Apple's Value is More than Skin Deep

Techwriter10 0 Tallied Votes 425 Views Share

It's with more than idle curiosity that I've watched the recent Microsoft ads that attack Apple, subtly suggesting that it's too expensive and that it's all glitz with no real computing power. There is so much wrong with these assertions that it's hard to know where to begin. There is after all something to be said for getting what you pay for, and when you buy any old Windows PC based on price and specifications without regard to quality, you have no idea what you're getting. When you buy a Mac, you may pay more, but you know exactly what you're getting because they all come from the same source.

As I wrote recently in Microsoft Gives Apple the Full Court Press, it's a great ploy for Microsoft to be on message about this with Ballmer giving the hard stuff, publicly dissing Apple, while the commercials come in underneath with a more subtle approach for the general public, but the more I've thought about this, the more I wonder, what this strategy is about at its core.

What is Microsoft Afraid of?

Why is Microsoft afraid of Apple? Apple still only accounts for between 10 and 20 percent of market share depending on whose numbers you believe. Yes, it's been growing, at least until recently, but is Apple really such a big threat to Microsoft desktop domination? What's more, it's not an (ahem) apples to apples comparison. Microsoft doesn't make a computer, remember? It makes an OS, while Apple makes both (which makes their 'Get a Mac' campaign much more sensible).

If You Really Want to Have a Pissing Contest...

But I figure if Microsoft wants to compare a Mac and a PC (even if there is no real comparison) who am I to argue? I write this post based on my own individual experience. I realize it's hardly scientific, but it's what I know. I have a Mac Book Pro. I run OSX on it and I run Windows XP in Parallels. My wife has a Dell laptop running Windows Vista.

I will say that the Mac is not perfect. I definitely push it to the limits of its 2 gigs of memory when I run Parallels and several Mac programs at the same time (especially TweetDeck and Firefox, which are incredible memory hogs). I occasionally get the spinning beach ball. I keep the Activity Monitor open, ready to shut down one of the programs hogging my memory, but when I do, all is right the world. I rarely have to reboot. I've never had my Mac lock up completely and I've never had a blue-screen type experience on my Mac. (If I have one in Windows under Parallels, I can simply shut down Parallels.)

Which brings me to wife's Vista laptop. It's a Dell. In my long experience using computers, Dell makes a decent machine, and their customer service has been adequate when called upon (for the most part), but just this morning, and this is one small example mind you, my wife couldn't get any program to run. I gave my standard reboot message, but when she did the computer was still unresponsive. I suggested she reboot again, press F8 to open Windows in Safe Mode and then shut down from there.

This whole reboot/Safe Mode stuff just doesn't happen under OSX. I've never had OSX completely blow up in this fashion. Vista does this constantly. It is simply the nature of running Windows. I've seen her working away and up pops the blue screen (the ones as I recall that weren't ever supposed to appear in Vista).

Apple is so Much More Than a Pretty Face

I've been using computers for more than 20 years. I have Zenith 8088 sitting in my basement. I've used PCs for all but the most recent 2.5 years. I didn't come out of the womb as an Apple fan boy. I used the product and I fell in love with it (as I wrote in I'm in Love with Mac Book Pro). It is a gorgeous piece of engineering and I paid a lot of money for it, a lot more than I would have had I bought a comparable PC, but when you get down to it, in my long experience, there simply is no comparable PC.

The Mac OS is so much more elegant, the way things work so subtle. I don't hate Windows if that's what you think. I just think if Microsoft wants to compare themselves to Apple, they may hire some actors and be able to sell the idea that the PC is a much better value, but when you get right down to it, if you're really honest and look at all the factors, Apple wins hands down. Sorry Microsoft, but there's just no comparison in my view.

scru 909 Posting Virtuoso Featured Poster

Calling them 'attacks' is a bit of an exaggeration, isn't it? As someone who admittedly tends to support MS more than I do Apple, I was quite disappointed when that lady bitterly exclaimed "I guess I'm not cool enough for a Mac!" or something like that. Why would they want to point out that their product is that one you settle for in their own ads?

I don't know what you're complaining about. If I were working for Apple I'd be quite pleased with those ads. They scream "Apple has the products that everyone wants; settle for a Windows PC only when you can't afford a Mac!"

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

I'm not complaining at all. I was trying to make that point and show how useless it is for Microsoft to get into a pissing contest with Apple. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

freakQNC 0 Newbie Poster

Aaah... the old diatribe about who's better. IMHO there is no point in getting upset about a commercial or a marketing strategy, but if it makes you feel better go just right ahead :)

As a premise I use mostly Apple's Macintosh running OS X, but I do use Windows whenever I needed and I am not a MS-hater...
With that said, I can't prevent anyone from starting to rant about "how much they hate all those snobbish mac users"... in a free world everyone has the right to freedom of speech ;) but let me also premise that should a user decide to start "engaging" in a "battle of the platforms" no replies would follow from me since, not only I am not interested debating with people who have a one-way thinking such as "MS is crap" or "Apple is crap", but also because I am throwing in my 2 cents and I couldn't case less whether anyone disagrees with it.. am I being frank enough for you?;)
Please remember this statement while reading my post and have it in your mind each time you are compelled to reply... save yourself the time and effort as I will not take the time to read those replies.

Will just spend a moment about the ridiculous perception of apple as and "expensive apple of desire":

1) Apple's design is excellent for two main reasons. The first is that they are one of those rare companies that do give a damn about the appearance, appeal, attractiveness, and design of their products while maintaining functionality at its highest. The second reason is that the bar is set so low by other hardware manufacturers when it comes to those factors just mentioned (appearance, appeal, attractiveness, and design) that Apple could even do less and still keep its cutting edge position as a ground-breaking industrial design.

2) Let's compare Apples to Oranges: Have you ever dismantled a Mac pro or any other Mac Desktop/Laptop? I have dealt with quite a few through the years... and I went to nearly the same amount of PCs, branded models as well as white and gray boxes. There is absolutely no comparison today more than ever between PC cases and Apple ones. The Apple cases set themselves apart... they are sturdy, and sexy, it's complex engineering turned into beautiful design, where ease of access (to ports, components, including assembling and disassembling for servicing), and best functionality (like better design of the cooling flow, or the sliding HDD trays) have no equal to date.
Most PC cases like models from Antec, Cooler Master, Lian-li, Asus, are passable at best as far as design is concerned. The branded boxes such as Sony, Hp, Dell, etc. are usually not impressive, let along ground-breaking. In addition when it comes to those cases' construction details, they span form passable to extremely cheap.

3) Let's compare Apples to "Apples":
If you buy a MAC PRO you get all this here below for about $3,599.00 (04/09/2009)
# Two 2.26GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon X5500 "Nehalem" processors
*Three open full-length PCI Express 2.0 expansion slots
* Quad-core: Four DIMM slots support up to 8GB of memory
* 8-core: Eight DIMM slots support up to 32GB of memory
* Four direct-attach, cable-free drive bays with support for SATA drives
* Front-panel headphone minijack and speaker
# 6GB (6x1GB)
# 640GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
# ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB
# One 18x SuperDrive
# Built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
# Built-in dual 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet
# AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi Card with 802.11n
# Five USB 2.0 ports on Mac Pro (two on front, three on back)
# Two USB 2.0 ports on included wired keyboard
# Four FireWire 800 ports (two on front, two on back)
# Optical digital audio input and output TOSLINK ports
# Analog stereo line-level input and output minijacks
# Power Supply: Line voltage: 100-120V AC or 200-240V AC (wide-range power supply input voltage)
Frequency: 50Hz to 60Hz single phase Current: Maximum of 12A (low-voltage range) or 6A (high-voltage range) 1440W
# Mac OS X 10.5 DVD
# Apple Mighty Mouse
# Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English) and User's Guide
# Apple original Aluminum sturdy and exquisite design computer case

If one buys the equivalent of a Mac Pro to build a custom PC PRO with all the same specs as the above mac, well... for starter we are talking buying server-grade components. So I did a quick shopping list today (04/09/2009) at the total price of a comparable PC was $3,410.78. With a difference of just $288.22 there is no much of a debate because such difference may easily compare to a paid service to assemble and test the PC, plus installing the OS and programs (which the mac has right out of the box)

1x SILVERSTONE TJ07S-W Silver Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail $369.99
1x Western Digital Caviar Green WD6400AACS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive (bare drive) $69.99
1x D-Link DWA-556 PCI Express Xtreme Desktop Adapter $89.99
1x HIS Hightech H487F1GP Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card $259.99
1x HT OMEGA STRIKER 7.1 Channels PCI Interface Sound Card $89.99
1x Logitech Cordless Desktop EX 100 Black USB RF Wireless Standard Keyboard and Mouse $24.99
2x SIIG FireWire 800+ Hi-Speed USB Combo Card Model NN-8US212-S2 $147.98 ($73.99 each)
1x cirago BTA-6210 USB 2.0 Micro Bluetooth Dongle support Bluetooth 2.1 $29.99
1x Intel S5520HC Dual LGA 1366 Intel 5520 Tylersburg SSI EEB Dual Intel Xeon 5500 Series Server Motherboard $529.99
1x Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 32-bit for System Builders $179.99
DYNAPOWER USA TC-1000PL 1000W Single Server Power Supply $269.99
6x Crucial 1GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) ECC Unbuffered Server Memory Model CT12872BA1067 $197.94 ($32.99 each)
2x Dynatron G666 60mm Double Ball Bearing CPU Cooler $69.98 ($34.99 each)
2x Intel Xeon L5520 Nehalem 2.26GHz LGA 1366 Quad-Core Server Processor Model BX80602L5520 $1,079.98 ($539.99 each)
Total: $3,410.78

So as you can see a Mac Pro will appear expensive to those who erroneously compare it to a PC that is not in the same league, much like comparing a Honda or Toyota to a Lamborghini or a Ferrari.

Now, look... MS should have done something smarter than cobble together a heavier system based on a largely problematic OS architecture. Not to mention that the visual interface has been "revolutionized" (what's worse is that it was done without improving its usability) to the point that even the most experienced user will have quite an hard time to find its way around Vista!
MS is all about OS therefore it should have put an even heavier emphasis on rebuilding it from scratch using a stable and proven OS as the new fundation, much like Apple did when they abandoned OS9 architecture in favor of the more stable FreeBSD (the open source OS that OS X has been built upon).
Apple recognized the need to have a robust and stable OS because the OS 9 architecture at a certain point started to show its age, limitations, and became more problematic to work with and to make it support new hardware platforms using system code that dated back to 1984... sure it was great and advanced back then, but after 15 years of good service it was time for retirement, and by recognizing that OS9 was no longer a suitable system to move forward as fast as needed, Apple made the first step in the direction of what we see running on mac computers. The change was without risks, was not easy nor painless, but it a fact that today there is no comparison between Apple's OSX and MS Vista OS.

Apple is not in just in "the game" of writing its own Operating System, it also makes its own hardware with the plus that today implements more widely used standards (gone are the times of nubus, ADB, SCSI-only HDD/Optical drives, and so on). That makes it even more appalling that despite Apple came to the conclusion that a radical change was necessary to meet the future development requirements, growing computing needs, as well as having an OS that could keep up efficiently with ever changing hardware, MS has instead kept its blindfold on, and started developing Vista at first on XP, then needing something more stable/powerful decided to use its old NT technology as Vista source code.

Sadly MS didn't go down the route of innovation and everyone (from hardware manufacturers to end users) are paying the price of such a poor decision. Unfortunately Vista is such a bloatware that today, knowledgeable users prefer to avoid it altogether and even downgrade back to XP, a newly purchased PC that came with Vista pre-installed. This is a sad consequence of inadequate management and decision making at MS.

Why everyone now loves XP over Vista? Well for starter we all went through the pain of learning its GUI and tricks, fixes and so on. We all got used to the fact that despite it took MS about 10 years, they finally got it almost 100% right! In XP SP2 and over, the "bluescreen-of-death" and "system freezes" (although not a thing of the past), have generally become much more rare, also thanks to the advancements in computing technology that today allow users to run XP on machines with Gigs of RAM memory and tons of processing power, two factors that in the Windows world seem to be a mandatory in order to have a stable system...
If one has to make a prediction (and I am not trying to be funny here) taking into account the past experience with XP, then maybe Vista will become as good as XP is today after going through 10 years of fixes, polishing, updating. And with the aid of faster hardware, eventually Vista will be an amazing system when it will be running on PCs with 1 Terabyte of ram and multi-core Tera Hertz CPus. The sad thing about Vista is that is not an awful system, just poorly implemented and not thoroughly thought through and still needs a lot of work.

The saddest thing instead was, having to witness MS in the attempt to convince the public that Vista is such an unbelievable innovating system. To try accomplishing that MS came up with the "Mohave experiment" commercials and I was speechless after I saw those ridiculous spots. That's insulting the intelligence of computer users all over the planet! In the first place no features of Vista were shown (only bedazzled users who apparently were looking at a computer for the first time) and additionally that's a really cheap expedient to create a "buzz" about Vista... Man sales must have been down a lot to cause such desperate ad campaign to be broadcast?

Does MS thinks that new users can be conned so easily? Apparently they do, after all that's how MS became the OS of choice... because naively people were thinking that a computer without running Windows would not work, as if Windows was the only OS in the planet. Well the con worked once why not again? Unfortunately for MS savvy users know better, so they are sticking with the tried and tested XP... what can MS do abou that? Well easy! They will officially stop supporting it this month (April 2009) although security patches will be available until April 2014.
That's how unsuccessful Vista is at the moment... mind you all corporations are still using XP pro and they majority of Vista OS that are running on today on computers they came pre-installed with the hardware and possibly the only reason why they are still running is because the end user who bought that PC is not tech savvy enough to do a downgrade of the system, or it's using the PC for trivial tasks and will (hopefully) never notice any major problem.

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

My goodness! Thank you for the detailed incredible comment. I think it's longer than my actual post. :-)

Seriously, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I love when my blog provides an avenue for people to think through ideas and share their thoughts and you have certainly done that with this comment. I hope you'll come back and keep reading.

Thanks again (and I think we are in agreement here, for the record).

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