The other day I found a book laying around the house: 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die. I can just picture the author taking his last Earthly gasp and uttering “Darn! I’m missing a couple of Tintorettos.”
Being neither an artist nor an academic might explain why I don’t own any books like that. It might also explain why I don’t own an Apple computer. At least that’s a theory I’ve been working on for some time, that Apple computers are made for artists and academics.
So I decided to set out to prove it or refute it, and here is what I found.
First of all, Apple computer users love their machines! Whereas PC users talk about computer equipment in a very pedestrian way – sort of like how you’d talk about a seatbelt – Apple users get very animated about their computers. They take huge pride in the equipment they own, sort of like owning designer sunglasses or a fancy car.
I used to think Costco customers were loyal but they have nothing on Apple customers. (Hey, just imagine someone going to Costco to buy Apple equipment. What a happy, happy person that would be!)
Owning nether designer sunglasses, a fancy car nor a Macintosh computer, I took it upon myself to find out what is it about this gear that gets people so excited, and I put the word out that I was seeking some input on this topic.
Offers immediately started coming in and in fact I had to start turning people down. Imagine lining up to tell someone how much you love your computer. That is what happened.
Just to be clear, we’re not talking iPhones and iPads here – we all know those are cool. We’re talking desktop and laptop computers.
And I certainly did notice that the people who came forward are usually involved in something artistic, like graphics design, and are either in or just out of university.
The next thing I found out is that they are no longer called “Macintosh computers”; they are “iMacs” and “Macbooks”, or generically “Macs”. You don’t have to say they are computers any more than you’d have to tell people you own a “Porsche car”. If the person at the other end doesn’t know what you’re talking about, well, maybe that’s not your problem.
People buy Macs for two reasons: they are cool, and they are reliable. One guy told me he always buys the newest generation of things Apple no matter what the cost. It kind of reminds me of some people in my astronomy club, who I think would go several days without eating just to be able to buy a fancy new eyepiece for their telescope.
Speaking of astronomers, my dark sky buddy John Liddard is a Mac user and I visited him at his office. He explained everything I needed to know about the gear, which ranges from Macbooks to Macbook Pros to the ultrathin Macbook Air.
On the desktop side of things there is the Mac mini, Mac Pro, and iMac. And Apple also sells servers, with their flagship 8-core Xserve being like eight computers in one.
My favorite is the iMac, which just looks like a flat screen monitor, a keyboard and a mouse – no wires and no computer case in sight. All the components – hard drives etc. – are housed in the monitor unit. (Now I’m getting all excited; see how it works?)
Apple also provides its own operating system, and by controlling both hardware and software, it doesn’t have to worry about thousands of third-party offerings, and this helps them control the quality. Also, Mac users don’t seem to worry about viruses quite as much as the rest of us.
But Liddard works for a communications and marketing firm (Colour) and that puts him squarely in the “artist” category, so just to be sure I decided to contact the Halifax Mac Store in downtown Halifax, where Store Manager Jarome Regan tells me they sell the full suite of Mac products. Of these, Macbooks are the main seller but the iPad is surpassing them in sales.
Regan tells me that while Macs were once viewed as the “artist’s computer”, that is starting to change, because of late Macs have been built around Intel central processors, just like their PC counterparts. Regan’s clients come from all industries, many of them running business programs like Microsoft Office on the Mac. On the quality question, in Regan’s words, his customers “don’t have to bring [their computer] in for service every couple of months due to crippling slow performance.”
Why then, doesn’t everybody own Apple computers? For one thing they are more expensive. And apparently they have some way to go in terms of getting entrenched in enterprise-wide applications. Things like SharePoint and large-scale database systems like SQL Server seem to work better with Windows-based PCs according to Liddard. (Although he is quick to add that you can run Windows on Apple gear if you want to.)
Industry trade journal Computerworld recently reported (quoting Gartner and IDC research) that 2009 figures show that Mac sales are behind Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Toshiba, and steadily losing ground, precisely because these other machines are much less expensive.
So if you want quality and cool and are prepared to pay for it, then Apple certainly seems like a way to go. Am I now going to go out and buy a Mac? I might have to. After all, I want nothing but the best for when I flesh out an idea I’m working on – designer seatbelts.