They Hear But Do Not See

November 17th, 2009

So I was at the checkout line at a local Sam’s Club the other day, when I spied the person ahead of me completing a Windows 7 upgrade purchase. Now I probably should have just kept my mouth shut, but I never learned the finer points of that level of discretion, and I was feeling especially bold, so I spoke up.

As the cashier pretended to ignore the conversation, I suggested to the customer that maybe it was time to save over $100 of his hard earned money and invest it as a downpayment on a Mac. Yes, I smiled, to avoid conveying the impression that I was just being a smart aleck.

Fortunately, the customer was pretty gracious about the whole thing, and took my comments with a touch of good humor. He also admitted that his son had a new MacBook and had been strongly urging him to join the crowd and abandon his PC. When I asked why he hadn’t listened to his son, he laughed and said, well, he was running Office and all and he really didn’t want to go through the trouble of switching right now.

After explaining that there were tools to simplify the migration, my final salvo was a reminder that there was indeed a great version of Office for the Mac. I let the matter drop there, until he was informed that the version of the Windows 7 upgrade he wanted, Home Premium, was out of stock, but they could give him a break on, say, an Ultimate upgrade pack. At this point, I simply remarked, “Well, maybe God is trying to tell you something,” laughed and let the matter drop.

Now I am certainly willing to bet this particular Windows user isn’t about to switch anytime soon, or ever, unless his son manages to ultimately convince him that he ought to move to the Mac.

In the larger scheme of things, I’ve seen this very scene repeated on a number of occasions when I’ve made similar suggestions to people I know. Eventually some of them do make the transition and are the better for it. I’ve never personally encountered any evidence of buyer’s remorse.

But you have to look at the excuses for why Windows users won’t abandon that platform, and it is usually not because they actually prefer the Microsoft Way.

One common reason is the fact that Windows holds over 91% of the global operating system market, and that is the beginning and end of the argument. After all, they’re in good company, since market share must equate to quality. This is always a good time to invoke the McDonald’s argument, reminding them that more people eat at that fast food chain than at any other restaurant. Does that mean McDonald’s has the best food?

Lesser protests return to the common Mac myths that were perpetuated in the early days. First, that there’s very little software for Macs. This is an argument that you can win or lose depending on the software they actually need. If their business requires a vertical market app for which there’s no Mac equivalent, the argument may be over and done with. After all, a personal computer is a tool to run applications, and there’s no sense moving to a new platform, which is never easy in the best of circumstances, if the software you need is not available, and moving to something else may present serious obstacles.

However, that’s not a frequent occurrence. Most people use Office and other products that are either readily available in Mac versions, or for which useful — and often superior — substitutes might be found. I should mention, in passing, that I have pretty much converted all of my former Office documents to Apple’s iWork, and I do not feel that I am suffering at all for the experience.

The final argument is one that has lots of terms and conditions that don’t lend themselves to a few pithy one liners. Yes, the PC is cheaper than the Mac, but the argument doesn’t end there, as most of you know. The cause is largely the result of the fact that Apple absolutely refuses become just another bottom feeder by catering to customers who want cheap gear.

However, when you actually compare a Mac with a PC with all options and bundled software as equivalent as possible, the price difference is usually minimal or non-existent. This rule-book applies to every single Mac out there, but finding true equivalents can be a chore. It’s not just a matter of matching up a note-book’s screen size, processor type, RAM complement and hard drive size. There are all those little extras on the Mac, such as the built-in 802.11n and Bluetooth wireless networking, gigabit Ethernet, premium-quality LCD panels, extended life batteries, plus the rich selection of bundled software, such as Apple’s iLife, for which there are few even close equivalents on the Windows platform.

It’s also true that every version of Windows, save for Ultimate, is a crippled version, and you have to pay extra to get the top of the line. Mac OS X has the same features regardless of which Mac you purchase, and the basic software packages are essentially the same. But this is an argument you will never win, because the skeptic will just complain that they don’t want to pay for features they feel they don’t need, not realizing that adding them later on, if possible, might cost a whole lot more than they save during the initial purchase.

As I said, they hear but do not see, and that’s one main reason why the PC to Mac transition will continue to move at a very slow pace, unless Microsoft does something incredibly stupid. Or at least more stupid than anything they’ve done up till now.

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12 Responses to “They Hear But Do Not See”

  1. Robert Pritchett says:

    When “we” went to review the latest MS Office for the Mac, we actually didn’t review it, it was so bad, but MS Office 2010 is somehow worse?

    And then we get to see MS Store employees wasting 5 minutes dancing (Lord knows most of those employees needed the exercise!), instead of serving customers (and none in the video looked like actual customers).

    And don’t get me started on those dumb Windows 7 “parties”!

    I feel for my daughter who works for Microsoft, that she may be next on the chopping block, as that company continues its self-inflicted downward spiral.

    I’m sorry, I may have to break down and just go with NeoOffice and/or Pages and become “Microsoft Free” as well, for our publication.

    • “I’m sorry, I may have to break down and just go with NeoOffice and/or Pages….”
      FYI, Robert – don’t know what your requirements are like, but I haven’t opened InDesign in years. In addition to the word processing, Pages is more than adequate for most small business layout. And, of course, once you get used to the way of working, is a pleasure to use.

      “I’ve never personally encountered any evidence of buyer’s remorse.”
      I’d gush much more than that. 🙂 Over many years, I have (as I like to joke), supported, persuaded, cajoled, educated or blackmailed quite a few people into switching to Mac. With NO exception, every one of them has been kiss-the-ground-I-walk-on grateful.

  2. AdamC says:

    Nice one Gene…

  3. John Dingler says:

    Hi Gene,
    After some trepidation, I switched from Word to Pages and am Word-free. However, it’s a puzzle why Pages, supposedly a smaller app., takes long to open. Maybe Apple needs to pare down the code.

    • “However, it’s a puzzle why Pages, supposedly a smaller app., takes long to open.”

      Hi John.. My Pages opens to the Template Chooser, in about one second, or to a specific document in two. Word came in at about thirty seconds. Maybe something wrong with your Pages.

  4. Richard says:

    I have encountered Mac buyer’s remorse. An acquaintance who came into our home regularly saw my wife and I Mac-ing away and, after such questions as, “How often do you need tech support?” and “Is your virus protection intrusive?” decided that she should dump her Dell and go Mac. Now this was a woman who had consistent computing problems. Her Dell would suddenly and without warning go crazy on her. The system was in for repair on an almost monthly basis. She bought a Mac system similar to ours and immediately began having problems similar to her Dell experience. Of course, we became her support staff. It quickly became clear that her computer expertise had risen to a certain level (turn on the machine, load a program, operate it somewhat successfully) and no higher. She asked why her Windows programs wouldn’t work on the Mac, even though we’d explained to her several times that the Macintosh is a different platform from her Windows machine. It became so bad that I began giving her basic computer usage lessons, which somehow were never learned. She eventually began bad-mouthing her Mac experience, particularly to her PC-using friends whom I would run into periodically. Eventually I ran across an ad in the local paper for a cheap Mac, saw that it was hers and bought it. She in turn bought another Dell, and ten months later sold it to buy an HP, machines than served her no better than the Mac or the initial Dell. Several years later she got up the courage to ask me if the Mac I’d bought from her was a lemon (I was still using it) and I replied no, it worked perfectly for me. The problems she’d experienced with the Mac, and indeed all of her machines, were user error.

    My point here is that many people use Windows machines not because they’re good or provide ease of use, but because they’re better than an abacus. Barely.

    • Bill Burkholder says:

      @Richard, I love this story. It reminds me of a few people I’ve met over the years who were just born without the genes that allow adaptation of technology of any kind in the course of their lives. They inevitably have car trouble, stereo and TV trouble, cell phone trouble… even electric can opener trouble. At some points, you just want to scream, “____-ing moron!” when they call. They’re chronically co-dependent upon others to rescue them from their foibles and incompetencies.

      Heaven help you if you ever hire someone like this… I’m sure they have places to be, but it’s not next to me.

  5. Andrew says:

    Some (many?) people cannot even consider non-Microsoft software, especially word processing, spreadsheet and presentation graphics. Yes, OpenOffice, Pages and the like will import Word documents to a degree, but the more complex the formatting, the more likely it will break.

    As an attorney I deal with pleading paper all the time, which has a vertical ruler and other formatting specifics that I’ve never been able to successfully move from any word processor to any different word processor without breaking. On average, it would take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes to correct the formatting or replace it, which is too much time to waste on my end, and which courts or other attorney’s staffs will just flat reject.

    It doesn’t matter if I’m trying to open a Word document in Pages, a WordPerfect document in Word, it just never works, and likely never will. The text survives almost always, but the formatting never does.

    My favorite word processor is Nisus Writer Pro. Back in the Classic days I used the old Nisus Writer. I still use Nisus for almost all of my personal writing, but when it comes to work, its 98% MS Word and 2% WordPerfect (natively on my PC or in Parallels on my Mac). Sorry, there just is no other option.

  6. John Dingler says:

    Hi Michael,
    Just timed the Pages app. to about eight sec. to reach the template. Not bad.

  7. dfs says:

    The fault is partially Apple;s. Their current (and by now long-running) ad campaign featuring the two guys is cute and entertaining, and some of them are reasonably hard hitting, but you can’t call them especially educational because they never focus on specific examples of the Mac’s superiority or do much to address potential switchers’ fears about limited software, inability to exchange files with PC’s, and so forth. Apple needs to take the lead in doing this kind of education itself, it’s too dangerous to rely on individual salesmen on showroom floors to do their work for them.

  8. @Dru, And discrete graphics, rather than a crummy integrated graphics chip from Intel, and don’t forget the crippled version of Windows, rather than Ultimate.

    If you upgrade the Dell to more closely match the iMac, it’ll be more expensive. Apple generally beats the knickers off the PC world when it comes to all in ones.


  9. They hear but do not see and they see but do not hear.

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