“With all the presidential campaign talk about American exceptionalism, it might be easy to forget that we do a pretty unexceptional job at some things — like shopping for computers,” Jon Fortt writes for Fortune.

“No question, we Americans buy a lot of them – the latest estimates say more than 75% of U.S. households have at least one PC, among the highest ownership rates in the world. The problem is, we are hooked on the underpowered, bargain-bin variety, the sort that putter around on the Internet, choke on high-definition video, and struggle to render 3D games,” Fortt writes.

“What should we Americans be buying that we’re not? Something called a graphics processor is high on the list,” Fortt writes. “That’s why when Apple unveiled new MacBook laptops last week, the specs turned a few heads. Unlike the other mainstream PC makers, Apple has chosen to stop using the standard-issue integrated graphics that come packaged with Intel chips, and switch to a new setup from Nvidia, which Apple says can run about five times faster. Apple will continue to source the main laptop processors from Intel, but those Intel processors will now work in tandem with a respectable graphics chip, part of Nvidia’s GeForce 9400M chipset.”

Fortt writes, “Could this endorsement from tech’s hottest company finally put graphics processors on the map? The folks at Nvidia certainly hope so. The day after Apple’s announcement, I caught up with Drew Henry, general manager of Nvidia’s media communications processor business unit, and he was practically gushing. ‘I think this is the beginning of the era of visual computing,’ he said. ‘I believe that Oct. 14, 2008 will be remembered as the moment when an inflection point happened.'”

“Intel, meanwhile, is not sitting still,” Fortt writes. “In the hours after Apple’s laptop announcement, it put out a statement saying it intended to fight hard for Apple’s future business.”

“Will Apple’s move really make U.S. computer buyers smarter about buying PCs? In the short term, probably not… But Apple’s embrace of graphics is clearly just a first step — it’s only a matter of time before it begins offering similar graphics performance in systems priced at $1,000 or less, and then in every computer it makes,” Fortt writes. “And that’s when things will get really interesting.”

More in the full article – highly recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take:

We can’t ship junk. There are thresholds we can’t cross because of who we are. The difference is, we don’t offer stripped-down, lousy products.Apple CEO Steve Jobs, August 7, 2007

Low, low sticker prices are a trick played on the ignorant by PC box assemblers that Apple simply refuses to perform. Instead, educated buyers should compare similar spec’d systems, factor in the bullet points below, and see if the Windows PC offers more value as a Mac:

Which operating systems the machine can run: Macs are OS-unlimited, Dell et al. are OS-limited: no Mac OS X for you)
Which software the machine can run: Macs can run all the world’s software, Dell et al. cannot: no iLife, Final Cut, etc. for you)
How much the machine costs you over time: Anti-virus subscriptions, support, repairs, wasted time, frustration, annual wipe and reinstall Windows, etc.: no fun for you)

Windows PCs offer more headaches, yes; more value, no. Remember, most Mac users have made a conscious technology choice (at one time or another, they’ve usually been stuck with Windows at work and/or school) and are therefore better informed than most Windows PC users (who have never or hardly used a modern Mac). Even if Macs really did cost double, we’d gladly pay it while considering it a steal – because we know better.

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Ars Technica reviews Apple’s new 15-inch MacBook Pro: You’ll fall in love – October 20, 2008
Houston Chronicle reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook: sturdy, glossy, and alluring – October 20, 2008
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Unibody: Apple new 15-inch MacBook Pro and 13-inch MacBook completely disassembled – October 16, 2008
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PC Magazine reviews Apple’s new 15-inch Macbook Pro: ‘Among the best notebooks on the market’ – October 15, 2008
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TIME Mag on new MacBooks: Windows PC makers wallow in confusion; Apple offers moments of Zen – October 15, 2008
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Pfeiffer Consulting: Mac vs Windows: Total Cost of Ownership, Productivity and Return on Investment – March 30, 2006
Windows to Mac switchers: recommendations and Total Cost of Ownership analysis – September 29, 2005

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