Summary: Jakub talks about Apple, on a PC gaming site. Yes, it is the very same Jakub, and he hasn't gone insane. Also, this article welcomes back the 'Random Facts' sidebar.
It is you, the end-user. As consumers, we have the final vote in a product's success. Though a designer or design team creates the concept, a board or committee approves it and workers and technology make it a reality, and marketers hype it up, only consumers can make it succeed. Thus, the success of Apple's products is ultimately decided by us. Whatever other considerations there are, we choose to buy them.
We do this knowing that they are, typically, more expensive than similar competitive products. After all, the latest and greatest Macintosh can easily be outperformed in most if not all benchmarks by offerings from major manufacturers, mom & pop shops and even those that build their computers at home. Whether we choose to pay for the name brand, the styling, features or whatever - we generally convince ourselves that it's worth it.
Now, where is the possible reason for a price premium on a PC? Only Apple makes Macintoshes. Any number of major manufacturers, as well as smaller shops and home users can make a PC. And while there are many MP3 players, it was Apple that came up with the iPod - a design that combined key features like storage capacity, size, styling, interface, legal downloads (no doubt generating significant RIAA support) - all with an excellent marketing campaign to sell it. Thus, no matter how much better or cheaper competitors are, they're not iPods. Sort of like how a Ford Mustang is and always will be a Ford Mustang - no matter that other cars might suit your needs or desires more.
Quite simply, we accept that Apple products will cost more. In fact, we want them to - this re-affirms our need to own the best (but within our means). There is certainly a difference in quality between an Armani suit and a custom from your local tailor, but as with any premium item, the price can only be justified by the value we put into the name and slight improvements.
We do not place the same emphasis on PC products. In fact, it is quite opposite. We expect PCs to be plain, fast, and cheap. These are the draws for owning them - they're good, rational reasons - but they're not sexy. It makes sense to own a Honda Accord or Dodge Caravan, but it's sexy to own a Toyota Supra or Cadillac Escalade, even though we're hard-pressed to justify the existence, never mind the need for either. Desire itself provides enough reason for their viability on the market.
SIDEBAR: Golf was banned in England and Scotland in 1457 because King James II thought it distracted from archery practice needed for national defense.
More importantly, Apple controls both hardware and software. While this presumably lends Apple advantages similar to those of a console maker, it's actually more freeing for the company than locking it into a single design. For example, since Apple does its own hardware and software design, when they made the Mac Mini, they could do any proprietary software in-house. While this is true of most companies, few are as adept at software and hardware design as Apple is. Apple's software engineers deal with Apple hardware from the ground up. Dell's or HP's programmers work only with Windows, and their contributions are relatively minor to the system as a whole. Microsoft has little to say with the hardware process. NVIDIA, ATI or Intel are focused on isolated bits of hardware and the supporting drivers, not systems architecture. Apple has almost complete control of the entire product.
In the PC market, there are dozens of competitors. Coming out with a completely new product can be done in two ways: in tandem with enough of your competitors, after years of negotiating a standard, or doing it alone with a "unique" design and facing hordes of copycats. By being the sole Macintosh creator and being vertically integrated at the same time, Apple can quickly design new products. It is neither dependent on co-operation with competitors to establish a standard, nor does the company have to worry about competition within its core market. They have to fight for swing users, but the Mac hardcore will always be there.
That too is another advantage of Apple. The Macintosh hardcore are not only unwilling to buy any other computers, they're declined a choice. Whereas PC makers have to constantly compete amongst themselves and this, due to the culture among PC users, focuses on performance and prices, Apple just has to avoid angering their own market with excessive fleecing. The brand loyalty to a Dell, Gateway or HP is much, much lower than it is to a Mac.
Finally, there's an entire infrastructure dependent upon Apple itself. Due to the weight of historical momentum, cultural appeal and simple familiarity with the platform, graphics and sound professionals stick with Apple products. Since Macintoshes were the first personal computers with relatively advanced graphics and sound at an affordable price, they were natural candidates for professional software. Since then, the trend has merely perpetuated itself - it matters not that a PC may be faster at doing something, since all graphics and sound professionals own and work on Macs anyway, software companies make their editing tools for Macs. Even the appearance of quality tools on the PC, such as Adobe's line of products, hasn't made much of a dent in the professional Mac market. Indeed, if anything, it's only created a larger pool of potential Mac users since they have been trained on the same software for the PC, while all the jobs are actually offered for Mac users.
SIDEBAR: Nook and cranny means corner and crack, respectively.
Designer X, discouraged, quits the company and goes to work on his idea. He may or may not realize the truth in PC Company Y's idea, but he's running short of money. But hey, rumor has it that this Apple company is on the lookout for new and fresh ideas. Maybe he can sell them on it? Or perhaps they'll spot him by themselves. And from there, the ball gets rolling.
After all, Apple guarantees itself at least the Mac-fan slice of the market with the release of the Mac Mini, in addition to being able to draw in users from the much larger and less dedicated PC market. While the Mac Mini can and will face PC Mini competitors, those competitors have to face PC user's expectations under much greater scrutiny, and they're all competing for the PC user market and unlikely to draw Mac users in. Furthermore, there can be no other Mac Minis other than what Apple has made. Finally, thanks to its established tradition of innovation and style, as well as the simple cultural cachet of the Apple brand (not unlike owning a pair of Guess jeans compared to no-name brands), Apple's product will be sexy, and the PC ones will simply be clones.
And yet, the PC makers are hoping for the Mac Mini to succeed. They know it won't take a big slice out of the PC users, but if the Mac Mini proves popular, the PC Minis won't be far behind and they'll be yet another cool toy to sell to PC users. However, because of all the points listed above, PC makers rely on Apple to make the breakthroughs, not vice-versa. Possibly the worst thing about the whole situation is that they don't even seem to try. This is the clincher, the reason why PC makers are following Apple rather than leading in design and innovation.
SIDEBAR: How did you like the return of the random facts?
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