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They Hear But Do Not See

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.