It’s Mac time

Comparing the experience of Mac and PC users highlights how badly the IT industry has lost touch with its customer base. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

One of the great delights in my household is setting up a new computer; with all the boxes and surprises, it’s just like Christmas.

Recently we’ve had double the joy with two computers to set up. One turned out to be a delight and the other was a disappointment.

The first computer was a MacBook Pro. It took seven minutes to be connected and ready for useful work. The disappointing computer was an Acer Aspire which took two and half hours to get running.

Suffice to say, my next computer will be an Apple Mac.

To be fair to Microsoft the main problem was not, strictly speaking, a Windows Vista problem. The problem was Acer hadn’t installed the software required for the wireless network components.

Acer saved 50c by not providing any installation disks, so it took me half an hour looking for the files on the disk, another 30 minutes to find and download the correct drivers on the internet, and then another half hour of watching Vista slowly installing the software with irritating security messages every few minutes.

Once the laptop was on the network the usual chore of uninstalling trialware then adding the necessary security software and updates to keep these systems safe on the internet added another hour. The whole process took just over two and a half hours.

Now I could be accused of being not very good with computers, or having a deep bias against Windows Vista, so I’ll defer to the Vista expert Ed Bott who has valiantly defended Vista in his computer columns.

Recently he wrote about the TWO MONTHS it took to get his friend’s Vista-equipped PC running at an acceptable level of performance. In the meantime his friend gave up and bought a Mac.

The problem with these computers is deeper than just one manufacturer or software vendor. The sad truth is much of the IT industry has lost contact with their customers.

Many of Microsoft’s problems with Vista are due to their caring more about Intel’s chipset sales than their customers. Acer no doubt made a “commercial decision” not to bother installing or supplying the software necessary for my wife’s laptop to work as advertised.

The whole mess of trial software and other rubbish clogging up new computers is because PC manufacturers would rather take a few dollars from their “marketing partners” than delivering a system that meets their customers needs.

Most people buy computers as a tool to do a job. We want that tool to work properly when we take it out of the box. While I don’t expect every printer, webcam, scanner and mobile phone to work automatically, I do expect the system to work as advertised.

We don’t buy computers so Intel can clear old stock, we don’t buy computers so the manufacturer can get a $10 kickback for bundling a buggy antivirus we won’t use, and we certainly don’t buy computers where the wireless functions don’t work so some middle manager can meet a KPI and afford a holiday in Noosa, Florida or Macau.

Until the IT industry starts listening to their customers and delivers the tools to let us do our jobs, then we’ll continue to see the decline in the reputation of the entire industry.

And more people like me will be seeking out those products that don’t get in the way of our work and lives.


Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology issues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT investment. His PC Rescue and IT Queries websites provide free advice to business computer users and his monthly newsletter has over 3000 subscribers.

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