Détente

*I feel I should point out up front that I wrote this piece on Tuesday morning, prior to the tragic news of Steve Jobs' death. Despite my clearly defined allegiance to the Cult of PC, it is impossible to minimize the impact Steve Jobs has had on the face of technology, computing and even the fabric of our culture. It is hard to imagine a world of technological innovation without Steve Jobs in it.*

A cold war rages in my home, a now nearly generational divide that has created occasional flash points of hostilities along hastily drawn borders. It is a conflict that on the surface seems clearly defined but belies deep complexities based on crude assumptions and age-old prejudices, and though there have been many olive branches extended through barred gates, the roots of bias run deep and hold fast.

Here’s the thing. My wife is a Mac person. I am not.

Detente is a meaningful word in my home, because despite the fact that the two platforms have become virtually indistinguishable from one another over the years, the dispute is no longer predicated on the reality of the situation. Now the debate is merely a series of tactical standoffs in which open hostility is only just barely averted. These skirmishes, in truth, are the exception as opposed to the rule, if only because we have seen what happens when such encounters spiral out of control.

So, when the need arises to bring more Apple products into the house, I generally bite my tongue and accept that the platform is ideal for my wife’s graphic-design roots. In return, she indulges me when I start talking about how much I want to replace my desktop, despite the fact that she has been exclusively portable for more than 3 years and can’t imagine the horror of being beholden to the confines of a desk.

I mention all of this only to illustrate my predisposition when we arrived at the Apple Store a week ago to replace my wife’s laptop.

When I paint the word-picture of my wife, I want you to remember this part. When my son last week spilled a full glass of orange juice onto my wife’s Macbook Pro, her immediate reaction was to comfort him and take responsibility for having the glass of juice anywhere near the laptop in the first place. This, despite the immediate sense of catastrophe that must have come from watching that pulpy liquid seep into the vulnerable spaces of a now doomed system. The result was unequivocal, and our response never wandered into the hopeless spaces of asking whether the system could be saved. It was immediately evident that we may have well tried to prevent the sun from setting. The only question was how best to rescue the data.

While I sat at work deliberately not trying to calculate costs in my head, a day was spent by my wife at the Apple “Genius Bar.” The geniuses, perhaps huddling in a conclave of super-intelligence suspended in a fourth-dimensional hyper cube, returned a verdict that matched ours, and by the afternoon we were well down a path of purchasing a new laptop and determining the best way to rebuild and restore as quickly as possible.

By the time I got home that afternoon, a lot of decisions had been made. We decided that our son was not at fault for any major transgression, and that the accident had not happened due to malice or irresponsibility on his part. We had decided to try and recover as much data as possible directly from the hard drive of the old computer. We had decided not to try and have them repair the machine, and we had decided to go back to the Apple Store and buy a replacement laptop.

Mac people, if I may grossly and perhaps inaccurately generalize for a moment, are not exactly my people. My religion is one in which DOS commands are holy texts. In the Mall of America, the Apple Store is directly across from a Microsoft Store, and the air between the two is electric, like standing between two high-powered, oppositely charged electromagnets. As I walked into the undiscovered country of silver and white, I immediately noticed how the staff seemed to maintain an impeccable image that I automatically interpreted as casual superiority. A trendy looking girl with nerd-goddess glasses intercepted me as we approached the back of the store — where the geniuses are perhaps held in suspended animation, their precious genes lovingly attended to by nanites — glanced down at her iPad and asked if she could help me in a way that would have been interpreted by a universal translator as, “You look like the sort of person who doesn’t have an appointment and probably shouldn’t be back here.”

At a nearby table, a twenty-something with spiky hair and scraggly facial hair that should have seemed disheveled except that it was so very meticulously made up to look such, was indulging a group of elderly people with basic computer instruction. Not a single person, customer or employee, seemed to not be holding some shiny, almost clinical-looking device. Everything, down to the iPads being used as glorified price tags for the demo computers, felt crafted to serve to a single image: the Apple image.

Two people emerged from the back and held extended discussions with my wife about transferring data from damaged drives to a new machine, and the potential hazards of countless possible incompatibilities between old and new operating systems, old and new versions of software, and old and new computers. Countless possible permutations were devised, discussed, disseminated and dismissed, and over the next hour and a half I had plenty of time to evaluate and judge my surroundings. As I sat on an aggrandized foam ball that apparently constituted a chair in this strange place, I felt a like a Stranger in a Strange Land. I began to tweet on my Android device of hipsters and pretensions.

After what felt like a very long time, I was happy to make my escape from this land of skinny jeans and ironic shirts, which is where the story should end leaving you and I both with familiar and tired cliches that for me too often make opaque the veil between what I interpret and the absolutely critical details.

Rewind for a moment and recall some important factors I just mentioned.

  • My wife’s afternoon spent at the Genius Bar, working with people to figure out the best solution for her.

  • Being greeted immediately and directed where I could get the most help upon arrival.

  • The kid whose job it was to help people learn how to use their computer, working away patiently to provide human support.

  • Two knowledgeable associates who spent more than an hour with my wife helping her figure out exactly what she needed and, more importantly, what would work.

  • And, the one detail I did not actually provide to you yet: the person who stayed late that night to mount the damaged drive and accelerate the data transfer so she could have it for work the next day.

The result was a fully functioning replacement, set up to the specifications we requested and able to allow my wife to pick up her work seamlessly from where she left off. Sure, the people who came to my wife’s rescue that day may have seemed devout clerics of the Apple religion, but they also knew what the hell they were talking about and could analyze the situation with a high degree of both insight and accuracy.

I wondered, would I have received the same kind of response and support among “my people?” Would Microsoft Store employees have nearly leapt across the room to begin offering detailed analysis and more than an hour of customer service? If I walked up to the counter at my local Best Buy and employed the Geek Squad to my cause, how different would that experience have been? In a world where I am feeling left constantly wanting for genuine customer service, who the hell was I to walk into this space and unleash my internal salvos of disdain based on my own preconceptions?

In the end, though I remain unconverted to the cause, I must admit that I see much more clearly now some of the reasons that a person might choose to transact their business in an Apple Store before anywhere else.

Comments

cd c:commentfiles/irony *enter*

run

Amen.

| more

Apple has brought many many more people across the digital divide than, say, the US educational system. I still prefer to be home-schooled where my bits and bytes are concerned, however.

shipdisk

*powers off tower*

Loved the story and if it was ten years ago I would have screamed "heretic"! However in my later years I found everything has it's place.

However one thing I think needs to be added the equation is cost. You are paying for that service. For years I have tried to get my parents to just by a Mac so they could do what little they need computer for and not bother me everyday. However, my father sees the cost and translates that to buying three Dell's.

armedbushido, the original draft of this had a wonderful line (if I do say so myself) about twice the cost for the half of what I want a computer to do. Tragically, this line was cut by that brutal butcher, Wordsmythe.

I assume he has some ulterior motive and subversive agenda.

Oh Elysium, that is a brilliantly written article. Maybe my favourite of yours so far, you had me hook, line, and sinker. Just as my seething rage was set to boil over, you expertly slapped a big grin on my face. A fantastic piece of reflection.

A Dutch saying roughly translated: Unknown makes for unloved.
I love my gaming time on a pc, but that's because I know more about
them then the average customer. Love Apple products, although I actually don't
even own one right now. But played with them lots. I like their culture,
and am trying to mix up with my pc/gaming needs.

Love your story!

In the end, though I remain unconverted to the cause, I must admit that I see much more clearly now some of the reasons that a person might choose to transact their business in an Apple Store before anywhere else.

Agreed. The thing Apple has managed to do is bring computing power (in many different formats) to the non-nerd.

I like my PC/Android/non-Apple devices.

I love the fact that my girlfriend has an iPad. I may even try to get her to go to an Apple laptop-thingy when her current Windows laptop dies. The big problem is she uses some specialized quilting software that may not be available for Macs.

I also agree that the Apple Store experience is one of the best out there.

Well done sir. I strayed from the Apple flock at just past 10 years ago and have not returned. I can see the appeal of both platforms, but the PC just makes more sense to me in more than one way. The girlfriend is a die-hard Mac user, but we coexist in that regard.

armedbushido wrote:
Loved the story and if it was ten years ago I would have screamed "heretic"! However in my later years I found everything has it's place.

However one thing I think needs to be added the equation is cost. You are paying for that service. For years I have tried to get my parents to just by a Mac so they could do what little they need computer for and not bother me everyday. However, my father sees the cost and translates that to buying three Dell's.

Yup. Great experiences aren't hard to provide given the price they charge for everything down to the most basic of accessories. Don't get me wrong, I love my iPhone, but I love the fact that it was subsidized by my telecom and its rewards program. I can't imagine buying a new one at cost.

My only problem with Apple is how little support they provide for compatibility problems between Apple products and Windows. Recently, I had to restore my iTunes library after my hard drive crashed. Doing so was a true PITA, and when my wife went into the Apple store to meet with a genius for an unrelated question, I casually asked if there were any tricks/tips for getting my iPod to recognize my old library on Win 7. I might as well have asked if it was ok if I dropped a steaming deuce right on top of the iPad display.

See, here's my problem with that. I get that Microsoft and Apple are rivals. But I'm not asking for help with Windows registry - I'm asking for help with an Apple product. Furthermore, I'm asking for help in restoring several hundred dollars' worth of services I've bought from their online store

I do agree though that otherwise their customer service is really great. They did cut my wife an incredible deal on repairs to her iPod touch after she dropped it.

I'm a PC
IMAGE(http://www.simpsoncrazy.com/content/pictures/family/HomerStranglesBart1.gif)

I'm a mac
IMAGE(http://t1.ftcdn.net/jpg/00/03/19/84/400_F_3198464_m17ddnpydeJyU9fgL0123Zstu4a6cm.jpg)

<Ahnold>IT'S NOT A RELIGION</Ahnold>

Seriously, the ones who treat computing platform choice as a religion are, generally, the anti-mac crowd. The rest of us just like high quality products and aren't afraid to invest in them. I own a self-built PC right alongside my series of macs. It's running a copy of Windows 7 I got for free for throwing a launch party for the OS (yes, it was mostly ironic). I have a VM set up on my pimped out MacBook Pro so that I can play with writing Metro apps in the Windows 8 dev preview. I have a Kindle, and an iPad, and an iPhone.

My love of Apple products has nothing whatsoever to do with blind faith, or adherence to some imagined secret cult of fanboys. They make, by far, the best hardware and OS for doing most of what I want to do with a computer. It's Unix with a beautifully designed, usable GUI on top. It runs on amazingly well-built hardware that lasts for years, is comfortable to use, and is (as you found) backed up by wonderful customer support.

Also, I know you were writing to your audience and hamming it up for the "but did you notice?", but unless your visceral reaction to walking in to an Apple store was totally fabricated, it smacks more of generic fear of the other than any kind of legitimate reaction to a girl wearing hipster glasses and being polite to you.

Oh, and citing your love of DOS commands as some kind of metric of computing hardcoreness? Please. Unix is older, deeper, more powerful, and more customizable than DOS has ever been, and if you strike it down, it will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Punk.

overloaded wrote:
Oh, and citing your love of DOS commands as some kind of metric of computing hardcoreness? Please. Unix is older, deeper, more powerful, and more customizable than DOS has ever been, and if you strike it down, it will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Punk.

Are you really trying to out-oldschool by commenting on something that's less than 10 years old?

Besides, the mention of DOS was only an indication of followed scripture, not an e-peen measurement.

Dysplastic wrote:
armedbushido wrote:
Loved the story and if it was ten years ago I would have screamed "heretic"! However in my later years I found everything has it's place.

However one thing I think needs to be added the equation is cost. You are paying for that service. For years I have tried to get my parents to just by a Mac so they could do what little they need computer for and not bother me everyday. However, my father sees the cost and translates that to buying three Dell's.

Yup. Great experiences aren't hard to provide given the price they charge for everything down to the most basic of accessories. Don't get me wrong, I love my iPhone, but I love the fact that it was subsidized by my telecom and its rewards program. I can't imagine buying a new one at cost.


Yeah, but is that any less true in other areas? It's the old adage "you get what you pay for" at work. You want a dirt cheap PC subsidized by MS from a big box retailer? Expect it to come loaded with crapware and don't expect that kind of customer service experience, unless you ponied up for that ridiculous "extended warranty" and you're miraculously still inside the designated time period and covered by it.

I love Apple for their designs, but I hate them for their walled garden approach of locking everything down. Of course, this is also exactly what allows them to provide such a good experience to the non-tech savvy user, so I accept that it has its place. It's just not for me. I love the fact that my wife has a MacBook though. I've only had to intervene once since she got it, and I've been impressed with how well it's held up to her beatings. In fact, that's why I had to intervene once.

One day a few months ago, she was taking a bottle of vodka to a party we were going to, and it was one of those glass bottles, not the plastic ones. It somehow broke clean it half in her bag and soaked everything in there with vodka, including her MacBook. I wiped it clean, but clearly it had soaked most everything inside, because there was still liquid coming out when you tilted it. Well, I figured anything we do at this point can't possibly hurt. Let's see how bad the damage is...

I took the back plate off with a screwdriver and drained/wiped out all the liquid I could find, and we let it air dry for the day. Fortunately, it's basically water and alcohol so it evaporates pretty easily. After letting it dry and putting the back plate on again, we huddled in front for the big moment. I pushed the power button and...it booted up. I sh*t you not. It loaded the OS, and all her files seemed to be there and intact. The only thing that seemed to no longer work was the DVD drive, and she recently took it to get just that part repaired, which was obviously a lot cheaper than getting a whole new machine.

overloaded wrote:
Seriously, the ones who treat computing platform choice as a religion are, generally, the anti-mac crowd.

My experience selling Apple products at my College campus has to disagree with you there.

It was an interesting time. I had to sit and use Apple computers a good deal. I still hate a lot of their UI and some other ways the operating system works, must confess, but overall I've come to think Apple is pretty good most of the time as a software company.

But it still burns me that the iPod has so much market share and the Zune had so little that it is now done with as hardware. I tried different Creative Zen's and I had to use iPods at work (THAT STUPID WHEEL! I HATE THE WHEEL!), and so when a Zune came in the store and I tested it out...it was heavenly.

I love the Zune, and now it is dead. I will always irrationally blame Apple for that.

(Off topic sort of: I recently discovered that if headphones or whatnot are removed from the Zune's headphone jack, it will automatically pause. Is this a feature also found in iPods?)

The last time I walked into an Apple store, the best the Apple representative could offer me was "I'm sorry but that product isn't for sale here. In the Philippines. Even though it's purely an online digital product, yes." When I took my damaged iPod for repairs, the Apple guys said, "Sorry, it's out of the warranty period. Buy another one."

I have it on good authority that the best the local Apple guys at one store will do for a damaged laptop is, "Sorry, we can't help you," though I suppose some exceptions might exist.

If it were a normal laptop, I'd have just been able to take out the hard drive, hook it up manually to a PC, and recover my own data (it should not have been damaged by the juice if the Apple guys were able to recover it).

And I had my iPod repaired at a pirate shop, too.

It's nice to have exceptional Apple service to back up their products, but that service isn't a worldwide phenomenon, unfortunately. Us hicks have to fend for ourselves, and Apple products are really bad for that.

When I was considering a new laptop, my pal Bill said, "Well you can choose between a Mac and a PC. It's going to cost $2000 either way. The question you have to ask is: Do I want to spend $2000 on a mac, or a $1000 on a laptop and then another $1000 on the next laptop?"

Damn him. I chose the $1500 laptop, and await the $500 in repairs.

[quote=ccesarano]

overloaded wrote:
Zune stuff

(Off topic sort of: I recently discovered that if headphones or whatnot are removed from the Zune's headphone jack, it will automatically pause. Is this a feature also found in iPods?)

And yes, the iPod has that same feature since the beginning I think.
The zune was actually quite nice, I've played with it for a bit. Problem was, it didn't have a 'iTunes' to support it and MS had screwed over others a few times by dropping their way of providing music. And that's just too bad when a good piece of hardware has to suffer because of that.

DorkmasterFlek wrote:
Dysplastic wrote:
armedbushido wrote:
Loved the story and if it was ten years ago I would have screamed "heretic"! However in my later years I found everything has it's place.

However one thing I think needs to be added the equation is cost. You are paying for that service. For years I have tried to get my parents to just by a Mac so they could do what little they need computer for and not bother me everyday. However, my father sees the cost and translates that to buying three Dell's.

Yup. Great experiences aren't hard to provide given the price they charge for everything down to the most basic of accessories. Don't get me wrong, I love my iPhone, but I love the fact that it was subsidized by my telecom and its rewards program. I can't imagine buying a new one at cost.

Yeah, but is that any less true in other areas? It's the old adage "you get what you pay for" at work. You want a dirt cheap PC subsidized by MS from a big box retailer? Expect it to come loaded with crapware and don't expect that kind of customer service experience, unless you ponied up for that ridiculous "extended warranty" and you're miraculously still inside the designated time period and covered by it.

"You get what you pay for" is absolutely mostly true. What I was saying is that I don't find it especially noteworthy that you get good customer service for an expensive product - that's what you're paying for. What IS noteworthy is when you get fantastic customer service at a reasonable price - like when Parallax still had his IT business running, and I would send all my friends who had computer problems to him because he provided amazing service for a very reasonable price. They all commented on how impressed they were and how surprised they were at the price.

At the Apple store, if you're going to drop 2K on a new laptop, yes, good customer service is absoultely there. However, friends of mine who have gone in for simple data recovery after dropping their Macbook have been met with blank stares and, I kid you not, been sent by the Apple Store staff to a local Mac repair shop who it turns out had gone out of business as a direct result of the Apple store opening. Geniuses indeed.

No worries, overloaded. That didn't come off as dogmatic at all. -- I would add a smiley face here to try and indicate humor rather than just being a jerk; if I used smiley faces. That said, I do see how they are a real time saver.

I love using the iMac at work (the 27 inch screen does help) for graphic design, and I love my Windows 7 beast-of-a-machine at home for gaming. When people try to compare Mac and Windows, I can just smirk smugly, knowing I have the best of the both worlds. Eat your heart out, Sammy Hagar.

I work many long hours on that iMac and I have to say I really love the OS. It has a feel to it that is simply not matched by Windows, even the well-received Windows 7. I would love to be able to use the Mac OS at home on my main machine, but I am a gamer, I love my Zune, I do not care for iTunes and iPods (not a fan of the unintuitive wheel), and I prefer AMD hardware.

Clearly I am not the intended audience, but I have no hatred for Apple. If anything, having a Mac waiting for me at work makes getting up in the morning just a tad less bear-like.

Funny, the first place I thought of looking for news and reaction to Steve Jobs was this website before a regular news website.

And yes, the iPod has that same feature since the beginning I think.
The zune was actually quite nice, I've played with it for a bit. Problem was, it didn't have a 'iTunes' to support it and MS had screwed over others a few times by dropping their way of providing music. And that's just too bad when a good piece of hardware has to suffer because of that.

I think most models had that feature after the ipod mini. Of course, I could have also had the only ipod mini that would continue playing. Not having an "iTunes"? The zune had the zune software but in terms of having as large of a music library as iTunes, yea I could see that. Also the zune couldn't play the ipod format music so anything you had from iTunes would be incompatible. You would pretty much have to burn an audio cd then rip the music off of it as an mp3.

I've been in the Ottawa Apple Store and there's no doubt that the experience is a spectacle to behold. As others have said though, it's easy to provide that when your wife is going to end up paying at least $500 more for that laptop than it should realistically cost.

The frustrating thing though is that the horrendous experience one gets at places like Best Buy doesn't have to be that way. When I was working there pre-recession, the company was easily making enough money that they could have afforded to pay for the kind of talent and practices that would have produced a similar experience. They just chose not to, instead hiring people with no real abilities but who were willing to work for $12/hour. Apple's got a great retail formula and it could be duplicated anywhere that was willing to spend the money. If I ever decide to actually buy an iPad some day (won't be any time soon), I wouldn't even consider buying it anywhere but the Apple Store unless it was heavily discounted somewhere else. Say what you will about Apple and I can say plenty but they understand that spend money now to make a superior customer experience better will pay off many fold in the long-term. Companies like Best Buy can only see to the next quarter and that's why customers hate them.

That said, Stylez and I started a business with the core value being to provide that kind of superior, attentive service at reasonable prices. The business flopped. I'm still not convinced the core value was to blame for that though. By the way Dysplastic, I still do that work on the side and am always looking for new customers. I'll send you a pile of business cards to spam your friends with if you want. I fix Macs too.

My religion is one in which DOS commands are holy texts.

I find this statement a little ironic, because my religion is one in which UNIX commands are holy invocations. (The man pages are the holy texts.) DOS is of course just a perversion of the UNIX shell.

That's why I'm a Mac-head - for the command line.

bilbodiaz wrote:

And yes, the iPod has that same feature since the beginning I think.
The zune was actually quite nice, I've played with it for a bit. Problem was, it didn't have a 'iTunes' to support it and MS had screwed over others a few times by dropping their way of providing music. And that's just too bad when a good piece of hardware has to suffer because of that.

I think most models had that feature after the ipod mini. Of course, I could have also had the only ipod mini that would continue playing. Not having an "iTunes"? The zune had the zune software but in terms of having as large of a music library as iTunes, yea I could see that. Also the zune couldn't play the ipod format music so anything you had from iTunes would be incompatible. You would pretty much have to burn an audio cd then rip the music off of it as an mp3.

In regards to the Zune store, they should have just struck a deal with Amazon MP3 and used that instead. That's pretty much where I get all my music nowadays. DRM-free and a decent bit-rate.

Great article.

I've only ever had great transactions and service from Apple, including online, phone and in-store. My only gripe is that they charge too much for upgrades. There are 3rd party vendors for things like memory and HDs but I've a feeling that doing so is warranty voiding.

When we worked on this yesterday, it didn't even occur to me that it might go live the morning everyone learned of Mr. Jobs' death.

The biggest issue I have with Apple products aren't Apple products: it's the blind faith of my manager that they could do no wrong and required little to no maintenance. In the IT sector and when dealing with servers (XServes), that just isn't the case.

It's taken time to get over his impact on my view of Apple, and while I must admit to being PC/Gates bias (yes, I like Vista, especially when compared to XP), you can have my iPad 2 when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Chumpy_McChump wrote:
overloaded wrote:
Oh, and citing your love of DOS commands as some kind of metric of computing hardcoreness? Please. Unix is older, deeper, more powerful, and more customizable than DOS has ever been, and if you strike it down, it will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Punk.

Are you really trying to out-oldschool by commenting on something that's less than 10 years old?

Besides, the mention of DOS was only an indication of followed scripture, not an e-peen measurement.

What's less than 10 years old, exactly?