Sunday, January 22, 2006

Brand Loyalty

For years and years I used Microsoft based PCs. My first computer was a 286 Widows 2.x machine (actually it was a Commodore 64 a few years earlier, but that has nothing to do with this!). There were DIP switches on all the ad-on boards to set the interrupts and memory locations so that they wouldn’t interfere with one another. A 1 MEG memory module was the biggest available and my machine had four of them. Memory was just about to become a very expensive commodity (about $50 per MEG). The very largest hard drives were measured in megabytes, not gigabytes. At the same time, there was this machine from Apple called a Macintosh.

As the computer industry grew, I leaned much from constantly tinkering on my PC. As components became available, I added them on. Modems, sound cards, CD-ROM drives… I even had one of the first CD writers. As faster processors, improved and larger memory, bigger hard drives, and new operating systems were introduced, I kept up. Everyone came to me with their computer issues. I was the local guru. All the while, this Macintosh thing was building a loyal fan base, but I never paid too much attention.

Eventually, networking became all the rage. Server software from Novell (Netware) and Microsoft (NT) made local area networks accessible to smaller and smaller concerns. The company I worked for at the time was in need of an improved computer system. We had been using an older Netware PC system when we decided to move to Ethernet connectivity (we were on Arc net) and the brand new Windows NT 3.5 Server. At the same time we upgraded the workstations to Windows for Workgroups. Meanwhile, the Macintosh was moving happily along in the artsy and graphics world.

Around this time, the World Wide Web was beginning to really take off. In the early days, it was all pretty much dial-up and oh so very slow. The primary consumer Internet service provider was AOL (there were others such as CompuServe and Prodigy before, but AOL brought user-friendliness to a whole new level). Although I was not much in tune with what was going on in the Mac world, I believe that it was around this time that Apple had fallen upon some hard times and didn’t play a very visible role. Apple did, however, still enjoy a loyal following.

Fast-forward – 2004. By this time I had been tinkering with PCs for a very long time. I had come to a point in my life where I just couldn’t continue to keep up with the technology. Not financially and not professionally. I had by this time received some formal training on the Windows NT 4.x platform and, once again, didn’t do anything with it (read my previous posts). I knew a lot about PCs, but was not working in the field and therefore let the technology leave me in the dust. By the end of 2004, I was constantly battling viruses, spam, pop-ups and spy ware. It was an ongoing battle just to keep my machine well. Meanwhile, the Mac had made a resurgence and I was coming into contact with many users that repeatedly extolled its virtues and I began to wonder, “what if it’s true?”

On the advice of one of his friends, my father purchased a 15” iBook G3 some time in 2003. By the end of 2004, he wanted to be able to burn DVDs and upgraded to a G4. He asked me if I wanted his old G3 and I figured “why not?” I felt that, although I was a PC/Windows devote´, it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. I knew next to nothing about the OS, its conventions or what in the heck was up with a mouse with only one button! I fiddled around with it and taught myself enough to get around and found it fairly simple to get used to. I still relied on my PC, but it was not long before it was relegated to a back-up machine.

And it stayed there until I moved last June. Now it’s in my garage or parted out or maybe thrown away. I’m not real sure what happened to it to be honest. I don’t really care. My Mac (I’m on my second now, I gave the G3 to my son) doesn’t give me a lick of trouble. Pop-ups are almost non-existent. The spam filter (it’s “Junk” on the Mac) is second to none. Viruses? What viruses? And no spy ware. It’s fast, reliable and compatible with everything I do (MS Office mostly). Here’s the kicker – I don’t know nuthin’ about what’s going on under the hood. I am an END-USER! YES!

To be fair, there are some disadvantages. Software availability is not as extensive. They are more expensive. Some hardware is not compatible. These and other drawbacks, in my humble opinion, are a small price to pay for the freedom of being able to turn my machine on – use it – turn it off – and do it again tomorrow day after day after day. No tweaking, maintaining or improving. Ahhhh!

Brand loyalty is a funny thing. Had I been open to anything not Microsoft/PC, I may have discovered the benefits the Mac had to offer long ago. I wasn’t even looking for an answer to the frustrations I was experiencing, I just accepted them. I used to feel the same way about a great many products, services and stores throughout my life. This experience has shown me that there are always options and not to settle for what I knew yesterday.


Saur♥Kraut said...

That's so very interesting. I never really considered an Apple. I'd always seen Apples as something that you use if you're a serious graphics designer/artist. I only do marketing and for the most part, IBM compatible machines can do what I need. But I'm going to reconsider the Apples now.

Michael K. Althouse said...

I'm totally sold! Microsoft Office for Mac files (.doc, .xls, etc.) are cross-platform compatible. One short-coming is that MS Explorer for Mac is no longer supported, although the Apple Safari browser works great. I haven't yet figured out if I can or, if so, how to do html content on my blog. I know there are other ways around this issue, I just haven't had time to look into it. That's why I don't have any links, itallics, bold, color, etc. in my posts. Still, a small price to pay for the freedom of no longer fighting the gremlins!