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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Taking A Peek At Mac Land

My PC (Compaq) died sometime late last year - and promptly revived after a few days.

The screen started "jiggling", then it would move up and down in slow intervals. Then it would go dark intermittently. I took it to the computer repair shop I pass by to work, and the technician told me that the problem was the entire screen, and that it would cost around 20,000 pesos (roughly US$ 450) to replace and that I would be better off getting a new laptop.

Not really relishing the idea of getting a new unit after just barely two years with my current one, I fiddled with it - essentially moved the angle of the screen back and forth - and found that at certain angles, the screen would still work. Lately, however, the screen has been "performing" at fewer angles, and I may have to completely replace it soon.

I have been a devoted PC - Windows user. (Anyone remember MS-DOS?) Even the school subjects I had that used computers and programs were all Windows based. I have never used or owned a Mac in my life. There is that oft-repeated statistic used that 95% of the world runs on Windows. It would seem to follow that my next purchase would remain in the PC camp.

Reason enough for me to try to see what lies on the other side.

Full disclosure, though: I have used - and lost (through carelessness and theft) - 2 iPod players and I am currently using an iPad. So the "Apple culture" is not that alien to me. But as far as a MacBook - their version of a laptop - I have not bought, used or spent time with them at all. I must say, though, I like iTunes - I need it for work on a daily basis. Using both the iPod and iPad has made me appreciate that "going Apple" might prove to be an easier user experience - even PC/Windows users have to begrudgingly agree, that ease of use is one cornerstone of Apple's marketing. (In fact,  from what I have seen online, PC/Windows users derisively call the Apple way of doing things "simple" and for "non-tech people".)

It really begged me to look closer into both systems and how users have reacted to what they chose and how they perceive "the other one".

It's war. In fact, one tech magazine called this question as culturally similar to the question of Coke versus Pepsi.

(Photo courtesy of

(Photo courtesy of

Reading through blogs, news articles and tech sites, the general impression I got from PC users criticizing Mac was that Mac users are supposedly tech simpletons who are being suckered into paying so much more and getting so much less in terms of their computer's technical specifications, hard drive, etc., and would pay for a premium for "appearing cool". Gamers - of the serious variety - would never deign to soil their fingers on a Mac, for the aforementioned reason, as well (they need very specific tech specifications to run games, like how much RAM will it take for a game to run smoothly). And everyone is on Windows practically, so Apple users are being "elitist".

Mac users, on the other hand, call out PC users for being fixated on the price point, that they do not realize it takes 2 or 3 new PCs to match the longevity of a single Mac. (Translation: You would have already bought 2 or 3 PCs due to your unit breaking down for various reasons, and a Mac - if Mac users posts are truthful - can last 4 to 5 years. The underlying message also, of course, is that you spend more in the long run, buying 2 or 3 PCs, in the same amount of time for a single Mac.) As for the 95% stat of Windows, Apple users like to point out that you can use Windows on a Mac (using the Mac OS/Operating System, currently OSX Lion), while the reverse cannot be said (You can't run Mac's OSX on Windows, although I've read a few posts that say it's possible with "partitioning".) And the style factor of Apple has always been copied by PC manufacturers, but they'll always be duplicators.

In other words, you can find enough reasons to go for one side and hate the other. It looks like that commentary about this battle being the same as Coke vs. Pepsi is spot on.

I suppose it would be very easy to be objective about this dilemna (which will be my next purchase). Price wise, Apple has always been considered "expensive", and not just here, but everywhere in the world, apparently. That is not to say that PC manufacturers haven't used price also as a way to identify themselves: at the current 2012 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), Samsung unveiled their 2012 Samsung Series 9, and it will retail for $1499, which is even higher than some MacBook models. But you can get a lot more options (by brand) when choosing a PC, and at varying prices to suit your particular budget. (For more info about the Series 9:

Specifications wise, it also looks like you get more bang for your buck - or peso - with PCs. With more companies making PCs, there certainly is more variance between companies, models, usage. There are PCs devoted and marketed for gaming, others are sold as ultimate workhorses, and some as portables. You can configure the insides of your own with a PC - similar to what guys have been doing under the hoods of their cars. With so many models, you get freedom to choose what specifications, technical and otherwise, fit your work/play/actual life.

But I cannot help but notice that the articles I come across regarding this seem to have made Apple products the benchmark: Titles like "Taking The Wind Out Of The Air" or "MacBook Air Killer" just seem to keep hammering the point - an unintended one by PC manufacturers - that Apple must be doing something right, to induce that much peeking-over-your-shoulder from other companies. (Personal rule of thumb in life: If you're constantly comparing yourself to others, you keep looking sideways, and not forward.)

Since embarking on a more than casual research, I've also found the fact that I can open most of my Windows files on a Mac very appealing. (As an example, someone can send you an Excel file on a Mac, you can open the file and edit it in Numbers, Apple's version of Excel, then send it back to the person as an Excel file.) In effect, a Mac purchase would not "cut me off" from the "Windows world". If I needed to use more extensive applications, there's Windows on Mac and Office for Mac.

Also, the idea of PC viruses prompted me to look at Apple, because, as they claim in their website (, they never get PC viruses. They update their OS regularly - I can attest to that, seeing as how with the iPad and iPod, I constantly get my updates for iOS (the operating system for Apple's mobile products).

And the loyalty of Mac users has always astounded me - if the entire world is 95% Windows, they must be getting a great experience, and not really caring that they just comprise 5% of the pie. (I did read an article that said that number has bumped up to 7%. I just don't have the link, I've read too many articles and I didn't get to bookmark that particular one.)

I've decided that the only way that I would learn about the full Mac experience is to try it out myself - without making any financial commitment yet. As it happens, one of the Premium Resellers in Manila is giving free seminars on how a Mac would work for your particular needs (for photo editing, for general use, etc.) In my case, I was keen on attending the seminar on Apple's productivity software - essentially their versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and see how that translates into my work life should I make a switch, and whether or not their claim is true (that I can move back and forth between files from both Windows and OSX). I will attend the (hands-on) seminar and find out for myself.

At the end of the day, your choice should come down to how the computer works for you, and not the other way around. I am not a PC gamer so there are some specifications I can do without. I travel to different places for work so ease of handling is one concern I have. I seem to have friends and colleagues using both PCs and Macs, although the % of Mac users is decidedly higher than just 5%. I don't buy a laptop with the intention of taking it apart - guess that explains why I'm not an engineer. The older I get, I just want things that work and run smoothly.

Here's to seeing if Apple can hold that part of their promise.

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