From the July 2010 Issue
[If you've already read the part of this column that appeared in our June print issue, you can click here to jump to the bonus online content.]
Over the past few months, many in the technology-focused media have been talking about the iPad. No, actually, they’ve been star-crossed, head-over-heels in love with it … or totally opposed to it. The largest tech media outlets even received demo units months in advance of the March debut. There were no freebies for us, however. If we wanted one, we’d just have to wait in line like everybody else. And I’m not sure that Apple would have wanted to send a unit to me for review, anyway, considering that over the past several years, I’ve written skeptical and even directly negative things about the iPod, the iPhone, Mac computers and Apple in general.
Apple fans, especially iPhone users, have told me time and again that I just
don’t get it. Of course, that helps me prove my point, since it emphasizes
that the selection between computing models is subjective. So when the costs
for one can be double that of the other … well, the creative and subjective
rarely beats the utilitarian. That’s why the PC computer is ubiquitous,
especially in most business environments. It is cheaper and … well, almost
Sure, Macs are Better, But Here's Why I'm a PC
Yes, the PC is the Volkswagen Beetle of yesteryear, which, as my father often told me, was inexpensive but prone to breaking down. Fortunately, it was also cheap to work on, he added, since most people who owned a Bug did so because they couldn’t afford a more expensive car or, for that matter, a mechanic. So they learned how to fix their own cars. While that isn’t flattery to PCs, it is at the heart of the matter: PCs are the cheap and replaceable computing standard in our “throwaway and replace” society.
The Apple brand, however, has turned into the Lexus of computers, with the luxury of the supposed ease-of-use of Macs at its peak for people who have no desire to learn how to be a technical mechanic. The luxury is there for those who are willing to pay for it, but that ease of use is at a premium that most individuals are leery to invest in. And businesses seem even less likely to invest in the pricier Mac brand in a tough economy.
So at least as far as the Mac and PC argument goes, I’m a PC because:
a) I’ve always used a PC;
b) I’ve learned how to be an optimal and secure PC user;
c) I’ve been, at times, a PC mechanic, even building whole PCs from the box and motherboard up;
d) I don’t want to spend twice as much on a computer.
I think this is the “good enough,” utilitarian view, and I’m fairly sure that most business owners, even non-techie ones, would agree. As far as the iPod and iPhone go, I stand by my rationale that a non-iPod MP3 device can offer the same functions and features at half the cost; and that the iPhone still isn’t the best smartphone for business, primarily because I think BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones offer better Outlook integration for email and calendaring, and are better for high-volume typing tasks.
The iPad is Different
Something about the iPad intrigued me, though. While I look skeptically on the iPhone for business use, I do have a lot of respect for everything else it does. There’s no doubt that there are far more apps available for it than other phones, particularly in terms of entertainment and social communication features. In other words, there are a lot of games and web-based tools, ebook functionality, easier photo and music gadgets, plus great integration with social media like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.