The new iPod nano advert reaches new highs for Apple. I think it could be the most smug advert ever. It may seem like just a hand fiddling with an iPod, but next time you see it, add to the sound track the following, “ooh, look at my fancy iPod, would you like to touch it, well you can’t, it’s my fancy iPod nya nya nya” – it fits perfectly. As if the PC-buying public doesn’t already think that we think we’re something special. Now Apple is just rubbing it in.
As responsible Apple advocates, of course we think we’ve made the right choice. But if we lord it about, telling PC users that they have made bad choices and laugh at their misfortune, they are only going to hate us. I know it’s tempting to laugh when a friend gets wiped out by a virus, or to crow about the design of the latest iMac. But it’s the wrong thing to do if you want to promote the Mac platform.
In years past, Mac people have been goaded into defending their platform choice, a tough job at times. When picked on by PC users, taunted for using a dying platform and slow hardware, without a multi-threaded OS or a second button for our mice, we were forced to stand our ground. But over the years, and as the arguments against getting a Mac have died down, it has been a temptation to delight in schadenfreude. But we must resist. We must rise above. We must look at life through a PC user’s eyes.
First of all, lets get one thing clear. People only do what they think is the right thing to do. Even if it is clearly wrong in other people’s eyes, people can only make the decision that seems right to them. That’s as true for a PC user as it is for the serial killer. Serial killers never kill because they know it’s wrong. They might know it is wrong in other people’s eyes, but they think other people are mistaken and they are doing the world a favour, or perhaps feel they have no other choice. It is impossible for somebody to choose to do something other than what they consider the best option. If they do the other thing, it’s because it is the best option in their eyes.
So people make choices on the information available, and they choose the best computer from that information. It’s the same for all of us, it’s just that we have different information. There are a lot of reasons that people will have had for buying a PC. Even now people write to me, fearful of making the move to Mac because they don’t know anybody else with a Mac. If in the past ten years a person wanted to get a computer to get onto the Internet, do some home accounts, or for the kids to do their homework, they would have had to make some decisions. The information to make those decisions with would have been scarce. After all, can you imagine trying to make a purchasing decision for something you know little about, that costs over a grand, without the assistance of the Internet. Frankly it’s a wonder so many of us managed to stumble across the Mac.
The most likely scenario would go something like this. If you want a computer, you would ask the opinion of somebody you know. You would turn to a friend, or perhaps a colleague, that you respect as a hi-tech computer user. In a work environment, unless you were working in the print and publishing industry, the computers around you were very likely to be PCs. The IT manager’s career was based around the DOS (if you go back far enough) or Windows. Recommendations from those quarters would be unlikely to include a Mac, and very probably have involved building your own PC.
In the late 1990s my mum decided that she wanted “an email” because all the other people she met in Greenwich Park had email. She sought advice from her two sons, one Mac and one PC oriented. I realised that I would have a hard time explaining the benefits of a Mac to her, so I told her to ask my older brother. To my surprise he suggested she get an iMac, though I suspect his motives revolved around who would likely be supplying technical support. Anyway, the platform she chose was as much by luck as judgement, and it could easily have gone the other way.
The reason I didn’t make a big fuss about my mum getting a Mac was because, although the difference in platforms is glaringly obvious to those using the Mac, putting that difference into a small amount of words, words that can explain away the 20 per cent or more premium that a Mac commands, is not easy. It’s like trying to explain a thousand little things that we recognise as the essence of the Mac experience. You just end up sounding silly.
So raving about the fact that, unlike the PC, the Mac offers really thoughtful packaging, or a colour-coordinated mouse and keyboard, is unlikely to sway many people. It’s hard to pin down the Mac experience, distilling it to a few things that can convey the feeling. But it’s undeniable that people fall in love with their Macs – it’s very common – whereas people tend to tolerate their PCs.
Not that it will necessarily be love at first sight for those that make the switch. I spoke to a reader that was irate with his Mac mini when he was unable to do things that were so obvious to him on his PC. Change is not a trivial matter, and switchers are making a big move that will take no small effort in relearning what they might be expert at on the PC.
So rather than smugly preening as you talk down to PC users thinking of making the switch, I think a bit of compassion and understanding is more appropriate. If you weren’t so friendly with a graphic designer or a musician who introduced you to the Mac, your choices might have led you to the PC platform.
Before you get on your high horse, consider the moment you realised a Mac was the right direction for you to go in, and then think how easily it might have gone the other way. MW