Tag Archives: Charles Arthur

Why the spec sheet method of buying a computer is dead

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 09:  An Apple Store ge...
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Poor Charles Arthur. Charles wrote a relatively simple post asking the question of why the Mac has proved to be so successful lately, out-performing the overall computer market and growing its market share. And in response, he got a 500+ long comment thread in which multiple geeks are arguing over how the specs of the Mac do/don’t compare to Windows machines.

I’m greatly enjoying the batting around of specs like people buy computers based on specs anymore. If there’s one thing that the huge demand for netbooks a few years ago proved, it’s that people buy because they can see how a computer can do something for them, not on megahertz.

In the case of netbooks, the “something” was being a machine they could carry everywhere, and do simple stuff on. In the case of Macs, it’s having access to easy to use, powerful software like iPhoto, iMovie, and so on – in a package that’s good looking, well designed, robust, and so on.

It’s about the whole experience: Compare buying a Mac in an Apple Store to buying a Windows machine in PC World and you’ll see what I mean. Compare the ability to take your machine back if there’s a problem with it to a Genius Bar and have someone help you sort it out in a way that’s friendly and not patronising.

This is the thing that advocates of the spec-sheet method of buying computers, or any product for that matter, don’t understand. What lifts a brand from being a making of generic boxes into a real identity isn’t simply the spec you get for the money, but the overall experience of buying and owning the product.

To give a non-Apple example, consider Dell. What set Dell apart from other PC manufacturers was the build-to-order approach which let you tailor the product to exactly meet your needs. You went to the Dell site, and you got exactly the machine you wanted. It was competitively priced, but it was rarely (if ever) the cheapest option. The experience was simple, straightforward, and gave you what you wanted. In short, a good brand experience.

Unfortunately for Dell, this was a part of the brand experience that was relatively simple for other companies to copy, and it’s lacklustre performance in the market coincides with other companies copying this approach. Now, I can get a totally customised machine from most PC makers – so what’s left for Dell to say is unique about its experience?

People buy Macs because the experience of buying, owning and maintaining a Mac is better than the experience with any other computer maker. It’s the experience that matters, not the specs.

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Apple is dead in the water, redux

Charles Arthur, reporting for The Guardian on an IDC/Appcelerator survey of developers:

“App developer interest is shifting back toward Apple as fragmentation and “tepid” interest in current Android tablets chips away at Google’s recent gains in momentum, according to a new survey of more than 2,700 developers around the world.

In the survey, 91% of developers said they were “very interested” in iPhone development, and 86% said the same for the iPad. For Google, interest in Android phone add development fell 2 points to 85%, and for tablets – particularly Honeycomb – down three points to 71%, after having risen 12 points in the first quarter. The figures are within error margins for the survey, but don’t match the growing interest that has been seen in Android over the past year.”

Seems like developers didn’t get Fred Wilson’s memo, or heed the advice that iPhone was “dead in the water” from Henry “Screw the SEC” Blodget.

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Will someone do to Photoshop what InDesign did to Quark?

Back in the days when I did proper print publishing instead of all this new-fangled online nonsense, everyone used QuarkXPress – and everyone hated Quark with a passion. The price of the product always seemed to go up, never down, and it cost a fortune. You could never get a decent discount, even if you were buying hundreds of copies. And support was (ahem) “somewhat hit and miss”.

Unsurprisingly, when InDesign came along, everyone jumped ship as quickly as they could. Quark went from dominating the industry to losing its leading role, because everyone hated them and was looking for an excuse to dump them.

You’d think, having been the beneficiary of this, that Adobe would have learned the simply lesson that ripping your customers off and treating them poorly just makes them hate you – and that if any credible competitor comes along, they’ll be off like a shot. But, it seems, they haven’t. Adobe has just used the excuse of exchange rates to hit British customers hard, again – and, as Charles Arthur elegantly points out, this is complete bunk.

Of course, the difference between Adobe’s situation and Quark’s is that it’s difficult to see where competition for Creative Suite might come from. Adobe bought Macromedia, which was its brightest competitor, and Quark isn’t in that part of the business. I’d be happy for Apple to pick up the ball and kick Adobe hard, but placing even more power in the hands of Apple isn’t something that appeals.

But sooner or later, someone is going to come along and create something that kills Photoshop, just as InDesign killed XPress. And Adobe will deserve it.

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