Apple Computer Users Love Their Machines

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.

2 replies
  1. Bob S (via email) says:

    I didn’t hear your dry for Mac comments -:), but I read your article.
    If I might add a couple of ideas to your treasure trove, you missed a couple of points which could change some decisions about computer purchases.
    Over the 4-5 yr life of many computers, one does not have to go to the shop very often or spend a lot of time figuring out and fixing things to make up the price difference. Being as all Macs are the same, any Mac user can and will help another for a smile or a coffee. I just spent 3 hours trying to help a brother-in-law sort out a configuration problem without success. He will bring the box from Toronto this week to find the solution – free, at least. I also, even as a rank amateur, receive calls from peole in Halifax and Ontario asking if I can help them over the phone because they can’t find a technician or it costs too much.
    The lack of heat and the battery life of 5-7 hours on my borrowed MacBook are a blessing. As well, I havbe never left my desk with a PC feeling relaxed as I do with a Mac. that’s worth something. As with PCs, open software – OpenOffice, Evernote, etc are available. As you mentioned, one can run Windows on a Mac, but also Linux all at the same time. For a geek, the command line interface for Unix-based MacOS is always available. It may not still be the case, but Mac laptops used to function on 110 or 220 current and the guarantee is world-wide.
    I’m currently using one from Africa without even considering its power requirements.
    As for the X-servers, I ewcall that the Univ of Virginia changed all their servers a few years ago for the power savings with Mac servers and the fact that they could do major upgrades and other cleanup work in 4-6 hours as opposed to days.
    Back in the days of Win 3.1, I took a computer cousre and the teacher said that their was no money to be made with Macs as there was with “batch”files and “config” files, etc. A one-month course attributed 45 minutes to Macs.
    Last anedecdote: a niece in Montreal bought a white Sony VIAO (like the Mac) and when she had problems she went Alt-to the Apple store downtown and the techie fixed it free. Mac people are different.
    Cntl-Alt-Delete and I’m gone.
    Thanks for reading.

  2. Ian B (via email) says:

    Hello Pat,

    I enjoyed reading your article but felt you missed a few points.

    Why have I bought Macs? Well I do like the fact that they are reliable, but also that the support is so good when there are problems. As for cool, no one called me cool even when I was young enough to be so. What I really like is that they are beautifully made and designed with tremendous attention to detail. That applies to the software as well as the physical implementation. They are a joy to use.

    Lastly, if you suggested to my wife that I was the artistic type she would laugh for a week. I’m an unrepentant engineer.

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