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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15 Responses to “Is This a New Year’s Resolution?”

  1. Jon T says:

    Your car analogy does NOT hold up to scrutiny Gene.

    If Fords were really buggy, hugely problematic, unreliable, and expensive to maintain, then OK. But they aren’t at all, they’re just less luxurious, less expensively built, and LESS costly to maintain.

    In truth, today there is no car analogy for Windows. It stands alone as a brand, and were it a car the business would be bankrupt with no buyers in sight, ever!

    You might go back to the old piece someone wrote – if Windows were a car it would have to be stopped and restarted every 50 miles etc etc.

    I think comparing Windows to Ford is music Microsoft’s ears…

    And visa versa, there is no motor company that introduces a new motoring paradigm every few years like Apple does in computing, so again not apt.

    Let’s drop the analogies – they simply don’t work.

    • @Jon T, If it’s a matter of maintenance costs, a BMW comes with free service for the first 50,000 miles. So it’s cheaper to maintain than a Ford during that period.

      I was actually comparing the average selling price, not reliability. If we included the latter, a BMW doesn’t rate so well. But we’re not. Would you prefer I use a Dodge, which has an awful reliability record?


  2. Jon T says:

    All true. But we frequently hear this analogy used around the web echo-chamber. It is very common.

    And in my view, I think it successfully sell Windows computers, and turns many people off Macs.

    Peace too!

  3. Jon T says:

    PS. Don’t kid yourself that those BMW maintenance cost are cheaper – you’re just paying for it differently!

    • @Jon T, I have opinions about Cramer, which won’t be expressed here. But Ford is an interesting study. I recently took a test drive in a well-equipped Fusion (their mid-sized family car) just to see how far they’ve come. The navigation system uses Microsoft software, but I won’t hold that against them; it does work well, and the fancy radio sounded great. It’s a well designed car, comfortable, with a good ride and handling, although the exterior styling is rather stodgy. However, it is refreshing to see a company get its act together without asking for a bailout, and I hope they continue to succeed and innovate.


  4. Andrew says:

    Really want to see how far Ford has come, test drive the new Fiesta. That is the small, cheap car that Ford started selling late last year. It is fun-to-drive, handles extremely well, is stylish and even comfortable. I drive a Mercedes Benz, but I was so impressed with that little car that I am seriously considering buying one as a city car, as it really was THAT good.

    • @Andrew, I’ve also test driven a Hyundai Sonata. The 2011 model is one spectacular vehicle in most respects, even though you can only get a 4-cylindar engine; the turbo version is awesome for a car that gets up to 33 miles per gallon (EPA highway). But the economy has also kept the family budget in check, so time will tell where we land. Maybe an Elantra, although I will examine the Fiesta and see what it offers.


  5. SteveP says:

    Let’s face it. Almost all current cars are well built for their price points. MOST computers (except bottom feeders) the same. And Windows current iteration seems from reports to be pretty good.

    But there used to be a very good analogy to earlier Windows PCs. The Chrysler K-car!
    And maybe even certain analogies between Balmer and Iacocca?

  6. Andrew says:

    Only needs a turbo because you insist on the slushbox. With the stick, its a bargain thrill-ride!!!

  7. Andrew says:

    Its not actual performance, but feel. Yes, the slushbox is just as fast and even more efficient (better MPG), but with the manual it is simply more fun to drive, can be driven more aggressively when desired, and thus is sportier.

    Its also subjective, but the manual transmission Fiesta hatch I drove, while not a fast car (how can it be?), was a blast to drive. It made all of the right noises and felt like the fine European iron it was designed to be.

    • @Andrew, I grok the fun factor. But I gave up manuals years ago; the Mrs. just doesn’t take to them, and we have no need of an extra car just for my entertainment. In another life, maybe, but not this one.


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