Issue: Volume 33 Issue 9: (October 2010)

Editor's Note: Which Flavor Are You?

By: Karen Moltenbrey
Are you a Mac person or a PC person? It seems like that question has been popping up a lot more in recent times. Perhaps it is because of the popular Apple ad campaign "Get a Mac,"  in which actor Justin Long personifies a Mac opposite John Hodgman, a PC. The campaign, which ran from 2006 through 2009, used an all-white backdrop, placing all the focus on the easily identifiable differences between PC and Mac. PC, dressed in a suit and tie, comes across very stuffy and all business-like as he touts the pluses he offers. Mac, on the other hand, is more laid-back-an attitude accentuated with his casual attire and mannerisms. Clearly-at least in the commercials-the intent is to portray the Mac as the product for a hip, younger generation, and the PC for the older business types.

In the early 1980s, IBM introduced its first "personal computer"; around the same time, Apple rolled out its first Macintosh. By no means were either these machines considered the very first of their kind; rather, they are powerful ancestors to the products we cannot live without today. At one point, there were huge differences between the two types of machines, but over the years, those differences have lessened significantly. Nevertheless, Macs seem to fit the personality of the right-brainers, while PCs offer more business applications for the left-brain crowd. Today, Macs hold their own when it comes to left-brain functions, while PCs have been embracing users' artistic side.

Personally, I consider myself a Mac person. In fact, I am writing this on my iMac right now. But downstairs, in my home office, I have a PC. So, I guess that makes me a dual user. Maybe because of my mixed Mac/PC blood, I have yet to comprehend the fervor of many Mac people. Hard-core Mac folks wear their colors more boldly than PC people, and they embrace the brand more heartily and loyally. I recall being at a press conference at SIGGRAPH around 2000, and a boisterous mob at the back of the room shouted out demands for the vendor (which shall be nameless) to support the Mac platform. I think all that was missing were torches and pitchforks. At NAB, rabid Apple fans used to fill large conference rooms to capacity, cheering and clapping wildly each time a new feature or product was introduced-the atmosphere was more like a religious revival, not a user group meeting.

The other day, I came across a gadget study from Retrevo, about what gadgets say about the people who use them, and the findings were interesting but not surprising-at least in my opinion. Gadget owners exhibit different behavior and characteristics depending on which gadget camp they belong to. One finding is that Mac owners buy more Apple products than do others. In particular, households where the Mac OS is listed as the primary computer operating system purchase more than three times  as many iPhones and almost six times as many iPads. Yet, Mac owners-while arguably loyal-exhibit a strong duality in their buying patterns, more so than their PC counterparts (apparently there are many others who, like me, are of mixed computing blood). While Mac households often have PCs present as well, the same does not hold true for PC houses: In households that boast PCs as the primary computer, Macs are typically not present. So, it seems that PC users are loyal, too, though not to a particular brand. But what are Mac users doing with a PC in the house? Are they more disloyal than originally thought? Not necessarily. The big push toward Macs and the Apple brand in particular has reached a high point during the past few years, so it is likely that these PCs are previous-generation machines that now function as a secondary device to a current-gen Mac. Moreover, the PCs might be used for gaming, since developers still do not embrace the Mac platform for their titles.

So, what about other Apple gear? The study also shows that Apple iPhone users also differ from owners of other smartphones-sort of akin to the Mac versus PC crowd. For instance, iPhone owners tend to be younger, particularly compared to BlackBerry owners. Again, this is not that surprising given that BlackBerry has been touted as a business device for years, despite its more recent face-lifts. Moreover, iPhone users are much quicker to adopt new digital trends and activities involving their device, such as watching TV online and purchasing items with their phone.

Android users, though, appear to be more technical than the other smartphone owners. "You would expect that a smartphone running Linux would attract a techier consumer, and the Gadget Census bears that out," the report states. Android users own more of the techier types of gadgets, like netbooks and e-readers, than owners of other smartphones. They also use fewer GPS devices in the car. The study speculates that this may be due to the fact that they are in the Google camp and have the firm's sophisticated map technology at their fingertips. An interesting find, though, is that these Android users are 25 percent more likely not to read books, and 20 percent do not care much about recycling.

"As techie as Android owners are, and different as iPhone owners are, BlackBerry owners come across more normal and, you could say, even old-fashioned," the study states. For example, BlackBerry users were more likely to still use a CRT as their primary television (21 percent more likely than Android owners) and get their music from the radio and less likely to buy items with their phones. On the other hand, they are 15 percent more likely to recycle their gadgets than Android users, but also 26 percent more likely than iPhone owners to live in areas where e-waste recycling isn't available.

The study's conclusion: Although most gadget enthusiasts all have one thing in common, and that is a passion for the latest gear and gadgets, but there are also big differences between owners of different types and brands of products. "Apple is not just a product but a way of life, and a commitment to a line of electronics," Retrevo summarizes in the report. "Android owners, with their choice of carriers, could make them more confident cell phone users, and BlackBerry owners might agree with the motto: 'Slow and Steady Wins the Race.'"

Here, at chez Moltenbrey, we follow the study's findings pretty well. I have a Mac; I also have a PC. I am a BlackBerry user, though would love an iPhone. What's stopping me? AT&T. As soon as Apple offers the device on the Verizon network (which offers me the best reception) I will be the first in line. I have been waiting for more than a year now, and it looks like I might be waiting even longer. So, I am likely to become an Android person in the near future. And indeed, I own a netbook. But I cannot live without my car's navigation system. Contrary to mold, I read a lot, and I fancy myself as a diligent recycler.

So, back to the main question: Are you a Mac or a PC person? Or, maybe the more important question should be, what does the answer say about you?
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