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  • Is This a New Year’s Resolution?

    January 13th, 2011

    Just moments before I started writing this article, I listened to an ad on a local talk station that aptly summarizes the Mac versus PC argument in less than a minute. The announcer asked whether the listener would finally follow their New Year’s Resolution to fix serious problems on their PC?

    What problems? Well, slow performance and those “annoying pop-ups,” which means, of course, it’s all about Windows. Yes, Macs can become slow sometimes, but the cause is, more often than not, an external issue, such as a slowdown in your Internet connection, though I grant OS and hardware issues may be involved on occasion. Desktop pop-up ads have been symptoms of Windows malware invasions for many years.

    Now I’m not going to suggest the problems can’t be solved, or that a Windows user can’t do that themselves with one of those system speed-up utilities, and a malware protection utility to deal with the pop-up issue. Indeed, if you expend some energy, and perhaps some cash, you don’t need to bring in an outside service company for most Windows problems. Aside from hardware issues, you should be able to perform those maintenance chores yourself.

    But the question is whether many Windows users understand that they shouldn’t have to put up with this stuff in the first place, nor invest in software or technicians to get them out of these jams, and that’s a question with many answers.

    Certainly, if your employer has standardized on the Windows platform, getting them to change their ways can be extremely difficult, and no doubt costly. Even if the Mac is comparably priced to a similarly-equipped Windows box, and that’s often the case, there’s still the cost of buying that hardware, acquiring new software licenses and training. Yes, most skills are readily transferred from the PC to the Mac, but sometimes it takes a little time — and some extra instruction — to make less skilled users adapt to the differences.

    In the best situations, where there’s a Mac version of a Windows app, the publisher may accept a standard upgrade fee for a cross-platform transfer. Sometimes they won’t. If there’s no Mac counterpart, you have to look for an equivalent product, if there is one, and then there’s the issue of transferring data, and retraining. It’s not cheap by any means.

    Yes, it’s also true that the Mac is generally less expensive to maintain than a Windows PC, and it’s possible that savings would be sufficient to justify a platform switch, if you take a long-term view of the situation. Certainly if a company is planning to upgrade their computer arsenal anyway, and buy new versions of the software they need, the real cost won’t be quite as high. More and more companies are making that decision.

    As far as consumers are concerned, where they want high value, with products priced above $1,000, Apple has an amazingly high market share, particularly in the U.S. Apple also claims that 50% of the people buying new Macs at their retail stores are new to the platform. Assuming the stats are correct (and can be extended to include third-party Apple resellers), it signifies a potential steady erosion of Windows users, although it will take years to become meaningful, assuming the trend continues.

    Certainly, there have to be loads of people who are sick and tired of the Windows irritants that are expressed in that radio ad, or on some of the tech radio shows, but not mine, since I don’t deal with that stuff.

    However, Apple doesn’t always make acquiring a new Mac as easy as it might be. Yes, I continue to maintain that Macs are fairly priced, from the cheapest Mac mini at $699, to the multiple thousands of dollars you pay for a fully-outfitted Mac Pro. But there are also tens of millions of PCs that sell for just a few hundred dollars. Apple is considered a high-end player, very much a BMW in a sea of Fords. And, yes, I realize that Ford has a luxury division, Lincoln, where the high-end models may rival the price of some of BMWs.

    While PC makers are struggling to convince netbook buyers — at least those who haven’t ditched those often-useless boxes for iPads — to upgrade to regular note-books, Apple won’t play the rush to the bottom game. That clearly costs them loads of sales from people who look at the upfront price, not the cost of ownership over a period of several years, assuming their cheap PCs last that long without requiring major repairs.

    That’s not an audience Apple can expect to reach. The same holds true for the business that needs thousands of identically-equipped custom-built PC boxes. Apple can offer them a competitive price, but they won’t remove the stuff the businesses may not require, such as Wi-Fi and Web cams. That’s not Apple’s focus, even if they are making a bigger move to gain enterprise customers.

    But as I return to the motives behind those PC support ads, I do hope listeners will consider other options before picking up the phone and calling for help.



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