A Tale of Four Laptops

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was college.  And everyone had a laptop.

Let’s just call our characters A, B, C, and D:

A came to college with a three-year-old PC laptop, brand now unknown.

B arrived with a brand new Dell Inspiron.

C similiarly brought a brand new Dell Inspiron to school.

D had a shiny new Mac.

A’s old PC broke down about one year in.  Solace was found in a new, slimmer, sleeker Mac.

B and C both had problems with Spyware, but B’s went from bad to catastrophic.  After three years, a new laptop was in order.  B bought the newest Mac on the market, complete with that nifty camera. The camera provided endless hours of entertainment.

C’s Dell was pretty slow after three years, but it was still chugging along.

D’s Mac went kaput after three years.  That was it.  Everything gone. D bought the new, newest Mac.  D really upped B.

Let’s recap.  The Mac in the bunch literally died after three years.  They say that doesn’t happen to Mac’s, but it did.  The Dell belonging to C, born at the same time, lived longer.  Was it as cool and hip as the Mac’s in the story? No — but it did the job.

Which is why I’m always very skepitcal of Apple’s claim that they’re worth the extra money.  Farhad Manjoo, Slate’s tech writer, does a good job of summing up the advantages and disadvantages of buying either a Mac or a PC, but I still think he misses the point.  Most people can’t afford a Mac, whether it’s going to live longer and provide you better customer service or not.  $1,299 is a lot of money for a computer.  For people who are already willing to spend that much, I’m willing to bet that the Apple is a better buy.  But if you really can’t spend more than $1,000, you could do worse than to buy a Dell and treat it properly.  You’re not going to have all of the nifty gadgetry that comes along with a Mac, but you’ll be able to surf the Internet, to write your papers, see your photos — you get the idea.

The fight over customers between Apple and Microsoft is only applicable to a small sector of the population that wants to be hip enough to buy a Mac.  I’m not sure that it’s got the kind of implications Manjoo supposes. There’s always going to be a market for cheaper, lesser quality laptops, in the same way Wal-mart exists to provide cheaper, lesser quality goods.

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