Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is it about the Mac?

My mom refuses to hear me when I sell her on the benefits of switching to a Mac.  She's a bargain shopper.  She even once called me from a garage sale to tell me about a deal she found on a notebook.  "Please, please, please don't buy that thing!", I lamented, "If you do, I'm not helping you with it." When I listen to her tell me about all the ways she wants to use technology - to manage and share pictures (she had a camera surgically bound to her hand at age 20) - to video chat with me and my 2 1/2 year old son, for email and web access, and the occasional application like writing and printing letters and managing  personal finances, I grit my teeth and say, "It would all be so easy..." and she finishes my sentence, "If I had a Mac."  But, she just can't get over the higher up front cost.

 Even in this economic climate Apple Inc. posts record earnings and profit, defies industry analysts and outpaces the market by a notable magnitude.  If you listen to the earnings release webcasts, Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's Chief Operating Office, sounds so humble when in a carefully crafted statement he attributes the record-breaking results to "...the best and most innovative products and solutions [delivered] to our customers."  What is it about the Mac that sells millions of them each quarter, with over half going to "new to Mac" users? 

Here are my Top 5 reasons users are getting on the Mac bandwagon:

1.  Know iTunes?  You know Mac.  The painful exchange with my mom has gone as far as her purchasing a PC notebook and bringing it to my house for me to "help" her with it.  This "help" consisted of installing software, removing software, trying to find and tweak user settings, get her setup with an IM account, and the list goes on.  We then installed iTunes and she was blown away by the ease of use for importing, downloading and managing music.  "Oh wow, that's so cool!"...(pregnant pause) "That's made by Apple.  Everything on a Mac is that easy, mom."  "Oh."  Most people have at least one iPod now days and thus, have used iTunes.  If you get that, you can manage your way around a Mac.  The Finder (file management system) on a Mac is similiar to iTunes, even leveraging Cover Flow for searching through and previewing documents.

2.  The hardware and software work together and come pre-loaded.  After hours of doing that, we were finally ready to "use" the computer.  But how?  Where is the video conferencing application?  How do you turn on the web cam?  (Three months later and she is still not using this feature of her PC.)  With a Mac, you setup your Mobile Me account ($99/year for website publishing, online storage, email - which is also your iChat messaging screen name) or use a free AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) account, launch iChat, click the video camera of the buddy you'd like to chat with and you're off and running - or riding a rollercoaster or visiting the Eiffel Tower... iChat has a bunch of fun multimedia backgrounds to choose from. 

3. No more calls to your brother-in-law, son, daughter (enter unsuspecting relation here) to de-bug your system.  Thank goodness I live over three hours away from my parents or I would probably be there more than at home.  My poor brother has spent hours "working on" my mom's desktop only to find she needs to hire some one to "fix" it.  I'm not quite sure what that means which is why fix is in quotes.  It is never fixed.  Macs don't get viruses, they run a more stable operating system, and they just work.  Sure, all technology has it's issues and no Mac is perfect.  But, you may find your children and other relatives like coming over a lot more when they're not relegated to your office "fixing" your system.

4.  You can do all sorts of fun stuff.  After hours of exhausting me with questions about using the PC, my mom said, "Okay, now what about pictures?"  I laughed a hysterical "you've got to be kidding me, I just can't take this anymore" laugh and then just said, "I can't help you there."  It was true.  The photo app that came on the PC was so user unfriendly and ugly I couldn't make myself go there.  iPhoto is the easiest way to manage and share pictures.  It's been around since 2001, and a part of iLife since 2003.  And it's free on a Mac.  One click creates an album, another publishes it to your own website/gallery, or Facebook or Flickr.  Share albums with dynamic slideshows set to music.  And this is just the tip of the iceburg... but you don't have to be an expert ice climber to figure it out.  iMovie, iDVD, iWeb and GarageBand round out the iLife suite.  They all work together, work with the same tools and smoothly - once you've played with one, you'll have it down.

5.  There is a whole culture supporting you.  The Apple Store retail locations continue to amaze.  The revenue these places produce per square foot is enough to make your jaw drop.  They are a social destination - a place to see and be seen.  They draw crowds at all hours of the day, all around the globe and they are popping up all over the place.  (Maybe I'll really go to the Eifel Tower instead of just using the iChat background, so I can visit the first store in France next year.)  Let's not forget, it's just a store.  Or is it?  Make an appointment online to have a Genius troubleshoot and diagnose your iPod or other Apple product.  Attend free in-store seminars, or buy One to One personal training or Pro Care and get personal training sessions - at your convenience and you decide the topics to cover.  Beyond the store is AppleCare, Apple's warranty extension option which not only provides repair/replace for things covered in the terms, but 3 years of telephone support from Apple on the hardware, operating system (i.e. Mac OS X is what Windows is on a PC), applications like those in iLife and other peripherals like Apple displays and wireless products (when purchased with a qualifying Mac.  See terms and conditions for details.)  And, the support site http://www.apple.com/support/ is very useful and easy to navigate.  Bottom line, you are not alone.

There is a whole burgeoning culture of new Mac users who have switched and will never go back.  Sure, Macs are not the end all be all of technology and Apple doesn't always get things right.  But, millions of users can't be wrong - there is something to be said for the ease of use, reliability and seamless user experience Macs provide.  Some believe a machine that does everything you want out of the box without add on hardware, software (whether free or downloadable), "just works", doesn't get viruses and has a whole culture to support it is worth a higher price tag.  Considering these points, does it really cost you more?  Maybe my own mom will finally see the value Apple provides and be one of the new-to-Mac purchasers referenced in a future earnings release.  For my sanity, I sure hope so.

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