This was a conversation from Facebook that I thought I could blog about, and it’s been far too long since I last blogged. Just so there’s no confusion, I’m not calling anyone stupid until they comment, even those of you who are mentioned in this post (and don’t read my blog anyway). So here we go.
My Dad asked me if Newegg sells Apple laptops (they don’t). So I looked at him like it was 1999 and said “Umm. Who cares?” Apparently, a friend of my sister wants to buy an Apple computer, to which my immediate response is always “you really don’t.”
So I sent of a Facebook message explaining exactly why. An Apple computer is different from a PC in that it has an Apple logo on it and costs twice as much. They use Intel CPUs (which are already over-priced), ATI graphics cards, and all other parts that are the same as you can get in a non-Apple PC for roughly half the price.
It used to be that Apple had better hardware, better software developers and more innovative software. In short, Apples were better computers and were priced as such. Now they’re the same computers with mildly different (and in no way better) software and they’re still priced as though they were better all-around.
The response she sent me said that her boyfriend had his eye on a particular machine and she’s sure he’s done his research and if Apples and iPods aren’t as good as their competitors, why are they still so popular?
Macs are popular because they're pretty. Just like ipods. Neither is any better than their competitors. They just look nicer (I guess). Neither of them are bad. They're just overpriced. When you buy an apple product, half of your purchase price goes to putting the Apple logo on it.
Just to be clear: there is nothing wrong with Apple. They just charge more than everybody else does for exactly the same thing because they can because people will pay it because apple = chic.
It's mostly because they used to be the rebel alliance to IBM's evil empire. But that was ten years ago. Ten years ago (five years ago, for that matter), Apple was better and cost more. They had more powerful hardware, better software developers and easier-to-use, more innovative, more powerful software.
None of that is true any longer. IBM is virtually non-existent in the realm of home computing, and Microsoft has come of age and really is not the evil empire they once were. Apple has become the establishment. When iPods first came out, they were pretty cool. By late-nineties standards, they’re still pretty cool. I have one device that I plug into my computer that links up with one application on my desktop and plays all my media. Ten years ago, that was more than anyone could ask for. Now, it’s exactly what I want to get away from. iTunes, while once the cutting edge of a consumer interface, now feels a lot like Big Brother.
In Apple’s defense, it’s not iTunes that changed (and to their great shame, neither has the iPod). It’s me. I don’t want to go to one website anymore to get all my music and movies. I want to get lossless audio from musicishere.com and rip my movies from my own DVDs. I don’t want DRM, I don’t want MP3’s, and I want to play my media wherever and whenever I want, not only on devices that Apple says are okay for me to use.
As for the iPod itself, aside from the ability to play videos, nothing has been added to its functionality since generation one. The only thing I see is cosmetic surgery. The current iPod classic sure does look nice. But for $250, does it do anything all of its predecessors didn’t? Not that I know of.
Now it's Google's turn to play Princess Leia to Apple's Darth Vader.
But enough history lesson. Bottom line: apple is popular because they retain the momentum of five years ago. There are enough people who still see Microsoft and IBM as the evil empire and will buy Apple just to spite them, and enough people who still think iPods and iPhones are competitive products. That momentum might carry them another five years, but I really doubt it. Then apple is over, unless they go back to their old mantra, "think different." When buying Apple meant thinking different and having something cool that not everybody else on the block even knew about, they were the best thing in the world. Now everybody has an iPod, and my PC eats your Mac with cheese and a nice chianti.
iPod = overpriced junk. It’s a poor-man’s music player that’s priced to include all the features it will never have (support for multiple lossless audio formats, an intuitive software interface and developer and community support, to name the biggies).
iPhone = Blackberry wannabe. Looks like a Blackberry. Tastes like a Blackberry. Priced like a Blackberry. No GPS (does the new one have GPS?), no developer support (thus, no developer community), no consumer-centric mentality, and no DIY anything. Nothing is free in the land of the iPhone. Okay. The SDK is free. But to use it, you have to be running an Intel-powered Mac with Safari. So even if I wanted to, I couldn’t develop for the iPhone.
Mac Computers = Dells with Mac OS. Just as an exercise, I went to store.apple.com and customized a MacPro. I then went to Newegg.com and built an identical machine (different monitor and different case), just to see what the price difference would be. When I say identical, I mean it. Same over-priced Intel CPU, same ATI video card. Of course with things like RAM, motherboard and hard drive, I just had to pick something that was the same thing with a different name on the box, since I don’t know what brands Apple uses. Here’s the breakdown:
- 1 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon CPU
- 6GB (3x2GB) RAM
- 1 Mac Pro RAID Card
- 2 1-TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s internal hard disks
- 1 ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB Video Card
- 1 18x SuperDrive DVD/CD burner
- 1 Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse (still with just one button)
- 1 Apple Wireless Keyboard (English) and User's Guide (with no numeric keypad)
- 1 24” “LED” monitor
- 1 Stand-alone USB numeric keypad (from Newegg)
- Intel Core i7 920 “Nehalem” 2.66GHz Quad-Core CPU
- 6GB (3-channel DIY kit) DDR3 1066 Crucial RAM
- 2 Western Digital Caviar Black 1-TB SATA 3.0Gb/s 7200-rpm internal hard disks
- 1 Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 512MB Video Card
- 1 Sony Optiarc Black 20x DVD+R, etc.
- 1 Logitech RX650 Black 3-button USB cordless optical 1000-dpi mouse
- 1 Sony Vaio Silver 104-key USB wireless slim keyboard
- 1 NEC Black 24” LCD monitor
- 1 Foxconn FlamingBlade Intel LGA 1366 ATX Motherboard
- 1 Apevia X-Alien Black Steel ATX full tower case with 500-watt power supply
- 1 Copy Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit edition w/ free upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate
Before I reveal unto ye the total costliness, let me explain the discrepencies. Obviously I didn’t have to buy a case, motherboard or OS for the MacPro, since those are all part of the package. I chose what I did for those parts on the MacPro Killer because they were the perfect fit for the components that match the MacPro internals. In order to get a wireless keyboard with the MacPro, you have to lose the numeric keypad. Since such a thing is unheard of in the real world (and since I couldn’t buy a keyboard like that for the PC), I tacked on a USB keypad from Newegg. For the non-Apple PC, I bought the most expensive version of Windows Vista. I bought a Sapphire video card because ATI doesn’t make their own cards anymore and Sapphire is a brand I trust. I couldn’t find a DVD burner with specs as poor as the one offered on the MacPro, so I bought basically the lowest-end one I could get. I did not buy a RAID card for the MPK because the motherboard has on-board RAID capability. Honestly, I had never heard of a RAID card before today. I don’t know why you would ever buy a board that won’t RAID all by itself.
All told, the Apple MacPro in this configuration would cost a whopping $4927.99. The non-Apple PC, with the exact same specs (or as near as I can make them), weighs in at a belt-tightening $1777.88. That’s roughly one third of the MacPro’s cost.
Just for fun, I also priced out a top-of-the-line, eats the entire interwebs for a light snack, don’t bother getting out of my way because I’ve already crapped you out PC. Bottom line, including monitor, mouse, keyboard, headset and Windows (all what I consider to be the best): $2251.56. That’s inarguably the absolute, most powerful single-CPU computer I could possibly own tomorrow (meaning literally the day after today). It has roughly 150% of the power of the MacPro, for less than 50% of the price. It’s also about what I paid for my top-of-the-line PC that I built about ten years ago and only just got rid of last month.
Okay. Flame on!!