The Switch, Part 1: The End Of The World

Hell has frozen over. Pigs are flying. I just bought a Macintosh.

This should come as a great surprise to anyone who knows me. I’m pretty surprised, myself. For most of the mid-1990s, computer nerds such as myself loved to hate Apple’s computers. It was so easy. They sucked. We felt bad for the few friends who only had a Crapintosh or a Macintrash in their house. Doing anything on a Quadra or Performa seemed like torture. In the years after Steve Jobs was fired, Apple transitioned to making “safe” computers to compete for conservative PC customers. The result was a series of boring beige computers that cost more than PCs and offered nothing for the difference, with very little application support and an operating system that seemed incapable and stale. Apple was being run by experienced corporate businessmen, not the hippies who started it, and it showed – the company was extremely profitable, but released boring products and lost a lot of fans.

Then Steve Jobs came back in 1997. His first major release was the iMac. While it was definitely a target of ridicule from geeks and power users, it started Apple on the path that brought them where they are today: rather than trying to imitate the boring beige PC world to attempt to get business contracts, Jobs elected to make highly stylish and refined computers that appealed to trendy young people. With the release of OS X, a complete rewrite of the operating system, the Macintosh became the silent envy of computer geeks: a highly-advanced operating system based on BSD with a beautiful, slick, easy-to-use interface and all of the familiar UNIX utilities under the hood for those who wanted to mess with them.

I’m in the market for a laptop, and the PC world has been very disappointing recently. It seems that nobody offers a decent warranty or support anymore, but I can’t take my usual strategy and build my own. I briefly considered Dell, until I remembered the huge hassle that their India call center put me through when I called the sales line to ask a simple question about their extended warranty on the Axim. I couldn’t understand the person through his thick accent and poor sentences, he couldn’t understand my standard American English, he didn’t know what dead pixels were and if the warranty covered them, and he kept rudely pressuring me to purchase immediately over the phone instead of finding the answer to my question.

Then I looked into Apple laptops. I love OS X, but Macs were always those expensive computers that couldn’t play games and only had a one-button mouse. But when I priced what I wanted from Apple and compared it to similarly-equipped PC laptops from IBM, Dell, and Fujitsu with equivalent warranties, the Apple Powerbooks were always within the same price range. Apple’s support is also far better, and all Powerbooks come with many hardware and software features that are optional or unavailable on most PC laptops. Supportive testimonials were everywhere I looked. There’s also a great Mac community in SH/SC, my favorite subforum of my favorite forum.

Then I went to a store to see them in person. This sealed the deal for me. They are remarkably far ahead of PC laptops. The decision was easy: I would get the 15” Powerbook.

I called last week to ask a question. I spoke to a nice, friendly, intelligent person, Scott Miller (sales extension 2554), after holding for less than a minute. He was extremely knowledgeable about the products and I had no trouble understanding his perfectly-clear English. He gave me his extension number so I could call him directly when I was ready to order it. Well, I called back yesterday, and he remembered what I wanted and was very helpful. He went through the options with me and ensured that I paid the lowest price through various discounts and rebates (I had previously calculated this online and he was correct). When I asked about shipping carriers, he told me that Apple doesn’t use one in particular – instead, they simply use whichever is fastest for each package. He answered all of my other questions very well, and everything went smoothly.

If this doesn’t seem unusual to you, you probably haven’t tried to call a computer company recently. I’m amazed at how great this service has been so far. I don’t even have the Powerbook yet and I’m already extremely happy with my purchase. Apple’s service is already better than any service I’ve ever received from IBM, Gateway, Compaq, HP, Emachines, LG, and especially Dell.

And don’t worry, I ordered an 8-button mouse from Newegg.