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.
- Samsung Widens Handset Market Share Lead Over Nokia, Apple – WSJ.com
- Android Is Winning | TechCrunch
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.