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The psyche of PC owners

© October 2006 Anthony Lawrence


Apparently I'm not the only one wondering if Microsoft is going to take a big belly flop with Vista: David Morgenstern at eWeek has a column this week asking "What if Microsoft Held a Vista Party and Nobody Came?". Previous to that, the Gartner Group suggested that the big dive itself might be further postponed.

None of this can hurt Apple or Linux adoption. Indeed, the long delayed Munich Linux switch is back on track, Apple's Mac sales are strong, and even Consumer Reports thinks Macs are great.

Well, I think Macs are great too, and with Google now providing on-line word processing and spreadsheets, I have no hesitation in recommending a Mac to current PC owners looking for improvement. The relative lack of worries from virii doesn't hurt the concept, but I'd still push Macs even if that wasn't an issue (tomorrow I'll get into why I push Macs rather than Linux).

But here's someone who thinks Apple is insulting PC owners with their ads (if you've missed the ads on TV, Apple has them at their website). He says:

This has been the mantra of the Apple cult for going on 20 years now: "We are smart and sophisticated and everyone else, especially those who use computers running Windows, are complete dopes." And perhaps even more important -- "They cannot hope to be as cool as we are."

Hmmmm. Do people really invest that much of their psyche in their operating system choice? Certainly some people have vested interests in Windows - I expect strong feelings from someone whose business is selling Microsoft products (though even most of those folks are OS agnostic and are well aware of Windows problems). But your average computer user? Do they see their OS choice as a metric of their own self worth?

I doubt it. A lot of folks didn't even know they had a choice until recently. Quite a few others probably don't fully understand what the differences really are. As to the rest, I just don't see much "pride of ownership" with regard to their computers. For the average PC owner, their computers are more a constant source of trouble than anything they'd want to brag about. When I hear PC owners talking, viruses and spyware are the most common subject, followed by "slowness" (which usually came from being infected by viruses or spyware!). Their computers are needed: email and access to the Internet are now a normal part of most people's lives. But those benefits come with a big dose of annoyance attached.

No, I think Apple's ads are unlikely to arouse any inferiority issues. I think the more likely reaction is what I hear: "Mac's are expensive, aren't they?". Well no, they really aren't, but you wouldn't know it from those ads. A simple "From $599" splash at the end would help a lot, I think. Then the reaction would be "Wow, Mac's ARE cool - and I can afford one!"

And that's the message for today, folks: Macs are cool, and you can afford one.

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-> Is Apple insulting Windows users?


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Mon Oct 16 01:35:05 2006: 2521   Sledge

Regardless of how much a cow chafes under the moniker, cattle are cattle. The herding instinct drove early Microsoft adoption and vendor lock-in sustained it. I am sorry that the brand bothers the branded, however, the largest group in any sample will be "the norm." Not everyone can be "above average."
Yes I am saying that those who use something other than Windows are not average, and those who do are. At least make a choice, don't just dimiss the other out of hand without having a look to see which option offers the best fit for the task at hand. Weigh it out, then make a decision. Don't let it be made for you. Otherwise, start mooing.

Mon Oct 16 11:23:45 2006: 2524   TonyLawrence

Perhaps true for some, but..

A lot of folks never really knew they had a choice. They bought a "computer" because they've used "computers" at work, their friends were all talling about email and "the web" and that's about all they knew. If they had asked about Macs, they were quite likely to be told "Those are for graphics arts people and they are expensive". Linux? Blank stares.

Maybe right now there's no excuse for lack of knowledge, but there certainly was in the past.

Mon Oct 16 14:15:27 2006: 2525   BigDumbDinosaur

The cattle mentality is what drives the majority of computer users. I've pretty much weened all of my clients off Internet Exploder and Outhouse Distress, and on to Firefox and Thunderbird. They experience better performance and security, and I don't get as many nuisance phone calls about how the browser did this or the mail client did that.

However, when one of these clients hires a new employee and I'm asked to come in and provide some basic "how to use the system" training, invariably I have to break the new hire of the habit of trying to use the aforementioned Microsoft software to go on-line and to handle E-mail. I even get arguments about it sometimes, the new hire being apparently unwilling to accept the fact that the Microsoft way is not the best or only way. In one case, the boss had to go to the young lady's desk and tell her that she was not to use IE and OE -- obviously Firefox and Thunderbird had won him over.

This cattle mentality thing extends to other areas of computing, e.g., people blindly sending MS Office documents on the assumption that "eveyone uses Word or Excel" (not here we don't -- I won't allow that virus-mongering crap on my office system). I seriously doubt that Apple will succeed in breaking it, as the mooing has been going on for many years.


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