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Should I invest in a Mac?

Recently Apple made a bit of a stir by releasing a $5000USD computer screen - then charging an extra $1000USD for the stand that the monitor required to stay upright. The cynic in me thinks this is probably just a marketing stunt, ie. they wanted to charge $6000, but knew they'd get more publicity if they got everybody riled up about how ridiculous this was, thus keeping themselves in the headlines for a little longer than if they'd just, you know, sold the thing as a single unit.

My inner cynic is probably right; this is typical American media engagement in the Trump era. But it begs the question, do you ever really need something that expensive? The answer from apple fans has historically been "yes". While the answer from most computer technicians has been "no". Apple products are made from the same components as PC's nowadays, and with the odd exception there's very little different to the hardware asides from the cosmetics. But hardware's not really what Apple sells.

Apple has had a lot going for them in the past - while they never invented anything, or were even the first to bring any concept to market, they were quite good at refining concepts and popularising them: the mouse, the graphical user interface, the touchscreen phone. They deserve credit, at least, for understanding the average consumer and targeting their interests better than their competitors could. And the first Macintosh computers were light-years ahead of what was available on other platforms.

Gradually the gap closed however, and nowadays you find aficionados on either side of the fence; some prefer Mac, some prefer Windows, some Linux. But most don't really care so long as they can check their email, watch Netflix and get the job done. Brand loyalty doesn't tend to last 40 years, without bit of a reality check at least. Microsoft, for example, has lost 10% of their desktop market share to Apple over the past decade, largely because of Windows 8 and 10. And more than one person has asked me, should I get a Mac now, instead of a PC?

How big is your wallet, is usually the first question I ask. The second question would be, what made you want to jump ship? And the answer to that is typically that the new user interface for Windows 8 or 10 is confusing compared with Windows 7. The last question I ask is, so, do you want to get used to an interface you're even less familiar with? The answer to that is usually no. My general recommendation is to fix aspects of Windows 8 or 10 to make them more like Windows 7, which, once done, makes the interface far more familiar and sane to use.

Beyond that point, it really comes down to a question of personal preference as to whether or not one wishes to venture toward Steve Jobs' franchise. Many people like the user interface of a Mac more, and I don't particularly blame them; it has at least stayed largely static for the last 20 years. Some might say, 'stagnant', but personally I feel that (and maybe Microsoft could've taken note of this when they designed Windows 10) if it ain't broke mate, don't go fixing it! Speaking of which, Mac's tend to be great when they're working, but when they break; they're not exactly designed to be easy or cost-effective to fix. They are, basically, throwaway products.

Bear that in mind along with the heavy price tag, unfair labour practices in third world countries and the ridiculous tax evasion which Apple (and others such as Google) perpetrates on a yearly basis here in NZ. They may very well have been market leaders at one point, but much like their computer monitors, they're lagging nowadays. Not just technologically, ethically as well. But as I guess Steve Jobs might say, 'if it ain't broke...'.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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