Macintosh vs. Personal Computer

"The Naked Truth" about why Mac-users love their computer.

Like the Betamax vs. VHS, Coke vs. Pepsi, Tonya “Kneecaps” Harding vs. Paula “The Nose” Jones, the Mac vs. PC debate has been raging for well over a decade. While the lines between the two operating systems are constantly narrowing, the polarization still comes down to a personality style, fueled by fierce loyalty on the Macintosh owner’s part and bewilderment and sometimes derision in the PC camp.

Mac Design magazine editor Scott Kelby says it’s tough being a Mac user stuck in a Windows dominated world. He recently published his fifth book called “Macintosh…The Naked Truth,” and how that affects everything from social situations to relationships with your family, an irreverent, off-the-wall, PC-slamming, totally-biased look at the Mac user.

We sat down with Scott Kelby to get his advice on how to survive a one-on-one encounter with a total PC geek, why he sometimes wants to strangle Apple’s management and the saga of the upside-down logo.

Q: Talk about the culture and social impacts that using an Apple brings to the world of computing.

Kelby: Honestly, because of the size of the Macintosh market, which obviously is a fraction of the overall PC market, you’re definitely a minority. People literally treat you differently. The best way to describe it is if you were to buy a brand new car – let’s say an Audi Quattro. You drive it home and your neighbor comes over and says, “Oh, an Audi Quattro. Those are supposed to be nice!” They’re very friendly and nice to you. You then walk over to your neighbor’s house and say, “Hey, man. I just bought a brand new Macintosh.” They look at you like “What?!” Literally, the usually say, “What did you do that for? Why did you buy a Mac? Are they still in business?” It’s the only topic I can think of when you mention that you use it, it basically brings an attack! They usually look at you like you’re an idiot. There isn’t a car you can buy – from a Yugo to a Rolls Royce – where people go, “Oh, I can’t believe you bought a Yugo. You’re the stupidest man alive.” That’s the way it is when you use a Mac. You have a lifetime of that!

Q: But why do people have such a negative reaction to the Mac?

Kelby: People just don’t understand the Mac. They think, “There’s a Compaq; there’s a Dell; there’s an HP and there’s a Macintosh. They’re all computers.” They see the Mac as just another computer with a slightly different operating system. They don’t realize the power that a Mac has over people who fall in love with it. You get this feeling like you’ve found a secret, like you have discovered a computer that is so much better than the PC I used to work on that you can’t understand them and they can’t understand you anymore. You might as well be using a fish instead of a computer. You hear this all the time: Macintosh users love their computer and PC users use their computer. It’s because the Mac literally has a personality and it sucks you in.

Q: Your book plays up the positive aspect of the Mac experience, yet at the same time those Mac users need to have ammo to defend their case. Why don’t you tell us what you mean when you write in your book about getting your armor up to fight those PC weenies.

Kelby: Absolutely. You’ll always run into those that ask if Apple is still in business. You need to have the ammo to say, “Hey, Apple just posted a $40 million profit. Apple has $4 billion in the bank.” People say some ridiculous things to you. The first words out of their mouth are the last thing they heard about Apple, and it may have been 7-8 years ago. So I feed people all kinds of ammo and let them know how to deal with the situations they’re going to run into.

Q: Your writing style is somewhat irreverent. This book is not a how-to or tips and techniques. Prepare us for when we open your book.

Kelby: The first thing people have to realize it’s not a book about Apple. There are 4,000 books on Amazon.com on Apple. It’s not about the secret inner workings of Apple.

It’s about you. It’s about what your life is really like as a Macintosh user. It’s basically an opinion book. I write a column in Mac Design Magazine, called “Life in the Mac Lane”. That’s what this book is. There’s a whole chapter on Comp USA and why it’s a Macintosh users personal hell.

Q: What? Why?

Kelby: You know why? Because it’s the visual manifestation of how small the Macintosh world really is. You walk into Comp USA, this giant store – and every shelf and every row is “You can’t have this” and “This isn’t for you”. But way tucked in the back, in the very corner, so far it’s in its own area code is the Apple store within a store – four bookshelves that has a few Macs. The chapter isn’t to tell you how bad it is for, though. By the end of the chapter, you realize that, because of some of the things Apple has done, like adopt USB and FireWire, that the whole store is – finally – for Macintosh users. You don’t have to get sucked into that little corner in Siberia where you feel like a lonely, lonely little guy.

Q: For everyone who hasn’t used a Mac, what really is the distinguishing difference that makes it such a great experience?

Kelby: This is going to sound very trite, but it is the level of simplicity that makes you spend more time being creative and way, way, way less time troubleshooting. The Macintosh just works. Because Apple designs the monitor, the keyboard, the mouse and the operating system – literally a child can set it up. And it works first time.

Q: What is Mac’s secret as to why you think it will be here tomorrow and why it is growing in strength?

Kelby: There are two secrets of the Macintosh. One is its simplicity. But honestly, the second secret as to why the Mac is still here after all these years and all its myriad of mistakes made in the past, which I chronicle in great detail.

The secret of the Macintosh success is it has the absolute largest unpaid sales force in the world. When you buy a Mac, you are so psyched about it that you have to tell everyone you know about it. Take me, for instance. I bought my first Mac in ’87 or ’88. I wasn’t one of the first guys on board in ’84. Since then – my brother has a Mac, my brothers girlfriend has a Mac, my father is on his third Mac, my wife has a Mac, a PowerBook and an iBook, my son has an iMac, all my best friends have Macs. It gets in your blood and you have to find other people to share this incredible secret. If you’ve ever watched an Apple ad on TV and gone, “Huh?” – that’s when you know there has got to be someone else selling Macs!

Q: How come the Mac is not 50 percent of the market then?

Kelby: It never will be. Macintosh is built from the ground up to be a machine for creatives. Quite honestly, Apple has tried over the years to eke in to the business market. In my office today, we have 16 design workstations. But you step into the executive side of the office and everyone is using the Mac. The front end of the office is using Macs because the back end of the office insists on that.

Q: The only people to use a Mac are left-brain oriented?

Kelby: It’s like a car attracts a certain kind of people. It’s almost a personality trait where you go, “You know, dude. You belong on a Mac.”

Q: Bet you have stories on some of the strange decisions Apple has made over the years.

Kelby: (Laughs) The best way I’ve heard it described is I went to a keynote speech with Guy Kawasaki, who’s probably the most famous Mac evangelist (and Garage.com CEO). He walked on stage and said, “Apple management. That’s an oxymoron.”

Q: Give us an example.

Kelby: I’ll give you an example that absolutely drives me nuts. They’ve been making PowerBooks for years. They’re award winning. You’ve had everyone from the Wall Street Journal to your local mom-and-pop saying it’s the best laptop ever made. But when the laptop is open and in use – which is the way you see it on TV all the time because Apple has all kinds of deal with TV shows and movies – do you ever notice that every time you see it, the Apple logo appears upside down?

They’ve been doing this for years and it drives me crazy. So they introduce this new G3 PowerBook and they decide to backlight the logo. So now when you open it up and turn it on, it’s backlit. But it’s still upside down! It wasn’t until the new Mac G4 Titanium and the new iBook that finally somebody, after selling literally millions of these, said, “Do you think we should turn the logo right side up now?”

In the movie “Independence Day,” Jeff Goldblum blows up the alien ship with a PowerBook! And you’re sitting there looking at his PowerBook for, like, two minutes. And the logo is upside down! This is the kind of stuff I lose sleep over.

Q: It’s a love/hate thing?

Kelby: You love the computer, but you don’t hate Apple. I mean, I’m very critical of Apple – but I’m critical of them like you would be a family member. It’s like, “My brother is driving me crazy, but I love that son-of-a-gun!” That’s the way it is with Apple.

More information on Scott Kelby and his book is at www.scottkelby.com.

full audio interview with Scott Kelby is available for listening anytime at http://webtalkguys.com.

Dana Greenlee is a Web designer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews. WebTalkGuys was just named the top “Hidden Gem” in PCWorld magainze’s August 2002 issue. It is broadcast locally on KLAY 1180 AM Saturdays at 11 a.m. The show is also on CNET Radio in San Francisco and Boston, on the Web at www.CNETRadio.com, www.WebTalkGuys.com and via the XM Satellite Network , on IM Networks’ Sonic Box and on the Mobil Broadcast Network. Past shows and interviews are also webcast via the Internet at www.webtalkguys.com.

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