Thursday, October 05, 2006

More on the Mac

Now that I'm not really gaming anymore, we've only got two reasons to stay with PCs. One is that we're not affording the switch to Mac right now. When we change, we want to change all of our computers at once -- and that means our home desktop, Laura's work desktop, and her work laptop. Even if we went with the cheapest possible Mac option (that's two 17-inch iMacs and the cheapest MacBook), that's $3200 in new computers, not counting software. If we got what we'd like (two nice iMacs and the middle-of-the-line MacBook Pro), the number's a lot closer to $6500. And that's just not happening in the foreseeable future. The other reason is that we're both happy with our computers. I know where everything is on mine, and I know its workings inside and out -- literally, since I built it myself. I've been PC since I got my first IBM XT in 1989, and I'm highly familiar with the bizarre quirkiness of M$oftware. With the release of a new Microsoft OS, though, I'll have to slide a good distance down the learning curve when I upgrade (which won't be soon). If I'm going to learn a new OS, it might as well be one that's less buggy. And, I'd feel bad throwing money at a company that screws its users (even if they're pirates).

And Laura really likes her desktop at work. I built it for her, and it's very cool. Every time she sees the LED-lit cooling fans turn on, it makes her happy. But it's starting to get buggy; she's having problems with software crashing frequently, and it's getting slow and irritating. So I'm spending a few hours of my day off tomorrow wanging on her office computer with a big wrench (or the computer version thereof) until it works smoothly again. I'm suspecting if we were a Mac family I wouldn't have to do this. Is the added convenience of being mostly maintenance-free worth $6500? Not really. But if I had piles of cash, I'd definitely be spending some of it on going Mac.

My other Mac thought: I suspect that Mac is on the verge of gaining a huge chunk of market share. Here are the facts:
  • Macs now run PC software pretty darn well. Going Mac doesn't require any huge outlay of cash to replace your PC software with Mac versions; you can now just transfer your old PC files to your new Mac, and it's business as usual.
  • Mac hardware, at the low end, is not much more expensive than PC hardware. Mac Minis are $600, and they can use your old PC monitor.
  • Microsoft is going to do everything they can to encourage people to go Vista.
  • Windows Vista has some pretty serious hardware requirements; to go Vista, a lot of people are going to have to spend a pile of cash buying new computers or upgrading their old systems.
  • Microsoft OSs have a well-earned reputation for being intensely buggy for the first few years, and for being unnaturally susceptible to all sorts of virii and malware. Even businesses, which tend to change tech at glacial speed, are finally becoming nervous about the perils of PC.
  • Macs have cemented a place in the zeitgeist as the cool computer to be seen with. It's the Hot Blonde Chick/Well-Built Tall Guy of computers. All of the hip people are toting their MacBooks and MacBook Pros everywhere, and their excellent design is continuing to turn heads.
  • And, more important, a lot of hackers have already gone Mac. Where hackers go, mortals eventually follow.
Add all this up, and I'm seeing the release of Vista as an occasion for a lot of people to do the switch. Better, it'll hit a tipping point sooner than people expect; the main reason cited by businesses for staying with PCs is that it's the standard (by which they mean, "the biggest slab of market share"). I'm anticipating that once Mac hits the 15% mark, Microsoft loses the advantage of being the only standard. And once that's gone, the cumulative force of 12 years of people being pissed at their PCs will come back to make Microsoft miserable -- and Apple very, very happy.


Anonymous said...

You're out of your mind, even with a 100% market share during one full year the Mac installed base would still be below 5 percent. :-)

Jeff Mountjoy said...

It's true that market share isn't installed base. But, look at cars; the fact that you still see Eagle Talons or Mercury Cougars on the road doesn't mean their manufacturers are doing well. :-) New Macs selling as well as copies of Vista wouldn't mean the end of Microsoft (OSs probably aren't that big a chunk of their revenue anyway), but it would definitely mean the end of their market dominance.

And, installed base isn't the bottom line. I know people still running Win98, but they really don't count. What matters is that we're not far from PCs being one of several options for computer buyers (personal and business alike), instead of the only option.