If you read the likes of Gizmodo, EnGadget, MacRumors, etc., the new Microsoft commercial is leaving a serious wake. People on both sides are in a tizzy and it’s pretty entertaining.
I thought I would put out the flames for a minute and look at this in a very pragmatic way. I am in an interesting place because I actually think for the most part, Apple laptops are a pretty fair price for what you get. The problem comes in when you evaluate what you get against what you need. If we were to build a scenario for this particular young woman, her usage needs might look something like this:
- Use Microsoft Office for Word, Excel and Outlook.
- Browse the Web
- Use an IM Client
- iTunes/Zune to manage a MP3 player
- Manage some photos
Wow, when you take out gaming, editing video and high end graphics work, the needs of your average computer user look pretty pathetic. So based on this particular user, let’s do a reasonable comparison of the PC that Lauren chose against the standard $999 Macbook.
|HP dv7-1245dx||Apple Macbook||Comparison|
|2.1Ghz AMD Turion X2||2.0Ghz Core2Duo||Wash for most users|
|4GB Ram, 8GB Max||2GB Ram/4GB Max||Win PC, More is better|
|320GB Hard Drive||120GB Hard Drive||Win PC, More is better|
|ATI Radeon HD3200||Intel Graphics||Win PC, better video|
|10/100 Ethernet/56k*||10/100/1000 Ethernet||Win Mac*|
|Wireless B/G||Wireless B/G/N||Win Mac*|
|17” Display 1440×900||13” Display 1280×800||Win PC**|
|HDMI Port||Bluetooth||Win Mac|
*90% of users do not have gigabit Ethernet or N capable wireless networks.
**The display is really scenario dependant, I called the 17” a win because the user was wanting that, but I wouldn’t consider the 13” a disadvantage to most users.
Now for a second, let’s compare the MacOS/Vista debate. The fact is that more than 90% of the world runs Windows. It’s pretty hard to make a reasonable no fan boy argument that it doesn’t work or isn’t usable. The world runs on Windows, it’s just a reality. Vista SP1 is perfectly stable and reliable, I run it on several machines every day (along with 3 Macs so don’t go there.) So taking that at face value, in this case you are paying $300 more for a machine that is likely slower giving the anemic RAM and can hold half as much data.
For our core user, it breaks down like this:
- She can use Office on both although the Windows version is much more feature rich. To be fair Office is more expensive than iWork, but you get much more and it’s an industry standard. Big win for PC here.
- On either platform she has the option of Safari or Firefox, but IE is Windows only. Odds are she isn’t using anything that requires IE. Wash in most cases.
- IM client wise it’s a wash, with the exception if iChat, all the clients are cross platform. Keep in mind that it’s an 90% Windows world so most of your friends aren’t using iChat anyway. Wash in most cases.
- If you are using an iPod (which you probably are but should really check out the Zune, I just traded my 160GB iPod Classic for my second Zune!) then it really doesn’t matter. If you want subscription based music you better go PC. Wash in most cases.
- Managing photos has lots of options, lots of people will use Photoshop elements, Google Picasa, etc. Windows Live Gallery is a fantastic product and iPhoto is amazing. I would give the technical win in this category to Mac because iPhoto is so good, but in reality the scenario is just as valid on Windows Live Gallery. Wash in most cases.
So what does this all mean? It sounds like it all hinges on how important her Office needs are. If she is your average user making some simple spreadsheets and Word documents, then you can’t go wrong either way. If you need advanced Office work you might want to go PC. I am betting for Lauren it’s a Wash there too. Given that, we still have $300 bucks sitting out there.
Now I will recap a conversation I had with my dad this week. He is considering getting a laptop to replace his aging PC. Want to know what his budget is? He wants to spend around $500. That’s where things get more complicated. $1,000 is NOT the average personal computer budget anymore. Wal Mart sells perfectly “capable” laptops for $389. You can get net books for a few hundred dollars. I hate to bring up the word recession, but if there was a time where price mattered it’s now. It’s time the Apple Fan boys quit saying “but it has an aluminum case!” because nobody really cares.
UPDATE: My dad did buy a new PC, he decided to go with a desktop. He got an LX series Gateway desktop, 2.66Ghz Quad Core Intel, 8GB Ram, 640GB HD, Vista Premium 64, 1GB GT120 nVidia video, TV Tuner, 15-n-1 card reader, Remote..$779. That’s $179 more than the cheapest Mac you can buy.
The whole argument is silly. We bloggers, blog commenters, and flamers are all pretty tech savvy users. Of course we are going to want more from our computer than a $500 machine offers. We all pitched in to get my mother a $500 Dell for Christmas a couple years ago. She still loves it, uses it every day and it works just fine. Interesting…
(FYI, I wrote this on a PC sitting right beside an equally powerful iMac that I use most of the time. Why? Because I would die without Windows Live Writer. I would consider that proof that it’s the scenario that matters, not the machine.)