Sunday, July 17, 2011

Post-PC Depression

I've felt like there has been a computer shaped hole in my soul for the last couple of weeks. My iMac is on the blink, and I've been craving a dedicated Windows Machine for my work with Windows Phone 7. In my mostly late night quest to find the perfect machine to round out my workflow, I did as I always do. I read dozens of reviews, looked at hundreds of machines and did no small amount of contemplation.

As usual, I bumped into a lot of animosity toward Apple Inc.

It occurs to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding about why people buy Apple computers. Marketing magic aside, the Apple will appeal to the sort of person that takes a year to make a decision when buying anything over $1000. They have long activity cycles which completely infuriate the folks who want to buy the latest thing, right now, this second, as quick as it can be shipped. Apple tends to update their gear once a year, and that's roughly how often you'll have the latest and greatest hardware.

I bought all my Apple devices shortly after they were refreshed so that the hardware was current at the time. With my MacBook Pro it was simply happenstance (my Asus got hosed unexpectedly), but with every other device, it was purposeful. I bought them in such a state as to allow for some ability to upgrade later. Roughly the fifteen month mark was my plan.

I like to have a plan.

The production cycle for Apple is an important measure of whether and when you should buy their products. The fine folks at MacRumors have figured this out and concocted this handy buyer's guide based on how long it's been since a product has been refreshed. No other computer manufacturer seems to have this habit of creating expectation relative to their products. Most seem to update as soon as there is new stuff to through into the interior.

There was a certain infamous article written recently where the author charged Apple with trying to convince consumers that specs don't matter, and that's why the technical specifications often lag somewhat behind competitors. I would argue the opposite, those things matter a great deal to Apple.

Most people do not buy and use a computer in the same way as a tech reviewer. They seem to be writing those articles for each other as opposed to the average consumer of electronics. I think the people who write computer and device reviews have so much tech pass through their hands they quickly lose perspective on the sorts of folks that drive the market.

My mom's Toshiba that's so old you'd expect to shovel coal into it to keep it running? It's a viable device until 2013 when Microsoft ceases to support Windows XP. Sans the OS losing legacy support, it will have an activity cycle somewhere around a decade. My wife's G5 iMac will be no different, already six years old and still capable of running Apple's Lion OS when it comes out.

I think the majority of consumers keep their computer until the device simply gives out or falls apart. More than a few have a storage space full of old obsolescence they can't bear to git rid of. You know how you are.

Yeah, I constantly dream of getting new computers and devices (and bags to carry them in), but as yet none of the Macs I bought in 2009 are likely to be replaced any time soon. That's a bold statement considering I once purchased a new laptop or desktop every 12-15 months from 1999-2009.

I plan to keep and use my MacBook Pro as my primary device for the conceivable future. Such plans are the coleslaw at the side of a big plate of tech envy though. The industry keeps churning out wondrous devices, like the Samsung Series 9 Laptop.

Here's the rub: I have talked about selling my MacBook Pro to upgrade many times, and gone through what is certainly a habit cultivated over ten years of owning products from HP, Asus, Toshiba, and similar. In a nutshell, I get that itch to trade up because the little guy is going to die soon. 15 months of use in the hands of someone like me is something like 3500+ running hours. The screen on my iMac gave out before the guts did.

I think there is some part of me that actually misses the tech grind though. I've even found myself looking at the Dell and Maingear sites going through all the endless combinations of different devices. Oh, and I can't stop looking at Alienware. I've wanted one since before they were bought out, and I still think they're very cool.

I wonder if they have support groups for this condition I have, whatever one would call it.

Post-PC Depression? As my father often says, yeah, I know...


  1. I think that if you go Alienware, you have to go big, and be prepared for the worst customer service of your life if anything goes wrong.

    I bought a basic m15x laptop. It has a lot of flashy lights and gets tons of comments, but my wife spent a few hundred less on her basic Dell machine and it outperforms my machine at just about every task. Perhaps I should have chosen some of the upgrades, but aside from the graphics card, any option the Alienware had could be found elsewhere without paying a premium for the cosmetic enhancements and Alienware name.

    Oh, and the machine arrived in the mail a month after I ordered it with a cracked case, and it took most of a day to get customer service to talk to me so I could send it back for repair and wait another month to actually get the repaired computer in my hands. It was the worst retail experience of my life.