That feeling of quality

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec


A few years ago, using a Mac was an act of faith: every newspaper and magazine was claiming Linux would take over the market in a matter of months, that Windows mobile would simply make it impossible to use a telephone without relying on Microsoft software and that the low-end MP3/USB drives combo would make anything else outdated.




Somehow, though, people kept using their Macs, they kept using Open BSD on handhelds, some even switched to these platforms or embarked in even more esoteric choices. The iPod was at the time at the beginning of its career and started to be followed by an enthusiastic crowd… Why?




Despite my many attempts at finding a rational explanation, I must admit I still haven't found one that satisfies me entirely. After all, these arguments about Mac OS X having a small market share, Open BSD not having an interface and the iPod lacking an FM tuner were all valid and it was sometimes hard to justify a choice.




Things fell into place when I sat up an IBM laptop for someone last week — a someone who has since switched to the Mac, a mere 3 days later — and realized that, despite the high-end designation of that machine, I still didn't want to use it. It somehow, felt wrong, felt cheap. The plastics were nice indeed, the thing was not too poorly designed overall and I couldn't really find anything wrong with it but it just didn't click. The OS? Well, seeing an IBM boot screen followed by an Intel Inside one, then a DOS prompt and finally a Windows logo didn't give a feeling of high consistency either — kinda like when you buy a jacket and realize that all the pieces are sewn together in different ways that won't last past cocktail hour.




We have accepted there is such a thing as a luxury brand in cosmetics, leather goods, fashion. And we have even accepted that sometimes, investing in a luxury good is less expensive in the long run than purchasing junk in bulk — ask many men how much they invest in their shavers / blades / … and the reasoning behind it. So, how come we cannot accept this for computers and, generally speaking, electronics? Why do we need to dissect every device or every piece of software feature by feature, reducing them to a spec sheet that does not take into account the overall idea, the attention to detail that, in the end, make more difference than anything else?




Of course, I am not equating expensive with quality here. I would without doubt call some very expensive applications "cheap" and some open source projects "luxurious", as it is the attention to detail and the quality of the craftsmanship that is of interest here, not the price tag. Regardless of price, there seems to be a very clear gap in the computing market today: There are the cheap brands that knock you over with tempting specifications but somehow keep producing products that won't go anywhere and another group that cares about what it does and wants to use their tools for the best. Thanks to the work of many, we have made the internet a financially very democratic space (which I can only applaud) but it would be hasty to think we have put the divides of the past behind us.



5 Comments

waynesmallman
2005-05-24 04:22:58
Act of faith?
For me, using a Mac has not really been about an act of faith, but instead owning a computer that keeps great up-time and pays for itself in doing so.


I buy Macs for a high RIO, simplicity, stability, build quality and low TCO.


When I buy a Mac, I get all of those things.


When I use a PC, I don't feel as though all of those boxes are being ticked...

jbelkin800
2005-05-24 19:19:21
Not Exactly Backed by Facts But ...
Even when you ask people why they choose PC's - they have that rote answer that they just learned tha naswer to as a polite response - it is pretty amazing the sheep-like mentality that people into. Now, I'm not saying you shoudn't buy Pc's or have a reason but anything #1 is not necessarily the best reason - it's sort of like saying Bill Gates is a genius - now, he's no dummy and he's smart and he's got great business ambitions - nothing wrong with that & nothing with captialism but just because somone is wealthy does not make him a genius. It was odd how people would just sheep like listen to every bleeping (as noted above) when BillG or SteveB would open their mouths - and take each word as gospel when clearly they had no idea what they were talking about. BillG & SteveB know all there is to know about computers when it comes to what I.T. wants - beyond that, they are nerds in the land of the living. They have a lot of technical viewpoints but they are nearly always wrong - or at least divined from their financial point of view (ipods a fad but our mobile OS on cell phones are surely the thing EVERYONE wants).


So, it became a self fulfilling prophecy - IT became mad at the Mac because it took away their divine powers to explain to common folk the difference between d: and d//


My God, you didn't even typing skills to open a file or an application - just clicking would work!


So, they pushed the PC hard and of course, BillG was smart to deliver what IT wanted (never mind that Macs are easier for the end user - who cares about them) but now it's come full circle - the Mac, capable of running 3-5 OSes at nearly the same time is enticing enough to bring back those who dismissed as "too easy" to use - after all, who wants that?

eriksays
2005-05-26 05:29:15
quick poll
hands up if you're a mac user and you've ever had to ship your laptop / computer off for repairs
waynesmallman
2005-05-26 06:55:12
quick poll
I minced the hard drive on my G3 tower by installing OS X Beta .. which clearly stated NOT to do so if using UFS rather than HFS+


My G5 tower had to be repaired because the main fans at the back of the dual processors had been dislodged in transit.


Other than those minor incidents which were outside of Apples' control, no...

stephentaylor1
2005-06-02 14:10:16
Satisfied
I've experienced only one problem at my former job and that was a new dual G5 that sounded like a jet plane all the time. Turns out the fans needed recalibration that took only an hour at local dealer. However, our graphics arts people wouldn't let us take it in for servicing for quite some time since they had a bunch of deadlines that had been piling up while waiting for the G5 to arrive. Ha ha.


Seriously, though, i've had fantastic luck with many different macs from towers to powerbooks and ibooks. Very durable, almost zero downtime and end user support was minimal to nothing. THAT is phenomenal to report. Formerly an 11 PC and 1 MAC office but by the time i'd left after six years, we'd gone to a 10 MAC and 2 PC office. Pretty cool.