Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Myth of Mac

In a recent article about Mac quality issues, Veteran technology industry analyst Rob Enderle is quoted as saying "I think they (Apple) are feeling invulnerable right now. Because they've been so successful as of late, it looks like they can do no wrong and that customers will take whatever they give them."

I think this is probably true. Apple and its users seem to me a pretty smug lot. I'm a Windows PC user, but God knows I'm not a smug one. Windows PCs have all sorts of issues like crashes, odd behavior, susceptibility to viruses and hacks, etc. We all know this of course. We install firewalls, anti-virus programs, add memory, apply patches and do everything we can to keep our PCs running.

We also do some pretty amazing things with our PCs, just like people do with Macs. The difference seems to be that Mac users tend to look down on PC users and I really can't figure out why. Are Macs really better at most things than PCs these days? Are they really so much simpler to use? Or are they just "cooler?"
Besides, there are programs for PCs that do the same things you can do on a Mac. I use most Adobe products on my PC and they're not all that different on Macs as far as I can tell. But is it more cool to say you own a Mac than a PC? Sure it is. The Mac guy on the commercial exudes laidback, trendy coolness, whereas the PC guy exudes uptight, loser dorkiness. But is a PC supposed to be cool? Is that important? If the PC I use is cool does that make me cool by extension?

When I've pressed Mac users for hard reasons why they love their Macs or what's so much better or simpler about them I usually get a response like. I don't know, they're just easier. When I press them further they end up saying PCs are just too complicated and they don't have time to mess with all of that crap. It makes me wonder why my company has a support person for our Mac users. What does he do all day, play Solitaire?

Same thing goes for iPods, which are heralded by owners and most of the press for their amazing simplicity and quality. Here's a simple fact:
The majority of comments I hear from iPod users are negative. Maybe you hear differently, but all I ever hear from iPod owners is how they can't get their CDs ripped to them, and the battery runs out too fast, and for some strange reason the alarm goes off at midnight and drains the power before they wake up, and it scratches really easily and on and on. I also hear about how horrible the customer service is and how you end up paying hand over fist to get them repaired or replaced. And I truly do not get what is so stylish about them. When they first came out they looked like kitchen appliances and everyone raved about how cutting edge and trendy they were. Now pretty much all music and media players look stylish and I don't think iPods really look any more stylish than the rest.

I have a SanDisk Sansa and I really like it. It's small, stable, works with Rhapsody, holds plenty of music, and sounds great. The interface is pretty good too. Not great, but pretty good. Anyway, I don't pretend owning a Sansa makes me cool or part of some generation. It's a tool I use to listen to music and it works well. I haven't joined a Sansa discussion group or told all my friends that it's the "only mp3 player to get." And if I owned an iPod I would feel the same way. Like a Mac, it's just a tool to get things done or entertain yourself. It's not a cult, it's a piece of hardware. Get over it.