The other day, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a former presidential candidate and now a TV host, said that he ended 22 years of Windows frustration by moving to the Mac. You have to wonder why it took him so long to liberate himself from Microsoft’s PC hell.
Now I’m not going to spend the rest of this column criticizing Huckabee for his belated epiphany that he was using the wrong personal computer. There are still hundreds of millions of PC users who, for various reasons, are still stuck in the Microsoft camp. I even suppose some of them like it.
No, folks, I do not regard Windows as the McDonalds of the personal computing world. You see, for the most part, people who dine at McDonalds actually like the food and the service. Indeed, I read the other day that the chain is actually ordering more chicken than hamburgers these days, so maybe there is hope that they are also trying to influence, in a modest fashion no doubt, healthier diets.
With Windows, I really don’t know a single person who says they like the experience, except, perhaps, for the few power users who enjoy building their own custom PC boxes, and endlessly configuring and reconfiguring the operating system to meet their needs. If that’s your bag, I suppose Windows is all right, but then again, if your know your Unix, Mac OS X’s command line utility, Terminal, can perform lots of under-the-hood magic on your system.
These days, Apple touts the fact that half of the people buying Macs at their retail stores are new to the platform. Many of those are clearly switchers, while some are no doubt buying their very first personal computer. While I have always had some concerns over how they arrive at these figures, I suppose the registration process is part of the answer, since they are considering people who have not previously registered a new Mac purchase. I’m not aware that there are point-of-sale surveys — does anyone have any such experience at an Apple Store?
Assuming the numbers are accurate, and that Apple will continue to demonstrate sales figures way ahead of the PC industry as a whole, is there anything they can do to speed up the abandonment of Windows?
Of course it’s also true that Microsoft seems to be working hard at hastening the process, although they’re not aware of it. Their new product presentations seem to be more of the same, pretending that they can still continue as they are now, without fixing the moribund corporate engine.
Take Windows 7. A public beta was announced during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week by CEO Steve Ballmer. Whether due to high demand or just the usual Microsoft incompetence, many who attempted to download the file encountered what the company describes as a “less than ideal” experience.
I could, I suppose, just cut Microsoft some slack. Even Apple has had problems with their servers from time to time, particularly the MobileMe debacle.
As far as Windows 7 is concerned, Microsoft is clearly working hard, as usual, to make it seem more Mac-like, particularly with their imitation of the Dock in place of the venerable taskbar. At least they go to the right place for inspiration, but does that mean the new version of Windows will address all or most of the ills of its predecessor?
Microsoft claims Window 7 will be leaner, faster and more compatible with third-party peripherals. The bloated Vista has been a non-starter, and many business customers, where the major part of the Windows monopoly lies, have decided to sit this one out, hoping the replacement will be better.
But when you look at Windows 7, you wonder if they were reading some of Apple’s playbook for Snow Leopard. Leaner, faster? All right, but will Microsoft also exact the same exorbitant price for the upgrade? Will they give frustrated Vista users a break, or provide some special financial incentive for XP holdouts to come along for the ride?
At the same time, some suggest that Apple ought to make a bigger push into the enterprise. Clearly they are taking baby steps, although adding Exchange support for the iPhone and, for Mac OS X, when Snow Leopard comes, will help things move along somewhat more rapidly.
The real question is whether Apple is willing to meet the requirements of specific businesses, such as having custom models that might not be available through normal consumer channels. Such products might simply be note-books that skip the built-in Web cams and bundled iLife. But there are certainly reasons for a company to want to have video conferences involving people inside the company and with clients. Would a company be threatened with the belief that employees might use iLife to edit home videos and manage photo libraries on company time? What does it cost anyway for Apple to image a hard drive with an altered configuration?
Certainly Apple isn’t listening to the financial and media analysts who keep demanding that they cut their prices and sacrifice profits to get higher volume.
In the end, though, it may just be that, as more and more people switch to the Mac, their family, friends and business associates will learn by their example and turn a trickle into a flood.
Even though I’m not really a fan of Mike Huckabee, I do wonder if many of the people who heard his on-air admission that he’s now a Mac user were somehow influenced by his example to do the very same thing.
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