    Aside from that recent price drop, because of what I consider to be unfounded fears of competition from Napster-to-Go and Sony’s newest music players, Apple’s stock price has been on a roll. As I have written from time to time, it would have been nice to have acquired a few hundred shares when it was $13, but what kind of journalist would that make me?

    In any case, when it comes to the iPod, you are not someone special. You own the music player equivalent of Microsoft Windows, because it is the number one product of its type on the planet. In fact, more Windows users own iPods than Mac users, even though we got there first.

    Clearly the Mac mini is here not because you and I wanted a cheap computer, but because Apple felt that potential Windows switchers now had a solid reason, other than malware, to jump ship. Apple doesn’t want its computers to be fading niche products. Go for the gut and gain some market share, for once.

    But is it working? Well, Apple has been claiming for a while now that over 40% of the folks who buy Macs from its retail outlets are new to the platform. Do they ask at the checkout counter? Well, I recently took a client to a nearby Apple Store to replace his aging iMac. He simply handed his credit card to the cashier, signed the receipt and I carried his new purchase for him to the car. Nobody asked what kind of computer he was upgrading from. What about you, readers? Has anyone asked you such a question in one of those stores? I’m really curious.

    In any case, my own very informal, totally unscientific surveys show that this trend may indeed be true. In recent weeks, I have had casual conversations with sales people at car dealerships and other businesses that were Windows centric. In the past, when I suggested a Mac, they’d look at me with pity, that I was just an old eccentric that should not be taken seriously. Now that may, of course, be true, but it’s beside the point. Today when I say Mac, they stop and take notice.

    One auto salesman, who has been trying for months to persuade me to buy one of the luxury cars in the spacious dealership he occupies (though he can’t figure out how I’m supposed to pay for the thing), constantly asks me about what he should do about upgrading his iBook. Yes, he was the lone Mac user in that store. The rest owned Windows boxes, but they now look at me with total seriousness when I utter the word Mac.

    In another showroom, the sales manager, who sold me a Honda Accord three years ago, recalled visiting my home when delivering that vehicle. He marveled at my Mac computer collection; in fact he remembered every detail, and one of his sales people remarked that he had a Mac mini in his sights and expected to close the deal shortly.

    Late last year, a prominent California surgeon told that he had used a Mac years ago, but had switched over to the Dark Side because of the recommendations of a so-called consultant. Now I won’t mention the fellow’s name, except to say that you have probably seen him on TV from time to time. He is a real computer jockey, and has grown more and more disenchanted with that decision of late. Now when I speak Mac to him, and he listens seriously. He is just about ready to ditch his home computers and go Apple; yes his family members already had their iPods. The office will be next.

    My son, Grayson, went through middle school and high school as the crazy kid who used a Mac in a Windows universe. He even wrote a guest column for me on the subject, when I was writing for a local paper. Today, as a college student, his PowerBook is accepted as a superior choice and he is looked upon with respect.

    You can almost sense the groundswell across the land. But don’t take my word for it. Ask your friends, folks who have been saddled with spyware ridden Windows boxes. You won’t have trouble finding them, as recent surveys show that 80% of home PCs are so infected.

    Now in past years, you might have regarded some of this as wishful thinking, that maybe I’m cherry picking from recent experiences to make the result look more favorable. But actually it’s very typical. Macs are serious business these days, and even Windows-centric technology pundits have written articles about how they switched to Macs. Virtually every Mac mini review I’ve seen has a similar conclusion. If you want to go Mac, it’s a great idea, and this is the way to do it.

    While you’re at it, talk to a school teacher at any district that switched from Mac to Windows in recent years. I bet you’ll find that most have come to regret that decision, especially when they give you that sad look of resignation as they wait for an IT person to fix the computer problem of the day. I recall how the local district in Scottsdale, Arizona had to virtually shut down its computer system for several days because of rampant virus infections. Some years back, Scottsdale was a Mac showpiece, and I recall visiting their computer center, and taking with its manager, who needed a mere handful of people to serve the entire district. Today? Don’t ask. They no doubt need several “geek squad” members working overtime at every single school. And we all know how tight school budgets are these days.

    Yes things are changing. You can feel it in the air, and the Apple Computer of 2006 and beyond may be a very different company from the one we all know and love (or otherwise) now.



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