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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger




Mac Advocates Are A Bunch Of Bigots
May 16th, 2000

[For the results of last week's Volkswagen pop quiz, look at the very end of this column]

There is something that we, Mac advocates, have to acknowledge. We are such bigots that we become annoying for other computer users. In fact, our bigotry level is high enough that making it higher would be illegal. This feeling does not exist without reasons, though.

We like to repeat it, our machines perform better and they are much more stable than an Intel PC equipped with Windows. Unlike the other guys, our platform - not just Apple - always goes ahead with innovation, whether it is the operating system, the hardware and peripherals, the software, the shareware, or its related publications. Hey, did you ever see a vast network of PC Web sites that come even close to the Mac Web?

The consequence is that we are arrogant. It is hard not to be and it annoys other people out there. A typical scene takes place when I see PC users complaining about the attitude of a Mac user who treated them as if they were the biggest idiots in the world.

If you visit some newsgroups, you will witness some "Mac vs. PC" debates raging on, and they only reflect what happens in real life technology discussion. Name-calling, sentiments of superiority, sneering... we do it all.

Not only do we blast anybody who differs, but we also do it for the wrong reasons. As witnesses to my case, I would like to call an iMac and a Dell WebPC.

You know that the iMac's design made a huge impression on everybody. Love it or hate it, it did not leave you indifferent. Enough for the masses to fall in love with it and enough for some companies to copy it. Of course, the latter were wrong to copy the iMac since trade dress infringement, last time I checked, was illegal.

On the other hand, we should not laugh at other companies out there who got the message and decided to boost their offering with the addition of some style. In comes the Dell WebPC.

We should not laugh at computers like that. We are so wrong when we do it. It is one thing to remind copycat companies how much they *#@%, but if you show any rudeness toward Dell for coming up with this thing, you, in all respect, are guilty of bigotry.

Why? Let me remind you of the situation in which such companies find themselves. In 1998, Apple released the iMac with a revolutionary design. Of course, if you manufacture PCs, you do not have the right to dismiss its style as totally useless since it will help it to gain popularity.

You have to do something to add style to your offering but the copyright laws make it verboten to reproduce an iMac replica. What do you have to do? Tweaking. Nothing more than tweaking. It is midway between the iMac and a boring beige tower.

If you compare the WebPC to other Windows-based computers, you have to give Dell credit for developing the industrial design of its machine coherently without producing an iMac rip-off. This is much better than a stupid rectangular tower if you ask me. It is not the pinnacle of elegance, but what the heck, it is more decent. The plastic's color is cuter and the curves more attractive than some ugly classic corner.

Remember: When Dell conceived this stuff, it respected the iMac's copyrighted design and found some way to lay out a better plastic case than before. If Dell had made anything with translucent plastics with anything close to iMac flavors... you bet that their lawyers would have had to shake hands with Apple's lawyers.

This is only one example to demonstrate how we laugh at others without wondering if they had any conditions — in this case, copyright — restricting their work.

The PC industry is an easy marketplace for money. Just yield an item at a good price and use a smart marketing strategy to harvest the profits. Most of the time, just look at what other PC makers do and do it the same way so you will keep up with the other players.

Despite this, there are sinister aspects in their business. Creativity requires research and development - which costs money - for very little return on the investment. At the same time, they have to face an Apple that innovates more in six months than they do in two years. If they try to do anything too similar, they face lawsuits. Can they innovate too? Hardly, unless they risk large sums without being sure that their corporate interests will benefit from the result in a PC world where prices are very low. In that case, it is much easier to tweak what you already have than reinventing your whole product line. The result gives something like a WebPC.

This leads me to think that we, Mac users, should learn to value our privilege of working with a computer platform that satisfies our needs to the fullest instead of falling into bigotry.

Then, if our Macs are so superior, I have a suggestion. How about positive advocacy? How about showing those PC users what they would gain from an iMac or a G4, instead of saying that their ugly beige towers suck?

Anybody who has had the occasion to study human behavior when facing contradiction knows that pushing someone against the wall will generate the opposite of the anticipated reaction. Translation: insult a PC user's machine and he will curse you instead of adopting an iMac. He will stick to his choice because you attack it with supreme vehemence. This is normal.

People with strong opinions will stick to their guns in adversity, so you waste your time when your advocacy takes a bitter flavor. Praise the Mac, bring that person to your place to demo how it works... open your G4 and let the PC user realize how easy it is to upgrade.

This type of strategy will do the trick more often than saying "PCs suck". Believe me, I know this from years of experience.

I admit that I am not immune to bigotry when it comes to platform confrontations, but for a long while, I tried positive Macintosh advocacy when speaking in front of PC users and I noticed much better results. Hopefully you will jump in the same train and observe the same kind of phenomenon.

Last week's Volkswagen pop quiz results

The first three people to come up with full answers to "how when and why Volkswagen started manufacturing cars" are:

  1. David Whitehead
  2. Jack Stephan
  3. Andreas Moglestue

The answer was that it started when the German government wanted, in the late 1930's, to find a way to equip the workers with cars since 1 person out of 50 had one in Germany while the numbers were 1 out of 5 in the US. The whole operation was under the supervision of Ferdinan Porsche and it was called the "people's car", which is an English translation of Volkswagen. Basically, people paid 5 marks a week until they reached 750 and got an order number to get a Volkswagen car when it would be produced.

Tons of Observers wrote in to answer, thanks to all!

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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