Friday, May 14, 2021

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Tech Talk

Apple, king of the computing realm



Very few businesses want to be known as the cheapest in town. For some consumers and products, quality is not as important as price. But when a retailer or service provider is renowned as dirt cheap, there are big questions. What corners did they cut to provide bargain basement deals? Is this product going to fall apart the moment I confirm my purchase? MacBook ProWill I be right back here in a week buying a replacement? The old adage “You get what you pay for” almost universally applies for cars, clothing, home repair, banking services, computers and practically anything else you can imagine.

For years, possibly even decades, the personal computer world was synonymous with reasonably-priced technology. If you wanted a basic machine that could Word process, surf the web, and sort family photos, a PC was for you. The problem was a battle of the five manufacturers broke out, each vying for the bargain throne. Dell, HP, Asus, Lenovo, Toshiba and many smaller tech houses limboed as low as computer quality could go in order to secure market share. These bastions of slow, frustrating machines claimed many sales victories, but few were celebrated by customers past the initial purchase. Dell, the king of PC sales at the turn of the millennium, was rumored to have sold every computer on Wall Street — a possible bragging point for a moment — but the Dell empire quickly fell into disgrace when customers discovered what quality machines looked like.

While the PC rabble were warring over shallow pocketbooks, Apple spent a generation laying in wait, manufacturing high-priced rock solid Macintoshes. Priced hundreds — sometimes thousands — of dollars above their competitors, Apple sold to the luxury market for decades. Before there was truly even a market for home computing, Macintoshes were obscenely priced, and few family computer shoppers even considered them a real option. If Apple was manufacturing dragons, then the PC crowd was selling wolves. Sure, the dragon looks alluring, but who can afford one? So when push comes to shove for a novice computer user, a wolf will have to do.

Still, the market slowly matured, and Apple’s prices started to soften just as its product line started to heat up. Suddenly the PC market had become so poorly managed that a trendy, luxury Macintosh seemed like the sensible choice. College students, creative professionals, executives and even secretaries started using Apple computers. Raw market share numbers will show PCs still hold the most users, but considering that is a disparate collection of manufacturers vs. Apple, there’s no question who sits on the throne of quality and consumer desire.

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For more than a decade, Apple has developed a diverse product line of dragonesque tech — phones, tablets, wearables and an unparalleled MacBook line of laptops. While laptops are a younger market than desktops, Apple’s MacBook success mirrors that of the desktop Macintosh line. Competitors tried to go quality-for-quality with Apple by releasing laptops with hardware that rivaled the MacBook line, but the PC industry had dug such a hole of quality expectation that the marketplace figured, why spend Mac prices and go home without a Mac? So now, with PC and laptop markets drying up, PC builders are simply building Mac clones. Microsoft’s SurfaceBook, Asus’ ZenBook, and the Dell XPS are but a few of the laptops that not only meet MacBook specs, but steal the look as well. Maybe shoppers won’t notice it doesn’t have the Apple logo.

The funny thing is, these Mac knockoffs are actually solid machines — maybe better than MacBooks in some cases. But Apple’s reputation for quality and consistency has stood for nearly two decades. So maybe Apple will fall from the computing throne eventually, but as it stands now, there’s simply no way to best a dragon. CV


Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.




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