Our niece is going away to college. She is the next to last of our nieces and nephews to go and we wanted to help her out by buying her a laptop for college. So began a quest of scanning the websites, CNET, the news paper offers, etc all to find the best combination of weight, power, performance and of course price. As we have been going through this jungle, one thing became very clear – it is much simpler to just buy her a Mac Book.
I say this not as an Apple junkie, but as a consumer trying to figure out what machine will best meet her needs. Our niece is a fabulous young lady who said that whatever we picked would be fine with her. No whining about what her friends have, nor saying its got to be this or that. Still it seems much simpler to get a Mac Book.
Here is why?
PC vendors cannot handle choice. For them it is a bad thing, because they are giving you the wrong way to choose. There is simply too much choice and information and many of the choices are disguised by different names and model numbers for each retailer or online store. Comparing models based on apples to apples comparison (sorry for the pun) is just about impossible. You can compare general features like screen size, processor, hard drive capacity, RAM etc. The sheer number of computer choices and models make knowing what you are buying difficult. Not knowing what you are getting makes it harder to take the leap and spend the money.
PC vendor reputations are all over the place. Some say Dell is bad, others HP, others say Toshiba runs too hot, Sony’s melt on your desk, still others. You get the picture. End user recommendations on sites like CNET are too thin – under 10 in most cases – to make a reliable determination of value. It seems like every PC maker is creating inferior products in too many versions to know what to choose and what to avoid. So many models mean so few reviews of any one model as the model is replaced before it has been in service long enough to build a reputation. So, its buyer beware, making any buyer wary.
Support is fragmented and poor. That observation is based on experience and the experience of my kids who are finishing up college now. PC’s are treated by retailers like washing machines, even with an extended service plan. When one breaks you either have to mail it away or leave it in a store – in both cases something that does not work for students and class deadlines. I know that there is on campus computer support, but my niece is a freshman so I have no idea if that support is good, as there are few reviews of campus support to figure it out.
I am sure that you have your own experiences in this arena, and place share them below.
In the end, Apple offers none of that and therefore presents a clear choice from which to make a simple comparison against a pile of PC options. There is a finite set of models at fixed prices with plenty of recommendations – not all of them good by the way. You know what you are going to get and you know that the price you are paying is fair and will not suddenly plummet when a new model comes out. When the upgrades the Mac Book last time, the old ones sold for $100 off. You can tell if support is good by the reviews and from personal experience you need less support, as the device is very reliable.
According to marketing theory these are all things that should make you a target, cause people to undercut your offer, come up with new models and the like. Those marketing people are right and yes Apple’s share is about 8%, but growing.
I know that PC makers have tried to standardize lines in the past and make their product more consumer oriented. There were Insperion from Dell; HP has Pavilion out now, etc. That is not the point. There is simply too much choice defined along lines that many buyers do not understand or even value to help move them from undecided or confused to a purchase. A PC may be consumer oriented, but the expenditure is high enough that you cannot just take a chance and see what happens.
So right now we are thinking about biting the bullet and opening the wallet to get a Mac Book.
Niece if you are reading this, or your sisters are, we still have not made up our minds.
Sure it will cost more, according to some options almost twice as much, but all we can tell is that there are many options not which option is best.
PC makers and their retailers have provided too much choice along lines that do not matter to customers. This makes it too hard to know how to choose because you do not know what you are going to get with a PC, particularly when you are provided a clear and consistent choice on the other side.
Its ironic that by keeping things simple, Apple’s fall far from the tree and provide a clearer choice, than the pile of PC options resting against the tree trunk all fighting for attention, but creating confusion.