As someone who has spent over 17 years as primarily a Mac user, I often wonder how your average Windows PC user thinks. I do use Windows PC’s pretty much daily, mainly to check web design in various browsers, restart a few Windows servers, and just to keep up-to-date with Windows in general. But, since I know and love the Mac, I can’t really tell you how a pure Windows user regards the Macintosh platform. There are very, very few Mac-only users in the world who have never touched a Windows machine; out of necessity, most Mac users are forced to interact with Windows in some way or another. But, there are many Windows users, tens of millions in fact, who have never touched a Macintosh. And I really wonder about what these Windows users think about Macintosh, because how Windows users regard the Mac is at the crux of Apple’s “Switch” campaign’s success.
Now, as far as the stereotypical “corporate IT type” goes, I think I’m pretty much on the money with the belief that, in general, this type of Windows user tries extra hard to not think of Macintosh at all. And when they run into someone like me, they try extra hard to keep a Mac out of the company and out of my hands. The weapons they use in this futile quest to keep a Mac out of my hands, are a unique mixture of crapola rolled in myth and sprinkled with fear, uncertainty, and doubt. If IT guys spent less time baking FUD pies and more time learning about alternatives to the Microsoft hegemony, worldwide productivity would rise 30 percent. “No chatty Macs on my network,” they cry! “No pretty-on-the-outside, empty-on-the-inside toys” in my building, they shout! “No software, too slow, non-standard, one-button, won’t network,” they chant. Blah. I know what most “corporate IT types” think and it ain’t “different.” But, this article isn’t about those secretly lusting after an Xserve and trying to feign disinterest in Mac OS X. No, I’m wondering about the “average” Windows user.
I wonder what the average Windows PC user thinks when they see Macintosh computers in virtually every movie, almost every television show, magazines, and most ads requiring a computer as a prop. Do they go home to their Pavilion and wonder why it’s not in the movie they just saw? Do they look at the Mac on the desk of the television show’s main character and then glance at their Gateway lump wondering why it’s not being used instead? What do they think? I’d really like to know. If I spent hours and hours each day with a product, but routinely saw another foreign product being used on TV, in films, and in print, I think I’d wonder, “gee, maybe I should take a look at that product, maybe it has something my product doesn’t have, maybe it’ll work better for me.” I mean, that’s exactly why I give each version of Windows the once over with each successive bloatware party Redmond throws. I need to see how close Microsoft has come to copying the Mac. Never remotely close enough to even consider switching to a Windows PC so far, but I’d never consider ignoring Windows. Yet, I get the feeling that millions of Windows users are ignoring the Macintosh as if it didn’t exist.
Maybe they don’t even recognize that it’s a Mac they’re looking at, it just registers as “computer” generically in their mind? Although that would seem to be a stretch given the way an iMac is designed. It’s too distinctive to ignore, I think. A PowerMac, PowerBook, or iBook, maybe nobody notices, since they are vaguely the same shapes and sizes as their Wintel counterparts, but an iMac is pretty obviously not an HP Pavilion. I just think that if I spent, say 8-10 hours per day using a product, I’d wonder why those people seem to really love their computers, and I just tolerate mine when I’m not utterly ambivalent or downright pissed about it. Wouldn’t you wonder why Mac users love their computer when you or no one you’ve ever heard of can muster more than “a computer is a tool, it’s a machine, not a religion” mantra when referring to Windows-based PC’s?
Now, I’m not talking about Aunt Edith who doesn’t know a search engine from a browser. Poor Aunt Edith still thinks AOL is the entire Web and reacts as if I’ve just asked her to explain the Theory of Relativity when I ask her to sign on with AOL, but use Navigator to surf the web instead. This woman is lucky to be able to discern a computer from a combo TV/VCR. She treats the concept of bookmarking a favorite website as something best left for others; she’s not the type of user I am so curious about. I’m wondering about the tens of millions of personal computer users who do understand that Apple makes computers that don’t run Windows, yet seem to ignore Macintosh even though everything they hear about it should raise at least some curiosity in a normal human being. I really wonder what these Windows users think about Macintosh because it’s pretty crucial when it comes down to getting them to switch. And I’d like to see more of them switch because they make the best advocates of all and that grows the Mac platform, which spurs Microsoft to try to compete, and everything gets easier, faster, and better for everybody.
Do these Windows users believe that there is “no software” for the Mac? Do they really believe that a 2GHz Pentium 4 machine is two times as fast as a 1GHz G4? Do they think that there are no Mac’s in Best Buy, so Apple’s about to go out of business any day now? Do they think if they buy a Mac, they’ll feel compelled to make the annual pilgrimage to MacWorld and drink some mystical, mind-altering Kool-Aid? Do they think 25 million Mac users are “the crazy ones” and they’re not about to go that route, no sir?
Somebody help me here; if you know a Windows user, not a “corporate IT” or “Aunt Edith” type, but a regular user of personal computers who only uses Windows, please tell them about this article and have them email me or post a comment below to explain what they think about Apple and/or the Macintosh. Or if you actually are a curious Windows user, please help me out here. And please, pull no punches, I honestly want to know what you think when you see, for instance, a Mac saving the world in the movie “Independence Day” or iMacs littering the set of your favorite TV show or overhear Mac users talking about how they love the Mac OS. Do you regard the Macintosh as the Dan Marino of personal computers; the best in nearly every category, but somehow unworthy because it hasn’t won the Super Bowl of market share? Are you curious? Unmoved? Filled with hatred? Too busy? What?
SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.