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  • Why Buy a Product You Don’t Like?

    November 28th, 2006

    Over the many years I’ve used Macs, I’ve often wondered how many people really choose a PC because the prefer the product, find it easier to setup and use. While some power users might be able to make that claim, if only for the built-it-yourself concept, where you have full control over configuring the parts you want and making them perform to your personal specs.

    Clearly the Mac isn’t designed that way. It’s meant to be a complete, functional product that’s ready to turn on and use, with minimal options to expand the hardware. Yes, I know how there are lots of ways to customize the Mac Pro. But you still can’t build one from scratch, although I suppose you can assemble something that would function from a bunch of parts from old Macs.

    Now businesses don’t necessarily buy personal computers because they like them, but because they need them as tools to get work done. This is hardly different from choosing one screwdriver over another, although I’m certain some hobbyists will tell me that certain parts are the only ones they’ll use to build a cabinet or fix a car.

    However, that shouldn’t apply to home users looking for a PC, however. You have choices when it comes to which product to buy, and not just among Dell, HP or Gateway, obviously. For the most part, your needs in terms of applications ought to be well met whether it’s a Mac or a PC. Even for a home business where you might require software that’s only available in Windows form, you should be able to fare quite nicely with Apple’s Boot Camp or Parallels Desktop.

    Many people, however, don’t buy a PC because they like it, but because the price fits their budget. If all they can afford is $399, there are models that fit into that category. This isn’t to say you get very much for that price in the way of computing power, features, or software. But if that’s the best you can do, who am I to complain?

    Clearly, Apple won’t play in that arena, and no wonder. There’s not much profit in it, and the companies who have tried hope, often in vain, for sufficient volume to make up the difference. Or they use them as loss leaders, hoping that you’ll buy something more expensive by clicking a Customize option or depending on a salesperson to sell you up to costlier choices.

    On the other hand, I have to wonder whether the folks who buy those products really dig their computers, or just put up with them. Certainly Microsoft’s infamous setup process is usually more complicated than it should be, even if the color-coded hookup steps go well. In fact, some years back, I read an article that indicated that many of those home PC boxes ended up in closets because their owners could not overcome one problem or another. It may well all right out of the box, but perhaps a problem is encountered in installing a new printer, or a scanner, or spyware slows things down to a standstill.

    Of course, Microsoft doesn’t care in the scheme of things, as they are only selling user licenses to operating systems. Aside from providing support for Windows and their various software products, what you do with the hardware is your business from there on.

    When it comes to a consumer electronics product, folks may not adore their iPods as much as their Macs, but that doesn’t stop millions of the former from flying off the store shelves. With lots of failures under its belt in licensing third party products, I really wonder if Microsoft’s marketing people truly expect lots of people to become excited about their Zunes in the same fashion.

    The conventional wisdom is that Zune is already a failure, and Microsoft is going to have to wait for the latter part of 2007 to try again. The big question is whether they really believed that such lame marketing slogans as “Welcome to the social” and “squirt” — the latter sending songs via Wi-Fi to another Zune — would somehow reverberate with young people. You can’t be cool simply by inventing silly words or resurrecting a phrase that dates back to the 1950s.

    You see, Microsoft can’t depend on the IT person to make you buy a Zune, and you shouldn’t necessarily depend on them at the office either when they recommend you purchase a Windows-based PC. Do they tell you, for example, that a Mac is, in the long run, cheaper to operate? Or that maybe you would need fewer people in the support department as a result? I suppose not.



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