“The MacBook Air has a 120 GB hard drive housed in the world’s thinnest computer.”
“Within the MacBook Air’s slender frame is a 1.66GHz Intel Processor.”
Of course, all of this was meant to distract the viewer from the fact that what it all boils down to is that the MacBook Air is hundreds of dollars more expensive than the MacBook even though a top of the line MacBook Air has less actual computing power than even the cheapest MacBook.
Then, the video went into a long explanation of the Air’s “innovative new technology” that would allow it to read the CD-ROM drive of other computers for software installation and data storage. While it might have looked like this was an interesting new feature, the only reason it’s actually necessary is that the Air DOESN’T HAVE IT’S OWN CD-ROM DRIVE!!!!!! If you want to install new software you either have to download it (not available for a lot of software) or install it through another computer! If someone burns a CD of photos and gives it to you, you have to put it in another computer on the same wireless network and access them that way. This rivals the circular mouse as one of the single dumbest design flaws ever!
Of course, in theory, compensating for all of these shortcomings is the fact that the Air is super thin and light. The video began with someone pulling the Air out of a manila envelope. Um, I don’t plan on mailing my laptop to anyone, thanks. I mean, I understand that it’s nice to have a laptop that isn’t heavy and bulky, but this is a bit ridiculous. Like the iPod Nano, the Air is small for small’s sake and thus the increase in price and decrease in hardware are simply absurd. Let me say it again: ridiculous marketing!
But, moving on. I looked into the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. I even tried a few different configurations and compared prices. The Pro is waaaaaaayyyyy more expensive than the regular MacBook, and the only real difference for my purposes was the size of the screen – the Mac Book has a 13 inch screen, the Pro a 17 inch screen. As some of you may know, part of the reason I want a laptop is so that I can pursue my budding on-line poker career without being stuck at home all the time. So, I figured it might be worth-while to spend the extra money to have a nice big screen since I plan on spending quite a bit of time staring at this thing. But it was going to cost at least an extra $1000 for the bigger screen. I started wondering just how big of a difference it actually made when it occurred to me: there’s a Mac store at the Galleria – I can go there and actually see these things in person. So I went, thus demonstrating just how seriously I was considering buying a Mac.
So I got to the store and immediately one of the twenty salespeople rushed over to talk to me. I asked him various questions and had him show me the difference between the MacBook and the Pro. Other than the glazed, “I am a Mac Person and I’m ready for the installation of my iI,” look he was actually pretty nice and helpful and even encouraged me to just go with the MacBook rather than spend a ton of extra money on the Pro. After I had looked at the different computers and asked my questions I started browsing around the store a little bit. It seemed like at least once every thirty seconds someone was asking if they could help me. I think some of them might have even been the same person – it was hard to tell since they all had that “Mac has taken over my soul so I have very little individuality left in me” look to them. That’s right, even the employees have the Mac “sheen.”
Finally, I left, thinking I might just go home and order a MacBook. While walking back to my car (okay, I was actually walking to Banana Republic – can’t go to the galleria without a trip to the Republic) I naturally started thinking about this blog, since I know that my readers have been waiting on the seats of their collective pants to find out whether or not I would trade my free will for a soul sucking computer that’ll match my iPod. So I was walking through the galleria thinking about what the title for this blog would be after I purchased my Mac (yes, this is the kind of crap I think about while walking through the Galleria – this is why I’m going to die alone). Instantly, the perfect title came to me: “I Feel Dirty and Want to Kill Myself.”
This was when I started doubting my decision to buy a Mac. Through that title something in my subconscious was screaming desperately to be heard and alert me to the danger that I, the reviler of every Mac marketing ploy of the past two decades, the great champion of consumer free will, the Bane of all subliminal corporate sales strategies, might fall for the very marketing that I have sworn to oppose. After all, I hadn’t spent any real time looking into other options. Sure, I had spent some time researching, but I had only researched Macs – I hadn’t even bothered to check out Dell or Gateway – I had simply gotten my heart set on a Mac and blindly pushed ahead. In other words, I had almost lost my soul to a sleek corporate identity without a fight. At that moment I resolved to fight back… as soon as I was done shopping at Banana Republic (where I bought two shirts – gotta love the Banana).
I got home feeling ashamed that the Mac marketing machine had come so close to pulling me in, so I decided to do something about it right away. On the drive home I had realized that part of the reason for my near failure was that everyone I had talked to about buying a computer had been a Mac person (“Mac person” doesn’t sound quite right, since “person” connotes individuality and humanity, maybe Macite, or Macian, or Macish). In fact, the more I thought about it, almost all of my friends were Macians (apparently I’ve settled on that title for Mac “people”), which led me to wonder if this was somehow connected to the French/Phil Collins phenomenon of a previous blog. Rather than pull at that thread, though, I decided to call the one person I know who is not only a PC person, but who also has a capacity for irrational disdain that surpasses even my own. That’s right, I called my brother.
In our brief conversation, my brother inadvertently made me realize just how insidious the Mac marketing campaign is. My brother has been using Vista for a while and actually said that he kind of likes it, though he did say it was a memory hog. In fact, he said the part he hates the most is the little animations that they added to try to make it look a little more like a Mac. At first I was stunned to hear someone say something positive about Vista. But then it occurred to me that I had never really heard any complaints about Vista from anyone who actually used it (even one Macian I know who uses Vista for business didn’t really have anything negative to say). Plenty of Macians had made fun of it, and those silly “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” commercials had panned it pretty badly, but I’d never actually heard someone who used Vista on a regular basis say anything negative at all. I have heard of people running into problems when trying to upgrade from XP to Vista on an existing PC, but I won’t be doing that, so it won’t be a problem.
Then my brother told me that he had bought a bunch of laptops recently for his lab and I was shocked out how little he had had to spend. Right after I got off the phone with him I hopped on-line and checked out Dell and Gateway. It turns out, there’s no need to spend $2500 on a 17 inch screen – Dell sells them starting at $699! The Mac website had bragged that the Mac OS was much more efficient and thus didn’t require as much RAM. That might be true, but Mac charged $400 to upgrade to 4MB of RAM, while Dell could do it for $100. With that much RAM even a memory hog won’t be a problem. Not only that, I was floored by the number of options that I had with a PC. With the Mac it was basically a choice between MacBook and MacBook Pro, which was basically a decision between $1500 and a 13 inch monitor or $2500 and a 17 inch monitor. The Dell and Gateway websites allowed for customization on almost every component. I could pick my screen size, processor speed, RAM, hard drive size, wireless card, whether or not I wanted BlueTooth, whether or not I wanted a Webcam installed, etc. Heck, I could even pick the color – something Macs have apparently abandoned – their laptops come in white or black, end of list (if anyone is interested, I went with Spring Green for my PC). In other words, I was able to get a computer set up for what I wanted my computer to do, rather than having the corporate goons at Mac force-feed me one of two options. When the time comes, I wonder if they’ll even bother with an iI Pro.
So, in the end, goodness and virtue prevailed. Free will is safe. After making my decision I was driving around good ol’ H-town and, in the span of five minutes, saw not one but two cars with the Apple logo on the rear windshield. I wanted to bang on these people's windows and ask: "Really? An Apple logo on your car? Really?" This struck me as a sign that I had done the right thing. Sure, Dell, Gateway, Microsoft, etc. are all big evil corporations, but those of us who use their products see them as just that: products. They aren’t an identity. I don’t consider myself part of an exclusive PC “club.” I would never put a Dell logo on my car.
When discussing the possibility of a Mac with one of my Macish friends (I won’t mention names for her sake) I mentioned that one of my hang-ups was that buying a Mac meant becoming part of the Mac culture. Her response was “yeah, you’ll be cool.” But there are two problems with this concept. First, there is no evident reason that Macs are in any way cool. In this regard, they remind me of the Dallas Cowboys’ claim to be “America’s Team” – the only people who ever think of the Cowboys as “America’s Team” are Cowboys fans themselves. Likewise, the only people who think that Macs somehow make their owners cool are people who own Macs. Second, the very notion that one’s computer COULD be linked to one’s coolness is simply ridiculous. And that’s the problem with Macs. Their users are an extension of their marketing – and their basic marketing strategy is that Macs are “cooler” than PCs. This strategy is so pervasive that it’s unavoidable. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never once thought that my relative “coolness” was in any way linked to my computer. To own a Mac is to be a part of Mac “culture” with all of its misguided notions of what is cool and what isn’t, and I am relieved to know that I have avoided this pitfall.
In a week I’ll get my new Dell PC in the mail. It was a lot cheaper than a Mac would have been. It has a lot of features that I’ll use regularly, and doesn’t have a lot of features that I won’t. I’ll use it to write the last parts of my dissertation at Borders. I’ll use it to play poker while sitting outside on these beautiful spring days. I’ll use it to check e-mails in the morning without having to get out of bed. But in all of these scenarios the computer will simply be a machine facilitating my life. Who I am will remain separate. My identity will be my own, the spread of Apple products in my home will stop with my MP3 player, and my “coolness” will remain safely tied to who I am as a person (as well as the two new shirts that I’ll be wearing courtesy of Banana Republic™).