This explains why I’ll probably never own a Mac.

Unless, of course, someone were to just give me one for free.

Slate magazine’s Seth Stevenson write an article about the latest round of Mac adverts in which he chided them as being mean-spirited. If you haven’t seen the ads yet they feature a couple of guys standing in a white room one of whom is kinda dumpy looking and one who looks like a young hipster. The dumpy guy announces that he’s a PC and the hipster announces that he’s a Mac and they proceed to talk about themselves and end up agreeing that being a Mac is better. Stevenson says the ads don’t work for him in the way they were intended to:

My problem with these ads begins with the casting. As the Mac character, Justin Long (who was in the forgettable movie Dodgeball and the forgettabler TV show Ed) is just the sort of unshaven, hoodie-wearing, hands-in-pockets hipster we’ve always imagined when picturing a Mac enthusiast. He’s perfect. Too perfect. It’s like Apple is parodying its own image while also cementing it. If the idea was to reach out to new types of consumers (the kind who aren’t already evangelizing for Macs), they ought to have used a different type of actor.

Meanwhile, the PC is played by John Hodgman—contributor to The Daily Show and This American Life, host of an amusing lecture series, and all-around dry-wit extraordinaire. Even as he plays the chump in these Apple spots, his humor and likability are evident. (Look at that hilariously perfect pratfall he pulls off in the spot titled “Viruses.”) The ads pose a seemingly obvious question—would you rather be the laid-back young dude or the portly old dweeb?—but I found myself consistently giving the “wrong” answer: I’d much sooner associate myself with Hodgman than with Long.

I have to admit that I have the same reaction to the ads. Dweeby PC guy is the sort of dude I’d hang out with and have a good time bullshitting about all the problems that come with being a PC user in a sort of comrade-in-arms way. Whereas hipster dude is someone I’d sit around and make snarky comments about how he can’t handle a mouse with more than one button and even then they had to make the whole mouse one big button so he could just flail at it to get it to work.

The truth of the matter is I am the dweeby PC guy and I have no desire to be the young hipster dude even if it were possible for me to suddenly become such. I’m also too smart to be convinced that buying a Mac will at least let me pretend to be the young hipster dude and if I’m not fooling me then I know I’m not fooling anyone else. I ain’t that guy and I don’t want to be that guy so the ads have the opposite effect than what Apple probably wanted, they actually make me resent the idea of buying a Mac. Not because I think it’s an inferior machine, but because of the image of the sort of guy that buys a Mac that Apple is promoting. It’s the same reason I’ll probably never own a Lexus or a Cadillac—I’m not that guy.

If Apple really wants to talk PC users into buying a Mac they’d do well to change their ads in a way that would appeal to our sense of reason over our sense of vanity. There are some excellent reasons for owning a Mac and Apple only promotes a couple of them with this new series of ads along with some old canards such as the idea that PCs don’t integrate with digital devices as easily as Macs do (e.g. Japanese cameras) or that out of the box it takes a lot more effort to set up a PC than a Mac (not these days it doesn’t). Using old arguments that any experienced PC user knows are false is only going to convince them that Apple thinks they must be idiots and who wants to buy a computer from a company that assumes he’s an idiot?

29 thoughts on “This explains why I’ll probably never own a Mac.

  1. I thought the ads were pretty funny, and even unmute the TV when they come on. But it won’t make me buy a Mac.

    If Apple wants to reach guys like me, they should feature guys like me saying; “I was surprised at how much I like my new Mac, and here’s why…”

  2. “Arrest the Mac_guy!”
    And no doubt the mac_guy is on a watchlist, too.
    One more reason to not hang w/him or his ilk.

  3. How about a parody

    Wow that was pretty damn funny.

    Forget Mac and PC’s, I am a Linux guy.  The only thing thats keeping me from being solid Linux, is the incompatibility with most of the computer games I like to play (Like some of the Microsoft titles).  For anyone that is getting tired of PC’s I suggest Linux, if you are afraid of the installation process, which is certainly ok, I suggest Knoppix.  It runs completely from CD, and it runs over your existing hard drive, so nothing will be lost, allowing you to try it out before you install it.

    they should feature guys like me saying; “I was surprised at how much I like my new Mac, and here’s why…

  4. An emulator like Basilisk II and System 7.5.3 (free download from Apple) does it for my nostalgic needs. You can even find bootleg copies of A/UX on the web without too much trouble.

    I have always perceived Macs as an overpriced niche product – only good for stuff of no particular interest to me or where other systems I already had access to got the job done well enough.

  5. With PCs the out-of-the-box setup thing varies. Buy your computer from a local PC store or a smaller PC company and you’ll be off in no time. Buy it from Dell, and you’ll spend quite some time removing AOL, a 60-day trial of MS Office, Norton Anti-Virus with only 3 months of updates, and so on (I don’t know exactly what programs ship with Dells but I had to do that with my dad’s Packard Bell PC 18 months ago).

    Macs are much more consistent, mainly because of the tight control Apple has over its machines. There’s a first-run wizard and then you’re off, basically.

    I am a Mac user and I love it – you don’t have to worry about security nearly as much and most of the programs are much easier to sue than their Windows counterparts. It also looks nicer, and I like the Unix underbelly too, which means I can do stuff I’d normally do on Linux but also have an easy-to-use interface to go back to if I want to.

  6. I meant to say that “most of the programs are much easier to use than their Windows counterparts”. I didn’t mean to say that Mac app developers are more available to legal action :-p .

  7. lol I was wondering if you caught that.  I gotta say I have used a Mac before and I found it a little cumbersome, but I assume that was because I had never used one before.  A couple things I really enjoyed about the Mac was how beautiful that OS looked, and how seamless the apps loaded within it.  And the Mac I was using was just a simple G3.  I really liked the transparent window feature, that was really cool.  But I think I would still rather support open-source over Mac and PC’s closed source idea.

  8. I worked Tech Support for AOL on both Windows and Macs and I did find the Macs rather cumbersome. I found Windows to be more tweakable. Working with a Mac felt rather like trying to type while wearing thick leather gloves. Macs certainly kick butt in the security department but even Windows is quite safe if a few reasonable precautions are taken.

  9. Working for IBM, I am mostly a PC/Windows guy, but dabble with some Linux.  I also work at a Colo, so I deal with all sorts of hardware and OS’s.  Any OS has their main purpose (IMHO):
    – Windows is for daily business office use, or games.
    – Linux is for techies and smaller office servers. 
    – AIX/Solaris is best for larger office mainframes.
    – Mac’s are for artists.

    I would buy a Mac if I ‘had’ to use Final Cut Pro.  But I don’t.  So I don’t.

  10. I switched to a Mac a few years ago because OSX had a good combination of a Unix core (for all the scientific apps I need) and a polished UI with windowed apps that just work.  I tried Linux, but the lack of a good office suite, and the need to hack around with the system to get anything to work (esp device drivers) really killed it for me.

    I also needed a notebook computer, and the PowerBooks have the best price/performance ratio of any system when you take construction quality into consideration (IBM, now Lenovo, was a close second).  The only thing that really bugs me is the built-in single button mouse…

    But anyways, I agree that the ads are poor at attracting computer geeks.  If they were to advertise how the systems ‘just work’, have a huge set of applications spanning normal PC apps (MS Office and other nice productivity apps) and Linux apps (posix compliance, Bash shell, ships with gcc, python, perl, X11, etc), it would really make PC users consider switching.

  11. I tried Linux, but the lack of a good office suite

    Which version of Linux and how long ago I wonder, because most versions come with Open Office, which I use on my PC.  I think it is better than any office suite I have ever used, including Word Perfect.  And its free grin !.

  12. I only really use my PC for games, music, movies and internet browsing. Windows is the only OS that’s easy enough for me to undestand, supports the most (if not all) computer games, and has the best hardware options.

  13. I much prefer OpenOffice to MS Office.  And on our totally MS campus, no one has noticed yet – I send them documents/spreadsheets and they open up just fine.

  14. I send them documents/spreadsheets and they open up just fine.

    DOF, you sly dog you. 

    I’m telling you we should start a campaign to save the university money by slowly introducing OpenOffice.

  15. The best part of the campaign is the Japanese “camera” woman in the one ad.  Very attractive.  She makes me wonder how tall those two guys are, as she seems to be the same height as both.  Either they’re short or she’s fairly tall for a Japanese woman.

    The “Macs don’t get computer viruses” thing ignores the fact that if large numbers of folks switch to Macs this will simply encourage virus writers to create more Mac viruses.  Its the targetable userbase that insures that most viruses are PC ones, not any grand advantage of Macs.

  16. if large numbers of folks switch to Macs this will simply encourage virus writers to create more Mac viruses.

    Actually there are some inherent vulnerabilities in Windows that are not present in Mac/*nix.  And MS has never really taken security all that seriously.  Even today they make bone-headed design moves that anyone could spot and fix on their end.

    To me the Macs & Mac OS are just too ‘cute’ in their design.  I just don’t like ‘cute’. I use an IBM ThinkPad, the least-cute laptop in the business.

  17. No, try using a Dell Lattitude or Compaq Armada, and THEN you can talk about using the least-cute laptop in the business 😀

    But, I digress. MacOSX is BSD-based, and is secure by nature, BUT, there are/have been vulnerabilities found. And of course, like any system with a Unix core, they can be root-kitted (the bane of Unix-like OSes everywhere). What the problem is, is that in Windows, installs can run automatically without user input. In Unix-like OSes, they can not, and that is one of the main reasons you don’t see so many viruses, etc for them. It’s a simple design difference that goes along with that whole ounce of protection cliche..

    Believe you me, it isn’t for lack of trying or low number count that there are so few for the Unix-like OSes smile

    Now as for the ads, they are ads, I hate ads, I don’t watch them. The same way I filter out Google ads, Flash ads, etc. I hate ads. I detest marketing droids and the tripe they come up with.

  18. I use both a PC and a Mac, but if I had to graph it as a pie chart the Mac ‘slice’ would be about 98% and the PC would be 2%. I have nothing against PCs per se but the Mac is just functionally superior for my needs (animation, graphics, video). I am not much of a gamer unless called upon by friends to join in LAN parties and that is really all I use my PC for, except for occasional DVD ripping. I am not trying to smear PCs when I say this but Macs are just more intuitive to my way of working.

    I also doesn’t help that when I was shopping for my very first computer WAAAAAAAY back in the late 80s the PC salesman laughed derisively when I told him I wanted a computer for creating graphics and animation and told me that what I wanted was a toy. From that day on I associated the PC mindset with braying, stodgy, creativity impaired jackasses.

  19. PC running current Windows/Ubuntu. Will probably never own a Mac – and, true to stereotype, most people I know who use them are artists/animators/composers/performers… and so on.

    Don’t get me wrong – it looks great. I’m told it runs very efficiently. But I’ve got my OS’s (Windows for gaming, Linux for everything else), and looks don’t cut it.

  20. I have a Mac in the workshop and a PC at home.  They both do what I need to have done.  Ads that make one system out to be cooler than the other are stupid- they’re ads.

    That said, I prefer the Mac.  Despite great improvements in stability from Windows 2000 to XP, our PC still crashes with some regularity.  The number of times OSX has crashed in two years can be counted on the fingers of one foot.  Being a latent, but unevolved geek, I appreciate the more intuitive flow of the Mac OS.  And true to the stereotype, I’m a musician, and still have some recording apps running in OS9.  Not to mention Squirrel Kombat…

  21. I’m the process here at work of dual booting my PC with the second half running SUSE Linux because the company is headed towards having more Linux boxes coming in. Knowing that I’ll never fully learn Linux unless I live it day to day and being unwilling to switch at home because of my obsessive gaming habits, I’m going to give it a go at work and see what happens. I’m keeping Windows XP on the other partition for those occasions where I need to switch back over to do something I can’t do under Linux either because I don’t know how yet or because it’s not possible yet.

    Should make for an interesting experience.

  22. It bears remembering that for almost anybody, computer systems are tools and not an end to itself.  You should use a tool that gets the job done with the least bother, while not busting your budget.

    Considering what I use computers for my first choice is PC hardware running Linux or (Free|Open)BSD in a pinch. Anything but Windows…

  23. TheJynXeD: “No, try using a Dell Lattitude or Compaq Armada, and THEN you can talk about using the least-cute laptop in the business :D”

    I’ve had a Latitude and serviced Armadas, and they have some cute in them, by which I mean nonfunctional styling.  Someone tried to make them pretty, especially the Armada.  I generally loathe cuteness, especially at its worst extremes; the little talking Einstein or the search doggie in Windows (not to mention ‘Clippie’).  Remember Microsoft ‘Bob’?  Cute.

    Exception: Kittens.  It’s fine with me if kittens are cute, because that is their function.

    So you can imagine how I really don’t much care for the Mac OS.  There are technical reasons why I like Mac, however, and they are the same reasons I like Linux.

    My ThinkPad X41 is about as stylish as a hammer – pretty much everything but the nameplate is there for some reason of functionality.  Unfortunately I have go spoil it by running Windows but I live in an all-Windows environment and like Les, I won’t learn the fine points unless I live with it.

    Win lottery + quit job + carry ThinkPad +  run Linux = minimum cute. Ahhh…

  24. I think cuteness is ok if it adds the function of making things more interesting.  For example, I think the architecture of the Chicago Tribune building in Chicago adds to the boring mundane look that most of the high rises have.

  25. Sure.  I’m expressing a preference, not writing a prescription for society.  I like bare-bones, functional things, like my old VW, the Zebra F301 ballpoint pen, and ‘the command line’.

  26. Sorry for the confusion, your comment just brought out my thought, I wasn’t saying there was anything wrong with what you think.

  27. No problem; there is no wrong answer to it.  Art and product design swing back and forth between simplicty and ornamentation, and I got stuck in one mode.

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