Linked by Kroc Camen on Tue 15th Jun 2010 10:03 UTC
Apple Apple have updated the Mac Mini. It now sports an aluminium (no, I am not going to spell it "aluminum") enclosure, an HDMI port, an internal PSU (no power-brick!) and oddly, an SD card slot in the back. There's also an access hole on the bottom to change the RAM easily.
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RE[5]: UK Price
by Tony Swash on Tue 15th Jun 2010 17:47 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: UK Price"
Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

People who say that Apple hardware is over-expensive compared with other similar computers are often accused of missing some hypothetic point. However, I think I've never seen somebody explaining seriously and without introducing a pure troll or some kind of false information what said point is...


That's because you suffer from TAC.

The Techie Apple Conundrum (TAC)

The TAC arises often on sites such as OSNews because the attraction of Apple products, and hence Apple's huge success as a company, is dependent on features and aspects of product design invisible to almost all Techies. Thus Apples success is mysterious, vexing and ultimately challenging.

Techies for example often focus on feature lists and technical specifications and compare one such list to another and look at comparative prices and cannot understand that someone would pay more for an "inferior" spec.

This of course misses a critical aspect of Apple product design, one of the keys to the success of Apple in the consumer market, which is that for many (perhaps most) consumers having fewer technical features is a positive thing. This seems paradoxical to Techies but this is because they fail to comprehend what the actual experience for the vast majority of consumers of hi-tech products actually is - which is bad.

Consumers constantly encounter products that don't work as advertised, products that squeeze so many functions into an item that using it for its main purposes is dreadfully complex, products that even when their function should be simple (i.e. to play music, to play a DVD, to surf the web, to write emails) require a thick user manual (many of which which are often written by engineers and are thus unhelpful).

Most hi-tec products are user-unfriendly for most consumers. But not to Techies because they have technical knowledge and so can cope with poor/arcane design. In fact Techies like such products because they find technical challenges fun and because it makes them useful (they are always helping people solve their technical problems) and thus boosts their self esteem.

Some kit, almost all non-Apple desktop computers for example, are not just difficult and poorly designed but are positively scary for almost all consumers. Many non-Apple desktop computers seem very complex to operate, go wrong for no clearly understood reasons and worst of all seem to be under constant attack. Watching someone move from a non-Apple desktop computer to a Mac you can often see them slowly losing their awful, and most of the times paralysing, fear of infection and attack. As the fear fades the pleasure of using their computer increases dramatically and people start to love their computers rather than secretly hating them. Thus another mac-head is born.

The emblematic product for TAC is the iPad. Here is a product that comes on instantly, looks and feels gorgeous, feels fast, is easy to operate and does (in a fantastically convenient form factor) most of what most people do most of the time on their computer (ie browse the web, send emails, watch movies, read stuff and look at and share photos). Plus it has two huge benefits for most consumers. First it doesn't feel like a computer - this is a good thing for most people because most people's experience of using computers has been bad. Secondly it feels very safe because of Apple's curated computing model, and most users of computers have previously felt unsafe most of the time.

The very reasons that make the iPad such a huge success are the very reasons that Techies don't get it. If one product above all induces TAC its the iPad. Techies say "but Apple has an iron grip and is killing our freedoms" (people want safety much more than some obscure technical freedom), "the iPad doesn't have [insert any number of features that consumers don't care about]", "its not a real computer" (exactly).

So the continuing, relentless and accelerating success of Apple seems almost inexplicable to most Techies, "how could such products be so successful?"

The answer Techies come up are fairly predictable:

- Apple's voodoo marketing: Apple is pulling the wool over the consumer eyes (sometimes this is blamed on media hype).

- Apple's evil lock in: Apple has a locked down and closed platform, once sucked in people can't leave.

- Apple consumers and users are idiots: Fooled by marketing and glitzy packaging the sheep can be sold everything.

Because Techies believe that these are the real reason people buy Apple products (other than the more obvious reason which is that they actually like them a lot) Techies also believe that this state of affairs cannot possibly last and therefore the final piece of the Techie response to Apple falls into place. Deranged by TAC Techies often come up with the most delusional statement of all - Apple is doomed.


Reply Parent Score: 7

RE[6]: UK Price
by Neolander on Tue 15th Jun 2010 20:00 in reply to "RE[5]: UK Price"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Ah, finally some explanation above the "interesting" level ;)

The Techie Apple Conundrum (TAC)

The TAC arises often on sites such as OSNews because the attraction of Apple products, and hence Apple's huge success as a company, is dependent on features and aspects of product design invisible to almost all Techies. Thus Apples success is mysterious, vexing and ultimately challenging.

Well, there seem to be written in the Universal [Mac|Linux|Windows|Nintendo|Xbox|Playstation|Nokia|Whatever] Fanboy Manual that it's always a right thing to do to start by explaining to the reader that he's an idiot. Go and figure out why so much Apple topics end by flamewar... Well, let's ignore it and read what's next.

Techies for example often focus on feature lists and technical specifications and compare one such list to another and look at comparative prices and cannot understand that someone would pay more for an "inferior" spec.

Continue insulting behavior while explaining that objectivity (ie using real and non-obfuscated data about a product) is a wrong method. Start to get tired. When does some non-laughable stuff begin ?

This of course misses a critical aspect of Apple product design, one of the keys to the success of Apple in the consumer market, which is that for many (perhaps most) consumers having fewer technical features is a positive thing.

Okay, less is good. Life is short, pay more. And then ?

This seems paradoxical to Techies but this is because they fail to comprehend what the actual experience for the vast majority of consumers of hi-tech products actually is - which is bad.

Ah, finally ! Let the show begin. So for you, user experience is not a feature ?
Let's see...
feature (plural features)

<...>
2. An important or main item.
<...>
5. (computing) A beneficial capability of a piece of software.
<...>
6. The cast or structure of anything, or of any part of a thing, as of a landscape, a picture, a treaty, or an essay; any marked peculiarity or characteristic; as, one of the features of the landscape.
* 1911, 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica:

The most prominent feature of the New England land system was the town grant, which in every case became the territorial basis of a group settlement.
<...>
8. (engineering) Characteristic forms or shapes of a part. For example, a hole, boss, slot, cut, chamfer, or fillet.


Ease of use and good user experience totally is a feature, and the beginning of your post hence is crap. Just a little precision.

Consumers constantly encounter products that don't work as advertised, products that squeeze so many functions into an item that using it for its main purposes is dreadfully complex, products that even when their function should be simple (i.e. to play music, to play a DVD, to surf the web, to write emails) require a thick user manual (many of which which are often written by engineers and are thus unhelpful).

I agree that feature overflow is a horrible and alas very common defect in the industrial world. However, I'm eagerly waiting to read how you're going to demonstrate that Apple, inventors of iTunes and the iPhone/iPod Touch, are insensitive to that defect...

Most hi-tec products are user-unfriendly for most consumers. But not to Techies because they have technical knowledge and so can cope with poor/arcane design. In fact Techies like such products because they find technical challenges fun and because it makes them useful (they are always helping people solve their technical problems) and thus boosts their self esteem.

Again, push forward sentiment of personal superiority to ensure that you get grilled and can then tell that you're being persecuted because you're telling the truth (or because the reader is too near-sighted). Your "techie" stereotype gets more and more unlikely as you give him the superpower to master poor design so much that it doesn't matter to him and that it's even close to a child's play. But it doesn't matter as long as you're deeply convinced that such people DO exist.

To get a better picture of real-world techies, you'd have to meet the SLR (Single Lens Reflex). Photographs buy one because they want to go at a picture quality level that the average compact camera can not reach. Weight, volume, and complexity are drawbacks of SLRs, not advantages nor a necessity. As compact cameras get more and more powerful and start to do better and better pictures, more and more people who would have bought a SLR some years ago will buy one now.

Everyone wants to get things done as good as possible. But we do not do things the same way, because we make different compromises. Those who are ready to overcome a higher learning cost for the final benefit of higher-quality photographs go dSLRs. Those who are more in the mind of grabbing their camera and shooting pictures without caring about how it works prefer compact/phone cameras. I'm an advocate of the latter myself, but my mother is a heavy argentic SLR user. There's room for every compromise in the market.

Some kit, almost all non-Apple desktop computers for example, are not just difficult and poorly designed but are positively scary for almost all consumers. Many non-Apple desktop computers seem very complex to operate, go wrong for no clearly understood reasons and worst of all seem to be under constant attack. Watching someone move from a non-Apple desktop computer to a Mac you can often see them slowly losing their awful, and most of the times paralysing, fear of infection and attack. As the fear fades the pleasure of using their computer increases dramatically and people start to love their computers rather than secretly hating them. Thus another mac-head is born.

Who's wearing a blindfold here ? I give macs the benefit of still being extremely bug-free compared to competitors, but in the area of the simplicity, I'm afraid to tell that the simpler mac desktop has become more and more of a myth lately.

Here's some real-world data :
1/I've seen one of the worst computer users I know using Windows 7 without a single issue. I hate its messy UI myself, but one has to admit that it's sufficiently good for everyday computer use by a non-technical people. Really. No blue screen of deaths everywhere, no crashes, no random behaviors, and even popup emission has been reduced. It's perfectible, sure, but it's not the nightmare you're describing at all. Have a better look around you.
2/Due to my generally bad experience of Windows, and due to her talent at finding bugs in software, when my girlfriend's parents offered to buy her a laptop for her 18th birthday, I suggested her to get a MacBook. I supposed, after hearing the daily praise of Apple computers as better tools by my parents, that it would somehow magically improve her computing experience, in a way like the one you're describing. Well, you know what ? Miracles don't exist. She first endured pain due to the stupid over-sensitive multitouch trackpad which mistakes "scroll" for "zoom" in word processors. Then due to the difficulty to manage several windows which look pretty much the same when you don't have very good eyes. Then due to the low quality of freeware on the mac platform. Then due to the lack of usual media files support. Overall, she got used to it, like anyone finally gets used to a product given sufficient motivation. But you must agree that this is not impressive. Mac OS is not so bad that it's hardly usable on a daily basis by people who have a good knowledge of it or who get helped by someone who has such knowledge. But it's nowhere exceptional. Linux is not that much of a nightmare either in such conditions. Nor is Windows 7.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[7]: UK Price
by Neolander on Tue 15th Jun 2010 20:50 in reply to "RE[6]: UK Price"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

And those products have the additional benefit of not having to sacrifice basic things like computer security to work. Unlike OSX which gives you a false sense of security to make you feel better, and a strong need to identify yourself as a Mac user in order to compensate its unimpressive characteristics. And continue to give money for nothing to Apple...

The emblematic product for TAC is the iPad. Here is a product that comes on instantly, looks and feels gorgeous, feels fast, is easy to operate and does (in a fantastically convenient form factor) most of what most people do most of the time on their computer (ie browse the web, send emails, watch movies, read stuff and look at and share photos).

Okay, it's a beautiful piece of hardware, we agree. I wanted an iPad myself before I learned that it would be packed with iPhoneOS crap. And then ?

Plus it has two huge benefits for most consumers. First it doesn't feel like a computer - this is a good thing for most people because most people's experience of using computers has been bad.

In other words, Apple is using trickery to lure consumers into buying their products, because advertising them as what they are would help people understand how crappy iPhone0S on a 7-inch device is. A computer is a computer, meaning a machine which is good as processing large amounts of information, no matter how you call it. And it seems rather unethical to call it otherwise in order to benefit from past failures of the competitors.

Secondly it feels very safe because of Apple's curated computing model, and most users of computers have previously felt unsafe most of the time.

Again, it "feels". You don't like to use rigorous reasoning, do you ? So bad, it would help you to understand that the sole *feeling* of safety, without something solid underneath, is also experienced when someone made tiny holes in your condoms without you knowing it. Feeling safe without being so is actually even worse than not feeling safe at all, because you're taking more risks that what you'd usually do.

Also, I'd like to hear more about that "curated computing model". Sounds fun.

The very reasons that make the iPad such a huge success are the very reasons that Techies don't get it. If one product above all induces TAC its the iPad. Techies say "but Apple has an iron grip and is killing our freedoms" (people want safety much more than some obscure technical freedom)

Which the iPad does not provide. It only provides a false sense of safety. Ever heard about iPhoneOS not actually deleting mails when you press "delete", leaving room for a huge security hole ? About Apple being able to kill an iPhone 4 through its internet connection, leaving room for future exploits of this backdoor ?

What some people do not seem to understand is that safety and technical freedom *are* compatible. They are not opposite. They are two features. You can have one, the other, or both. As simple as that.

, "the iPad doesn't have [insert any number of features that consumers don't care about]"

Again, you seem to know consumers pretty well. So bad you don't know more about all those people who visit multiple video websites and play flash games on a daily basis. You should go in an average high school someday and watch what students are doing on their computers when the teacher is not watching, someday, really...

, "its not a real computer" (exactly).

No, wrong. It IS a computer. Just a castrated one. Computers were made to let the user do pretty much everything he wants which involves processing information. iPads restrict this to what Apple lets users do. Which means that it remains a computer, provided that you consider Apple as the user, the one in control of the machine.

So the continuing, relentless and accelerating success of Apple seems almost inexplicable to most Techies, "how could such products be so successful?"

The answer Techies come up are fairly predictable:

- Apple's voodoo marketing: Apple is pulling the wool over the consumer eyes (sometimes this is blamed on media hype).

- Apple's evil lock in: Apple has a locked down and closed platform, once sucked in people can't leave.

- Apple consumers and users are idiots: Fooled by marketing and glitzy packaging the sheep can be sold everything.

Well, let me advocate a slightly different theory for once.

Apple sell dreams. Dreams have immense values. As you said, people encounter countless issues with poorly made computers everyday. Apple pretends to have invented well-made computing devices. People get excited. They see the price tag, and agree that at such a high price, it must be something wonderful. Especially since according to apple's website, the device does X, Y, AND Z !!! (All that are basic marketing tactics, nothing voodoo in there)

When they've finally bought the product, the users split in two categories.

1/Those who admit that they've been f*cked. It's not the most frequent case, because it takes some willpower to say "Well, I bought crap, with that much money I could've bought a new bike which would have been much more useful on these days. Truth hurts". Admitting that you're wrong is hard. Because of the psychological pain which ensues, such people then get angry and end up bashing Apple for a few months (in an I-know-better-than-you fashion that everybody ignores), then get apathic for some times, and finally buy a product for another brand. And consumerism goes on.

2/Those who don't want to admit it. After all, all their friends are watching their new gizmos with curious eyes. You can manipulate it with your finger. It does run facebook. So it isn't that bad, isn't it. Actually, why would someone expect more than that from a tech product ? Such a denial attitude can be compared with the "everything is right" attitude, which can be seen in a couple when both partners want to stay with each other for some reason, even if they don't like each other. A real-world example : my girlfriend's mother bought an iPhone because it sounded so easy to use and had all those applications. She opened the App store exactly once, and downloaded nothing from it. She now uses her iPhone for phoning and sending texts, just like her previous phone. Nothing more. And tries to justify her previous uninformed choice by telling that this phone is so much easier to use that her previous phone. I let people who already used both kinds of devices for those texting+voice call purposes conclude...

Apple doesn't need to magically blind users who can get blind all by themselves due to a trick as old as the human race, really. They just need to put together the conditions needed to make the trick work.

Because Techies believe that these are the real reason people buy Apple products (other than the more obvious reason which is that they actually like them a lot) Techies also believe that this state of affairs cannot possibly last and therefore the final piece of the Techie response to Apple falls into place. Deranged by TAC Techies often come up with the most delusional statement of all - Apple is doomed.

Only if everyone was aware of the major aspects of what they're buying *before* buying. Most crap in the high-tech world exists because of the unique fact that in his area, people don't know exactly what they're buying before buying it. Apple capitalizes on the aspects of a product which the user doesn't know before buying and gets used to afterwards.

As an example, notice that you generally can't try out cellphones before buying them. This allows the most horrible buggy phones which don't even manage to delete messages from the mailbox to survive (yeah, I'm looking at you, LG), while in a setting where people were fully informed they wouldn't stood a chance.

As a counter-example, notice that picture quality of TV sets nicely improves with time, due to people being able to actually look at them in the supermarket, and see for themselves what's better.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[7]: UK Price
by Tony Swash on Tue 15th Jun 2010 21:05 in reply to "RE[6]: UK Price"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

Ah, finally some explanation above the "interesting" level ;)
The rest of the comment was trimmed for brevity


"And yet it moves" (that's a Galileo quote by the way)

And yet Apple products are bought by millions and millions and millions of people. Apple will sell millions of the new mac mini. Why?

All that you say may be true: if so why do Apple products sell so well? Why has Apple been so successful? Why, when asked in so many end user surveys, do Apple's customers express so much happiness about their products?

Those are genuine questions I am pitching at you. Your challenge is to answer them with out slipping into the archetypal techie responses I quoted (its the marketing, the Apple customers are stupid etc).

Answering the challenge of explaining Apples success whilst also claiming their products are inferior is a good challenge for you to try - its the sort of exercise that broadens the mind. Back in the (in technological terms) ghastly 1990s when Apple seemed to be dying and the horrible Windows 95/98 was taking the world by storm I had to face that sort of challenge. I could have said that all those people buying an operating system that was so obviously inferior to the Mac's must be stupid, I could have offered a similar critique of Microsoft's success as that offered by techies to "explain" Apple's success.

But in the end I had to face the facts, that whilst being technically inferior (from my point of view) Windows PCs did what most people wanted their computers to do better than Macs (they were compatible with work, they were cheap, they played more games - whatever).

The customer is always right. And it seems as if Apple, and Steve Jobs knows just how to please them. Odd isn't?

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[7]: UK Price
by fanboi_fanboi on Wed 16th Jun 2010 18:21 in reply to "RE[6]: UK Price"
fanboi_fanboi Member since:
2010-04-21

Wow, what a pointless rant. Fail.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[6]: UK Price
by vivainio on Tue 15th Jun 2010 20:37 in reply to "RE[5]: UK Price"
vivainio Member since:
2008-12-26


The very reasons that make the iPad such a huge success are the very reasons that Techies don't get it. If one product above all induces TAC its the iPad. Techies say "but Apple has an iron grip and is killing our freedoms" (people want safety much more than some obscure technical freedom), "the iPad doesn't have [insert any number of features that consumers don't care about]", "its not a real computer" (exactly).


Nice strawman.

The techies, Apple haters included, and Thom excluded, widely consider iPad a very nice product, and one of the better things to happen in tech industry recently. Everybody really wants the tablet market to emerge, and who would be better slated (eh) to do it than Apple?

The deal about iPad is that the rest of the industry needs to get their shit together and start delivering alternative tablets that work as well (or almost as well, even).

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[6]: UK Price
by sachindaluja on Wed 16th Jun 2010 18:17 in reply to "RE[5]: UK Price"
sachindaluja Member since:
2007-02-15

Most hi-tec products are user-unfriendly for most consumers. But not to Techies because they have technical knowledge and so can cope with poor/arcane design. In fact Techies like such products because they find technical challenges fun and because it makes them useful (they are always helping people solve their technical problems) and thus boosts their self esteem.


Excellent comment!

Reply Parent Score: 2