February 2, 2005

Death to Windows?

According to one author(you'll have to watch a short ad), the Mac is going to finally figure out how to steal market share from the PC. You can read the article, but it seems less like a technical article than an Apple hagiography. The author tries to say that everyone using Windows has resigned himself to living with computing as a hassle, and that we should expect more. Not only should we expect more, but more is right under our noses with the shiny white computers pouring out of Cupertino, California, under the watchful eye of Steve Jobs. He makes a big blah deal out of the security advantage the Mac has, and tries to pin some of it on the superiority of the OS X kernel when the real advantage is that the Mac only has a 3% market share, which makes it unlikely fodder for the quickly replicating virus, malware, and spyware programs lurking on the Internet.

The article reads like this: the Mac is so much better than Windows based PCs, and it's a shame more people don't know this, since it would make their lives so much better. It's the world's best computer, don't you know? What's left out is any real explanation for why the Mac only has 3% market share, and it's not because of some great propaganda trick coming out of Redmond. First off, there's the price. The article calls it a "perceived" higher price for Mac, but go to the Apple Store and try to tell me that they can compete with Dell on a price basis. Another reason is that most of the world hasn't had any reason to switch from PC to Mac, unless they are a video editor or graphic designer for a living. Everyone else seems to like the familiarity and wide array of affordable software available for Windows. For others, they like being able to crack open the case and preform their own modifications and upgrades, something long impossible for all but the most knowlegeable Mac afficionados. A few years ago I bought a bunch of computer parts on eBay and put together my own machine. Try that with a Mac and let me know how far you get. For this reason, repairs and upgrades must take place at stores and repair shops that charge prices that seem exorbitant considering the ease and cost-effectiveness of repair and replacement on a desktop PC. Apple has had a consistent strategy of closely guarding their technology for the 20 years of the Mac's existence, and that strategy, more than anything else has resulted in Mac having a tenth the market share of Dell alone.

This is not to say that no one should ever own a Mac. Most of what is said about ease of use and application to graphical and video work is true. My only complaint here is the indidious one button mouse that actually makes it harder to get work done, but I'm sure you could get used to it. In my estimation, I would own a Mac under three conditions. 1. I could afford it 2. I wanted to do a lot of photo or video editing, organizing, and sharing 3. I could keep my Windows based PC. Under those three conditions, I could see myself happy with the Mac Mini or some other Apple concoction.

Ah, the Mac Mini. It's been billed as finally an affordable Mac. Why, it costs only $499, and it's barely larger than a CD-ROM drive. It really is that size, but it doesn't really cost that little, as you don't get a keyboard, a mouse, speakers, a monitor, or anything else, so add at least $300 to that price, as you're not going to use a big, clunky CRT with such a sleek computer. Thankfully, you can use regular USB keyboards and mice to operate it, both of which are fairly inexpensive and can be bought from companies other than Apple. As for what's under the hood, there's not a lot to get excited about. I recent bought a PC for my parents that had twice the power and memory, included keyboard, mouse, and speakers, and also cost less. You can't upgrade own memory either. You've got to head on down to the Apple Store, which is probably fine for most of the intended market for the Mini.

All that said, I could see myself using the Mini, under the conditions listed above. I'll likely never purchase one, but I can see the appeal of such a small profile, especially for an apartment dweller like myself. Add in a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and a good flat panel monitor, and it wouldn't take up much more space than my laptop. I mostly use the computer for the Internet, and when I want to do something more, I would still have my PC ready to go. I'm not ready to declare this Mac or any other as the key to slaying the Microsoft giant, but I'm willing to give Mac users their space, as long as they recognize the limitations of their beloved white boxes.

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