Congratulations Michelle, It’s A Mac.

By  |  Monday, May 11, 2009 at 1:10 pm

macmondayI got a phone call from my good friend Michelle the other day. She was genuinely excited. Normally these “I’m excited” calls have something to do with what she heard or saw that would remind us of our long-since-passed youth, but this call was different.

“What are you so excited about?” I asked.

She went into a long spiel about how she didn’t have the money right this second, but that she was getting the funds together for a big purchase. “I was in the Apple Store yesterday, and I started playing around with the laptops. They’re so cool! I’m getting a Mac!”

I laughed, but at the same time was genuinely pleased that Cupertino had won yet another convert. “Why’s this?”

Her reasons were much like the argument that us Mac enthusiasts put forth when comparing the platform to the PC. Its ease of use, the feature set, the asthetics. She also figured out on her own that her brand new iPod Touch 32GB would work a whole lot easier when paired with a shiny new MacBook.

(Maybe it was also the 4th Gen iPod that I gave her that opened her eyes to Apple, but I do digress.)

Michelle’s story is special for one reason. She does not fit the Mac user stereotype at all. She lives in a rural area, and is certainly as middle class as most of us. Her computer knowledge (and this is no knock against her) is certainly not technical — she’s no geek. Yet the Mac has appealed to her.

This got me to wonder — has the Mac community overreacted to the Laptop Hunters ads? Have we let Microsoft get under our skin with a PR campaign that in the end is really preaching to the choir?

I think so. Michelle’s a bargain hunter (I’ve been with her on shopping trips). Yes she could have just as easily gone for the cheap plastic Windows-based laptop, but she has decided not to.

Microsoft has overplayed its hand on price. If stories like Michelle’s are more common, could it just be even in a recessionary environment that consumers aren’t going to go cheap?

I’d argue yes. Through none of the Laptop Hunters ads did we hear anything about the value as it had to do with the system itself: instead we’re beaten over the head with the stigma that price is everything when it comes to computer shopping.

A simplistic view of the average computer consumer? Yes. Computers have become such a commodity these days where the public is actually more informed. Years ago, price played a big part in decisions. Consumers did not care what they got as long as it was a good deal.

In a more technical society, we now know what to look for. Many of these cheap PCs Microsoft has decided to hawk are exactly that — low-cost because the manufacturer decided to skimp in an effort to lower the price.

Plus, consumers know what they need. Apple has always decided to put its features first: this is their philosophy in their ads too. Take notice that price is never mentioned. Instead, the ad always seems to revolve around a feature set, which in the end drives home a argument of functionality as value vis a vis price as value.

No doubt Michelle has seen these ads. I haven’t asked her specifically, but I wonder if Apple’s campaigns are more successful because they sell the functionality first? Apparently even the average PC user is getting the message.

Maybe us Mac users need to step back, let Microsoft make a fool of itself in its ads and never mention the platform itself, and watch as PC users still decide that the package overall is more important than the price. Apple tax be damned.

Congratulations Michelle, it’s a Mac.



22 Comments For This Post

  1. Matt Sharpe Says:

    Apple’s campaigns sell functionality first?
    The only thing I remember about Apple’s ads is how smugly they bash Windows. I don’t think I can recall a single Mac function that any advert focuses on.

  2. Becca Says:

    Oh for crying out loud. They’re both just computers. They do basically the same things. Both operating systems have UI strengths and weaknesses; both train the user rather than the other way around. And neither has a monopoly on either crashes or reliability. An ad campaign seems like a fairly slight thing to obsess about.

  3. GT3 Says:

    Lets be honest. Most computers (Mac or PC) do far more than we as users demand of them. Unless we have a specific need we are shopping for, they are commodities, and only price (and perhaps form – personal preferences ruling) should really sway us one way or the other.

  4. Marc Says:

    Yeah, Macs are a novelty. I was amazed once upon a time. But over time you find they have the same bugs and annoyances as other operating systems.

  5. Jeff Says:

    Really Marc? I’ve had my Mac for four years and not one annoyance, no bugs, no viruses, no malware, no crashes.
    I gave Microsoft two tries, once with Windows 98 and another with XP. Redmond won’t fool me again, and I’m glad to be back with Apple and my Mac. It just works.

  6. Boz Says:

    I really don’t believe you Jeff. I have a fully loaded Mac Pro that I paid a lot of money from Apple and the machine and OSX is hardly flawless. I had to reinstall OSX at least twice because applications weren’t playing fine together. This is not just me either. I know plenty of people with Macs having problems.

    The whole thing is just more of a placebo and PR caused by Apple hardcore fans being said to their friends then anything else.

    I’m sure that Ed, being one of such hardcore fans, played a big role in pursuing his friend to purchase a Mac despite the fact that she could’ve paid half the price of the same configured Mac. After all they all use different parts.

    The only real difference between OSX and Windows at this point is appearance and Apple has a good design team so their devices look slick. New trojan viruses and similar are getting inside Macs too, the fact that people refuse to protect themselves based on the whole “Oh I’m on a Mac I can’t get a virus” just begs for disasters. Not to mention the highest number of security flaws is actually OSX.

    I do love my Mac, but I’m really annoyed with this whole superiority thing that Apple has really built among people. Yes, Macs are pretty, OSX looks nicer than Window from design point of view, but wait until people start realizing they have to pay for everything single small thing for their Macs, get nonstandard mini-DVI to DVI adapters at $30 a piece or the inability to upgrade to a new card until Apple finds it convenient for their pocket and other similar where Apple just keeps charging while you don’t pay for it on Windows. Not to mention when people realize that 90% of the remaining world uses Windows, businesses use WIndows and all major apps are much better supported and pretty much faster on Windows.

    Windows is not flawless, sure, it has problems that any 90% market share company will have, but people seem to conveniently forget the clusterfrak that OSX went through for 2 years at least with OSX. It was an OS that was just falling apart from all over. Apps running on Rosetta working 3 times slower then PCs and bugs galore.

    For many people Mac might be a good choice if all they do is browse internet and read email but for people who want to be able to upgrade their computers cheaply without having to rebuy the whole system after a year or two, or just want to have more standard experience with a lot more free stuff, Apple will remain a small little brat kid who can’t really deal with growth but screams jealously at Windows market share in the most childish way and that’s talking smack about Windows which 90% of are simple lies.

  7. Czar Says:

    Have to agree with Jeff. Mac’s just work, they don’t do viruses, spyware and they, thus far, don’t appear too susceptible to trojans – not too many reports. I’ve been using them and Windows machines since OS 6 and Windows. Yeah the early Macs had viruses and such, but since OS X not a problem. Of course there were crashes and such, but it’s pretty clear sailing for OS X’s past 3 versions.

    I have siblings whom I previously had to clean up their Windows machines. Since they’ve had Mac’s (I’d refused to fix their Windows anymore and I promised to work on their Macs anytime there were problems), I’ve had very few questions and no serious repair issues. The result, my computer life (and theirs) have been pretty much trouble-free. Hard drive crashes notwithstanding.

  8. Muchdoubt Says:

    I really doubt Boz has much Apple. experience. His commentary doesn’t ring true. If he has a Mac Pro then he would most likely be running PRO applications that take advantage of the architecture. Those PRO applications are very expensive on both windows and Apple systems. Complaining about a $30 adapter cable on a $3k system seems a little odd to write a rant about.

    Why do people get so defensive about a platform of choice that they are willing to be dishonest?

  9. Czar Says:

    What surprises me is the number of PC trolls in circulation. I start reading many responses and it is fairly evident how many comments made about Mac just aren’t true. If I had too many problems with my Mac I’d probably just quit computing. Were there just Windows I’d probably just give up on it, period.

    I do use Windows at work – because IT can manage it and (hopefully) take care of issues. I also have XP as a virtual machine on my Mac and use it from time to time. When I need it, I use it, mostly I don’t. My last home Windows machine now has Ubuntu Linux on it, because it was hit with another virus when it was left on at home during work to act as an Orb server. Now, I can have it on all the time and guess what? You guessed it no viruses, spyware or trojans.

  10. Boz Says:

    LOL.. I do use my Mac Pro to the fullest extent. It’s a 2008 model with 10gb of ram and 2x 8800GT cards and 2 1tb drives.

    It’s hardly flawless. And what I’m saying is completely true as I’m web designer and developer and Adobe applications which are pretty much standard run better, faster and they are actually more advanced on Windows platoform (ie. Adobe Photoshop that’s fully 64 bit allowing me to use ram to the fullest). I won’t even go into Flash.

    What’s dishonest is people who are Apple diehards simply not discussing things that happen to them, like reinstalls, hard drives that crash quite often on Macs due to unmounting problems etc etc but constantly just talk in superlatives.

    I use both in my every day work. I’ve been using Macs for a better part of past 5 years. The frustration and things I’ve experienced on Macs, including the closed up platform where the only one company, Apple can help me, and in most cases I had to pay for something, is something that’s clearly a huge issue for a lot of people.

    They will charge you for everything and if you don’t like it their way well then just too bad.

    I gave an example of an adapter because EVERY single thing that’s similar to that you will pay to Apple. Another example is graphics cards. Not only do they always fall behind technology wise but they charge ridiculous prices for it with absolutely no reason. It’s a ripoff. ATI 4870 Mac Upgrade card with 512mb of ram is $350. You can get a better card for PC for $185. This is just another simple example.

    And btw, I do make a lot of money believe it or not, so I can afford “PRO” applications you are talking about.

    People don’t have to lie to critic Apple.

    As I said, I enjoy OSX. It’s a good system that’s not really that much better then Windows if at all as a base OS. It’s slightly different, has a fair share of retarded annoyances and bugs, updates are also a must and poor hardware support because they can’t have drivers for it unless they write it.

    Hey, I don’t diss people picking it. Some people have no reason to upgrade and are just fine having a pretty OS and slick computer that is constantly behind the curve. I just have issues with the whole “Oh, OSX is fantastic and flawless and Windows is garbage”. If you setup Windows properly just like you would OSX, it works great and faster then OSX. And you will most likely have no risk of getting infected either because of a lot of new features like DEP, UAC and Defender, not to mention IE and FF having block filters for malware sites.

    I run 2 Windows machines in addition to my Mac Pro with absolutely no virus protection and haven’t had a single problem for over a year. But I do have Windows standard defenses set normally.

    When you have 90% of marketshare it is natural to take more precautions because there are much more people who will try to make malware. On that side, Apple has no problem with weak 10% of marketshare but viruses are present. If they gain more as we’ve already seen the same problems appear.

    You know, if you install all bunch of crap software on a mac, reinstall is inevitable as well. So I don’t see really the flawless nature of OSX either.

  11. drew Says:

    what I find interesting (having a G5, an IMac 17″, a Gateway Vista desktop and a HP 1030 XP netbook) is how little things have changed. If you look May 2007 to May 2009 ( Yes, Windows is slipping but it still dominates. I remember back in high school (when Reagan was President!) Apple was everywhere.

    An interesting question will be what role the IPhone plays in terms of being a means of Internet access. My brother has dumped the land line, the old cell phone and the computer for an IPhone for his Internet/E-mail, and seems happy with it. Will OS go away, and it will just be an issue of getting to the cloud?

    As bad as Vista was seen in 2006-2007, I would have expected Apple to see a massive market gain, breaking far past 10%. While the growth from 6.4% to 9.7% is impressive, it is going to take a lot for Apple to break through. A lot of people make a great deal about Mac’s being less prone to trojans and viruses. Perhaps part of that is market share.

    What I find most interesting, putting aside the Apple/PC debate, is how little market share Linux has taken.

    I think simply that people look as computers as tools, and lack the passion that some of us feel for our operating systems. A lot of it, too, is a question of access.

    In a major city with an Apple store, I would be interesting to see what Apple market share is.

    Where I live, the nearest Apple Store is 3 hours away. Best Buy carries Apples, but they are off in one corner of the store, and the personnel in the store are not well versed in selling the Mac. We have a university nearby, and the do a strong trade in Macs, having the expertise to promote the features and appeal of the Mac.

  12. Jared Newman Says:

    Yo Drew,

    Harry wrote about phone as the future PC a couple months ago, check it out:

    I like the idea that you could simply place your phone near your external components (mouse, keyboard, monitor) and suddenly they’re synced wirelessly. I’m doing this as we speak, but with wires and my netbook. A better solution can’t be too far along. Further, the idea of a “dumb clamshell” would cover you if you needed some of those peripherals on the road.

    Of course, it’d have to be cheap. Not sure I’d feel secure carrying a $700 Godphonecomputer in my pocket.

  13. Neil Anderson Says:

    Glad to hear Michelle’s excited about her Mac. I like the Spaces and Exposé features. QuickLook is a very cool time saver.

  14. Marc Says:

    Jeff: Yes. Surprisingly I don‘t get viruses or malware. I am computer literate enough not to install anything “accidently”. OSX was unfinished from about 2001 to 2006, I had regular black screens of death and sad Mac faces during that time.

  15. drew Says:

    Jared, thanks for the link to the piece; very interesting. I had a thought as I got ready for bed last night (and was too lazy to get up and log back in). One metric that struck me was not just the idea of market share, but per unit profit.

    I am getting ready for work so I don’t have time to look it up, but I understand that Apple has a very healthy profit margin on the computers they sell. Acer may be selling boatloads of netbooks, but I can’t imagine they are making too much off of each one.

    Even more interestingly is the idea that Microsoft is a software company (making a few hardware items, like mice and Xboxes) and Apple is a hardware/software company. Again, I don’t have the numbers, but Apple has sold many boatloads of Ipods, and they are sitting on billions of dollars of cash.

    The IPod is important; I teach HS in mixed middle class/working class area (our district is 23% Free and Reduced Lunch) and yet almost all kids have some sort of MP3 player. The player of choice is the IPod touch, with a number of kids taking to the newest shuffle (the one with the controls in the headphone cord).

    For those who want, but can’t affort IPods, the rest of the field is cluttered with Creative and Sandisk players. What I rarely see are Zunes. They just seem, like the Dell jukebox, to have failed.

    The IPod is important, since it is a double revenue stream; you sell the player, and the ITunes is a cash machine for Apple. I don’t what they get per song, but one sheer volume, the money rolls in. Some of my kids have a staggering amount of music. Some of have 3,000 or 4,000 songs, and much of that comes from ITunes.

    I, as I get older, find the kids have very few physcial CDs; almost all thier music is downloaded. Even if half the songs are ripped, that is $1,500 they have spent at ITunes.

    Just a thought. -Drew

  16. drew Says:

    And to post to my own post (is that allowed?) I was just listening to NPR and they had a piece on gaming on the IPhone. I have to do some research (unless someone has the numbers handy) but the App Store must be another massive stream of revenue for Apple.

  17. tom b Says:

    I’m a scientist. I have tons of experience with Macs, going back to the Mac SE. I have tons of experience with Win95/2000/XP. Some versions of Mac OX 7.x were kind of shaky, but, overall the Macs have been a joy to use. In contrast, I’ve rarely gotten through a work day without Windows doing one of more things that totally annoy me. I would never consider buying, for my own use, a Windows PC. I’d go LINUX instead. LINUX has annoyances, too, but you at least get the sense they are working on the distro’s, instead of just slathering on eye-candy and marketing dollars, like we saw with Vista.

  18. Marc Says:

    Tom: “LINUX has annoyances, too, but you at least get the sense they are working on the distro’s, instead of just slathering on eye-candy and marketing dollars, like we saw with Vista.”

    Actually, go and read up about the differences between Vista and XP, and you’ll find there are lots of new APIs to improve performance and usability, yes most developers don’t use them yet because not enough people use Vista,but that will always happen with a new OS.

    Windows 7 has improved upon this 10 times over. But to say Vista was just eye candy and marketing just isn’t true.

  19. krquet Says:

    Here’s my story:
    I have been building PCs since 1993. I have built a super cluster (SMPS system) basically a 200+ computers on a grid. I am an Engineer (not computer though.) Basically, nothing to brag about, as I know a lot of people who know enough to run circles around me, but I just wanted to suggest I know a thing or two about PCs.
    A few years ago, I built an Athlon 64bit FX-55, on an Asus motherboard w Nvidia chipset, with Crucial 2GB of RAM (CL2,2,2,2,2), Nvidia 8800GT 512MB video card, SB X-Fi pro soundcard with controls, 3 500GB each of Western Digital eSATA HDs, and 150GB 10,000 RPM WD Raptor with True Power 800W power supply, Antec Sonata II, Zalman fan, special heat sink grease, etc. etc. etc.
    And yes, I put win XP Service pack 2 on it.
    Basically, the thing crashes from time to time, but when it does, it’s a pain to identify and fix even when it was custom built from ground up by me. I don’t do overclocking. It has been mostly the software glitch. Windows gets bloated even when you simply use the DVD drive to load a DVD (look it up).

    Anyway, long story short, I had to travel recently, and had to carry the computer overseas. The computer stopped working soon as I unpacked it and tried to run. Wouldn’t even go through the POST. I spent two days, taking out each of the components and troubleshoot, nada. Would’t even POST. I had a Macbook pro that I had purchased a few weeks prior, and just started working on that.
    I went cold turkey with that Mac. I haven’t used a mac since the early 90s. Never really used an OS-X. And it was a bit challenging at first. But I have been using it for an entire year now, and here comes the cliché phrase: It has been a joy!

    Last week, I finally got around and fixed my computer. It finally booted, and I had an entire year worth of upgrading to do. I opened up IE and ran the windows update. Ran the Genuine Advantage windows and started loading the Service pack 3. The download bar never moved. I wasn’t sure if it was even working. But waited an hour and the system rebooted itself, and boom, can’t find OS right after POST.
    I unplugged all my HDs hoping the main HD with C will load. But nothing. I finally took out the external HDs and the system booted.
    But the update failed. Widows notified me this and rolled it back.
    After about half an hour I got my desktop up. I then took a snapshot of the registry, backed it up, created an accesspoint, gave it a name can’t type here.
    Ran the service pack update again, because without it, it appears, my XP is a sitting duck.
    Again it failed. Again I had to try.
    On the 3rd attempt- success.
    But now, again, after the reboot, the system won’t boot. I didn’t have the external HDs connected this time. So, I had to unplug all the other HDs except the Raptor, and finally was able to boot.
    And then again, one by one, plugged back all the other HDs. I was able to boot again, and then retired for the day.
    Next day, today, I finally ran the rest of the updates, and did 3 reboots, successful each time. Morale of the story, I spent more than a day fixing my computer and updating my window, with physical exertion.
    All the while, the entire year, I have been using my Macbook pro, without one crash, and never ever have even installed any anti-virus software.

    I know this has been a long post, and very may even care to follow it through (that includes me, I’m not going to proof read me). But I’m a bit tired of people trashing Apple without a proper understanding.

  20. drew Says:

    I think the key to this story is the bewildering array of hardware that can go into a PC, either homebuilt or even commerical. The real beauty of the Mac is control of the hardware and software.

    I do want to point out that the Mac is not immune to viruses (as some content) but because of a small(er) installed base, those who write viruses write them with the intention of spreading them as far and as wide as possible.

  21. drew Says:

    or better, as some “contend”. Another issue I thought of was that OSX made a break with the past. There is so much legacy stuff in XP to contend with old versions of outdated software that people try to keep stumbling along.

    I am not sure when the break was made, but I got my G5 around 2005, I don’t think it even came with the “Classic Mode”. That is a shame, since I was unable to run the finest word processor ever written, WP 3.5. But I got over it, found Pages to be a great program, and got on with my life. If Windows ever simply makes the break, it would, I might guess, fix a lot of the issues we see in Windows.

  22. Czar Says:

    Thank you krquet for putting into words the frustrations I have experienced from Windows. Certainly, I love to tinker with machines. But the tinkering I’ve done over the years with Windows amounts to abuse on abuse. You’ve described the essence, albeit a lengthy essence, of what I refuse to deal with any longer.

    The beauty of my Mac is that I can use Windows with Parallels or other emulators. If my Windows becomes buggy or just plain toast, I can reinstall it or have a spare copy on my Mac-chine to use in lieu of the unsound version. I don’t have to worry about registries and the complications that are multifaceted on the Win-platform. In short, I can have my cake and eat it too in terms of necessary programs and the more enjoyable ones on my Mac.