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             Mac Users Better Educated, Better Off
	                  15 July 2002

	"Mac users in the US are more educated and live
	in higher-income households than Windows users,
	according to new research a new survey by Internet
	research specialist Nielsen//NetRatings.
	"70% of Mac users have a college or postgraduate
	degree compared to just 54.2% of Internet users
	as a whole.
	"They're also more Web-wise - as more than half
	have been online for more than five years and
	58 per cent are more likely build Web pages
	than the average Internet user - and more likely
	to search for product reviews and to buy online.
	"Nielsen//NetRatings director and analyst TS 
	Kelly said the figures should enhance the appeal
	of Mac users to ecommerce businesses and adver-
	tisers: 'Companies who reach Mac consumers will  
	be able to get their messaging across to people
	who have been online longer, are more educated
	and purchase slightly more than the average Web 
	"Although Apple sales typically represent less than
	5 percent of the overall U.S. personal computer 
	market, 8.2 percent of Americans who surf the Web 
	at home do so using a Mac, according to the study. 
	Nearly all the rest of those who go online--89.4%
	--do so using a Windows-based PC.
	"The survey also found that Mac users are less 
	likely to read online horoscopes."


I am a so-called "switcher" from PC's and an Apple fanatic! OK, I got that out of the way right up front here, but let me explain why before you dismiss me as one of those wild-eyed, tie-dyed types that sometime seem to be everybody's stereotype of the Mac faithful! I also want to add that I still maintain and use several Windows machines, but that they are usually not my first choice for most of the things I need to do on a daily basis.

I have always had various PC's and am expert in putting them together, troubleshooting them, mucking around in the registry, etc. I still use desktop and laptop PC's, but less and less as I find more uses for Macs and less for PC's. It becomes a simple matter of how much useful work I can do, and how efficiently I can do it. There are fewer and fewer "pure" PC-only applications that I find I need as I find more, and even better, equivalent applications and hardware that run on my Macintosh laptop and desktop. I'll try and give a number of good examples for illustration later.

Now, about me and my needs: I am not an artistic type, and I don't usually do video editing, or script writing (the movie-type, not Perl or Javascript!). Believe it or not, I'm an RF engineer. That means I'm often looking for CAD and CAE tools--things to lay out printed circuit boards, simulate circuit behaviors, and calculate performance of circuits. OK, those are very specialized software needs, but go with me on this. So, you ask, aren't those the hardest things to find for a Mac, whereas they're pretty plentiful for Windows-based systems?

The dirty little secret is that we tend to use a lot more Unix-based CAD and CAE than anything else, and have been for years. Mentor Graphics, Cadence, and Agilent (formerly HP) are the largest suppliers of "big iron" pro CAD tools, and all of their best stuff still runs on Unix. Reasons? Native multi-user OS, best security (by far when compared to Windows), and best stability.

I remember fighting with HP in 1997 over their first port of ADS over from Unix to Windows NT. What a fiasco!! These guys were trying to respond to the marketplace, which was filling up with cheap Windows boxes, while the number of Unix installations was leveling off. When I say Unix in that time period, it often meant Solaris running on Sun boxes. I was VP of engineering at a company with 90 employees. We had two Sun UltraSparc machines with single-user keys for ADS. We wanted to be able to manage several keys over our LAN for engineers to use on their PC's while sitting in their own offices, rather than queueing up in front of the Sun boxes. It sounded easy enough, but HP made a real mess of the port, and an incredible mess of the security key management over our LAN. Our Windows NT machines crashed and locked up constantly. I felt like a real idiot for spending over $100,000 to kill all engineering productivity! We eventually ended up with a mix of Solaris Unix and Windows NT keys, with most of the meaningful work getting done on the Sun boxes. So much for trying to save money by using Windows! Admittedly, it wasn't directly Microsoft's fault in this case, but it certainly was at fault when it came to making a stable and well-documented operating system that supported enterprise-level needs. Security and stability have never been Microsoft's best selling points with Windows.

More = Better?

My point here being that people tend to think that the most plentiful product is also the best, because everyone has voted with their pocketbooks. Reminds me of a time when the NHTSA reported in the late 1960's that the (original) Volkswagen Bug (Beetle, actually) was the most dangerous car on the road because it was involved in the most accidents. They later mentioned in an additional release that it may have been due to the fact that there were more Bugs on the road than any other car. Gee, ya think!? So, why were there so many? Was it because people recognized great products when they saw them, and that the Bug was the best car on the road? Not by any stretch of the imagination. It was pure economics. Some time in the late '60s, Volkswagen was running an ad on TV that touted the Bug was the LAST new car one could buy for under $2,000! The exact price was $1,997.

Notice the Dell, HP, Gateway, and eMachines (WalMart) ads? What are they touting? Blazing performance? Nope. Vault-like security? Naw. Built like a Mac (sorry) Truck? Duh, no. It's price, and price alone that they compete on. "Buy our new box! It's got real pedestrian components in it, and it'll barely last the life of the warranty, but it's ONLY $399 (monitor and most useful software not included)!!!!

So, is there a parallel here? Most car crashes...most system purchases? Most system crashes (sorry, couldn't resist)??

The oncoming headlights of a BMW!

Picture of a blue BMW Z4

You knew this was coming. This is the analogy that Steve Jobs has used to describe the difference between Macs and PC's. BMW has about 3% of the car market in the USA, with General Motors (Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, GMC trucks, etc.) having the majority of the market. The line of thinking is that somehow GM cars must be better quality than BMW because there are more of them on the road. Consumers have voted with their wallets, so to speak. So, in which car would you rather be seen driving past your old schoolmate's house--a Chevrolet Malibu or a BMW Z4 or 7-series? Which car better implies that you've "arrived?"

An interesting side point to this line of reasoning, though, has to do with the number-two selling car brand. It used to be Ford, but they were officially outsold in 2003 by...Toyota. Yes, a Japanese brand, at one time almost unthinkable in the USA! What happened? Did Toyota underprice Ford? Quite the contrary. In recent history Toyota has earned the reputation as a premium-priced brand when compared with Ford. You'll pay a good chunk of cash more for a Camry than for a similar Ford Taurus. Why did Toyota overtake Ford, then? They competed on quality and value. A 5-year-old Camry has retained much more of its value than a similarly-equipped Taurus. The used-car market is willing to pay more for older Camrys than for Tauruses (Taurii?). Quality and user experience drives demand, in this case.

I submit that the same thing is true comparing similarly equipped Windows PC's and Macintosh machines. A quick look on eBay will support me on this. An older iMac (not the newer one introduced in January 2002 with the swivel head and round base, or the even newer G5 or Intel models!) still goes for a respectable percentage of its orginal sale price compared to a Windows PC from Dell or Compaq (oops--HP now). Macs last longer and also continue to feel "fast" for a longer period of time. Let's talk about why in the near future...

In the mean time, here are some links to a few interesting articles about Macs versus PC's:

Why Microsoft Should Fear Apple--ComputerWorld's Scott Finnie converts to Mac full time

Gartner Study says Macs Cost Less to Maintain Than PCs (2+ yrs old but still true)

Advice to PC users about switching to Macs

About.com's PC vs Mac advice

In April of 2003 this OSCast story (PDF copy as original site has disappeared) tells of a PC person who did a thorough investigation into buying a new laptop. "What surprised me most, is that in nearly every laptop price comparison I made (seven total), I found that Apple's hardware was less expensive than Dell's - this even after Dell out-priced its PC competition. For the first time in my life, I found myself unable to justify the purchase of a Windows PC, instead discovering that Apple offered more for the money. If you're in the market for a new laptop, I'd suggest that you make a similar comparison before making a purchase."

ZDNet guest editorial on how schools are tricked into buying PCs, even though Macs are better.

More rant later--you might check my blog for some additional insights (if you can stand to)