Apple welcomes Microsoft refugees
Faced with all this design excellence and the beaming young faces of the staff all eager to attend to my every tech-retail need, I suddenly felt like a poor, weary, dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft refugee who’d stumbled his way into sanctuary. The worries, stresses and strains caused by long boot up processes, awful anti-virus software, endless customisation, options boxes, tweaking, blue screens of death, etc. all began to melt away as I floated from display bench to display bench, like a bee visiting flowers.
Well, I had a good look around, anyway.
In the news at the time I wrote this post (May 2010): Apple engineer accidentally leaves prototype of new iPhone 4G in Californian bar; Microsoft release the new ‘Kin’ phone; latest rogue-antivirus software ‘Security Tool’ causing problems for many users; Microsoft decides not to offer security patches to some infected computers running Windows XP; Apple delays launch of the iPad in Europe due to excessive demand in the US.
So what’s the deal with Apple?
Demand for its products, particularly the iPhone, has continued to boost profits. They’re up by 90% in the first quarter of 2010. That’s about 9 million iPhones, 3 million Macs and 10 million iPods.
Steve Jobs (RIP), the charismatic CEO says there are more exciting products to come this year. There’s no doubt about it, interest in all things Apple is on the rise and shows no sign of slowing.
I myself, have taken more calls from my clients about Apple products than ever before. Most have a recurring theme:
“should I switch to Apple, I hear they’re a lot easier to use”.
The Apple proposition
So let’s try to throw some light. When buying a Windows PC or laptop you’re faced with a bewildering range of different machines, with different specifications, from a large range of different manufacturers. The Apple offering is, by contrast, extremely focused: iMac is the desktop computer; MacBook is the laptop; iPhone is the phone; iPad is the tablet. That’s it.
Of course, there are different hardware specification options for each; for example, size of display screen, capacity of hard disk storage, but it’s all pretty clear and straightforward.
What about the Operating System? Windows has various different incarnations and so does the Apple MAC OS. The difference is that the Apple operating system (Mac OS) is made by Apple and so is the hardware so you can be sure it’s going to work properly!
Making the switch
How easy is it to switch from Microsoft to Apple? Well, if you own an iPhone (and, apparently, most of the world does), you already know how to use a MacBook or iMac – the user interface is wonderfully consistent across the different devices. The iPhone is, therefore, a marketing masterstroke. When the novelty began to wane last year, what did they do? They opened up the market again by allowing other mobile network operators (eg. Vodaphone) to sell it. In fact, it’s the continuing success of the iPhone which seems to be driving sales of the MacBook and iMac.
If you decide to make the switch, a whole host of support is available. The Apple store regularly runs free tutorial sessions on all aspects of Mac ownership – lots of it targeted towards ‘switchers’. Recently, the 11-year-old in our house took his Mum to the in-store hour-long session on ‘iTunes & iPods’. He knew the answers to all the questions (of course), but his Mum found it to be extremely useful. Crucially, there was no heavy-handed sales pitch. The products sell themselves.
What’s in it for business?
The traditional barriers to entry for businesses are based around the issues of compatibility and support for business-grade, synchronised email systems like Microsoft Exchange. With this in mind, I put some fairly ‘techie’ questions to the Apple Business Manager at the store and received some very re-assuring answers. In particular, with regard to email, bizarrely, Apple is ahead of Microsoft with built-in support for some key features of its messaging product that even Microsoft hasn’t released yet! Microsoft Office is available for Apple computers, as is a whole range of other productivity software.
The expectation is that Apple will also work hard to market the much-anticipated iPad to both home and business users. For mobile business users, it could replace the netbook or laptop and with low-cost and rapid software ‘app’ development, businesses can expect to benefit from a whole host of tools which are designed specifically for the job at hand rather than trying to get by using generic software.
Are Apple products easier to use?
In my view, yes.
You see, if you just want to do a bit of email, visit some websites and organise your burgeoning photo and music collections, the tools you need are all built-in and, crucially, you don’t need to spend hours setting them up before you can get going.
With Windows you can customise to the nth degree with endless menus, choices, options, tick boxes and the like. With Apple software, the design team has thought carefully about what the application is for and provided only what you need to be able to use it.
Do you need anti-virus software? The traditional answer is ‘no’. Because most of the world uses Microsoft Windows, most viruses are targeted at that platform. However, if the take up rate of Apple computers continues, no doubt some AV software will be along soon.
What happens when things go wrong?
Apple offers a support package (called ‘Apple Care’) for all its products and its reputation is, on the whole, pretty good. Out of warranty support (from technicians like me) is however, a little thin on the ground at present, but, inevitably, this will change as the demand increases.
Are you getting paid for this article?
No. I wish I was, because then I might be able to deal with the other important barrier to entry: price.
Yup, no doubt about it, in comparison to a Windows computer, an Apple might make your eyes water. But for some people, image, reputation and the sheer kudos associated with owning one is enough to balance that small detail out. It’s an ‘aspirational’ product, you see.
I’ll prove it by asking myself the question: do you own one? Answer: “no”.
Would you like one? Answer: “yes!
Now, I want one now. You must let me have one now, do you hear me…now!”
(Update: I now have an iMac, MacBook Pro with retina display, iPhone and iPad. I’m happy I made the switch).