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  • The Mac User’s Dilemma: Saying “I Told You So”!

    October 10th, 2007

    Years ago, Mac users had to feel like outsiders. We were a bunch of eccentrics who had money to burn, and chose to spend it on an overpriced, underpowered computer that was just too pretty to take seriously. In those days, even using a mouse was a certain sign of insanity.

    It didn’t help that most computer stores didn’t have Macs, and getting software was a hit or miss proposition unless you checked the mail order catalogs.

    But we all knew that Macs were the cream of the crop when it came to personal computers, and pitied all those DOS and Windows users who had to labor in a painful environment, oblivious to the joys of having things “just work.”

    Of course, Macs never just worked, although they came mighty close from time to time. The basic setup process was almost joyful compared to getting something up and running on the PC. When problems occurred, they usually were solvable without calling in an IT department to get you out of hot water.

    When Apple went through its mid-life crisis in the 1990s, you read that the company was beleaguered, only you didn’t believe a word of it. After all, the Mac OS was upgraded regularly, even if the changes were mostly cosmetic, and there was always a new Mac to rave about. How could Apple possibly do wrong?

    I didn’t realize until after Steve Jobs took the reins of the company he co-founded just how bad things were, but it didn’t matter anymore. From here on, it was onward and upward, and I was perfectly content with that chip on my shoulder, confident that my choice of a computer was right and the majority of PC users out there were sadly misinformed. Soon they would realize just how misinformed.

    As Mac sales began to soar, way ahead of the average growth in the PC industry, most of you had to feel vindicated that you were right all along. More and more Windows were getting the message that they’ve been had by Microsoft, and it was time to ditch that horrible platform, come up for air, and embrace a computer that really empowers you to get some work done.

    In all this, however, the comments I see here and on other blogs and message boards shows a few unfortunate tendencies on the part of some Mac users to wear their preferences on both sleeves. If a fellow Mac person dares to criticize something that Apple or a third party is doing, they must be Windows users in disguise, or just people trolling for an argument.

    Now some of that might be true. A few of the comments posted here appear to come from people who are just making up stories, or coming to outrageous conclusions simply to get attention. They deliver a nonsensical attack on an Apple product, then explain why Windows might be the way and the truth, or just threaten to switch to the PC at the earliest opportunity, because Apple has somehow deserted them.

    Without commenting specifically on any individual post, I have to remind you that Apple is, like Microsoft, a profit-making multinational corporation that exists primarily to make a profit, provide gainful employment for its employees, and big gains for its stockholders. If that happens to coincide with your desire to have a cool product that does lots of great things with elegance, so be it.

    In fact, I’ve little doubt that Steve Jobs still has a bit of that counter-culture belief buried in his subconscious somewhere, where he does want to change the world in some fashion. If that happens to coincide with selling more product at the same time, of course, so be it.

    As far as loyal Mac users are concerned, you really don’t want to be classified as “fanboys” or “fangirls” or “fanpeople,” or whatever. It’s not a case of always Apple, right or wrong. This is not a political or cultural movement, but a company that builds retail products.

    That means that you have to expect Apple to do stupid things, just as regular people do stupid things. Indeed, let’s not forget the Cube, that tiny, underpowered, overpriced Mac that I suggested belonged in a museum when it first came out. Actually, I was just paraphrasing a comment from an old Indiana Jones movie, but I did find that model a visual delight, but something less than practical. That feeling was reinforced whenever my wife tried to clean it with a dust cloth and, as her hand passed over the touch-sensitive power button, it would suddenly turn on by mistake.

    I recall when Jobs heatedly denied rumors that it would be discontinued during a press briefing, which merely confirms my feeling that the Cube was, in part, a personal indulgence, and he had difficulty coming to the grips that it had not been near as successful as he hoped. Well, CEOs with his record of success are entitled to an occasional indulgence, and I’m not talking about that personal jet plane either.

    By the way, the Cube was officially discontinued just a few weeks later. Jobs finally had to accept reality.

    The key here is that you might feel resentful if Apple is criticized, whether that criticism is on the mark, or all or mostly incorrect. But you really shouldn’t take it as a personal affront, however much you love your Macs, iPods and the iPhone. In the end, people have all sorts of preferences, and, right or wrong, they are entitled to buy what they want, even if you disagree strongly with their decisions.

    Just be happy that Apple is no longer condemned to the dustbin of failed companies, and appears likely to live long and prosper and continue to shake up the technology world.

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