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The Average Joe?
Giving your sanity over to hostility

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

Ah, another unbiased article has hit the presses. The latest is by Joe Brancatelli at titled "Apple's Driven me to Wintel -- One outrage too many makes Joe convert". Available at <>

Wow, even the title has an agenda. You gotta admire that gumption. He starts with:

Maybe you tech wizards can help me out: Why does anyone pay attention to Apple anymore? Why does anyone listen to a word that Jivemaster Jobs utters? And why would anyone buy an Apple computer?

Interesting question. My answer would be because they are still innovative and create things instead of just copy. Because they are smart enough to know not only what to stuff in a product, but also what to take out? I can get more for less -- or at least better designed for less. Because my Mac just works better than my PCs. Some people do it just because they hate Wintel, others because they know Wintel will be following in a few years (like the latest PCs which are coming in colors). There are thousands of reasons... but I imagine this was just a rhetorical question by someone who couldn't think of the answers, and didn't want to hear them anyway.

Of course one could also ask why does anyone read Byte anymore? I mean a magazine that once had technical content and some reasonably insightful analysis has dropped its print publication, eliminated most of its writing staff, and looks to have replaced the technically competent with cranky old half-wits. I mean if the editorial staff will let this drivel through what standards do they have?

Since I come from the other side -- you know, the real world, where computers are tools, not a lifestyle choice -- these questions have been vexing me ever since I switched to Wintel computers a couple of years back.

The other side? The other side of what? I keep thinking the bell curve, or gene pool... but I'll let that go.

To me a computer is a tool too. That is why I value my Mac -- it is a better tool that stay out of my way more. 5% on the front end price is nothing compared to 5% less productivity, 100% more downtime, 400% more support costs and so on. My NT box, and Win95 box are always getting in my way and obstructing me from getting my work done -- that is serious.

Windows is just like having that helpful little Office Paperclip popping up to tell me what it thinks I need to do (but not necessarily what I want to do) -- or in wasting my time making me hunt through menus to figure out how to turn the damn thing off (for good). Windows just gets in my way -- I can fix it, but I keep asking myself, "Why do I have to?" Maybe that is why the top few percent of users and money earners seem to systematically choose Macs -- they understand it isn't about conformity, but about getting a task done.

My friends on Wall Street are asking these questions again after Apple fell from its synthetic state of grace last week by screwing up its earnings forecasts. A hundred or so computer users I've evacuated from Appleland in the last two years are asking.

Friends on Wall Street keep asking him these loaded questions. Well duh! The "Friends" on Wall Street were all rating Apple as a bad investment -- I turned a few thousand dollars into $24,000 on Apple stock in the last couple years by going contrary to what those geniuses said -- and I expect the same in the future. I guess I should listen to them more, huh? Many of those "friends" are a group of some of the most conservative followers in the world (Wall Street types) -- who have hated Apple for its basic existence and what it represents (nonconformity in a conformists society) since the early 1980s -- "oh, let's listen to them for non-biased advice and insight!" You can tell their love of Apple by the continued bashing from that group, and by how ridiculously undervalued Apple is by just about every market measure. The only amusing part about all this is some guy ranting like these people are an unbiased cross section of society, and what "an average Joe" should be thinking like.

It seems to me that Apple is what's wrong with American business today -- arrogant, lawless, and a lousy marketer of overpriced products. It seems to me that it's time for Apple to go the way of the Edsel or the Kaypro.

He sounds like Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes, "What's wrong with America today? Damn that innovation! Stop trying to change things! We should all follow! Who needs color?! Who needs wireless networking (Airport)? Who needs new industrial design?! I wanna go back to my manual typewriter, or better -- licking ink quills!" What brilliant insight.

That lousy marketer crack is amusing since Apple is out marketing the competition and selling billions of dollars in equipement in a hostile market. They are creating something that is unique in the face of stupidity and people howling for conformity. Arrogant? OK, we can give him that. But Apple's arrogance is like 1:1,000 of a Microsoft, Sun, or some 3rd rate hack wannabe reporter who thinks he can analyze an industry that he hasn't got a clue about. But at least he shows his objectivity and insight in his writing style. I keep wanting to say to him, "Yeah, I remember my first flame... only when I wrote it, at 14, I had a clue what I was writing about".

Hear Me Out Before You Start Mailing... Now, look, before you Mac fanatics clog my inbox with invective, understand that I was once one of you. I used Macs exclusively for most of the decade. I've helped at least 150 people buy Macintosh. And if you want to keep using Macs, well, no skin off my apple.

What is this point? Because he once owned a Mac, we should all ignore stupidity. He doesn't want us to clog his inbox with invectives, but he wants to be free to pollute the Internet with his. He's acting like the bully that sucker punches someone in the nose and when they are about to return fire he puts up his hands and says, "now hear me out". What a wimp -- at least take it like a man. You attack a group of people with absolutely moronic one-sided vitriol, and then claim, "don't hit me back with the truth".... or better yet, "I was once one of you", so we are supposed to be impressed that he once had a brain, but pity him because he lost it to senility? Geeze!

(I'm not advocating that anyone spam him. In fact, I'd leave the poor guy alone -- he's obviously just a sad man with nothing left in his life but attacking others for fun and talking about things he doesn't have a clue about. Let people see him for what he is -- I have faith that enough will understand the truth about his "article").

Just hear me out. Listen when I say this: I switched from Macintosh to Wintel, survived and prospered. In fact, when I crossed over, it was like being liberated. I no longer felt compelled to defend a product that cost me more. I was no longer a prisoner of a rapacious company that led me down bizarre technological alleys and then abandoned me. I no longer had to excuse the actions of a company that crushed all its competition and got away with it. Oh, by the way, it also turns out that Windows is a better OS than Macintosh. Maybe that wasn't always true, but right now, at the end of the 20th century, Windows is better than the Mac OS. It's easier to learn, easier to use, more stable, and simpler for all the Average Joes out there whose only goal is to hook up a printer and a monitor and surf the Internet.

Ah yes. No one else in the Mac community has ever used a PC. If we just used a PC all would be changed and we would be PC converts too. That explains why the most vocal Mac enthusiasts are the ones that came from the PC side, or the ones that are forced to use PCs at work. Or why users who are forced to use PCs all day long, often buy Macs for their homes. I guess it is all summed up by his statements that hooking up a printer and monitor or connecting to the Internet is easier on a PC than on a Mac -- I damn near busted my gut I was laughing so hard on that one. Where are the guys in white coats and the net when you need them?

A Loyalist's Excuses As I said, I was once a Mac loyalist. In 1990, I inherited a publishing operation that was a Mac shop. I taught myself how to use Apple and rode the wave. As friends called for help buying or replacing their own computers throughout the 1990s, I directed them to Macintosh. I helped friends buy MacTVs and made excuses when Apple canceled the system faster than a network sitcom. Every time Apple fiddled with the base configuration of its machines by filling up the only RAM expansion slot, I rationalized the deception when my friends got stuck with expensive and superfluous RAM cards after every memory upgrade. I shrugged when Apple created a $300 video card, then abandoned it, and friends lost their investment when they upgraded machines a year later. I looked away after I steered friends into Powerbook Duos with proprietary internal modems that Apple abandoned at 14,400 baud. I gritted my teeth when Apple ran Mac cloners out of business and made us prisoners of one company that controlled pricing, distribution, operating system, and hardware. Yeah, I told friends, it's a monopoly, but... I ignored glitches, crashes, problems. Need a $100 piece of firmware to get that printer running? Well, you know, it's the price you pay for owning a Mac. Got to buy an adapter to get a monitor working? Yeah, well, it's a Mac. Oh, sure, it's annoying to pay so much more and, yeah, you do have to buy everything by mail order, but. ... My excuses and rationalizations stopped in October, 1997. That's when Jivemaster Jobs decided he could do anything -- including cheat his customers and tell them they didn't know how to read. In a sweeping change of its customer-service policies, Apple began charging for calls to tech support. Included in this switch were Macintosh Performa users. It didn't matter to the Jivemaster that Performa users has been promised -- in writing, in their manuals -- free telephone support for as long as they owned their computers.

Yawn. This is the best he can do? Argue about 10 year old issue? Ignore the worse problems that were going on with PCs at the same time? He calls Apple a monopoly -- what is Microsoft then? I mean this is completely clueless blathering. But at least we get to the point -- why is he so pissed off. Because Apple changed their tech support policy. Hey, I agree with the old fart. Apple was wrong! He does have single semi-valid point in the article. I think it was a boneheaded move. Apple's tech support cost Apple less than other companies, because Macs work better -- so it was a silly move to save that little bit of money and burn customers. But lets get realistic here -- it isn't like no one has ever been screwed by a change in Microsoft's policies or Compaq's or Dell's? All companies do stupid things. If I was the Performa users, I would complain and if I couldn't get satisfaction, I'd suit (and win). Would I be annoyed at Apple? Sure. Would I buy an inferior product and convince myself it was better just to appease my anger? Nope. I might convert because I don't like to do business with companies that burn me -- but I wouldn't let emotion get in the way of my sanity and convince myself that black is white or up is down!

Apple stonewalled. Jobs' minions were sent out to tell the craven, sycophantic Mac press that: 1) no Performa user was ever told tech support was free and 2) even if Apple had guaranteed free tech support, it couldn't afford it anymore. Many unhappy Mac users went to court and Apple had to settle the resulting class-action suit. Early this year, Apple finally agreed to resume free support for Performa users. It also agreed to refund any charges Apple had extracted from Performa customers.

Ahhh, sensationalism sells. I'm curious how many Mac users actually went to court for that sue. I bet they would be lucky if two or three showed up. Sure they signed a proxy so the lawyers could win an out of court settlement for a class action suit -- but that isn't the same thing, is it? So Apple was stupid, and owned up to their mistake (after being forced) -- BFD! I'm not apologizing for Apple. I'm not making excuses. But Apple eventually made right -- and I have the presence of mind to know that statistically those Performa users still had a better user experience than if they had bought a Windows PC. In fact, lets compare notes with disgruntled Windows users versus disgruntled Mac users and see. I've played ring-around-tech-support way too many times from people who were literally brought to tears by PCs, their tech-support and the games those companies play. So yes, Apple's sometimes stinks -- but lets at least compare them on a level playing field and compare reeks.

I went another way. Dozens of my friends bought Performas on my recommendation and they were being screwed. I knew Apple was lying and I knew this was the final Apple outrage. I switched to Windows in November, 1997 and haven't bought an Apple product since. And all my friends who bought Mac? As they have needed new machines, I have switched them to Wintel. About 100 of the people I've helped over the years have changed to Windows now. Not one regrets it.

Oh puhlease. We are really supposed to believe some cranky guy with a chip on his shoulder that 100 people have switched from Macs to Windows and seen the light? Sure, and he has a bridge to sell. Not one regret? Then I suppose all his friends are either simpletons or moonies.

iMac? I Think Not! Once in a while, I admit, a friend has given a cursory look at an iMac. One of them called last Sunday from Chicago. She was looking to replace a 30-month-old Mac clone I helped her buy. "The CompUSA flyer is selling an iMac for $1,350 and there's even a printer," she said. "I was thinking that's a pretty good deal." I shuffled through my Sunday paper in New York and found the flyer and the iMac ad. I pointed out she'd have to buy a floppy drive for an additional $100 and told her the integrated iMac monitor would be useless when she needed a new processor. "Well, what should I buy?" she asked. I directed her to a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion bundle advertised below the iMac. It had a faster chip, twice the memory, and a much larger hard drive, a built-in floppy and a Zip Drive, better sound, a comparable printer and an external monitor. The price: $1,100. She followed my recommendation, bought the HP and set it up herself without once having to call me for help. She e-mailed me a few hours later. "Wonderful machine," she wrote. "Windows is heaven. It installed all the software and the printer automatically. I'll never go back to Mac."

Now the questions should begin.

  1. It was a faster chip -- in MHz, but was it a faster in chip in performance?
  2. Was she going to need a processor upgrade in the future? Why?
  3. Does she use the computers sound for anything beyond beeps and occasional feedback?
  4. Did she need a floppy? Why?
  5. She had a larger hard drive -- but did she have more usable space? (Windows and Windows Apps can be a space pig. 30% more hard drive space can often be a functional loss).
  6. What about the software bundles?
  7. It took her hours to setup her machine and email him -- how long would it have taken to setup an iMac?
  8. He searched for the best price on a PC -- but did he do the same for the iMac?
  9. So she was a convert -- how much did it cost her in time to get her files moved over? I am cautious about telling Windows people to convert to a Mac because of file and application switching issues. It is doable and can come out to their advantage in the long run -- but those costs (time and energy) have to be factored in, or you aren't doing anyone any favors. Saving a couple hundred dollars and costing someone hours of time can be a net loss.

Then there are more questions and issues not addressed. Sure a preconfigured PC isn't bad -- you can take them home and use them (often). Now change something or add something. -- most of the time it will work, but all too often you will be taken to configuration hell. Then there are software quirks and so on. Lets visit this person in 3 years and see what they have to say about their PC and Windows then! Of course even if they switch back to the Mac, they will probably not tell the cantancerous old loud-mouth friend of theirs, because they don't want him to badger them mercilessly like he does Apple.

There is a lot more to this than just all the biased and loaded points that this guy makes. Of course those questions would require some unbiased sanity and reason -- not blind spitting anger and hatred -- which isn't what this article was about now was it?

Joe Brancatelli is a publishing consultant whose clients include.... He has a degree in computer science, but, since it's from 1974 and he programmed in FORTRAN IV, he figures he is now as digitally challenged as the average Joe.  

OK so now we know. The average Joe is an ex-FORTRAN programmer but technically illiterate, who hangs out with Wall Street types (or believes what they say), has moonie friends who follow his will blindly, they all love windows and think it is better, they have a chip on their shoulder about Apple over some long past transgression (that was corrected anyway), they have not the slightest bit of balance or a clue about tradeoffs in purchasing decisions, and they make their decisions not based on best product for the job, but on FUD, emotion and theoretical specs (whether they need something or not). Actually, this explains a lot -- just not what I think the author intended.

Created: 10/12/99
Updated: 11/09/02

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