My friend Mark Evans wrote a blog post today entitled “Are MacBooks Just Trendy?” and I thought I’d write a completely unwarranted perspective myself. In his article, Mark ponders the value of the budget laptop buyer, who can pick up a lower-end Windows laptop for ~$500. He continues with…
Before the MacNation starts clamoring about how Macs are more stable, elegant, better designed, etc., the question that should be asked is whether the “regular” computer user needs a Mac to do what they need to do (browsing, e-mail, writing documents). In other words, can you avoid buying a Mac, and still have a satisfying computer experience?
The answer, I think, “Yes”.
First and foremost, while I did convert to the Mac last year (because the Sony Vaio VGN-SZ460 is such a wretched use of silicon it made the Foleo look like a good idea), I don’t consider myself a fanboy just yet (I even chastised them during CES a few months back). That said, however, considering the state of Windows Vista, I simply cannot endorse ANYONE buying a new machine that doesn’t run either XP or OS X.
The real question to me is what are you getting for your money, and I’m going to use the one example I have the most hands-on experience with: my mother. She bought a lower-end Dell last spring for ~1000, it has all the right speeds & feeds (dual core, 1GB RAM, DVD burner, etc). She hates it (possibly more than me and my Vaio!) because everything is slow, she gets alert messages all the time which make no sense to her, and even after I installed Picasa she has trouble managing the photos on her computer.
Again, I’m going to blame this on Vista, not Dell per se, but it doesn’t matter. My dad has a year old PC, his Logitech webcam crashes every third or so time he uses it. My mother-in-law just got a brand new budget PC, her Internet connection is no longer reliable. Even the Dell I was sent by Ed Bott as an example of a “good” Vista installation is unable to recognize two generic USB mice I tried (although it did boot in about 40 seconds, which was very impressive).
Is the MacBook trouble free? Absolutely not. For example, iMovie ’08 crashes on me everytime I run it unless I manually remove files from my preferences folder – a task my parents would be completely unable to do on a regular basis. MacOffice is still a far cry from Office XP/2003 (I’ll spare the discussion of Office Vista/2008). It isn’t perfect by a long shot.
But, it is reliable, and if you use OS X the way it wants to be used (because the other way around is a no-no), the MacBook is the best bargain computer on the market. For $1000 you get the same specs as a mid-range Windows laptop, except you get a computer than runs better and faster, all the time. It even tends to run Windows about as well as any Dell does, just in case you need to. The extra $500 is well worth it in the long run.
And as to the question of “is it trendy?” and the obvious “yes” response, there’s a reason for it. Look around Silicon Valley and many of the thought leaders you see have switched to a Mac. And they are happy they did. Further, there’s unquestionably a “trickle down” theory of high tech. As fashion starts in New York and moves West, technology starts in San Francisco and moves East.
The only other “trendy” PC I can think of is the eeePC. Oh, wait, and those red Dells. Because there’s nothing I want more than a bright fire engine red laptop sitting demurely on my desk. The real “question” in my eyes is this: what can Microsoft and the PC manufacturing industry do collectively to make a trendy Windows-based computer?
Does anyone have an answer? Bueller?
And I have to manually sign in to Hotmail each time; and when I send photos they come to me first…..’blocked for safety’…can someone explain that one?
I hate this machine!
Nice post. I’ll make some comments later, but I would put just this one point out there for TRENDY pc’s. I think the laptop THINKPADS were trendy pc’s, and rightly so. I won’t go into the R&D that IBM spent, and the focus on ONE customer base for features, requirements, etc. But, if you were a business proffessional, it was an IBM thinkpad for sure.
Good call on the Thinkpads. Those first ones with the butterfly keyboards were a very cool move and totally created a “must have” laptop at the time. But, as the song goes, what have they done for me lately?
What has Lenovo done lately? Try the X300…
Some people are always searching for the next great thing and thus are ahead of the curve. Others stick with with they know — despite how much it may suck — and thus are behind the curve.
Macs are simply the next great thing right now, but if you were using Mac in the 90’s well, yeah, thanks for supporting them when they didn’t deserve it so they could make a comeback.
Now if Apple would simply expand their lineup by offering more variations and not try to gouge consumers on BTO upgrades, I think they could take the next step. But with so few options and $400 RAM upgrades that should be $80, it’s hard to imagine them ever gaining the majority of the market share.
Just an update: The issue with the mice not being recognized on that Dell notebook is now resolved. It was a bad driver from a funky old mouse that basically wiped out the generic mouse driver. Took about three minutes to fix it once I heard about the problem.
As for trendy PCs… It’s not about the color or the logo, it’s about what they enable you to do. Thinkpads were popular because they were well built and reliable. They were the exact opposite of sexy or trendy. But they became popular.
I’m a new reader, and I’d just like to say that I enjoy your blog. The Bueller line actually made me laugh out loud. Rare.
Anyways, I agree wholeheartedly with your stance. MacBooks are both great devices and extremely trendy. In fact, where I’m from (upper class town in New Jersey), it’s a little TOO trendy. Everywhere I go there are MacBook’s/Pro’s.
At least most of them here are humble Mac owners who decided to switch because it was either “cool” or because it was the most logical purchase (in complete agreement with your premise). Thank goodness we don’t have a bunch of Mac fanboys running around our area acting like elitists whenever the subject of Windows vs. Mac comes up. Phew!
MacBooks certainly are trendy, I agree wholeheartedly – somehow, I feel just a little “special” when I whip out my MB in the local Borders cafe… whether I deserve to or not 🙂
Now that I work from my laptop at least 30% of the time, I have found how efficient I can be working (not just playing) on a Mac. The features of Expose and OS X in general really make work easier to organize, and I’ve found that I’m starting to use my MB in lieu of my more “powerful” Windows desktop.
I’ll admit, I’m biased (I love Apple products in general) but I think that for most users, the Mac experience provides everything that is needed and packages it in a cleaner, more stable, and fun device.
On another note, I’m glad you brought up the eee PC. One of my family members owns the device and loves it. It’s a sweet little computer, and he reports it gets comments all the time. I don’t think it’s going to be the next big thing, but definitely fun to own.
The amount of time I’ve not spent troubleshooting drivers is alone worth the price premium of an Apple computer. And this is coming from a guy who designed and managed Microsoft-based environment for many years (certified, no less).