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Switching is hard to do. . .

In Salon magazine, there is a piece on the new Mac Mini. It follows on many, many, many others. In short form, the article says, "Yay, Apple may actually gain marketshare and put the hurt on Microsoft." However, a section within the article is very revealing. In it, article author Farhad Manjoo interviews Jason Snell, editor of MacWorld (and also of the fine TeeVee website, which despite better judgment, accepted a piece I've written).

An experience he witnessed:
"'I was visiting some friends this weekend,' Snell says, 'and they're PC people, they don't own Macs. But one of them was describing going to a friend's house to use iPhoto so she could make a photo book for their daughter's birthday. They loved the Mac, and they were seriously talking about buying a Mac Mini.' What's interesting, Snell points out, is that these people didn't want the Mini for its intrinsic computer power; they were going to keep their PC up and running. They wanted the Mini as a household digital hub, as an appliance, rather than a computer, that made it easier to play with their photos."

Manjoo continues...
Windows users often think about the buying of a Mac as a terminal decision. Indeed, you don't just "buy" a Macintosh; in jargon that Apple has popularized, you "switch" to the Mac, you make a change to your life in order to reorient yourself to a whole new platform. Put that way, buying a Mac is a huge decision; it involves learning a new operating system, transferring files, and buying new, expensive software to replace the software on your Windows machine. But if you think of the Mac Mini as an appliance, as a device for photos and making movies, you can conceive of using the Mac without "switching," Snell notes.

And Houston, I think you see the problem Apple has always had. The switch campaign was a brilliant marketing campaign. There are thousands of homages and parodies of the campaign out there. It reminded the world that Apple is still actually in business, and still makes computers. And yes, the ads were cool. But the ads sabotaged the effort to get people to consider that Apple Computers can coexist with PCs, and your knowledge of PCs. "Switch" failed Apple's goal. (Otherwise, they wouldn't be piddling with just a one to three percent market share.)

Think of the connotations of "switching". It means dumping all previously learned knowledge and starting over. Let's switch to metric! "NO! I don't know how many liters it is from here to New York!" Let's switch to High Definition Television! "NO! I can't afford buying all new VCRs and TVs and cable boxes, and stereo systems, and kitchen appliances!" Look at the questions Apple has posted to its website about "switching".

"Can I send e-mail?"
"Can I use my digital camera?"

And my favorite one, as it shows Apple shooting itself in the foot in multiple ways, "Can I use a two-button mouse?"! (Bruce Tognazzini correctly notes that while Apple persists in believing they only have a one button mouse, in reality OS X mice have five buttons.) The ironic thing is that using OS X, and by extension Apple's computers are not as hard as the myth maintains. But this myth is perpetuated not only by a number of PC users, but by many Mac users who equate using their computers to a holy communion, and by Apple itself.

Imagine all of the people who were considering second computers immediately not think of a Mac as it will conflict with years of experience with computers they already own. Imagine all the people who have PCs at work, who then get PCs at home because when they thought Apple they thought "switch" and then thought, "It's not worth it to relearn everything."

Switching is hard to do.

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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
hamadryad
Jan. 31st, 2005 08:03 pm (UTC)
You know, I want a Mac Mini basically to use as a toy. I am more comfortable with the PC, but I've always preferred the way the Mac handled graphics.

I think totally switching is just stupid. Why throw away a perfectly good computer just because you're getting another one?
sterlingnorth
Feb. 1st, 2005 12:31 am (UTC)
My place has pretty much become "Sterling's Home for Retiring Computers". Someone wants to send me an old G3 iBook of theirs. I'd love to play with one of their newer machines, but I'd wait to do it right. Though if it turns out the Mac Mini is a flop, I'll buy two when it hits the discount bin just as a collectable.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 1st, 2005 05:39 am (UTC)
thanks for the great post
Hey, I love it when I find great continue-the-discussion comments in response to my articles -- this is one of them. Your points here are great, thanks.

--FM
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )