So I’ve begun the switch over to a Mac. I was getting tired of my broken down Dell, it’s slowing processing speeds, the high-pitched squeals of the hard-drive and CD-Rom drive, and the utter crapness of it all. After a brief conversation with my brother about the payment methods provided by Staples, I took a trip down there to explore the pricing options, see if they have any specials going on. I paused briefly in front of the Mac section, walked over to the rest of the PCs, then returned and purchased my sleek white Macbook. I didn’t want anything powerful because I have no need for it, so I picked up the most basic model they had.
Now, after four days of playing with it, setting up all the software that I’m needing right away (ie NeoOffice, Opera, MarsEdit, etc.), I’ve come to realize that Apple is marketing this machine in the wrong way.
The “I’m a Mac” ads are a good start for them, but I feel like they’re missing out a certain aspect of the Mac that should be very appealing for people. Apple is very good at nailing down the fun-factor of the Mac. Just seeing it sitting at my desk, with its raised-button goodness on the keyboard, and that large single-button mouse on the keyboard makes me want to go over and just press buttons to see what happens. In contrast, with my Dell, I was almost fearful to move the beast even an inch for fear of it crashing on me. The way I treat my Mac (at least right now) is the same way a lot of people treat their cars. They just want to drive it. They don’t need to be going anywhere or have a reason for starting it up (like warming it up in winter time), they just have the need to get inside, start it up, and roll down the street. The Mac could be seen as the same way.
When I was in highschool, the Macs were rather pathetic to what they are now. They were cultish, and very underground outside of the school system. The size of the local Mac store was tiny, and limited to just one store while there were many options in where to buy a PC. The software was also limiting, and the crossover between the two platforms was difficult or impossible – I seem to remember it as being the latter. I remember reading a reference in a magazine (the internet was barely in existence then) about how Macs were the Mercedes-Benz of the computer world. They were pricier, but the value you were getting for your money was higher than you were getting when purchasing a PC.
I think the writer of this article was onto something. In the computer world right now, people seem to emphasize the “under the hood” parts of the computer. How much RAM, hard-drive, wireless, bluetooth, USB, video cards, etc. We talk about how fast it runs, the software packages provided, or talk about what you can do with it. What’s missing is the user satisfaction of having that computer.
There’s more to a computer than just using the software end of it, or using the internal hardware. A significant part of it is the enjoyment of exploring withthe computer, rather than exploring only the computer. To take the car example, we enjoy driving the car for several reasons. We like how it handles on the roadway, we like how the music sounds inside, we like how fast it will go. But we also like seeing the places we’re going through and to. We have different experiences of the environment we’re going through depending on how we’re traveling through it. Compare a trip through the Rockies on a Greyhound bus versus driving through in a Porsche or driving with an original Volkswagen Beetle.
When it comes to the computer, yes, the hardware plays a large role in how we use it, but the larger factor is how we use the combination of hardware and software to go somewhere. Computers can be seen more as being vehicles to do work or have fun. They can and are an experience that we should want to share with others. I’m not completely proficient on the Mac to give a solid example of what I mean, but I’m going to try with some of the tools I’ve discovered while web browsing the past little while.
It starts with the web browser. I use Opera (side note: I loved Opera on Windows; I love Opera on the Mac) for many reasons, but one of them is the ease of using tabs in it. I could say the journey starts by just selecting the web browser, but it’s also how I’m selecting it. I could mouse down to my dock and see the icon blow up four-times its size and see the lovely red “O” to click on. I could CTRL-Space Bar my way into Quicksilver and type in “O” and see Opera magically appear. Or I could open up Finder and go to my Applications folder to click on Opera. They all get you to the same place, but traveling through these options can open up other doors for you- like seeing another icon you haven’t clicked on in ages, or a mounted drive you forgot about, etc.
Opera opens up, and I go over to Google’s Reader and start going through my unread newsfeeds. I find an item about Samuel Beckett directing the plays he wrote. I decide to bookmark this link, but also decide to drag the link into Yojimbo to not only bookmark the link, but also save the actual page to view or print out later. I tag it with “theatre” and “beckett” to come to later on. I start downloading the videos, and decide to see what else I’ve tagged with “theatre” in Yojimbo. I turn up one of my old writing pieces when I began writing an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and open that up to start re-reading it. I wonder if I could trackdown the original document on my computer, so open up Spotlight to do a search for it. I find it, open it up, start jotting down some more notes. I do a web search for Shakespeare on Technorati to see what else is being written in regards to that play currently. Then I start watching the movie using Quicktime.
And on it goes.
Now, I could use Windows and a PC for all of this, but using the Mac OS makes things seamless and more accessible the way I want this information to be accessed. The mere existence of a piece of software like Yojimbo where I can throw in practically any sort of information I want and have it organize it for me is great. But I like the software packages in general better on a Mac because they communicate together better than on a PC. I can highlight a piece of text, drag it onto Opera, and it’ll open up that link or do a web search for that text. Apple could really push this end of their operating system more and show off some of the non-Apple made products like Yojimbo. It’s quite the contrast between Microsoft and their Office suite, and the Apple suite of iLife. And it’s quite a different experiences to use the Mac compared to the PC.
Don’t think of it as switching to another system, think of it as expanding your horizons.