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Is Apple Overselling the Mac?

You recall that Mac versus PC commercial, where it’s announced just how many Windows viruses were in the wild at the time, followed by the pronouncement, “but not on the Mac.”

Of course, you could subject that statement to several interpretations, such as the fact that Apple wasn’t claiming there weren’t any viruses on the Mac, just not so high a figure. Yes, I realize the statement is a little fuzzy in its meaning, and you could have a different — and equally valid — interpretation.

Another claim is that the Mac is akin to a toaster oven or perhaps a refrigerator, meaning it’s an appliance. Of course toaster ovens burn up and refrigerators go bad over time. So this is not the promise of perfection, and the claim that a Mac “just works” may also be overwrought.

Now I don’t know how many of you came to the Mac after working on Windows, or whether you must delve in multiple platforms as part of your work routine. Regardless, I wonder whether Apple’s constant claim that Macs are perfect and Windows is the pits might just be stretching the truth a little too far.

Of course, people are jaded today. You don’t really believe that Cheer is substantially better than Tide when you’re picking a laundry detergent, and the differences between Coca Cola and Pepsi are largely a matter of personal preference. Moreover, does the famous Maytag repairman actually sit in the office doing nothing because the company’s washers and driers never go bad?

So the Windows switcher has to know that some amount of Apple’s hype about the Mac is exaggerated and it cannot possibly be as good as claimed. They have to realize that there will be problems with all personal computers, and, in fact, I have to admit there was even a time or two that I had to restart the iPhone I’m reviewing after a freeze.

To take a brief trip back through time: Not 15 minutes after I installed my first Mac in my home, back in the 1980s, the damn thing froze solid, and pushing the Restart button in the Finder’s famous “bomb” window had no effect whatever. I was annoyed, but not disenchanted. I cherish perfection, but I haven’t driven a car, cheap or expensive, that’s rattle-free on all types of roads either. There will always be the occasional noise that extends beyond that of the suspension and the rolling tires.

Indeed, I’m sure some car dealers want to look the other way when I arrive for another “rattle check,” and even the friendliest person occupying a Genius Bar at an Apple Store is going to look askance if I walk up and announce I had a couple of system crashes in the last week or two.

In short, Apple can’t promise perfection, for it would have stopped at Mac OS 10.0, or even System 1.0, for that matter. No reasonable person can be expected to believe that the Mac is free of software conflicts or, as a matter of fact, a potential malware infection.

How can you possibly take Apple’s claims as 100% gospel? Marketing is just that, and there will always be terms and conditions that separate the fanciful claim from the sad reality.

In saying that, however, Apple tends to be scrutinized far more carefully than any other PC maker. You expect things to go wrong on your Dell or HP, but how is the newly-minted Mac user going to react when the promised blissful life of computing perfection isn’t achieved?

Take the claim of being virtually virus-free. Well, I don’t feel inclined to give much serious attention to the naysayers who say that Mac viruses are on the way now that the platform is taking off in a big way, and you’ll have to fend them off any minute now. In the real world, Apple releases regular security updates to address known threats, but they are rarely exploited.

But during the days of the Classic Mac OS, a few irritating virus threats did come along, and I’m sure some of you long-time Mac users were affected, as I was. I do feel we are living on borrowed time, and that some full-blown outbreak will arrive some day, and you’ll have to download a copy of the latest and greatest virus protection software to protect yourself.

If that happens, though, will the Windows switchers imply decide that things are no better on the Mac side of the fence, and that they might as well return to Windows? What about a few episodes of quitting applications, or, horror or horrors, the dastardly kernel panic? That one is a real shocker for someone who hasn’t seen it before.

Maybe I’m exaggerating here, but I do think Apple has to be careful about creating an aura of perfection where none can possibly exist. Sure, I don’t think their spin level is any worse than any other company, and maybe better in some respects. But people have been programmed to expect more from Apple, and they have to be real careful not to over-promise. They are not, lest we forget, Microsoft, even though some people would prefer to have us think otherwise.