Friday, July 2, 2010

Loving my new Mac

I know the computer nerds have no time for Macs--and mostly I understand their reasons.  To the hardcore, Macs are expensive, slightly frivolous, and sold in a closed community.  But as someone who has been playing with Macs since 1985, I tend to ignore these criticisms for one simple reason.  In 25 years, I have become fairly proficient in 3d illustration, video editing, photoshopping, and web page construction.  I am now 60 years old and have learned more software skills than most folks coming so late to this world.  And I simply cannot imagine that I could have concentrated so much energy learning these new worlds of software without the help of a computer whose needs I could ignore for months or years on end.

But recently, I got my latest Mac, my eighth.  Amazingly, it is a lot better than my old one even though the "old" one was only three years old and was perfectly fine when I sold it.  This sort of Cult of Steve loyalty is precisely the sort of thing the Apple-bashers find so annoying.  Jobs didn't invent anything--they argue--he is just a master salesman who got rich taking money from fools who have too much.

Yes, Jobs is a super-salesman. I make it a point to watch all the public appearances Apple streams just to watch him work a crowd. But his cool carnival barker act doesn't explain Apple's success. There are MUCH bigger components.

1) Apple's dedication to the principles of higher industrial design. Possibly the greatest flaw in economics as it is taught and practiced is that there is no room in their models for a discussion of aesthetics--which is a stunning omission in a world where houses with views sell for millions and beautiful hookers have five-figure nights. Jobs NEVER forgot that the best-looking object is the most desirable. After Jobs, the most important person at Apple is Jonathan Ive. Apple sweats the details--even unpacking a new computer from them is a pleasing visual and tactile experience.

2) If aesthetics is Job #1 at Apple, reliability comes a close second. Apple's hardware reliability isn't all that much better than it's competitors--it parts are made by industrial-standard vendors used by many other computers, after all--but they make that up with service. Where Apple really shines is making the whole computer experience trouble-free. For example, if you buy a printer from the Apple store when you buy a computer, it will just work when it gets home. Most of the Apple users I know aren't even aware their printers HAVE drivers. If you buy something at the Apple store, it has been checked out by someone who is looking out for your interests before it made it to the shelf. Folks are willing to pay for that.

When you buy from Apple, you are buying a product that a very fussy computer-industry billionaire wants for himself. He wants it to work as advertised. He wants it to look good is his well-appointed home. He wants his most creative friends to use it and enjoy the experience. And then he "sells" these creations to the rest of us. And someone like me gets to own a computer that edits high-def video with ease, that runs the most-developed Unix ever written, with a user interface that has been fussed-over by the finest graphic designers in history, while this all plays out on 2560 x 1440 LED monitor so lovely you almost want to lick it, in a box so silent it doesn't disturb the Mozart. It really is beyond magic.

Jobs salesmanship is based on his burning desire to make great things, not on some reality-distortion field. And while our cranky economists insist that we should be buying the cheaper product, in the real world, we want the reliable and beautiful product.

And by the way, when I got my latest 27" iMac, it only cost $700 because I sold my 3 year-old 24" iMac for $1100--so much for the expensive Mac myth, huh?  Try selling your 3-year-old PC for $1100.

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