The Apple Mac: It’s a religion…

It has been explained by writers better than I how our minds are wired in a way that makes them vulnerable to religion.

Whether it is our desire to feel secure or have simple and complete explanations for natural phenomena or simply because we enjoy the social scene at church, there is no doubting the power of the effect. Even in modern times, entire lives, indeed entire civilizations are devoted to the superstitious concept of supernatural Gods.

Although L. Ron Hubbard may have started a religion while knowing it was all a sham, most religions did not need such deliberate action. Our innate need to have faith in things has allowed religious concepts to emerge and evolve freely in our communities as far back as records go.

So why do I bring that up?

It occurred to me today while pondering why people are so defensive about Apple Mac computers – I realised that their behaviour had much in common with religious ‘zeal’.

Then it occurred to me how much the success of Apple relies on perception and conception. If it was just about getting the fastest computer, you would not buy a Mac. If it was about buying something that has wide compatibility, you would not buy a Mac. If it was about cost, you certainly would not buy a Mac.

Some might argue that Macs are more intuitive and ‘easy to use’. These are people whose idea of computing is buying a shiny box, plugging it in and doing exactly what they are expected to do. They are people who just accept it when they are told they need to buy a new printer. Or worse, they blame the printer – what a crappy printer, not compatible! These are people who do not need to set up a complex network, or run a database server.

Anyone who has a Powerbook G4 that cost several grand and is not actually compatible with the latest OSX release, yet needs that OSX release in order to actually work, and still hugs and caresses the machine as it it were a newborn baby while defending its honour and wanting to spend another several grand on a newer shinier one, is, in my opinion, dabbling in a cult.

OK, before you write me off as some sort of anti-mac fanatic, I will admit they are beautiful.

Moving swiftly on, I think it is worth analysing Apple’s success.

How does a company that controls the details of their products so completely compete with a product (the PC) that is made by hundreds of companies all constantly competing, innovating, coming and going, rising and falling? The modular design of the PC allows almost anyone to buy all the bits and assemble the machine themselves; with so many companies making monitors and keyboards and hard drives, some will make bad (fatal) decisions and die, some will make good decisions and thrive and if there are enough upstarts to keep up the supply, the consumer will only ever see the winners, even if their victory was a flook, it was a victory none the less.

You could say that PC is the computer you get from natural selection (survival of the fittest), the Mac is the the computer you get when you try to control the evolution (unnatural selection).

Now a company that tries to make everything itself can capture the value chain, sure, but as it is only one company, it cannot make even one fatal decision, and thus needs to be a little more cautious. This means it is doomed to always lag slightly on the performance vs value curve – so what does it do?

Easy, get the consumer to accept poor value. Make up for performance by buying in high quality technologies (lcd screens, hard disks, etc), and make the customer pay the premium. Then focus on marketing.

Marketing is the art of making people want something. It is unnecessary for products people need.

So what happened at Apple?

Apple, perhaps by good luck, became perceived as a David vs the Goliaths of IBM and Microsoft. For some reason (was it deliberate?) Apple computers gained traction in music recording and graphic design, and gained a sort of bohemian chic that is rather impressive considering that it is essentially “Big Business” and, like most companies, designed to make money.

Clever partnerships, and particularly the inspired partnership with Adobe (think Acrobat PDF’s, think PhotoShop) strengthened their position with journalists, publishers and illustrators establishing the Mac as the creative profession’s computer of choice.

This turned out to be a good thing, as the naughties have been the most art friendly decade yet, as popular culture has come to resent things like ‘work’ and ‘industry’, and a certain sections of society have come to view activities like sport as trivial and meaningless when compared to the value and depth in culture, poetry, good food, yoga, spiritualism and so on.

In other words, the artists have moved up in the world.

Some of the more switched on folk will realise that brands like Gucci/Armani/Christian Dior or Ferrari/Porche/Aston Martin  or Rolex/Michel Herbelin/Patek Philippe are based entirely on massaging the egos of their customers, and in the last case, they probably don’t even keep better time than a black plastic Casio.

But not many of the arty crowd have realised that Apple is using their independent nature against them. The Mac user seems to be infected with the idea that in using a Mac they are somehow being beneficent to the world, will somehow be more creative, they they are part of some loving brotherhood that has exclusive access to the truth and the light.

This is because, by accident or design, the Apple brand has been developed to find that part of our mind that wants to believe and wants to belong, and is easily dazzled; the brand is acting like a religion.


Apple’s alliance with artists continues with U2 and the Black Eyes Peas, both highly credible symbols of free-thinking modernism. But I want you to ask yourself: what is free thinking about this computer company? I’m not sure, but I suspect the only free-thinking thing about Apple is its association with icons of the free-thinking world. It is just an electronics company for Pete’s sake. Like Sony, like Samsung, like Nokia.

If you believe there is any more to it than that, then you are welcome to pay for it.


PS: Besides the defunct G4 in the drawer, there is also an iPod classic in my home. I like it. I like to hold it. Mmm.

37 thoughts on “The Apple Mac: It’s a religion…

  1. There is no hardware/OS combo which doesn’t pull junk like that. Not only has Microsoft played the whole “if your hardware doesn’t work, it means you have bad hardware” card twice in the last two OS upgrades, but every version of Microsoft Office except 2007 has introduced unnecessary changes to the document format in order to keep people upgrading — and 2007 was the one which introduced the docx format, so they don’t exactly get kudos for that, either.

    And then there’s Linux, which is almost unabashedly a religion — Richard Stallman has now proclaimed that Linux users should not even mention proprietary software. (Seriously!) And if you can’t do a task with programs available on Linux, then You Don’t Need To Do That. Or maybe it’s your own fault for being so needy without writing programs for yourself, you free-riding leech.

    Basically, you pick your poison and learn to live with it. It’s worth noting that according to benchmarks published by PC Magazine, Apple’s hardware really IS better than that sold by the other PC makers; if you run Windows on an Intel Mac, you will get better performance, just on the cusp of noticeability, than on (say) a Dell with the same specs, because the components are good quality and the machine is well-engineered. Whether that’s worth paying more for a Mac is up to you.

    (Also possibly relevant is that Apple is the only hardware manufacturer who hasn’t been cutting margins in a race to the bottom. The whole “we only make single-digit profits on a $500 machine, but we’ll make it up on volume” angle being pursued by Dell and HP is about to turn on them — there are Asian PC makers starting to show up right now with lower overheads, and the western PC companies are going to find that they can no longer drop prices to stay competitive. The PC price wars are over, and the west lost.)

  2. Holy crud man,

    Not everyone who uses a Mac is some granola snapping liberal or Greenwich Village-living artsie bohemian. I’m in the military and myself and at least 5 other people in my unit of 34 people use Macs. Stop with the moronic stereotyping of Mac users.

    If you want to know why Mac users are defensive, I’ll tell you. Its because every time you mention you use a Mac people ask “Why would you want one of those” as they look down their nose. Its because you are referred to as a “fanboy” for using one. All of this, when the only reason you use the damn thing is because it doesn’t nag you every time you try to do anything. Why won’t Windows stop asking me if I want to empty the “recycle bin” even though I’ve checked the box on the “recycle bin” properties that tells it to stop asking. This has never worked from Windows 95, 98, ME, XP, and now Vista. That is why someone would want to use a Mac instead of Windows.

  3. I agree it is possible for (forbid the term) ‘intelligent design’ to collect together good components and make sure they work well together – this should and does give an advantage; I never said Mac’s perform worse, I said they perform worse for a given price.
    I also agree that all computer producers have big compatibility issues – and I am not calling Microsoft and Co. angelic, indeed many are far worse than Mac for being ‘big business’ and trying to control our lives. However, as someone who uses both, I spend far more time struggling to get my Mac to work. Just try to get a printer driver for an Epson Stylus C48 I dare you 😉 You have to become an expert in generics like Gutenprint and even then print quality os poor, and I can guarantee you it is too tricky for the amateur who has been lured to Mac by its good looks and chic image.
    Your point about Linux is interesting, there is a certain devoutness about its followers, and in many ways is not big business. Perhaps, like most religions, it happened on its own, not really the result of media moguls and clever marketeers; but then maybe the Mac clan also came about more by fortune than design…
    I would argue that most groupings of people (religions, brand loyalists, political parties, etc.) are enabled and strengthened by our brain’s wiring, the wiring that evolved over millennia to help us form alliances for survival. That is not in itself an issue except that is causes us to stop making critical judgements for ourselves, based on the evidence. In Steve Jobs we trust…

  4. Hi Shane,
    I don’t mean to look down my nose at Mac users, in fact I think the other lot are even worse, and their products have just as many flaws – what the post is about, is how Apple are pretending to be the independent thinker’s choice, when really they are just another company.
    It is impossible to pretend that Apple computers performance is the best – they are not used for any high-end applications (banking, air traffic control, nuclear bomb simulations) – what they offer is an integrated consumer experience, where everything works together (so long as it is all Apple brand, and all bought in the same year).
    That works perfectly for some people, but comes at a price premium, no problem. That is all they are, a different business model. If I am critical, it is of consumers who do not look at the facts, but are overridden by the belief that the Apple image fits their lifestyle, and base their choice on this.
    Also, I am sorry to characterise Mac users as bohemian artists, there are of course all sorts of users, but the idea of being the creative free-thinker’s choice is the image they themselves are promoting. It is a cynical move, as everyne thinks they are creative free thinkers, no?

  5. the reason mac owners are defensive about them, is the condecending tone windows users so often take. we know its bullshit. almost every mac user had or continues to have experience with windows. the obverse is seldom true. the vast majority of windows fans have no experience using a modern macintosh. they don’t know what we do, that the mac is worlds ahead of the windows boxes. after a while, you get tired of listening to know nothings that are so abundant in the 2nd rate microsoft camp disparaging something they have no idea of what they are talking about.

  6. i had to laugh as i read your comments attempting to brush off the mac as not being involved in any serious computing. off the top of my head i can come up with a few. the supercomputer project at va. tech –
    is one. another,
    concerns the use of macs in developing a new lunar rover. to be fair though, i see where some of the nasa windows computers had the honor of taking the first viruses into space.

  7. Hi Steve, it is not Apple v Microsoft. Windows is not the PC, it is just one of many choices of OS in the open platform of the PC, where you are free to load whatever hardware and software you like. Microsoft love the way people confuse the two.

  8. Hi, Jarrod–you have a delightfully open mind about gravity and some other very complex ideas, but seem quite determined to shove all Mac users into a little box framed and constrained by words like “cult”, “religion”, “mindless”, “conformist”, and apparently the worst insult and most constraining and awful Mac-user attribute of all: “arty”. 😉

    I’m a physics instructor with a strong liberal arts background. I love tech and constructing/deconstructing complex systems. I grew up poor and guard my money very closely. I use reason, logic, math, etc., when I make buying decisions. And I’m a Mac user. Most Mac users I know don’t fit the mold you’ve prepared for them, either. We are Apple’s harshest critics. When Apple disappoints, we are not shy about blasting them (just check out the iPad commentary on Mac blogs, for example). We aren’t Mac users because we follow Steve Jobs’ every word and uncritically accept what is “revealed’; but because Apple makes beautiful hardware and software that doesn’t interfere (as much as alternatives) with what we are trying to do with it. When I switched from PCs to a Mac, I felt a feeling of freedom and unconstraint, because I wasn’t fighting constant distractions from Windows or worrying about “when did I save this last?” and could just get on with writing/editing/grading/drawing or whatever it was that I was working on. Early Mac switchers all felt this relief, I think. Apple’s success with iPods was highly driven by marketing, but people that tried them found that iPods (and iTunes) similarly were focussed on letting you just get on with enjoying your music with minimal distractions and hassles, using a beautiful and easy-to-use device. Do you really think that if this wasn’t highly desirable for many, many people, that ANY amount of marketing would have been successful? Obviously, that couldn’t be true, unless–oh wait! What if all of them are SHEEP–blindly following fashion (or form over function) and incapable of seeing that clunky, heavy, difficult to use (but CHEAP) MP3 players that require you to micromanage every aspect of your music experience are obviously superior to iPods?

    You do a disservice to everyone who weighs the pros and cons in their heads and decides differently than you do by plopping them into this “cult-of-Apple” construction you’ve adopted. Why is it so hard not to credit Mac users as just having a different value judgement than you, without insisting that it is an inferior, mindless one? I guarantee you, most people end up buying Apple products after carefully considering whether the (usually, but not always) higher price is worth it for the value they receive. Their conclusions to go ahead and buy are not automatic proof that they are mentally deficient, slaves to being “cool” or taken in by hype. It’s because they saw something that would make their lives better in some significant way. It’s truly a shame that you have such a low opinion of others. How many friends of yours are Mac users? Do ANY of them fit your stereotypes? Oh–what’s that you say–none of them actually do? Well, they aren’t the only exceptions–just about ALL of us are.


    Daniel Beck

  9. Jarrod,

    Your reply is closer to the mark. Apple doesn’t make the highest performance hardware – true. “what they offer is an integrated consumer experience, where everything works together” – also true. I believe this second point is why most mac users are mac users. Its kind of like a Toyota, (I know not the old car metaphor again … but at least I didn’t say BMW) not the highest performance, nor the flashiest (Alien Skinware) but reliable. As much as pundits like to think people choose Apple products for shallow, trendy reasons, I think mostly people choose Apple because they don’t want to have to work as hard as Windows and Linux make you work to do get things done. Also, people are willing to pay a little more for this experience.

  10. Thanks Daniel, your points are well made.
    I have obviously failed in this post; I did not mean to imply that Mac users are idiots, they are not, they are a grand cross section of society. I do not think they are fools, I am trying to say we are *all* fools, and using the Apple brand as an example of how clever people aim to manipulate us.
    I picked Apple because I believe there is an element of irony in conforming to a brand that brands itself as the non-conformists choice. Weather they are or not is beside the point. The same point may be made of any rebel brand, that target a cool subculture (common in the apparel industry).
    Anyway, I am sorry if I have caused offence, but it does stimulate interesting and informative response to push one’s luck a little!

  11. Steve,
    Yes, you can use Macs for high end applications, but in my experience, they are a drop in the supercomputing ocean. And supercomputing is generally down to the hardware, which is usually Intel. And you can’t buy a high end Mac off the shelf to run your bank…

  12. The author is severely out of touch with current reality and recent history. Is this an opinion he wrote back in 1996 and forgot to publish? It sure reads like it.

  13. To say that a Mac performs worse for the price is like saying that a Honda Fit performs worse than a Yugo for the price. I used both PCs and Macs at work, and in the last ten years of my career, a PC almost exclusively, as the programs I had to run were not available for the Mac. Through the years the operating systems changed from Windows 98, to NT Pro, and finally to XP Pro. In comparison to the Mac OS, all of these were difficult to use and annoying. Vista was still waiting approval (two years and running) when I left, as it needed government certification before we could install it. As far as build, every desktop PC I had was so shoddy it was an embarrassment.

    The religious argument cuts both ways, I hear more anti-Mac sentiments at work, than the opposite. If asked for advice in buying a computer, I will of course suggest a Mac, but I always tell people they will only be happy with the computer “they want”, not the one someone tells them to buy.

  14. Jarrod,

    As a non-latte sipping former Marine who takes the time to determine compatibility of peripherals before purchase, I appreciate the quality of many Apple products. Because my money is important to me, I demand that all the Apple products I do purchase are at least capable of the things I do everyday.

    I’ve owned Macs since January of 1985 when I purchased the original 128k Mac with the single 400 K 3.5 in “floppy” (which was the first that wasn’t). The competitors of the time IBM, Tandy, and Amiga have all moved on to other things or gone broke. Even Apple itself nearly died and deservedly so.

    Although it’s not a religion, in that time they’ve built up a great deal of good will (At least for me.). So if some shiny new tech doesn’t turn up, I evaluate the need for it. Printing for me hasn’t been a need since the one document a year I have printed in the last decade (Tax returns) went away when e-file become more sophisticated. Believe me you wouldn’t be the first frustrated Mac user that wandered off and found a perfectly acceptable solution elsewhere.

    After a decade of not much forward movement save for the introduction of color and DTP, Windows 95 finally appeared and brought the rest of the world into the desktop metaphor. Five years later MS made the wonderfully stable Windows 2K the decedents of which I am pleased to use at my place of employment.

    After 7 years of service and a hard-drive replaced under warranty, my PowerBook G4 finally gave up the ghost (a power component on the mainboard finally burned out). Over it’s career, that particular device ran everything but VisualStudio, Access and 3DS MAX and was my main production machine with uptimes between patches of more than 60 days.

    Power fluctuations also finally claimed a third power source from my self-assembled XP box which though various modules have been swapped out since Windows 98SE.

    Both have now been replaced by a shiny new 13″ MacBook Pro. Orraah! Boot Camp! But an odd thing has happened. Now that I have advanced in my career, most of the legacy apps are no longer needed and most tasks I can do on my iPhone or any device capable of running MS Office 2003 (we love those macros and templates, thank you Microsoft!).

    I could get by with a Blackberry and a Netbook, but I don’t have to. I find both to cramped and the keyboards as bad or worse than the dinky virtual keyboard on my iPhone. So I have an iPhone where a properly designed apps minimizes text input, I have a MacBook pro for all my OS X Snow Leopard and Windows 7 wants and needs.

    The only portion of more 35 years of my interactions with computers that approached a religious experience was my introduction to a GUI 1984 (Mac), Appletalk (networking) Hypercard (User-developed, the KayPro (Portable), Mosaic (WWW), and the iPhone (touch screen). Those were the times I saw the future those are the times I lay awake and said “Damn look what we can do!”.

    So when I saw the iPad was I surprised? No. It’s been a long damn-time coming. Will I get one? Yes, I’ll dip my toe in the shallow end at
    $499 just to see all my hopes in one device. Did Apple invent everything?
    Of course not. But they did put it together and put it in front of me. They built things in such a way that other could follow along and make less expensive and more ubiquitous.

    I fully expect, I’ll download an app or view a website and see the next 60 years clear as a bell. (Unless the future gets published in a shockwave file).

  15. @jarrodhart “Yes, you can use Macs for high end applications, but in my experience, they are a drop in the supercomputing ocean. And supercomputing is generally down to the hardware, which is usually Intel. And you can’t buy a high end Mac off the shelf to run your bank…”

    That’s funny. I can buy a copy of Windows and a Mac off the shelf and install Windows using Bootcamp on the install CD. Besides, Apple runs all Intel hardware with UNIX that is very common to the Scientific community.

    Also, a plethora studies have shown the Mac to have a lower Total Cost of Ownership. Yes, you pay less for a PC but over the long haul it cost more to maintain and has little or no resale value when compared to a Mac.

    “Windows is not the PC, it is just one of many choices of OS in the open platform of the PC, where you are free to load whatever hardware and software you like.”

    Really? Funny I can run Windows, OSX, Linux, and Unix at the same time on a Mac and install any add-ons designed for it by third parties.

    You seem to know little about the Mac or OSX. The iPad is another story.

  16. @jarrodhart “Some might argue that Macs are more intuitive and ‘easy to use’. These are people whose idea of computing is buying a shiny box, plugging it in and doing exactly what they are expected to do. They are people who just accept it when they are told they need to buy a new printer. Or worse, they blame the printer – what a crappy printer, not compatible! These are people who do not need to set up a complex network, or run a database server.”

    Here let me correct this for you…

    Some might argue that PCs are more cheaper and more open. These are people whose idea of computing is buying the cheapest computer they can find because they think their getting a deal, instead of hours of frustration and heartache that comes with using a fragmented platform. There people who just accept a Windows PC because that’s what they’ve been told or because that’s what everyone else has, because its the safe choice. Or worse, they blame the computer for all of the viruses or failings of Windows! These are people who do not need to set up a complex network, or run a database server, since their buying a netbook to avoid making any meaningful commitment or do any serious work, since they only want to use it for is web, email, games, reading, movies, music and lite work on the go. These are also the people would love to get the computer out of the way, with all its hassles and buy an iPad… but they just don’t know it yet.

  17. Why a Mac? Well, it boils down to this:
    It is mediocrity vs …let’s say non-mediocrity!
    It is about the people’s ignorance!
    It is about myopia on your part.
    Or, you can write a three page article and saying the same thing…
    And last, but not least, writing these kind of articles means you are hunting for clicks and traffic! Come up with something new. Hey, why don’t you write something about an HP tablet?
    You know why, don’t you?

  18. Apple’s message is “Be creative, Be Different, Get more done with simplicity and style.”

    The Wintel message is “Say the course, Be compatible, Cheap hardware, high performance, Lots of options.”

    Who is the real free thinker: The person who plays it safe following 91% of the herd running a Windows PC, or the Mac user who is willing to risk derision from the establishment (The Wintel-Industrial Complex)?

    Yes, Apple uses flamboyant Marketing and high styling to get people’s attention, but the fierce Apple loyalty comes after the purchase when people realize that there is a genuine qualitative difference that sets Apple products apart.

    It’s all a matter of priorities. Macs are certainly not for everyone. Apple will never offer dirt cheap products or the dizzying number of hardware configurations available by others. But I believe that a significant portion of current Windows users would actually be very satisfied with Macs (or perhaps iPads). Only they just don’t know it yet.

  19. Hi Studentrights,
    Thanks for your comments – I am interested in the cost of ownership studies, but wonder if you could ever do a fair comparison – it all depends on how much interaction the device needs to have with legacy systems in your home or business and what software you need to run.
    The advantage that Microsoft has is that their sheer popularity mean that both hardware and software producer’s priority is to be Windows compatible. This gives Windows wide compatibility without MS having to work very hard – life is easy at the top.
    So if you want a standalone laptop for word processing/surfing/photo/video that connects to a network via ethernet or similar, a Mac will compete well, but if you have old printers, scanners, external hard drives, modems, and if you have already forked out for MS Office, then you are prevented from making the switch. This is no fault of Apple’s pricing, but rather the fault of your legacy equipment – and a trap I have myself sleepwalked into.
    The other big issue is that if you need specialised software, for example to control a microscope, or to interact with a share trading service, or if you need to manage a enterprise-wide Lotus Notes database, you can not make it happen on a mac for love or money.
    A mac is a consumer tool, not a business tool – that is not a bad thing, nor is it good, it is just unrealistic to compare a limited platform to one as extensible as the generic PC. And the generic PC is more extensible not because of Bill Gates’ cleverness, but because it would be suicide for anyone to launch a product that was incompatible with Windows.
    Why even a Mac is with Boot Camp!

  20. Thanks Brett,
    More well-put points; writing this entry has been an educational foray!
    One counter-point: I would define the free thinker as someone who is thinking about something else completely and is barely even aware of which computer helps him or her to do it.
    Like football (soccer) referees – the best one’s are those you don’t notice…

  21. Often when analysts try to look at Apple’s ecosystem from a technical point of view the analysis suffers. Because Apple doesn’t really sell technology the comparison suffers and the analyst is puzzled. This is usually the point where they start referring to Apple products as “shiny boxes” or “colored plastic” and they refer to Apple users as a cult because they can’t otherwise understand why so many people would make, what is to them, an illogical choice.

    Near the end of Steve’s presentation Steve put up a great slide that I think sheds some light on this discussion. He said that Apple exists at the intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts. Certainly Apple has some technical strong points, but they are strongly guided by the Liberal Arts. That is, they design a tool for people which happens to use computer technology. This is harder to understand because you can’t measure it in megabytes or gigaHertz.

    This is why Apple sees to it that fonts render correctly, that letter spacings and line spacings are correct. This is why Apple developed ColorSync so many years ago. (I understand that Windows has gotten better on these points over the years.) This is why there are no annoying messages about unused icons and such. This is why windows and such don’t just vanish when dismissed but collapse into their origins. It is not eye candy but visual feedback helping you understand what is happening on the machine. To my senses, using Windows always feels like I’m fighting with the machine, using OS X feels like a ballet, or like working with a well balanced tool.

    I’ll cheerfully admit that this is not for everyone nor should it be. If Windows or Linux or Chrome or Be (are they still around?) works for you that is terrific. It just annoys me that my choice in technology is denigrated because it is not understood and is described as cultish.

    I’ll add that I’m curious why Apple doesn’t seem to have any competition in its own sphere. The PC world is mostly a race to the bottom; a race to make the least expensive gadget. Why is it that Apple takes the lion’s share of revenue for computers over $1,000? If competition really worked then there should be other companies out there making equally attractive computers. Apple is nearly a $50B company. Doesn’t anyone else want a piece of that? Why doesn’t MS team up with Sony and make a variant of windows that works really well to run on a high quality computer that is well designed? What’s stopping them?

  22. If your last Mac was a G4 then I’m not surprised that you’re as clueless as you are. All Macs went Intel 3 years ago. The Mac is a serious business tool and its also the only one that runs OSX, Windows, Unix and Linux on the same box.

    Almost all profession video and film production is done a Mac, since Final Cut Pro, a Mac only program, has become an industry standard. The Mac also dominants professional TV, advertising, photography, music, education, and graphic design industries as well as most of the Arts. Most pre-press (anything printed) is done on a Mac. The arts are huge and were talking about art for business production, not art galleries. The creative industries are businesses too. Plus, the applications and skills required to use creative applications far exceed the skill required to use Microsoft Office.

    I also can’t remember the last time any legacy or new “printers, scanners, external hard drives, modems” didn’t work with a Mac. Modem? Who still uses those? You really are behind the times. I don’t think it’s even possible to buy any of those items that are not compatible with a Mac.

    I’ve worked professional with a Macs for 15 years and a lot has changed. What you’re saying simply isn’t valid.

    You need to read this about the Total Cost of Ownership:

    “Numerous studies over recent years (and longer) have consistently and universally shown that the TCO for Windows computers to be significantly higher than for Macintosh computers (notably studies and white papers by Gartner, IDC, Pfeiffer Consulting [2006] , Nash Networks [2009] ). CIO magazine [2007] (not a Mac friendly publication) put Windows TCO at twice as high as Mac. When Interpact, Inc., a network and security consulting firm, conducted TCO evaluations for several of their clients, they found the TCO of Windows workstations to be $1300 to $4000 more expensive than the TCO of Macintosh workstations.”

  23. jarrodhart said: “Some might argue that Macs are more intuitive and ‘easy to use’. These are people whose idea of computing is buying a shiny box, plugging it in and doing exactly what they are expected to do. They are people who just accept it when they are told they need to buy a new printer. Or worse, they blame the printer – what a crappy printer, not compatible!”

    Wow. I let that slip by the first time I read your column but I can’t again. You think Mac users are the lemmings, “doing exactly what they are expected to do”? No, it is Windows users who too often do not think for themselves. Classic example: way back in 1996 one of the first programs for instant messaging was created, called ICQ ( ). It got very popular. But three years later, you-know-who came out with MSN Messenger ( ). Despite ICQ already having dominance Messenger has come to surpass it. Why? Superior service or feature set? I doubt it. I have used both and see no difference, although LATER it looks like MSN got videochat before ICQ. No, the real reason MSN overtook ICQ is for the simple and familiar reason that Microsoft shoves a Windows Live ID in your face when you get a new PC. And guess what? PC lemmings sign up!

    Your printer analogy was also ironic due to the fact that I have PC using friends and relatives who had to be shown how to change their printer cartridge. And when their PCs start going wrong or gets infected? Well… you know how it goes I am sure.

    Finally, what is interesting is that your statement can be taken another way:

    “Some might argue that Macs are more intuitive and ‘easy to use’”

    Generally, they are.

    “These are people whose idea of computing is buying a shiny box”

    Yes, a beautifully designed and crafted shiny box. After all, if I am going to use it all day I don’t want to stare at “Intel Inside” stickers all day, nor hear the fan, nor lug more weight than I need to etc. etc. What’s more, because Apple builds the whole widget they can vertically integrate the hardware to the OS and apps way better than Microsoft can. Result: better, more consistent and dependable use.

    “plugging it in and doing exactly what they are expected to do”

    Yes. We are expected to GET TO WORK on a new Mac, quickly. Not having to do critical updates, not having to install and/or update security software, not getting pummelled with questions by the system or nagware, no figuring out why one DVD player program keeps overruling another or whatever etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

    People want to USE a computer. They should not have to work on enabling the computer; it’s supposed to be the other way around. And, the percentage of PC users who enjoy the flexibility of building their own PC? A sliver of the total Windows userbase, probably less than there are Mac users — especially given that the Mac userbase is growing and that more people on both OSes are moving to manufactured laptops, netbooks and now pads.

    The observations of some others here, that PC users can be as zealous as Mac users applies here. Take a good look in the mirror and see one.

  24. Studentrights,
    It’s true I don’t have a newer Mac personally, but I have had a fair amount of interaction with them. Changing to Unix/Intel was hardly a glorious moment for Apple, but I have to give them credit for swallowing their pride.
    Anyway, the Mac may be used in big business, but honestly, its not for the heavy lifting – it is a personal use device. Sure, having used Illustrator on both a Mac and a PC I will admit it seems to work better on a Mac, perhaps it was made for Mac and then ported to PC (whereas most software gfoes the other way and loses performance).
    The Mac certainly dominates some industries, indeed I would agree that graphic design and perhaps journalism, but TV and education, well that’s wishful thinking for most of the world (I grew up in Africa).
    Even so, if you exclude education, these industries are still a drop in the ocean, they are not the tool of choice for many blue-chip corporations. Perhaps they should be, but for an IT department to justify buying thousands of these to equip their sales force or their HR department would be a hard sell indeed. And even in small business (small retailers for example), where Mac could be bigger, there is a mountain to climb – these people need to play safe, and safe is to follow the Windows crowd (for better of for worse – and in case you hadn’t noticed, I am not a Windows fan, just a little cynical of manipulative marketing strategies, and I’m very glad for Mac,Unix, Linux, etc – how boring life would be without them!).

  25. Thanks Bob,
    Thanks for your comments.
    I agree people want to work when they sit down at the screen, I made that point in an earlier response – a good computer is one you don’t even notice while getting you work done.
    PC’s have tended to be naggy, but a computer is a like a house, it needs maintenance, and even if a Mac doesn’t nag, the performance will slide as the files fragment and the trash gets full and the hard drive clogs up with temp files.
    The problem Windows has is that spyware, adware and viruses are written specifically to target it, and Macs are immune, not because they are safer, but because any hacker who decides to write something will target Windows because it is the most widespread. So Windows needs to fight this fight too and Apple gets off.
    Lastly, because Windows wants to be used for critical tasks (database servers, etc) it needs to have much more back-room/admin functionality, which adds to the maintenance burden.
    You are probably right that Mac users are more likely to configure their machines, but that just says that Mac users are more tech savvy – perhaps they need to be to use a Mac (kidding 😉
    No, really most PC users are handed a bog-standard Dell laptop when they start some job or other and when it dies they phone IT.

  26. Yes, while Macs are more secure than Windows it is not bullet-proof — and yes, the biggest advantage Macs have is security via obscurity.

    As for “housecleaning” on a Mac, the OS itself automatically takes care of disk defragging and purging temp files, repairing UNIX permissions, etc.

    As for the problems associated with Windows’ ubiquitous presence, the solution is to, when the Mac tools fit the particular job, NOT use Windows! Despite my enthusiasm for the Mac platform I do have a realist view on these things… the catch is, however, that people who default to Windows are not always seeing things realistically. A line I coined a long time ago sums up what I believe is the main truth of this situation: Macs are more ‘right’ for more people than they realize”. This does not say “everyone get a Mac”, nor does it say “Use a Mac regardless of your needs or the scenario”… it does, however, mean Macs are more flexible than is perceived and can serve more users than is perceived.

    And Jarrod, I just read your profile and I have to take you to task: you’re A SCIENTIST! You are not some ignorance ranting about something he does not know. You have the analytical capacity to weigh the practical attributes of Macs, Windows, vertical integration vs horizontal etc. You should know that Mac OS X IS UNIX, which you should know is the most mature, strong and tested OS there is (with the best designed GUI grafted on top — that is subjective). Also, you most surely have seen Macs in use by colleagues the world over. Given your educated background, the ignorance you displayed in this column is magnified, significantly. FOR SHAME, JARROD! 😉

  27. If you don’t use a product then you have no right to comment upon it. Most Mac users (myself included) either have come from the Windows side onto the Mac, or still have to use both side by side every day, so we know what were talking about.
    You on the other hand are spouting ill-informed and condescending verbage, garnered no doubt from third hand observations of these ‘seemingly’ clueless Mac-users you are seeing in ever increasing proportions in your day-to-day life.
    You say that we blindly follow a religion, have you ever had to work in a company that has PC zealots in the IT department? The mere whiff of an Apple logo has them in fits of wailing, name calling and derision.
    You, and all those PC-zealots need to look at yourself and ask why you feel the need to insult another person just because they choose a different computer from you.

  28. I am systems engineer and I use Microsoft Windows PCs at work. When I come home I use one of the many Macs of various vintages and feel relaxed and get the same type of work in less tiresome fashion. At work, every few minutes I use four letter words to vent my frustration with the PC (Piece of Crap) that I have to constantly deal with.

    Using a Mac is not religion!!! It makes a Mac user feel sorry for the unwashed masses of PC users who enjoy being masochists!!!

  29. Have been using a Mac OSX from the beginning. The main reasons? It is a joy to use and look at…and NO viruses.

  30. Jarrod, you say that Macs are outperformed by PCs in their respective price points, but forget that megahertz, front-side-bus and GPU shaders are not the only measures of performance.

    What about weight? Battery life? Speed and reliability of suspend/resume (sleep to us Mac users), I would say that these are even more important. The new Core I7 dual core mobile chip is rated at 32% faster than the previous top-end Core2Duo. Okay, how much quicker does a Mac become responsive after opening the lid of a sleeping computer than Windows 7? How many times does the Mac fail to resume (in my experience NONE) compared to the Windows machine?

    Windows has never handled suspend/resume well, and while hibernate (suspend to disk) has been reliable since Windows 2000, it is VERY slow.

    Size and weight are also extremely important on laptops. Yes, I can buy a Windows PC with the same or higher technical specifications as a Mac for the same price, but will it be under an inch thick like my MacBook Pro? Will it have a magnetic display latch instead of a delicate plastic slider that will break in a year or two? Will it be a gorgeous single block of aluminum, or a bulky, thick plastic construction with flashing lights, stickers, doors and buttons all over it?

    I’ll spend more for a Mac, thank you, and it has nothing to do with identifying with any group or susceptibility to marketing. I’m a rather devout Atheist myself, and don’t do any of the “creative” things that Apple is typically identified with. I’m a working lawyer who wants his computer to turn on instantly when I open the lid, to look and feel nice and not to bother with updating antivirus software on a regular basis.

  31. Thanks Andrew,
    Those are more good points, and the picture that is developing from the comments is one were the Mac beats the PC on several fronts for personal computing (ironic considering what the letters PC stand for).
    I think my own view is biased that I have often veered away from simple computing (i.e using mainstream software, like word processors, image editors, web-design software) and have tried to make computers interface with equipment & networks, develop client-server architectures, run robust multi-machine servers, run raid hard-disk arrays. I have tried to write websites (and applets) that are compatible with IE, Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox and of course Safari (bless it’s cotton socks) which has made me cynical.
    It’s also true that I have not worked with a brand new 2010 fresh out the box Mac, perhaps I should give it a shot. Anyone got a few grand? 😉

  32. You might even find that that fresh 2010 Mac can do the complex integration things you mentioned.

    I own a small law office with five employees (including myself), 7 computers and one server. The server is a Windows server (SBS 2008) and the computers all share calendars through Microsoft Exchange and access shared files on the server through either the LAN or by a VPN connection. Those 7 computers used to be PCs, but over the last four years I’ve been replacing them one-by-one with Macs, and have had no problems integrating them. For a while we were roughly 50% Mac and 50% PC, and there was really no difference in how one computer interacted with the others, regardless of the platform the other users had.

    Now that we are all Mac, there is only one significant difference, and that is that I spend a lot less time fixing computer problems and a lot more time fixing client problems. Since clients pay for those services and computers don’t, I consider that a very good trade.

    Now I’m adding a client-server database to match new client issues to old cases to cut down on redundant research. This is something most people think of as a Windows specialty, but the Mac does just fine. I settled on FileMaker Pro (cross-platform, by the way) and it works like a charm.

    There is, in fact, only one application I ever use at work that doesn’t exist for Mac (it used to), and that is WordPerfect. I don’t use it often as the vast majority of the legal community long ago settled on Word, as did I, but once in a while I receive a document in WordPerfect and need the real application to preserve the formatting. I use WordPerfect 12 through Parallels desktop installed on an old copy of Windows 2000. In 2008 I needed WordPerfect perhaps a dozen times. In 2009 I used it three times. So far, I haven’t launched it yet in 2010. Its always there if I need it though, and with the magic of retail virtualization software it integrates with my system as though it was just another Mac application.

    I also use Boot Camp and Windows 7, but only for gaming, which remains vastly superior in Windows, though that situation is improving for Macs as well.

  33. Also I’d like to point out your mention of the PowerBook G4 not running the latest version of OS X. The PowerBook G4, in its very latest model, is almost 5-years-old. How many 5-year-old laptop PCs will run Windows 7? The first PowerBook G4 is now 10-years-old. How many 10-year-old PCs will run Vista? Many won’t even run XP once it is updated to SP 3 and has all of the patches installed.

    Every PowerBook G4 and most PowerBook G3s (except for the very first one in 1997) will run a version of OS X, with the vast majority able to run Leopard, which like Vista remains fully supported by Apple.

    With the exception of the very last models of PowerPC Macs, Apple usually provides a minimum of 5 years OS upgrade potential for any Mac you might. After five years, most will still install newer OSs, with only the switch to Intel and dropping of PowerPC code in the current 10.6 version breaking that tradition. I still have one PowerPC Mac in my office, a 2004 model Power Mac G5 that runs 10.5.8 wonderfully and integrates perfectly well with our Exchange server and all of the newer 10.6 Macs. I had no complaints that a new OS version didn’t support a computer that was already 5-years-old on release.

    In contrast, I had a 3-year-old dual core Dell Server running Windows Small Business Server 2003. That machine can install Small Business Server 2008 and I did just that, but even without connecting or installing anything on it, it was just too slow to actually use. Quite a difference I’d say.

  34. Hi Andrew,
    It was not specifically the G4/Snow Leopard incompatibility that I was complaining about – it was the combination of that with the incompatibility of Jaguar with much of the software/hardware available today.
    Most software out there will still work on Win2k, and XP (released much the same time as Cheetah, the predecessor of Jaguar, in 2001) is still the most supported OS.
    And the price of Leopard, the newest OS that is powerpc/g4 compatible made me swallow my tea down the wrong pipe 😉

  35. To put Jaguar into perspective, it was the first real commercial version of OS X. Cheetah was a pubic beta, and Puma a free upgrade.

    I think of Jaguar (2002) as being developmentally equivalent to Windows NT 4. 3.5 was the first version of NT, and 4 was the first release that was out there in any real volume. By the time of Windows XP, very few new applications remained compatible with NT 4. By the time of Vista, very few applications remain compatible with WIndows 2000.

    I run (in a VM) WIndows 2000 today, and it is quite a challenge to get up-to-date software. Office 2007? Nope. Internet Explorer? Nope. iTunes? Nope. Firefox? Not the new version.

    XP is still so widely supported only because there remains a huge user base. Jaguar is almost completely out of circulation, and Panther almost. Tiger remains fully compatible with the modern world and Leopard as well.

  36. I find it interesting how many points of the article are validated by some of these comments. There’s really nothing disrespectful in the article that can’t be laughed off, but some of these comments are actually virulent. No impartial observer can deny that fanatical religious behavior IS actually occurring. As for my own take on it… there are merits to both platforms (dichotomized as Apple vs. non-Apple, itself a rather dubious amalgamation), and misconceptions regarding both. I do expect more than a handful of people to commit suicide if Apple goes out of business, however, and I cannot promise they will be missed much either.

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