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Why I am switching from a PC to a Mac

Last weekend, I got that familiar blue screen of death on my PC laptop, you know that blue screen with a bunch of cryptic lines of words on it that tells you your computer just crashed and everything you were working on was for naught. I have been getting these at least once or twice a day on my 3-year old Windows 7 HP Laptop and frankly I had got sick of it. So I put it out there on Facebook that I was ready to move back to the Mac after 17 years in the PC world and waited for replies. Everyone who responded told me to go for it. Not one person said they regretted going for a Mac. So I went for it. Here’s my story so far on why I’m switching from PC to Mac with a bit of a twist at the end.

Right now I’m waiting for my MacBook Pro to arrive and I’m pretty excited. When I was in school some twenty-five years ago I got a Mac SE. It was mandatory since my campus was wired and it was a Mac campus. I got another four years later, staying on the Mac platform until the mid-1990s. I was pretty gung ho about the Mac, an Apple fanboy if you will. But then business school came a calling and I found that I couldn’t use my Mac for group projects and excel spreadsheets and so I switched. I started out with Dell and stayed with them until 2006 outfitting myself and my family with Dell computers. That’s when I moved to Acer, outfitting my wife, my wife’s school and my mother with Acer products too. I then switched to HP in 2009, moving my wife, her school, her mom and my mom with me again. Apparently, I am the tech guru in our family.

Anyway, all throughout this period, I still had my Apple products to use and network: iTunes, the Airport Express, my wife’s iPhones, her iPad, my many iPods, but just not the Mac that I used to love before I became a PC ‘drone’.  Now I am ready for the move back and it’s interesting what a different perspective it gives me. In the old days, I used to go into the Apple stores in the cities I lived in – New York and DC – just to see what people were doing, what Apple had to sell, and what kinds of things were happening in the non-PC world. Basically I was a voyeur. I wasn’t really there to buy anything because I was a PC guy. OK, I bought a few iPods and iPod accessories but I never had an iPhone or a Mac so I wasn’t in there to shop. I just liked the customer experience Apple had to offer and it made me long for my Mac days of old.

Now that I am a prospective Mac owner, I look at each of the products a bit differently, going around thinking, “I could buy that”. This is a totally different Apple Store experience for me and I like it.

So I’m switching to a Mac because it’s a better product. It’s more expensive, yes. But, like with other Apple products, it’s well-designed, reliable and it comes with a whole support, customer focus and retail shopping experience that is pleasurable, almost fun. I won’t miss Best Buy for the equivalent PC experience, let me tell you.

Why am I telling you this story? I’m thinking about Apple and it’s fading dominance in the mobile space despite this great user experience and wondering how my own user experience fits in. As a PC user I used to hate how Apple tried to tie me into the iTunes/iPod platform. I had to have an iPod to sync with iTunes and I had to have iTunes to sync up an iPod. And Apple would regularly mess with my music files, renaming them without my knowing. It drove me crazy. I swore I would never let Apple or any other company (think Microsoft or Google) have that kind of control over my (electronic media) life. But here I am drawing myself deeper into the Apple ecosystem. Yet Apple is losing share in its most profitable part of that ecosystem, the iPhone.

See here:

I’ve said it before, but Apple is one company going against an army of 100s. How can they expect to compete? If network effects and sunk costs are a factor and they definitely are – think developers and apps – then adoption rates have to matter. To me, it’s Betamax/VHS or PC/Mac all over again. Betamax was in the worst position because it started out losing, Mac had a better position relative to the PC and iOS has (had?) an even better position relative to Android. But the lesson is clear: developers, makers of content, and distributors like platforms with economies of scale, ones that can reach a lot of customers with as few logistical hassles as possible. And we, the customers, DON’T like to buy stuff – videos, DVDs, mobile apps – and make it obsolete 1, 2 or 3 years later.

Mobile is a land grab right now. People like my mom complain to their sons about how complex their phone is when they go out and buy an Android phone on their own. They make their sons figure it out for them. But they go and buy the damn phone anyway. And they use that phone too. And then they’re sucked in… for life – or at least the next 5 to 10 years. Do you seriously think my 82-year old mother is going to switch away from Android? Seriously. Not any more than she is going to leave AT&T. Sunk costs, my friend. After all, that’s why AT&T plied my mom to Android with the free phone to begin with.

And does it matter if HTC or Motorola makes any money? That’s a clown question, bro. C’mon. They’re churning out shed loads of inexpensive and well-distributed product. And that’s getting people hooked on Android, just like it got people hooked on VHS or PCs. Does it matter if they’re profitable if they’re driving platform stickiness? Design and user experience only takes you so far. By the way, if you’re Apple, it’s irrelevant how much money HTC makes – just like its irrelevant how much money Packard Bell and Gateway made. All you know is they’re sucking in customers that could be yours and you have to decide whether to drop your prices to compete. And that’s bad for your bottom line.

That’s what’s happening right now. Tech Crunch is right: Android is winning. They’re winning ugly, yeah. But they’re winning.

About 

Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty years of business experience. He is also a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Edward also writes a premium financial newsletter. Sign up here for a free trial.

8 Comments

  1. Bogart says:

    Ha! I started out with Dell and then switched to HP too (although I didn’t ever go Acer) – for myself, my wife, and kid! We have Iphones, ipads, and ipods too, and it drives me crazy too.

    HP is getting really bad, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve been thinking about what brand to buy next and sometimes I think Apple.But, no way. Apple is pissing me off too much (patents, but also their locked in system: itunes, etc.). I’m thinking instead about losing the iphones/ipads/etc. and going Android, and then finding another brand of PC to buy post HP.

    I think its cheaper to just buy a new PC laptop every year, you’ll avoid most of the problems with crashing and you’ll keep up to date with the latest hardware. The only question is which brand? I’m leaning towards Asus, but we’ll see….

  2. Texas Doug says:

    I agree the battle is very much like PC vs Mac.  However, I submit that the OS switching costs between platforms is not very high.  That is, it is not expensive to port a solution to another operating system.  In today’s world, most vendors of any size will produce solutions that can perform on Android and IOS.

    For me, an open question remains if the application interoperability (i.e applications working together) is OS independent.  I suspect it is, but am not sure.  If so, the network effects are much smaller than meets the eye.

    • I agree about obvious switching costs because i am actually going through those right now on the Mac as i catalogue what software i need to buy. But switching costs involve a lot more than that because there’s a huge psychological element. I gave my mom as the example but she represents many consumers. She’s not going to switch. And a lot of people are like that too – once they jump into the smart phone arena, they are locked in to a platform for five or ten years.

  3. David_Lazarus says:

    I was a long term PC user only switching to Macs in 2004, a few months before the start of the mac resurgence. For me, the costs of switching were nil, but that was because of my very special circumstances at that time. So switching was viable and things only improved. 

    Still have not jumped on to the iPhone bandwagon, but will do so later this year. Having an iPad 2 meant that I already have bought all the software that I want for an iPhone, so again the cost of an iPhone is simply the cost of the handset and contract. iOS users tend to spend more on software. Android users spend relatively little, and this effects the numbers of apps available. While Android might make up the majority of users the iPhone still makes more profit than the rest of the industry combined. That ensures its survival.

  4. Druce says:

    I used to think like that… but Apple is at a product cycle bottom where Android is a generation ahead (bigger screens, LTE, turn-by-turn directions etc.) and Apple is still cleaning up. Android is buying customers, while Apple is making bank on all their customers AND those customers are locked in AND those are the profitable customers. The customers Android is buying are low-end and Google can’t leverage them as well with Mac, iTunes, potentially TV sales. The developers want to develop for the customers who actually buy apps, and they don’t love Android fragmentation, so they develop for Apple first and Android as an afterthought and are happy to pay the Apple tax. Apple has far and away the biggest market share in tablets, arguably the form factor of the future, and Android wasn’t even credible until very recently. iOS is now Apple’s DNA, while Android is a great product, but basically a defensive hedge for Google.

    I used to think it was a repeat of the PC wars, Microsoft was the new IBM, Google was the new Microsoft, and Apple was, well, the new Apple, innovative, closed, overpriced, loved by early adopters, loathed by OEMs and probably doomed when the market went mainstream. But the early PC was an IT buy, and the mobile device is a consumer buy, and Apple’s brand and retail distribution/service are paramount. 

    It’s pretty telling if Microsoft is royally screwing over its OEMs to make and distribute its Surface tablet, while Google felt compelled to buy Motorola. 

    The next iPhone is really key for Apple, but if all they do is match Galaxy S3, bring out a smaller tablet, everyone will go nuts. They have a pretty good shot at continuing to skim all the profitable customers, and possibly locking up the tablet form factor, disintermediating Google on its profitable products, first maps but if they can do that they could do same for mobile search, and taking on Amazon on electronic media distribution. 

    But you could be right. Until the 4S increased market share despite being an inferior product I thought the same. Also interesting that the Sprint iPhone 4S is now $50, which is more of an Android/Windows Phone giveaway price.

    • Apple’s share price is dependent on continued high iPhone margins and handset sales. Because of the Samsung trial we know that’s where the money is for Apple.
      That’s a problem because the Android lot are just churning out cheap product and that is causing them to take share. And I believe this will continue to be the case for exactly the reasons my mother bought an android handset.

      Apple then either loses share, network effects and the developer advantages you spoke of or they cut price. Either way their shares will be pressured going forward.

      I agree that the next iPhone is important. It will be a good test as to whether Apple can keep share.

      Here’s a good article on fragmentation from Fred Wilson from yesterday. I agree with his logic:

      http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/08/android-fragmentation.html

      • Druce says:

        I used to think that… but even with a cost and technology edge Android hasn’t really dented Apple’s momentum, just mopped up RIM and Microsoft and Nokia. It’s a platform war to see which ecosystem will dominate the mobile/cloud era, but I now think it should be Apple’s game to lose. Will be interesting to say the least.

        Apple margins should come down, it’s crazy right now they’re offering older cheaper technology at a premium price or the same price as the latest greatest Samsung.

        I think the bull case is they extend the music franchise to all of digital media, including over the top video and e-books, controlled by or consumed on tablets, and become the Microsoft of mobile/cloud.

  5. Dave Holden says:

    I don’t like the Apple GUI or its lock down or it’s expense or their approach to IP – but horses for courses. At work I use OpenSuSe, my phone is Android. My Laptop has nothing on it at present I’ve just been firing up a live DVD the few occasions I’ve used it recently. Ultimately from the average user’s perspective the platform is becoming less of an issue – it’s all going to be about “the cloud” and HTML5 voodoo.

    Microsoft managed to delay this for quite a while – I can imagine priority number one for several years was “DON’T LET THE BROWSER BECOME A PLATFORM!”.

    Google recognised this and acted – now chrome is the most popular browser out there.

    It’s capture by the cloud (can I get my data out is my first question when I try a new service) that will be become the big issue. Androids just a base on which to build your gateway, c.f. Amazon’s fork and why Google isn’t fussed about making money on it.