Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Byte of the Apple April 15, 2009, 10:16PM EST
Mac vs. PC: What You Don't Get for $699
A 17-in. PC may cost a lot less than a 17-in. Mac. But you get less, too, including security, multimedia tools, and, some say, satisfaction
I'm a sucker for a well-made TV ad.
Inspired by the Nike (NKE) "Just Do It" and "Air Jordan" campaigns of decades past, I mentally mapped out storyboards of the spots I wanted to produce. Nowadays I laugh at clever beer and soda commercials and get mad or pump my fist in the air along with political ads.
I cheered for Apple's (AAPL) 1997 "Think Different" spot that featured actor Richard Dreyfuss reading the "Here's to the Crazy Ones" speech. The commercial resonated in a house full of Mac users at a time when Macs were widely considered an endangered species. Apple's more recent "Mac vs. PC" ads lampooning Microsoft (MSFT) strike a different chord: Macs are friendly, cool, easy to use, and they don't have the kinds of problems usually associated with Microsoft's Windows operating system; PC, portrayed by the hilarious John Hodgman, comes across as ridiculous—not unlike the real-world, buggy Windows Vista.
Now Microsoft is fighting back with its own advertising campaign. I've enjoyed some of its elements. The Seinfeld spots were weird. I was intrigued by some of the "I'm a PC" spots that aired last fall, depicting PC users engaged in a variety of jobs—teaching law, protecting endangered species, blogging for Barack Obama. The message: You can use a Windows PC and still do cool and interesting things. Not bad. Then came the adorable little girls: Kylie, age 4, and Alexa, age 7, e-mailing pictures of fish and stitching together pictures of a fort into one. Microsoft, it seemed, had finally found its advertising voice.
Then came Lauren, the perky, red-haired twentysomething meant to represent an average American shopping for a computer. She wants a notebook with a 17-in. screen, and if she finds it for less than $1,000, she can keep it. Following her as she shops, we learn she considers the Mac too expensive—that she's not "cool enough to be a Mac person," she whines. From the Apple store, it's off to Best Buy (BBY), where she finds a PC that meets her specifications for $699. Mission accomplished, she jumps up and down clapping as though she won on The Price Is Right, ending the spot by saying "I'm a PC, and I got just what I wanted." Aaaand Cut!
The Price Weapon
Microsoft used earlier ads to defend itself suitably against Apple's nerdiness allegations. Now Microsoft is on the advertising offensive, wielding price as a weapon of choice. It's an effective approach during a recession. But as is always the case with advertising, the full story is more nuanced.
Yes, $699 beats the $2,800 you'd pay for a Mac with a 17-in. screen. But when it comes to PCs, there's still a great deal more to buy.
First, there's security software. The PC in question comes with a 60-day trial Norton Internet Security 2009 from Symantec (SYMC). After the trial runs out you'll pay Symantec $50 a year to protect your PC (and up to two others in your home) from all the nasty viruses, worms, and other malware lurking on the Internet. That's $150 over the three years Lauren is likely to hold on to her PC. No need for antivirus on the Mac.
Next, let's say something goes wrong on the computer once the warranty expires and that it requires the intervention of a third party. Geek Squad will charge you $129 just for a diagnosis. A diagnosis from the Genius Bar in Apple's retail stores? Free.
Then there's iLife, the suite of multimedia tools that comes standard on the Mac. With iLife you can organize photos and home movies and turn them into watchable DVDs. Garageband helps you create your own music and another iLife element aids in Web site creation.
Extras Cost Extra
It's hard to replicate that bundle if you're a Windows user. The Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) machine in Lauren's case does ship with discs for Muvee Reveal, a video-editing program that usually costs $80, and CyberLink DVD Suite, which runs $104. But if she wants Adobe's (ADBE) Photoshop Elements, including a membership in Photoshop.com Plus, she'll need to shell out about $140. Sonic Solutions' (SNIC) Roxio Creator 2009, which combines video-editing and DVD-creating tools, will cost another $100. And the closest equivalent to Garageband on Windows is Cubase Sequel and it goes for another $100.
Add it all up and it's not hard to imagine Lauren's $699 computer costing something closer to $1,500.
But that doesn't include harder-to-quantify shortcomings. The HP's battery lasts only 2.5 hours on a charge, compared with eight hours for the 17-in. MacBook Pro, which also happens to be 1.2 lb. lighter and boasts substantially better screen resolution: 1,920 pixels wide by 1,440 high, vs. 1,440 by 900 for the HP.
Even if Lauren doesn't care about pixels and multimedia software, her machine still doesn't measure up when it comes to overall consumer satisfaction. No less an authority than Consumer Reports rated Lauren's computer fourth in a class of six with 17- to 18-in. displays. The MacBook Pro was tops, despite its higher price.
PC Makers Should Focus More on Quality
Usually silent on such things, Apple did give me a comment on the Microsoft ads. "A PC is no bargain when it doesn't do what you want," Apple spokesman Bill Evans says. "The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool. With its great designs and advanced software, nothing matches it at any price." Microsoft declined to comment.
Microsoft and its hardware partners wouldn't have to make this case had they focused less in the past decade on driving prices down and more on quality. Forrester Research (FORR) recently released results of a study of consumer experiences with computer companies, assessing their view of a machine's usefulness, usability, and enjoyability. Apple ran the table in all three categories, well ahead of Gateway (now a unit of Acer), HP, and Dell (DELL).
PC makers in the Windows camp have done everything possible to make their products progressively worse by cutting corners to save pennies per unit and boost sales volume. There's good reason Apple is seeing healthy profits while grabbing market share. It refuses to budge on quality and so charges a higher price. Rather than running ads that seem clever at first but really aren't, the Windows guys ought to take the hint and just build better computers.
Hesseldahl is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com.
So this isn't going to come as a big surprise, but "Lauren" (if that is her real name) didn't really go into the Apple store...or Crispin Porter had a bunch of extras walking around during the filming.
How do we know? Notice at 0:13 when she walks into the store, there is a balding guy with jacket and striped shirt and camera walking by. He is still walking by when she leaves the store filmed on the other camera. That gave her less than a second in the store. She said she walked in and looked around but how could this be?.
We also know she is an actress so the rest isn't a stretch. What LA actress wants a hulking, cheap 17 inch HP Notebook over a small white MacBook?!
Not that you believed it before, right?
Weintraub reports, "The hardware in question is the $699 at Best Buy HP - Pavilion Laptop with AMD Turion™ X2 RM-72 Dual-Core Mobile Processor... It is the epitome of what people dislike about PCs... It runs Vista Home on a slow AMD mobile processor. It has DDR2 RAM which is what $300 Netbooks run."
"Its screen is abysmal. One reviewer said this model series 'has the worst screen I have ever seen in my life. It's the 1440x900 screen and the viewing angles are so poor that even when sitting directly eye level with the screen it is totally washed out,'" Weintraub reports. "Its networking is five years old. 802.11G wireless and 100Mb Ethernet are surpassed by $300 Netbooks. 2004 called. It wants its motherboard back."
"The battery is said to last 2.5 hours. Real world usage is always close to around half of that. That means you can't watch a full movie on a battery charge," Weintraub reports. "The thing is almost two inches thick and weighs in at almost eight pounds... And this poor girl, the actress that Microsoft hired to play a person who is not an actress, is going to get a heavy, bulky slow Vista Home machine with a poor display, old networking equipment and weak battery loaded up with crapware."
Full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: No, she's not. She's going to take her residual checks and use them to buy a brand new MacBook Pro like every other working actress on the planet.
Full article here.
So do your won research and get what works for you!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Tech Tips for the Basic Computer User
Last week, I wrote an entry on my blog that began like this:
"One of these days, I'm going to write a book called, 'The Basics.' It's going to be a compendium of the essential tech bits that you just assume everyone knows--but you're wrong.
(I'll never forget watching a book editor at a publishing house painstakingly drag across a word in a word processor to select it. After 10 minutes of this, I couldn't stand it. 'Why don't you just double-click the word?' She had no clue you could do that!)"
Many readers chimed in with other "basics" that they assumed every computer user knew--but soon discovered that what's common knowledge isn't the same as universal knowledge.
I'm sure the basics could fill a book, but here are a few to get you started. All of these are things that certain friends, family or coworkers, over the years, did *not* know. Clip, save and pass along to…well, you know who they are.
* You can double-click a word to highlight it in any document, e-mail or Web page.
* When you get an e-mail message from eBay or your bank, claiming that you have an account problem or a question from a buyer, it's probably a "phishing scam" intended to trick you into typing your password. Don't click the link in the message. If in doubt, go into your browser and type "www.ebay.com" (or whatever) manually.
* Nobody, but nobody, is going to give you half of $80 million to help them liberate the funds of a deceased millionaire…from Nigeria or anywhere else.
* You can hide all windows, revealing only what's on the computer desktop, with one keystroke: Windows key+D in Windows, F11 on Macs (or, on recent Mac laptops, Command+F3; Command is the key with the cloverleaf logo). That's great when you want examine or delete something you've just downloaded to the desktop, for example. Press the keystroke again to return to what you were doing.
* You can enlarge the text on any Web page. In Windows, press Ctrl and the plus or minus keys (for bigger or smaller fonts); on the Mac, it's the Command key and plus or minus.
* You can also enlarge the entire Web page or document by pressing the Control key as you turn the wheel on top of your mouse. On the Mac, this enlarges the entire screen image.
* The number of megapixels does not determine a camera's picture quality; that's a marketing myth. The sensor size is far more important. (Use Google to find it. For example, search for "sensor size Nikon D90.")
* On most cellphones, press the Send key to open up a list of recent calls. Instead of manually dialing, you can return a call by highlighting one of these calls and pressing Send again.
* When someone sends you some shocking e-mail and suggests that you pass it on, don't. At least not until you've first confirmed its truth at snopes.com, the Internet's authority on e-mailed myths. This includes get-rich schemes, Microsoft/AOL cash giveaways, and--especially lately--nutty scare-tactic messages about our Presidential candidates.
* You can tap the Space bar to scroll down on a Web page one screenful. Add the Shift key to scroll back up.
* When you're filling in the boxes on a Web page (like City, State, Zip), you can press the Tab key to jump from box to box, rather than clicking. Add the Shift key to jump through the boxes backwards.
* You can adjust the size and position of any window on your computer. Drag the top strip to move it; drag the lower-right corner (Mac) or any edge (Windows) to resize it.
* Forcing the camera's flash to go off prevents silhouetted, too-dark faces when you're outdoors.
* When you're searching for something on the Web using, say, Google, put quotes around phrases that must be searched together. For example, if you put quotes around "electric curtains," Google won't waste your time finding one set of Web pages containing the word "electric" and another set containing the word "curtains."
* You can use Google to do math for you. Just type the equation, like 23*7+15/3=, and hit Enter.
* Oh, yeah: on the computer, * means "times" and / means "divided by."
* If you can't find some obvious command, like Delete in a photo program, try clicking using the right-side mouse button. (On the Mac, you can Control-click instead.)
* Google is also a units-of-measurement and currency converter. Type "teaspoons in 1.3 gallons," for example, or "euros in 17 dollars." Click Search to see the answer.
* You can open the Start menu by tapping the key with the Windows logo on it.
* You can switch from one open program to the next by pressing Alt+Tab (Windows) or Command-Tab (Mac).
* You generally can't send someone more than a couple of full-size digital photos as an e-mail attachment; those files are too big, and they'll bounce back to you. (Instead, use iPhone or Picasa--photo-organizing programs that can automatically scale down photos in the process of e-mailing them.)
* Whatever technology you buy today will be obsolete soon, but you can avoid heartache by learning the cycles. New iPods come out every September. New digital cameras come out in February and October.
* Just putting something into the Trash or the Recycle Bin doesn't actually delete it. You then have to *empty* the Trash or Recycle Bin. (Once a year, I hear about somebody whose hard drive is full, despite having practically no files. It's because over the years, they've put 79 gigabytes' worth of stuff in the Recycle Bin and never emptied it.)
* You don't have to type "http://www" into your Web browser. Just type the remainder: "nytimes.com" or "dilbert.com," for example. (In the Safari browser, you can even leave off the ".com" part.)
* On the iPhone, hit the Space bar twice at the end of a sentence. You get a period, a space, and a capitalized letter at the beginning of the next word.
* Come up with an automated backup system for your computer. There's no misery quite like the sick feeling of having lost chunks of your life because you didn't have a safety copy.What are your favorite basics-that-you-thought-everyone-knew? Let us know in the comments for this column at nytimes.com/pogue!
Friday, August 29, 2008
Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.