Culture Clash: It’s a Mac world, some just haven’t caught up

Tim Malcolm and John Meo

Meo: Hello, I’m a Mac.

Malcolm: I’ve used that line before to pick up girls, and I have to tell you, it works.

Meo: So, women dig trendy and overpriced?

Malcolm: Women dig the whole package. Men, too. And like myself, Macs are the total package — style, modernity, versatility, convenience and full of fun. You can’t beat them.

Meo: All right. Out with the truth. You’ve been assimilated. You’re one of them. Not to go all Trekkie, but Mac users are one step away from becoming the Borg in black turtlenecks.

Malcolm: Not to go all Normal, but I haven’t assimilated, and I don’t own a black turtleneck (it’s brown). My love of Macs didn’t come from something out of “Night of the Living Dead.” No, for a long time I was a PC-hugger, right up there with the cow-folk from those Gateway commercials and the stoner guy from the Dell ads. I found not long ago that, incredibly, Macs were better! What a novel concept! Liking something because it’s better!

Meo: But they’re not. They’re computers, and like any other computers, Macs are prone to corruption, failure and becoming obsolete. I’d never own one. I hate using them — and I use them more than I care to think about. I simply resent the implication, however clever, people who use PCs are geeks, and people who use Macs are somehow tied in to some great secret. If the PC has a failing, it’s allowing the public to buy into hip, cool (dreamy?) Justin Long as Mac and clueless, cheap-suit wearing John Hodgman as PC. You said it yourself: PC companies haven’t exactly built a marketing legacy — cows, stoner guys. HP was on the right track with its celebrity spots, but getting Jay-Z, Beyonce and Shaun White to promote your product and not showing their faces? I hope many people were fired, if not executed, for that decision-making. 

Malcolm: It’s not that people who use PCs are geeks, it’s that people who use PCs are stuck in 1995. When computers mainstreamed their way into every 2.5-child American home, PCs were hip because Microsoft understood the age. Microsoft understood computers should be family-friendly machines that allowed the children to draw pictures on Paintbrush, Dad to fill out spreadsheets on Lotus and Mom to write her shopping lists on WordPerfect. Oh, and sometimes, someone would use the Internet.

Problem is, Microsoft hasn’t jumped out of that hole yet. Mac lept over the PC world, however, and made the computer personal before HP could even dream about it with its — and you’re correct there — silly ads. Mac sees the progress it made, and that’s why Hodgman looks like he’s going home to watch “Suddenly Susan” while drinking a Crystal Pepsi.

Meo: The issue isn’t Microsoft. It’s PCs. The only concept to which Mac has firmly attached itself is name recognition — people want brand name things. That’s why Sony’s Walkman became the word for portable cassette players and Xerox, Kleenex and half a dozen other name brands have become the names. The PCs I’ve owned and used have been great — everything I wanted, paid for and expected. But we’re talking about “Mac” vs. the other guys who fail to make a cohesive, effective plunge into the market. You have Dell, HP, Compaq, Gateway, Acer and a hundred other companies that can cobble together a machine out of hundreds, if not thousands of aftermarket parts. Out of that group, Dell is the only one that projects itself a cutting edge with its product designs and advertising. They’ve got hot chicks in Devo helmets building computers that look like drag racers. Hey, it’s a start.

Malcolm: But it is Microsoft, because it spearheaded the PC movement, and it’s a universal entity for all PCs. It has the name recognition. Microsoft and the PC companies that use Microsoft products had the ability to strangle Mac years ago, but they failed to rise to the changing times. Meanwhile, Apple (Mac) has tapped into our generation, realizing its capabilities. I’m a good test case: I — a writer, film student, music buff and Internet-savvy kid — owned a Dell desktop during college. It was awkward, slow, boring. Then I bought a Dell laptop. It was more awkward, more slow, more boring. After a yearlong bout, it finally died. So I decided to jump into MacWorld.

The heavenly glow of the Apple Store was all I needed. No need to say how perfect my MacBook has performed in its year alive (with all the programs I need for my complex life), I was sold the moment I saw the light. See the light, John, see the light.

E-mail Tim Malcolm at E-mail John Meo at