Wed, 29 Apr 2009

Microsoft Proves My Point

Microsoft's newest "Sheila" Laptop Hunters ad continues to provide a warped view of the PC shopping experience.

Here's how Sheila was apparently led astray.
  • Sheila says that portability is "super important", but then she picks a laptop that weighs over 7 lbs. (The Mac is a svelte 5.5 lbs)
  • She rejects the Mac because it "only has 2GB of RAM". For $99 more, Apple sells a 4GB model. Sheila is serious about video editing and portability, but $99 is too much to spend to get it?
  • It's questionable if the 4GB memory configuration on the laptop she bought is actually usable particularly if the version of Vista is the 32-bit version.
  • Even then, it's slower DDR2 RAM as opposed to the DDR3 RAM in the Mac
  • The only "quick ship" (I read that to mean "retail boxed") configuration from HP has a display resolution of 1366x768.
  • At that resolution, a MacBook is available for $1,973 including Final Cut Express with similar specs of the PC she bought. (The comparable HP would be at least $1,468.99, plus the cost of a comparable video editing package to Final Cut Express)

Can you get a comparable PC video editing package for under $500? Undoubtedly. But your work is far from done because price is only one dimension of the equation. You still need to answer a ton of technical questions (that are far simpler on the Mac aisle), which, even if they are favorable for the PC, require time to research and investigate.

Start by visiting the store, and write down every single model number for the ones with attractive pricing. Next, identify what version of Windows each one ships with (remember: Anything less than Vista 64-bit edition means you can't use RAM > 3GB). Then, fire up a browser, and begin the spreadsheet. DDR3 RAM? CPU speed? Display resolution density? Backup software? Antivirus subscription (tax) cost? Battery life? Weight?

When all is said and done, this task will take any thorough buyer several hours, at which point you can return to the store and compare the details that don't show up online. Flimsy keyboard? Cheap plastics? Pick it up with one hand, does it flex or is it solid? Layout of ports? Clamshell performance? Wake up time from sleep?

The experience in the other aisle is much simpler. Walk in, compare your needs and your budget to a simple and consistent product lineup, and find the Mac most suited to the intersection of your needs and your wallet.

Walk out knowing confidently that you got what you paid for, and spend the time you saved doing all that research using your new computer to produce something of value instead of downloading specs of a half dozen PCs, a handful of which you will never end up buying.

Khan Klatt

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