Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm A PC....

I just saw the newest “Hi, I’m a Mac’ advert and something popped into my head.

“Steve Jobs is a freaking Genius!”

Here’s what Steve Jobs does. He takes an existing product, repackages it, makes it ‘cool’ and then sells a bazillion of them.

Let’s start with the iPod. MP3 players existed long before the iPod, but very few people bought them. They were easy to sell to the hardcore geeks just because of the technology…but the average person didn’t see the point of carrying thousands of hours of music around with them, especially when you could by a portable CD player for less than a quarter of the price.

So what did Steve do? He made the iPod look ‘chic’. He gave it the trademark white headphones and got major league musicians to appear in the advertisements. He knew he couldn’t sell technology to the average person, so he turned the iPod into a fashion accessory. People want iPods for the same reason they want Ralph Lauren shirts.

Turn up at school or college with a generic, non-name brand MP3 player? Hell no. I might as well turn up at the nightclub in a Wal-Mart shirt and Brut cologne.

Then we have the iPhone.

Here’s the shocker. The iPhone really wasn’t all that revolutionary. In fact, smart phones existed before the iPhone that can do everything the iPhone can, and in many cases, do it better.

So Steve did it again. He took existing technology, gave it a ‘fashionable’ form factor and gave it a very pretty touch screen. Before the iPhone people saw smart phones with all the same whiz-bang features and reacted by saying “I don’t need all that stuff, I just want to make phonecalls. Why spend the money?”

Then Steve unveiled the iPhone and marketed it not on the technology, but on how pretty and ‘cool’ it was. You might not need one, but look at how goddamned amazing it looks! Look at the touch screen! Turn it sideways and it automatically adjusts the screen!

Just like the iPod, you don’t spend money on the iPhone based on what it can do. You buy it based on how it looks.

I think the best example of Steve Job’s thinking is the ‘Macbook Air’.

If you buy one of these, what you’ll get for your money is a cut-down laptop. A whopping Three thousand bucks will buy you a laptop with a 1.8ghz processor, a tiny 64 gig hard-drive, two gigs of RAM and no CD or DVD drive.

If you’re not all that technically minded, let me put it this way. You can get a laptop with much better hardware for less than five hundred bucks from Walmart. From any other company, three grand would buy you an absolutely top-of-the-line laptop that would make the Macbook Air look like a pocket calculator.

In other words, you could get a regular laptop with the same specs as the Macbook Air second hand for a couple hundred dollars off eBay.

But, of course, Steve Jobs has realized that the average person doesn’t buy things based on the technology. People buy things because they’re fashionable and look cool. You don’t buy an iPod because of its features, you buy it so people can see you wearing those white headphones. You don’t buy an iPhone for its gadgetry, you buy it so people can see you using one.

…and you don’t buy a Macbook Air for it’s hardware…you buy it because it’s the world’s thinnest laptop. I mean, it’ll fit inside a manilla envelope! Sure, it has less performance than a laptop from ten years ago, but you buy it so you can pull it out your bag at college and everyone around you will be amazed at just how sexy it looks. “It’s the world’s thinnest laptop, don’tcha know? Nice Dell, chump! Want a wheelbarrow to cart that thing around?”

Basically, Steve Jobs took a computer company with a 5% market share and made it a good thing. With only around 5% of all computer users owning Macs, this didn’t make their machines unpopular…it made them exclusive. He made everyone believe that owning an Apple product means that you’re a non-conformist and one of the ‘cool kids’. Forget IBM and Microsoft, those companies are for old crusty businessmen. Buy something with the Apple Logo and come sit at the cool table.

This brings me back to the advertisement that inspired this post.

The whole point of the Ad is that the newest Macs can now run Windows operating systems and run Microsoft Office. Their main selling point is that after a few decades of competition, their product can now almost match their main competitor.

Now, I’ll be completely honest. I don’t go in for fan-boyism or ‘brand loyalty’ at all. I’m ‘loyal’ to a brand as long as it does one of two things: It makes a product better than its competitors or cheaper. I don’t get offended or feel the need to ‘defend’ the PC when I see a Mac ad, because to me, that would be like defending my purchase of a Pepsi to someone who prefers Coke.

I bought Pentium until AMD released a processor that was faster and cheaper. I bought nVidia graphics cards until I found a more powerful ATI card for a lower price.

Put simply, I’m not going to buy a product that’s more expensive and less useful that a competing product because of ‘brand loyalty’. Like I said, I’m ‘loyal’ to the brand that makes the best, cheapest product.

So why am I telling you this? So you’ll know where the following is coming from. I’m not writing this in a ‘Macs SUCK!’ way…you know, like you’d find in a million different flame wars in a million different chatroom and forums. I’m writing this as an ‘educated consumer’.

So here’s the deal. I bought the computer I’m writing this on almost two years ago for about $500 dollars. For that, I got a 2.13ghz 64bit processor, 1 gig of memory, a 160gb hard drive, a DVD writer and media card reader.

About a year ago I spent another hundred bucks on a new graphics card and another 50 on more RAM.

So today, I have a computer that can run pretty much any game I throw at it, runs almost everything a Mac can, and about a million other software titles that a Mac can’t. When it starts showing its age in about another year, less than 200 bucks will keep this computer ‘current’.

If I buy an Mac, I’m going to spend at least $1200 for their most basic model. It won’t run any of my games or other software, and in two years when it starts showing it’s age, I won’t spend a couple hundred bucks upgrading it, I’ll have to buy a whole new Mac.

Sure, it’s slightly more reliable than a PC, but that’s because they all have exactly the same, non-upgradable hardware. PC’s aren’t ‘worse’ because they’re less stable, it’s just a trade off. Macs are incredibly stable but aren’t upgradable. PC’s are a little less stable, but I can upgrade or replace any component I choose.

So, buying a Mac means I’ll be spending more, getting less…and the main reason to buy one is because their newest ones can do most of the things my PC has always been able to do…and it will look nice on my desk.

I think I’ll stick with my PC for now.


Michael said...

You bring up some good points, but pretty much gloss over how OSX, the iPod, and the iPhone are better, and assume that they're all just fashion accessories.

OSX runs on a variant of FreeBSD, which honestly, most people could give a crap about, but it's more user friendly than desktop Linux, yet maintains most of the functionality that *nix systems provide. I can run most of these programs through cygwin, so the only appeal OSX holds to me is eye candy, but at the price of OS-hand-holding.

Yes, mp3 players did exist before the iPod, but they all had different software interfaces, different methods of transferring songs, and laughable user interfaces. The iPod's clickwheel was a huge leap forward in interactivity. If you've never used one, there's really no good frame of reference to explain how well it actually works. Disclaimer: I do not own an iPod.

Regarding the iPhone, it's not so much that it's revolutionary, but that it brings a lot more to the table. I have a smartphone running Windows Mobile 6, and there are a lot of features I wish it just did like an iPhone. I can't drag stuff around on my screen without my CPU screaming in pain, there is no animated anything, the address list sucks (variant of Outlook), and there are simply things you can tell stagnated because of the lack of serious competition. I mean, it's version 6, and the 6.1 update only now is incorporating features its users actually want. Strangely, these features are built into the iPhone. One advantage WM does have, though, is that I can deploy .Net applications to it as easily as if I were transferring an image. I hear the iPhone's SDK is pretty restrictive.

Main point being, there are more to these products than simply fashion accessories and status symbols. I will accede that they have become these things and are grossly overpriced, but to say that they have no substance is intellectually dishonest, in my opinion.

Paulius said...


I never said these things are 'without substance', and I'll happily say that the iPod and iPhone and nifty devices.

All I said was that Steve Jobs takes EXISTING technology, repackages it and makes it cool. Most of your comment proved my point:

What different about the iPod? A clickwheel and a slicker interface. You said yourself that the iPhone's main selling feature is that it's faster and easier to use with a few more features.

My point is that there's nothing in the Apple lineup that's actually NEW. Steve Jobs is hailed as a visionary when he really does just re-vamp existing products.

The one thing I DID neglect to say, which your comment pointed out, is that Apple DOES make things a lot more intuitive and easier to use.

In short, I didn't mean to give the impression that Apple products are worthless or 'without substance'. I'd own an iPhone over its competitors if they were cheaper...and if I wanted a pure work machine I'd consider a mac (again if they weren't so overpriced).

My point is, I wasn't being sarcastic when I called Steve Jobs a genius. He honestly is. He took products that only appealed to the hardcore techies, and made them 'cool'. Your average person thinks Apple INVENTED the MP3 player.

Yes, these products are great devices and are an improvement over their predecessors...but they're not revolutionary or 'new'.

Michael said...

I see your point now. In that sense, I completely agree.

[snip out a bunch of rambling about what is blindingly obvious concerning ROI for entering existing markets vs. the cost of R&D in new areas]

I also agree with you about the price. I think the only way a company that large can sustain itself with such a small market share is to, as you said, appear to be "elite" items to own, and consequently charge a premium for them.

Though there is something positive to look forward to: with the right PC hardware, you can run OSX on a non-Mac system.

It's not the full-on "iLife" or whatever term they call it these days, but as I said before, it's not desktop Linux (and therefore has access to such wondrous things as "non-crap fonts" and "Adobe programs without huge UI glitches").

The entire Mac vs. PC debate is still stupid, though, since it's not really addressing what makes people like a Mac or a PC. If one were vastly superior to the other, it would just be the de facto OS. For a time, Windows was that OS. Now, they're all starting to level out a bit, and it's a matter of personal preference. For me, it's a matter of productivity.

Microsoft pays my bills, but Linux runs my servers.

Kelly said...

I agree that Mac's are expensive - BUT I detest Windows Vista and will therefore buy a mac purely to avoid using Vista......and yes, I think Mac's look funky and cool! :)

Dauragon said...

Haha! I feel almost exactly the same when it comes to the Mac vs PC thing. I use a PC because its what I can afford right now. However, if I had enough money, I would buy myself a shiny Macbook Pro in a heartbeat. Mostly because I think those things are damned sexy (so in a way you could say that Steve's brilliant plan worked on me), and because there are lots of OSX specific programs that I would gladly burn down a village of helpless indigenous people to have.

Also I think the main people who buy Macbook Air's are people who already have 2 macbook pros, an EEEpc and several desktops at home and feel the need to spend the same 3,000 dollars they were planning on wiping their ass with on "The Worlds Thinnest Laptop"

The Macbook Air isn't marketed towards regular people, it's marketed towards rich ass motherfuckers. xD