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Is The Mac User Thrill Gone?

Apple I at the Smithsonian Museum

Apple I at the Smithsonian Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following article is written by a Mac user who has been one long enough to remember when there truly was excitement over the prospect of new Mac and Mac OS operating system releases…

Today’s new Macs, the iMacs in particular, while wonderfully stylish in appearance, do not stir the soul the same way Mac models that were not all-in-one designs once did. Old geeks prefer attaching a monitor to their CPU. The components for used Apple computers, when they are actually available through Apple or Apple Authorized Resellers, are incredibly expensive. Too often you have your iMac in the shop and if it’s a hardware-related monitor problem and out of warranty, you wish you had purchased a Mac Mini (if only for the chance to switch out monitors).

Intel Mac build quality works to Apple’s advantage when repair of these models is not typically cost-effective once something like a logic board goes south. Many calls with an Apple Authorized Service Facility go something like this:

“Hi, this is Joe Tech with Mac Dadignostics. How are you today, sir?”

“Oh hi, Joe. I am fine, I think, thank you. How’s my iMac?”

“Well, unfortunately I have some bad news for you sir.”

“Oh no. What is it?”

“We were able to determine the cause of your Mac’s spinning beach ball and freezing issues you checked it in for. You have a bad logic board.”

“Oh no! That sounds terrible and expensive. Is it?”

“Well, because your iMac is out of Apple Care Extended Warranty coverage, Apple will not be able to cover your repairs. Sometimes people are really attached to their Macs and if this sounds like you, we can offer to replace the logic board. Apple has the part in stock and we can have it ordered and ready to install in a couple of days.”

“Is this something you’d be interested in?”

“Well, I guess it depends on how much we’re talking about.”

“The new logic board is pretty expensive and you would probably be better served to put the money you would spend on the logic board replacement repair towards the purchase of a new Mac altogether.”

“What would you do, Joe?”

“Well, let me ask you sir, do you have a current backup of your Mac’s hard drive?”

“Yeah, I think so. I mean I have a Time Machine backup.”

“Excellent. We can use the Time Machine backup to restore your information, documents, pictures, email, music and anything else you might need to your new Mac.”

“Cool. But I wish it had lasted a bit longer. It’s not quite four years old. I was hoping to at least get another year or two out of it.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Would you like to come in to the store and see what new Mac might suit your needs?”

“Yeah, ok, thanks. See you later.”

Original 1984 Macintosh desktop

Original 1984 Macintosh desktop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is cost-effective used to be just upgrading your Mac until it did not suit your needs anymore. Things like logic boards, graphic cards and processors just did not seem to fail as often as they do since Apple went Intel–sleeker and slimmer with each successive iMac model rollout.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But Apple does not make as much repairing Intel Macs as selling us new ones. It is decidedly in their interest to gently guide us towards the purchase of a new Mac every few years.

Before Apple ceded the desktop wars to Microsoft, Apple evangelists were constantly fighting the good fight against Wintel platform users. When Apple went all Intel visions of cheaper components and level repair playing fields with their PC counterparts came to mind for Mac users. The wishful thinking never became reality as Mac parts like the Mac versions of popular games for the PC, were never as readily available (when they were available at all), and in the case of both software (and hardware parts), remained consistently more costly than versions for the PC.

Further compounding lack of excitement over the Mac was the release of the iPhone. While good for Apple overall, it was another nail in the Mac coffin in terms of awe factor. While Mac users saw modest OS X improvements, enthusiasm for Mac OS X versions stalled badly with the release of Snow Leopard. As OS X 10.9 Mavericks promises renewed vigor for Mac OS X users, the jury is still out over whether it will provoke anything more than a yawn like Windows 8 has.

Inside a Apple Mac Mini

Inside a Apple Mac Mini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apple is reaping what it has sown. The release of iOS 7 may be enough to put the thrill back into the iPhone, but what does the success or not of this mobile operating system portend for the Mac?

Apple has demonstrated repeatedly the iPhone, iPad and iOS is the basket their eggs lie in. Each time from even its inception, word was Apple’s best engineers were culled, albeit temporarily, from OS X development in favor of iOS team endeavors. Apple’s plan was to dominate the smart phone arena and it has. But it started hearing Android footsteps and has iOS 7 to save them now as the Mac steps further into the shadows.

The Mac Pro looks Jetsons-like and while cool to think Apple is taking the power user market seriously again, is beyond the financial reach of most users. The slender iMac remains the best consumer model overall—all in one design notwithstanding. I used to recommend the Mac Mini as an inexpensive way to get in to a Mac, but starting at $600 it is no longer a good value overall, especially considering if you cannot plug and play compatible peripherals you already own like mice, keyboards, monitors and/or adapters and have to pony up for them additionally.

I cannot predict if the Mac will wither further so much as I can say it will continue to whimper along outside of enterprise environments. Apple knows it will not ever gain access to mainstream corporate America. What it does not know is if its efforts to entice new and old users with OS X 10.9 Mavericks will be enough to reinvigorate sales of their consumer line of Macs.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing’s recent “can’t innovate anymore, my ass” comment aside, is the Mac user experience still worth paying the Apple premium?

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8 replies »

    • Indeed I haven’t found any that don’t. However, for a first time Mac user, switching their Windows keyboard out to the Mac Mini may be confusing in regards to alt-option, control-command, prt scrn, etc., so much so they end up purchasing a keyboard mapped with Apple-specific keys and adding to their overall purchase costs. Thank you for your comment.

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    • Does it still feel as thrilling to do so? 😉 For me it does not but hopefully the gold master release of OS X 10.9 Mavericks will change all that. Nice to see you again and as always, thanks for your comments!

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  1. I still much prefer my Macs. I even like the latest OS X. 10.8 added helpful features and fixed most of what .7 had bungled. At $20, it was to me a good deal. The MacBooks are works of art that work very well too because Apple still (usually) sweats the small details.

    As for the Mac mini not being a good deal, I disagree completely. As the commenter above wrote, you can use any mouse, keyboard or monitor. OS X will even switch the logo key and the Option / Alt key (in System Prefs). Monoprice has extremely inexpensive video adaptors that work great if you don’t want to use the HDMI port on the mini.

    The alternatives (for me personally) are soundly inferior. It took Microsoft 20+ years to clean up their OS so it doesn’t assault one’s aesthetic sensibilities, and don’t get me started on activation. I’ve met some really nice Microsoft tech support people in India while waiting for them to fix my license of Win 7 (games). Didn’t really want to meet them. Wanted to play my games. Is OS X copy protected? No, the image is inside the app. Make as many DVD backups as you need.

    What is missing is underdog Apple and the formerly small-but-determined Apple community. I can see people missing that. The machines themselves and the software are still great. Better in many ways.

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    • Appreciate the thoughtful comments, Ex. What really is insightful to me is your closing paragraph regarding underdog Apple. That was a mindset that is missing now as you so adeptly pointed out. I also am glad to hear you enjoy the latest Mac OS and new Mac models. I agree they are wonderful to look at and use, but for someone who wants a value entry point to a Mac, I still dissuade against the purchase of even a new mini for someone who is thinking about getting into an Apple computer for the first time. This is because of being told, “I can get two Windows 7 laptops for the price of a mini, monitor, keyboard and mouse” more times than I care to relate here. When I have suggested an Apple refurb or 2nd or 3rd generation older model/used mini, the price point is more attractive for those curious to try Apple machines. The other thing for me is build quality of the Intel machines–especially the iMacs, which are very vulnerable to the trappings of heat. You pay for that sleekness of design and internal components like SSD’s and even SATA drives, graphics, airport cards et al fail sooner than they should living in such close confines. Sorry to hear of your issues with Windows licensing/activation. I agree Microsoft has always had room for improvement there as one customer inconvenienced is too many. On the Apple side, and again, as you noted, you can’t argue with an OS upgrade that sets you back $20. Thanks again for respectful and civil delivery of some great points and for reading hittingthesweetspot.

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