Will Macs Gain Market Share?

This site’s debate about the iPhone has grown to include views on whether now is a good time for the whole Apple company, not just regarding prospects for the new phone, and whether the world will prefer Macs to PCs one day.

Charles Jarrell wrote:

The problem is, the business world is addicted to Microsoft. Until it is economically better to switch to Apple (which Apple doesn’t seem to be pushing), PCs will continue to rule the world.

I wrote something similar to that yesterday, going so far as to claim that Macs cost twice what the equivalent PC costs.

But, according to Michael Tibbott, Charles and I have it all wrong:

You said Macs are twice as expensive as their PC equivalents and I think that is an outdated opinion. The best analysis I have seen was done by Scot’s Newsletter. Here is a recent posting from him.

I’m not sure what to make of Scot’s piece. He compares a “tricked out” Dell model to one of the Macs and comes away with the Dell costing some $650 more than the Mac, due to it needing a faster processor. Scot’s analysis is good and he has the data right, I’m just not sure that most people would consider needing the top-end processor at Dell to be equivalent to the Mac in question. Technically, yes, the specs didn’t line up without Dell’s top choice, but I’ve never met anybody who needed the $3,500 Dell M170.

Most people are probably like me in that they look at the hands-on stuff more than the internals of a new machine. I wanted a 17-inch screen, separate 10-key number pad because I do so much with numbers in the stock market, and a general coolness and appeal. These days, nearly any computer can do what you want it to do as far as the internals go. None come with tiny hard drives anymore, for instance, and the slowdown in my work happens more often in my brain than in the computer’s processor. So far, I haven’t been able to upgrade that!

So, my own quick analysis of paying $1,400 for my HP Pavilion dv9000 17-inch when the MacBook Pro 17-inch costs $2,800 seems to support the idea that Macs cost twice as much by the way most people approach it. Also, had I taken the time to gather a few rebates from electronics stores, I could have paid less than $1,400 for the HP. That’s never an option for Macs, as far as I know. Do they ever go on sale?

But the big news today comes courtesy of Dale Stamps, who told this story:

I began with an Apple II, but migrated to Windows through a Kaypro CPM machine and then Windows. The only time I really had consistent problems with Windows was several years ago when I made the mistake of purchasing one running Windows ME, the version before XP. It was really buggy, and was eventually dropped.

Over the years I have found that it is essential to automatically do maintenance on the system. Not only should your hard-drive be defragmented regularly but so should your registry. I currently have four programs for this. Microsoft Live does the non-registry maintenance including virus protection plus. I have a registry cleaner program that removes unused information from the registry. I have a registry compactor that removes blank portions of the registry; and finally I have a program to defragment the registry, which is a free program. It only takes a few minutes of my time once a week to do this.

I am currently using a Dell Dimension E510, which remains on all the time. I like to have a system that does not attempt to insulate me from what is happening within the system. Macs tend to do that. Lots of great programmers are supporting Windows because of the numbers. Therefore, the cost savings is not only in the hardware, but also the software. When I want to do something unique, it is usually possible to find a program to do it — sometimes free. I recently added Acronis for protection in case of a hard-drive crash, which I have never had. I also use it for regular backups of changing data onto an external drive — where Acronis also stores my hard-drive disk image.

When there are around ten times the number of PCs than Macs out there, it is more likely you will hear more horror stories — even autos are lemons occasionally. Additionally, many Mac users are essentially opinionated and would not tell anyone of their horror stories. I do contract work for one. He is in business with probably 99% of his customers using Windows and Microsoft Office. He has me do much of his file handling for his conferences to minimize the possibility of incompatibilities. He was manually page numbering his conference notes. I did an Internet search and found a program that would number PDF file pages. We now send all items to the printer in PDF format — automatically page numbered. He could not do this on a Mac as far as I know. As I said, there is much more support for Windows with unique programs like this.

With my experience, I cannot see myself ever owning a Mac — for very practical reasons.

Some excellent points here.

Dale’s right that if you press Mac users a little past the initial glow, there are usually some things to complain about. He’s also right that there’s a lot more software available for PCs, free off the web or cheap. For the true computer lover, especially do-it-yourself tinkerers, PCs with all of their interchangeable parts from hundreds of manufacturers will always be the better choice.

I’m not one of those users, though. I don’t even like computers, per se. They’re just how I get work done and that’s all I ever want to do on one. I never play around on computers. I barely have enough time to get my work done and live a little, which is exactly why I fume every time I’m unable to live as much as I’d like because I’m fighting a computer glitch.

I, for example, will never have as sophisticated a hard-drive management and registry cleaning routine as Dale seems to have. I don’t really want to and it ticks me off that I should need to. Why can’t the computer keep itself clean? Evidently it can, if the right software is installed, so why isn’t it? I’ve never heard a Mac user talk about their registry problems.

After these pro-Mac ideas, it may be hard to believe I started this whole discussion last week with an observation that I think analyst forecasts for the iPhone are too optimistic and that we’ll have a chance to profit off shorting AAPL when the disappointments roll in.

To be clear, I think there’s going to be a short- to medium-term chance to profit off a decline in Apple stock, but that then buying at the lower price will prove wise because Apple is a long-term grower. I continue to believe that the migration of computing to the Internet will work in Apple’s favor because it won’t matter what machine people use to get online, and most people — with a nod of acknowledgment to Dale’s ideas — don’t want to mess with their computers, they just want to use them.

I know I promised you yesterday that I’d post a view from iPhone competitor BlackBerry’s chairman today, but this is long enough already. For the chairman’s view, please check back tomorrow.

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