My Turn

Why Real People Use Macs for Real Work

Ben Wells - 2002.06.20

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

Like Stephen Van Esch and many other Apple aficionados I'm sure, I was quite surprised to see the radical new "Real People" campaign on the Apple website a few days ago. Finally, I thought, the kid gloves are off.

While "Think Different" perfectly defined the rebel, counterculture niche Apple firmly dug itself into over the years, it's also brought its fair share of snide jokes and criticism from the Wintel and Linux fraternity. One button mouse? No expansion slots? Twice as expensive? See-thru blue? That's thinking differently for ya!

And so on.

1984 may have not been like "1984," thanks to the original Macintosh, but 2002 and the years up to now certainly have been. The MacintoshFour years of Steve Jobs and Thinking Different(ly) may have saved Apple from certain death, but for all the innovation and amazed gasps from each new product launch, Apple's market share is still barely a blip in an ocean of the Big Blue (and Red, Yellow, and Green, as the case is now).

For a manufacturer, 5% probably isn't too bad, but for an entire computing platform, the Macintosh is still gripping onto life with only one hand.

While products like the iMac make everyone sit up and take notice, the message isn't getting through. So the lads and lasses at Cupertino are finally playing hardball, making sure the rest of the world knows what we've known all along about the virtues of Macintoshing.

Undoing Years of Mac Evangelism?

Will pushing the "Computing for the rest of us" banter harder, as Stephen Van Esch suggests, cause PC evangelists to label us as the dunces of the computing world?

Does it matter if it does?

Hell no.

Why not? Because I don't want to work my computer; I just want to work. And so does everyone else who's "made the switch" from beige to snow white (or titanium or graphite), I'd guess.

As much as I enjoy fiddling around with my ever-increasing collection of Mac antiquities, ultimately - as a designer-for-hire - I make my living creating websites, authoring Flash movies, designing brochures, and so on. It's the same for everyone else, I'll bet, that's portrayed in the new campaign.

These "Real People" may or may not adore the sleek lines of their new iBook, yet it's not about looks. It's about being able to send email. It's about being able to surf the Web. It's about being able to write documents, create images, listen to MP3s, and print out photos from your digital camera.

And, as Steve Jobs keeps telling us, the best computer to do all that is a Macintosh. Just as we've all suspected for years.

In truth, it's a matter of transparency. I consider myself to be a fairly knowledgeable computer user, but most people aren't, and why should they have to be? These "Real People" want to send an email, not develop a deep understanding of POP3/SMTP networking protocols. Printing or scanning a document should be as simple as plugging in the device, maybe installing a driver from the CD, and selecting "Print" or "Scan".

The computer itself is merely a tool to allow the user to create. Any platform that imposes itself into the workflow is simply getting in the way.

Macs aren't perfect, of course, but countless studies have proved their users to be more productive than the other offerings. I use both Macs and PCs, and despite my Macs being technically outdated in comparison to my Windows box (8500/200, IIfx, and SE/30 vs. Pentium II/350), they remain stable longer, can be rebuilt (both physically and in term of OS) in less time, network with less fuss, and get the job done quicker with minimal profanity and desk thumping.

And that's the core of Apple's new campaign: People who are sick of swearing and thumping their desks. They've discovered there is an alternative, and it's a better one.

Welcome to Macintosh.

The mentality of non-Mac users who subscribe to the notion that Macs are for the mentally inept who can't handle a "real" computer are simply missing the point. It goes without saying though that most of the anti-Mac establishment are IT Supervisors, Sys Admins, and others whose careers revolve around a world of sick, unstable PCs and Unix boxes so cryptic their doctorates and white coats are justifiable.

When I was first presented with the concept that most anti-Mac System Admins were simply trying to protect their jobs - as one of the main Mac selling points is ease-of-maintenance, thus rendering them more or less redundant - I baulked at the idea that someone could be so petty. But the more I think about the people who have tried to remove "that different box" from my desk in the past, the more it makes sense.

So let the geeks have their incompatible hardware that plugs and prays, their IRQ conflicts, their recompiling kernels, and XP's constant nagging for all your personal secrets. It makes them happy, so why spoil it for them?

But Real People have Real Work to do.

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