Why Dell, HP and the other PC manufacturers are scared

In the past week, there have been a slew of articles discussing the huge growth in Apple’s share of the overall computer market.  One article discussed how nearly 8% of computers now in use are Apples, which is a nearly 32% jump in a year and another article here.  Apple’s notebook sales jumped 61% in a year.  Another article discussed how 14% of all new computers sold are Apple (cant find the link).

To add to this growth, a number of articles have discussed the iPhone halo effect (similar to the iPod halo effect).  The big difference this time around — the iPhone does much more and is a more important part of people’s live than any iPod ever was.  If you use and iPhone and love it, buying a Mac running on similar software makes sense.  Check out some discussions/articles, here, and here.  Apple has seen a dramatic rise in sales of Macs but the interest in the iPhone far dwarfs that of Macs.   Add the halo effect plus an unprecedented level of interest in the iPhone and you have huge potential Mac growth.

Of course none of this would be possible without the help of Microsoft.  Vista’s growth is huge but it started from zeo and is in the range of 250% growth year or year.  However, that growth happens because people are not nearly as willing to switch to a new computer OS as they are to make the move from a regular cell phone to a smartphone.  A computer is already an integral part of people’s lives and they are rightfully scared of making any big changes (especially when most folks fear computers and any minor computer change).  Making the move to a smartphone is less frightening than moving to a new computer system.

Vista, as anyone who has tried it knows, is not the revolution that Microsoft promised.  It is, at best, adequate.  Whenever I turn on parallels or bootcamp, I cringe in fear of something freezing.  Components still do not work and drivers are not out.  Vista forced me to return to Apple after a near 10 year separation and anecdotal evidence shows that it is making many people do the same.

However, to return to the title of this post, Dell, HP and the other PC manufacturers are scared.  Apple sales are growing and, with the iPhone effect + Vista, they are likely to continue to grow for the foreseeable future (Windows 7.0 might change this but it is too far away to discuss here).

Why are they scared?  Apple has one thing that those PC manufacturers do not and that they can never reproduce — Apple’s OS Leopard.  Dell, HP and the others can build the best computers in the world but Apple will not allow them to run Leopard on those machines.  Those machines are stuck with Vista (or XP).  As the iPhone, Leopard & Vista have shown, people are drawn to stable software on quality hardware.  Apple has both of these things while Dell and the others only have one.  Apple’s growth can continue unabated while Dell and the other PC guys will decline and they do nothing to stop it. With an enterprise based iPhone coming down the pipe, a less virus prone & crash prone OS, and with consumers snapping up Apple’s for their homes, company’s are going to start to make the switch (as they already have).  When this switch begins to happen in full, Apple will begin to hit at the jugular of PC/Vista sales.

The PC manufacturers are tied to a now sinking (or at least leaking) ship of Vista.  If I were them, I would be scared…

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Finally played with Dell’s M1330

My friend just bought a Dell XPS M1330. As follower’s of this blog know, this computer was one of my top choices to replace my old ABS. I ended up buying a Macbook Pro. I am glad that I did.

Why did I like the M1330? The computer was small and light but powerful. It had a discrete graphics card, which was a must. Also, at the time I was looking, it was slightly cheaper than a Macbook Pro. Now, it is much cheaper and a MBP. I think my friend paid around $1,200 for a system with all the trimmings. That compares to about $1,800 for a MBP with a student discount included.

If you compare the two computers based solely on hardware/price, the Dell wins. Aesthetically, it is a draw. So why am I so happy that I bought a MBP instead of the M1330? The answer is simple — my friend’s M1330 is loud, hot and it vibrates (when only running Vista and IE). My MBP is essentially silent and never shakes even when running multiple programs.

I have a pet peeve with noisy computers. There is no reason why a computer’s fan should run unless intense programs are running. The average program is not intense. HD accessing should be limited. The heat, noise, and vibration of the M1330 is probably due to both the construction/engineering inside the M1330 and the software it is running, namely Windows Vista (although note, Vista on my Mac runs with only moderate heat/HD accessing issues).

The Macbook Pro wins this battle, at least for me. Had I bought an M1330 and it ran as hot, loud, with as many vibrations as my friends’, then I would have returned it immediately.

Dear Microsoft

Dear Microsoft,

I hate you. I hate you because you should have had me. I should have been one of your customers. I wanted to be one of your customers. If you are confused, let me explain.

Ten years ago, I bought a brand new Power Computing Mac clone. It was a nice computer. Apple was the way to go for a wannabe techie kid in ’94 whose parents wouldn’t spring for an actual Mac. The computer worked well but I ended up hating it. The main reason was that I enjoy playing around with programs and the Mac platform didn’t have many. Plus, all the best games came out for the PC first and then, if I was lucky, for Mac. I swore I would never own another Mac. It was not compatible with my lifestyle.

When I went to college, I bought a nice Sony Vaio. It served me well for four years. It broke on its way to law school. After a long arduous search for a new computer that met my qualifications (i.e. medium weight with a high-end graphics card — not an easy combination to find), I bought an ABS. That stands for Always Better Service if you did not know. While their service was terrible, I didn’t buy the computer for the service since I believed, whether a Dell, Sony, Gateway or ABS, the hardware guts of my computer were the same. Plus, I know what to do with messed up computers and did not really need the ABS.

My ABS served me very well until January. In January, as I am sure you know, you launched Windows Vista. Generously, you provided it free to my graduate University. Being the excited techie that I was, I installed Vista immediately. Unlike most people with three year old computers, my computer easily met Vista’s specs. I received a 3.5 score and Aero ran without a glitch. I was in heaven — until I fell far, fast, and hard.

Why did I fall? Vista took up too many resources and that ran okay under XP barely ran in Vista. Drivers for a most of my internal hardware components were missing. To my internet addicted horror, that included the drivers to turn on my wireless card. Did you really expect ABS to provide all those drivers? Please…

I spent hours finding drivers for similar components from the big manufacturers that might make my hardware work (thanks, especially to Toshiba — my internet would not have worked without you!). I excused this lapse as the growing pains of a cool new OS and the laziness of my cheap PC manufacturer.

But then other issues began to surface. The most annoying was that my computer never wanted to return from sleep mode (by either opening the laptop screen or pressing keys or both when necessary). It sometimes took over five minutes for it to wake. It might have been tired. It might have been hitting its own snooze button. this might make sense, however, because it usually took a number of tries to make the computer sleep. Using the software to go into sleep mode didn’t always work. Closing the screen didn’t work half the time either. Even if it did sleep, it was apt to turn itself on while I was sleeping and light up my whole room. Whatever the reasons, I was annoyed. Whenever starting the computer, which occurred each morning due to the aforementioned sleep problems, the computer turned off the screen after passing the DOS info. Therefore, to turn the screen back on, I had to press the power key and put the computer into sleep mode and then hit the power key again to unsleep it again. This took time and battery power.

I was able to live with these problems and even lay some of the blame on the shoulders of ABS. However, ABS was not responsible for the software creep that slowly crippled my computer. As the months passed, my computer became slower and slower. I was not doing anything abnormal. I just wanted to check go online, write a document or two and edit some photos. Yet by the end, my computer’s processor ran non-stop. The fan blew as loud as an airplane (ok, that is part ABS’ fault and the age of my comp). This happened even though, from what on my screen, just the basic programs were running (note, obviously, a lot was happening in the background despite all of my best semi-techie efforts to shut off every single program unless I told it to start).

Everything was slow and my computer became unusable. I needed a new computer.

What to buy?

For the first time since laptops were produced, my ideal laptop hardware began production this summer. The Dell M1330 is it. It is small, light, and can handle all the highest end components I could [maybe not] afford. But the M1330 runs Windows Vista. Yes, it is new and it is from Dell and I know you think that should just about guarantee that all my drivers will work and that problems shouldnt occur. I know you think this and want me to think this. But with Vista you lost credibility. Minus the driver issues, Vista ran pretty well at the beginning on my creaky old ABS after a clean install. But software creep occurred. Would it happen to my new Dell? In a year, would I find myself wishing I hadn’t purchased the computer because it had become creaky and relatively slow with all the junkware that was attaching itself to my computer?

I couldn’t take the risk. The Dell M1330 was my ideal hardware setup. No other manufacturer comes particularly close (Sony has a competitor but I swore off Sony after my Vaio in college). Even Vaunted Apple lacks a piece of hardware that met my needs to precisely.

Yet, thanks to Vista, I bought a Macbook Pro. I couldn’t take the risk of Vista creep.

So my dear Microsoft, you had me and I hate you for forcing me to buy a laptop that was not what I really wanted. Damn you.

Rooting that the next MS OS will be better,

Adam