Skip to comments.Why iPods and Macs are hated by default
Posted on 06/06/2006 3:34:55 PM PDT by Swordmaker
Little over a week ago, Sandisk launched an anti-iPod campaign and Newsvine-addict Brian Ford posted about it, a seed that sparked a long-running, heated debate on the iPod vs. the rest, on the popularity of the iPod and whether or not it is a better audio player.
Brian followed it up and asserted, very correctly I might add, that the iPod's vast popularity did not come from being popular right from the start. When the iPod was launched in October 2001, Apple was a minority player in the world of music players or just the tech industry in general. Its share of the computer market was (and is) a mere few percentages hardly a position from which you can produce popularity simply on your brand name alone.
As such, when the iPod was launched it wasn't a popular product at all. In fact, the first line of iPods was Mac-only, and thus excluded more than 95% of its potential audience. It wasn't until the iPod became Mac and PC-compatible that it started to become more popular again, not "because it was popular" (because it wasn't, yet) but because it was a good product. It offered consumers a solution they needed or wanted, and the iPod offered it in ways the competitors didn't: ease of use, strong functionality and quality design. These factors were strongest in the iPod, so despite the fact that many companies jumped into the world of digital audio players at the time, the iPod gained in market share steadily.
By 2005, the iPod had reached over 70% market share in the US and the iTunes Music Store accomodated for roughly 82% of all (legally) downloaded music. The iPod was vastly popular, but it had gotten there not for being popular but for being a device that people enjoyed so much they would recommend it to their friends. At the same time, the iPod, with its incredibly stylish design, enjoyed having a cool, hip and trendy image but this image would never have worked if the device hadn't been at least somewhat popular. A consumer trend doesn't pick up out of thin air; it needs an installed base of satisfied customers.
Bring on the haters.
Today, marketing ploys like Sandisk's anti-iPod campaign prove only one thing: the iPod is popular, and some people don't like it that way. Obviously, Apple's competition fits that category, but I'm talking regular consumers here. Any time iPod-related news hits the Internet, people will butt into the conversation pointing out that the iPod is an inferior device, that their Sandisk/Creative/iRiver/competitor-of-choice's player is much better, has more features, is cheaper and/or is a more robust device. They will bring on evidence for their case by linking to articles, forum posts or news reports of people complaining about scratches or whatever problem with their iPods they may have, completely forgetting that no product that has ever been created in the history of mankind has been flawless. Or, in similar vein, they completely forget the law of large numbers:
The law of truly large numbers says that with a large enough sample many odd coincidences are likely to happen.
With over 50 million iPods sold to date, it takes only a tiny fraction of a percentage of iPods to have a problem, to become quite a noticeable amount.
Imagine that 1% of iPods showed a defect: it amounts to 500.000 iPods with a problem. Now imagine that only 1% of the owners with a defective iPod make a vocal complaint about it: that's 5.000 people complaining.
5.000 complaints that's bound to draw attention on the Internet, no matter how scattered across the world these people would be. But 5.000 is only a percentage of a percentage (or 1/10.000th) of the total number of iPods that didn't have a problem.
These numbers are completely unbased, however. For starters, many customers have (had) more than one single iPod, thus already making the number of iPods sold vs. the number of iPod users two completely different numbers.
Moreover, in reality it is quite likely that far more than 1% of iPod owners with a problem will make a fuss about it (it is, after all, a popular product and that will get you good media coverage right there). Conversely, it might be far more or far less than 1% of iPods that show a real defect. But either way, it suggests that we would see tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of complaints. So...
I hereby challenge anyone who feels that the iPod is not the best MP3 player in the world, to find 500 unique cases of people having a problem with it. Not 500.000, not 5.000, "just" 500.
With tens or hundreds of thousands of presumable complaints, vocal complaints at that, it shouldn't be hard to find a good amount. Right?
Obviously, nobody is going to go through a ton of effort to gather 500 unique cases for no reason other than to make a point (or prove me wrong), but the whole thing demonstrates that there is something fundamentally flawed in the arguments presented by iPod-haters: a fairly severe lack of research.
Point in case, the biggest flaw in arguments from people hating on the iPod is expressed by Creating Passionate Users' blog post, Popularity breeds contempt:
How long did you try it before you came to these conclusions?
How many people on any of the newssites (Newsvine included) that advocate against the iPod, have ever tried it out for a week? Trying it for a few minutes is not comparable, as you don't get to use it out in the open, during travel, in combination with iTunes and the iTMS that way (for instance).
My guess? Less than 1% of all the people that hate on the iPod have ever really used it. I have seen maybe one person in the last 8 months of following all the iPod-news I could find, state that they used to have an iPod and have now switched to a different player, and maybe five or six people who have used an iPod from a friend (but that is likely to have been a five minute hands-on test, like you'd have in the Apple Stores, not a take-home-plug-in-use-iTunes kind of test).
Of course, right now all iPod haters reading this will go "I don't have to try it out to know that it's a bad product, I can see it from the specs!"
But technical specifications can and will never show you what the experience of the product is. It is the experience which ultimately is the reason the iPod is as popular as it is today.
The blog post I quoted above says it best:
This "how long did you try it?" question will be met with, "I don't need to try something to know it's wrong." And for a ton of things, that's true. But as a sweeping statement, it doesn't hold up for most of the koolaid point, because until you've tried something or at least gotten all the facts, you cannot fully understand what others have found so compelling or practical or effective or engaging or productive or delightful
And what about Macs?
Something that I've started noticing is that most people who are vocal iPod-aficionados are not only iPod-users, but also Mac-users. In other words, the most passionate iPod users are those who also own a Mac.
The Mac, however, does not share the iPods desirable 75% market share it's quite the opposite in fact, as Macs currently hover around a 5% market share.
The OS X operating system is quite clearly a popular one nonetheless: whilst not having any significant market share, it is continously lauded for being such a fantastic OS. Additionally, OS X tends to win awards much more often than any other operating system does, and a very thorough analysis and comparison of OS X and Windows XP (Home and Pro) shows that OS X is the better operating system overall.
When talking to an average Mac user about OS X, you'll find that they are very passionate about their OS. Unlike the average Windows user, Mac users are passionate in the good way, praising their operating system left and right, evangelizing it wherever possible. Ask any average Windows user and they're likely to complain about Windows with a passion, and if not that, you'll still be hard-pressed to find a Windows user that is truly happy about their OS and who regularly advocates its many great aspects.
But go to any news article on Apple, and you'll also find people hating on Mac OS X, Apple's machines or the iPod (even when the article isn't about iPods at all).
Commonly seen arguments: Apple is overpriced; Apple products are pretentious; Apple products are just a fashion statement and don't offer any real quality or value; Mac OS X is inferior / slower to Windows XP; Mac OS X doesn't have the same amount of software (or games), etc.
So let's ask the same question:
How long did you try it before you came to these conclusions?
Again, we will see the same results: very few of the haters have actually ever really used OS X for more than a few moments, if at all.
"But what's your point? Why are they hated by default?"
Both iPods and Macs are popular in that consumers are extremely vocal in their praises of the products. Sometimes, they are so vocal that it's annoying to others annoyance which these others will turn into contempt for the products themselves, because they believe that the products are to blame for these enthusiastic people that are bothering them with endless promotion and zealous advocating.
I have seen it happen many times over, sometimes thanks to myself being one such example (when I first switched to Mac, after 13 years of being a Windows user, I was all too happy and excited about sharing my joy about Mac OS X with my friends, plenty of whom responded like I just described). The products aren't actually to blame, obviously, because all that the products have done is be so good (to these people) that the users actively wanted to sing their praises.
Not that the people themselves are to blame, either, but they are the ones annoying others and not the products. Popularity does breed contempt, however unfounded it may be.
But there is another reason, which may not apply to all of the haters but chances are good it applies to a lot more of them than would ever admit it:
They are jealous.
Whenever someone yells "it's overpriced!" or "it's too expensive" what you really should read is: "I looked into buying one for myself, but I couldn't afford it or justify to myself (or partner/spouse) the costs of purchasing it."
Even IF the Mac would be overpriced and even IF it would be expensive, not many people would bother bringing that up as an argument unless they had at least a smidgen of desire to own one. This is how the human mind works. People don't complain about something they absolutely don't care about at all and have absolutely no interest in.
People complaining about the iPod's price or the Mac's prices being expensive or overpriced have, at some point or another and at least for a very brief moment, wanted to buy one. This isn't wild speculation: I'm utterly convinced of this.
As evidence to support this claim: when three friends of mine, all of whom are very vocal Apple-haters, were told that they might be able to get a 15% discount on Apple hardware, they all said something along the lines of "ooh, in that case that MacBook Pro suddenly becomes very appealing"
I have many other such examples, but they all boil down to the same thing: when these Apple-haters were presented with the idea that they could get a sizeable discount, their Apple-hatred suddenly vanished completely! Gone were all the shouts of "Mac OS X sucks," replaced by a very eager-sounding "when can I get that discount?"
These people didn't hate the Mac or the iPod for being a popular device, but because they couldn't justify purchasing one at its default price (something which they might have feared would make them feel like sheep, joining the flock with the rest of the people).
On a side note: all of these Mac-haters that I know in person haven't spent much or any time at all using OS X for themselves. Again, hating without knowing what it's all about.
But getting back to topic, things are not quite as black-and-white as I may have portrayed them: there are many people who have used both Windows XP and OS X and have indicated they don't really prefer one over the other. They can get their work done on both just fine and like and dislike certain things about each OS.
Those are the people that can generally offer you a lot of really good information if you're considering making the Switch, by the way, because they truly know both OS's from personal experience and serious use, not from marketing claims, technical specs and screenshots.
And lastly, there are the people who truthfully don't care much about another OS or a certain MP3 player at all, they just go about their business and let others do all the bickering. Thing is, these people are least likely to post or comment much about these subjects, if at all, for the exact reason that they don't really care much about the issue.
I know many people in the last category as well, most predictably they are people like my parents who don't know much about computers beyond how to use Word, do e-mail and browse the 'Net. They just want to get their work done and would prefer not having to worry about destroying their hard drives through clicking on an image banner on some website and ending up with all kinds of malware. These are generally "apathetic" Windows users that couldn't much care whether they used Windows 2000, Windows XP or Mac OS X. They just want their e-mail, word processor and browser, and maybe a little game or two.
When all's said and done, though, iPods and Macs are hated because they are desirable products that manage to please their users so well that they advocate the product vigorously. And the haters? Well, not everyone can stomach enthusiastic advocates, and not everyone's rolling in money. There's always more to it, but from my personal experience with people on both sides of the fence that's pretty much the case.
That said, I really only have one complaint about Apple. I'd like a Linux version of iTunes. Yes, there are equivalents, but no iTunes store.
I got a new mouse for my Mac that has right click/scroll function.
It's Microsoft. :-)
Great, you can convert tomorrow! When you buy the Mac, just buy a second party mouse that has at least two buttons. You then tell the System Preferences what you want the buttons to do. Very simple.
Apple's DRM is also the only thing allowing iTunes to exist in the first place. The music industry wouldn't sign on any other way.
In Mac OS X, if I select a word in just about any program and right-click, I get a popup menu with "Search in Google" as one of the options. Is that what you mean?
Write to Apple and request it... point out the rising number of LINUX users and the revenues that could be made off of additional iPod and iTunes sales.
Apple so far has said no.
I do think the number of Linux users will rise, once people tire of what Windows updates do to computers.
There are cheaper services... but Otherworld is a "name brand" and has a reputation. Make sure you have all your songs on your computer before sending it off.
Will I lose all my tunes for sure or is there just a chance I will lose them?
Control-click does the same thing as a right-click.
"How long did you try it before you came to these conclusions?"
And if it didn't, then iTunes would NOT EXIST.
And as Linux becomes easier to install and use. Ubuntu is getting there; it has the first package manager that I actually like.
Look at the specifications on their website to see the weak video cards offered.
PcLinuxOS and Mepis use the same manager and both are easier than Ubuntu IMHO.
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