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Apple vs. Windows Pricing: It’s All About TCO

The debate du jour: should you pay twice as much for a Mac than you’d have to pay for a Windows PC?

(Data source: NPD)

Just about everyone attributes the price difference to Apple’s marketing, Brand Power.   But I think by focusing on out-of-the box prices, they all miss the boat: it’s all about TCO.  Total Cost of Ownership.

I started to chronicle the hassle of just running a Vista PC and dealing with random, unexplainable failures, but more or less gave up.  Compare this to the anecdotal evidence of my Mac-user friends, who, despite occasional hiccups all agree: it just works.

I don’t know how you value your time (heck, sometimes I wonder about mine), but most computer users probably are not in the minimum wage bracket. Considering the days and nights I spent trying to fix this Vista monster, I’m quite sure I would have been better off paying more upfront for a Mac.  My TCO would have been lower.  And not even my Virtual Invoices can make up for that.

See today’s debate on: Apple Watch, DailyTech, TechBlog, Mark Evans, Microsoft Watch, Technovia , jkOnTheRun, The Digital Home, Hardware 2.0,

Update: Finally, some sanity – here’s Jake:

Focusing on out-the-door pricing seems too narrow to ask such a broad question. It would be very interesting to see a comparison of expected full costs (not just OOTB) for each of the major O/S.


Life After Outlook: Gmail. But is it Becoming Oopsmail?

Bernard’s title @ ReadWriteWeb, Breaking Free of Outlook perfectly matches my own sentiment: in fact I called the MS Client Outlook-prison repeatedly.

Unlike Bernard, I escaped from prison in stages:

I’ve never looked back, and am definitely more productive than in my desktop-bound life.  I could see first-hand a lot of people move in the same direction: my How to Import All Your Archive Email Into Gmail guide become an all-time classic, probably approaching 100,000 hits by now.  Gmail’s IMAP support changed everything, so I issued a  Simplified Guide to Importing All Your Archive Email Into Gmail.  A while later Google woke up, and started to offer a migration tool to subscribers of the paid Google Apps version. (Oh, and they are being sued by LimitNone, who claims Google basically stole their gMove product).

But the love-affair with Gmail was not without trouble: I first documented some glitches last spring: Gmail, I Love You – Don’t Let Me Down, then real trouble started a month ort so ago.

Formerly rock-solid Gmail has been ill a lot lately.  The “Oops…the system encountered a problem (#500) – Retrying in 1:30” error message has became a daily occurance… in fact several times a day.

I somewhat jokingly called “retry now” Gmail’s Penalty Button, when I noticed every time I hit it the wait counter increased by a minute.

Now I have an update: you don’t need the penalty button, the counter increases by itself.  Every time, “reliably”. Basically as soon as you see the Oops error, you might as well close the browser tab (or browser itself), as it won’t recover on its own.  This annoying  error has become the most frequent “feature” of Gmail, to the extent that it really undermines productivity.

I hope Google will fix it.  They MUST.  It’s the crown jewel of Google Apps. In fact without Gmail and Calendar there wouldn’t be Google Apps at all.

Update:  Oops: apparently there’s a real service by the name of Oopsmail.  Obviously I am not referrring to them in the title. (Although… ? :-) )

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Windows Seven in 2010. Does Anyone Still Care?

So the next OS from Microsoft will be Windows Seven (where’s Windows 6?) – does anyone still care?

I simply don’t get it: Vista is barely out, nobody seems to like it, CIO’s refuse to upgrade, analyst firms tell them to wait, individual users who tried it switch back to XP, others time their new PC purchase so they can still get an XP machine – generally speaking Vista was as poorly received as the ill-fated Windows ME.

Apple is gaining market share, the major computer manufacturers are offering Linux PC’s, the Web OS concept is getting popular, applications are already on the Web – can anyone clearly see the shape of personal computing in 2012? (Yes, I know MS plans for 2010, I’m just adding the customary delay.) Will it still matter what OS we use to get on the Internet? How can Microsoft be so out of touch?

Considering the resistance to Vista ( see this Computerworld article on making XP last for 7 years) why would the world want to upgrade switch to yet-another Windows OS in five years?

Of course I’m not saying nobody cares. This hypnotized crowd certainly does. smile_yawn

Update (7/23): ZDNet’s David Berlind is asking the same question.

Update (7/25): Why ‘Seven’ and Not SP1?

Update (8/9): a very good analysis by eWeek: Broken Windows


Laptops Are Crippling Us

Who buys a desktop anymore? Laptops outsell desktops, they are almost as powerful, more flexible, are with us at home, at work, on the road, in the air, in bed, in the hot tub ( see update at the bottom), and finally they don’t look ugly at home. I haven’t had a desktop for 8 years now.

And now I am about to take a huge step back… going against a trend. Why? It’s simple: laptops are unhealthy. Well, that’s an understatement. They are crippling us. It’s really simple, says the Harvard Medical School:

“When the keyboard is in the proper position for the wrist, the screen is not in an adequate position for the neck and vice versa. Using a laptop is a trade off between poor neck/head posture and poor hand/wrist posture.”

“In “A”, the laptop is too high and distant, with the user’s arms raised and outstretched, resulting in unnecessary fatigue in the shoulders, neck, back, forearms and hands. In “B”, the user has the laptop in the lap, which facilitates good arm position, but the user’s head is dropped, causing muscle tension in the back, neck, shoulders and chest. In “C”, the laptop is on a “standard” surface that is too low and close for comfortable viewing, and too high for upper body comfort. Notice that the hands are higher than the elbows, the wrists are resting on the edge of the worksurface, and the low back is not supported. This position increases risk for injury to the neck, back, elbows, and wrists.” - explains Working Well Ergonomics

There’s only one way a laptop can be ergonomically correct: by raising the screen (i.e. the entire laptop) on a stand / docking station and using an external keyboard at a proper position. I’ve seriously considered doing just that.

But all that gadgetry is quite expensive and I’d still be limited to a 15.4″screen (anything bigger is a brick to carry), while standalone wide-screen LCD’s are much larger, crisper, and really inexpensive today… so I am about to buy a desktop system basically for the screen.

Have you tried buying a flat screen recently? Not all models are ergonomic (in fact most aren’t) and it’s close to impossible to find out online – you have to touch it live. You get data like analog / digital, all the inputs, aspect ratio, brightness, contrast ratio, response time, and the like, but hardly any site selling LCD monitors tells you if they are vertically adjustable. That should be priority #1. As LCD screens become fashion objects, they are getting lower and lower – many stand so low, that they are hardly any higher than a laptop screen. That’s ridiculous. Look at the chart above – clearly, the only ergonomic screens are those with variable height (unless you want to put your old Encyclopedia Britannica to good use as a screen stand).

Of course I won’t be glued to my desk all the time, so I will still have to fall back to the laptop. This is where the Web comes to help. In the past, switching from my default computer required a bit of preparation: moving my Outlook.pst files and several other essentials, updating settings, old programs ..etc. Since I ditched most of my desktop applications and am using a combination of Gmail and Zoho apps, this is no longer an issue – I’m no longer tied to any physical computer, both my data and applications are identical, no matter where I access them. So, in a somewhat roundabout way, Office 2.0 improves my healthsmile_wink

Ergonomic desktops, here I come!

P.S. I was contemplating all this when I found BL Ochmans post. Thanks for collecting all the information!

HolidayUpdate: OK, that hot-tub usage above isn’t that rare after all. I barely posted this and now I am reading Robert Scoble typing away from the beach at Cabo while his wife is at the spa! Robert, get off your computer! There are things like .. the sun, the ocean, the hot tub, the pool to enjoy (hm should I mention the poolside bar?)

Update (7/23):  What you put your computer on also matters. See desk buying advice at Web Worker Daily.

Update (8/6/08): Gotta love this by Assaf:

You see, the most expensive piece of hardware to maintain is the one I run: eyes, back, fingers. It’s very, very, expensive to repair, and it requires a lot of downtime. So that’s the first TCO on my mind when purchasing a new computer.

Update (810/08): Opinion: Why laptops will kick desktop PCs to the curb


Google Earth is here

First there was Keyhole, downloadable for $ .. then  we got most features (albeit in lower res) for free on Google Maps.. now here’s the super-program:  Google Earth.

Fly in Space, zoom in to any location, get local info, 3D sightseeing ..etc.   Wow!

And what a surprise, this is not a web-app, it has to be downloaded/installed on a local PC.

Bill Gates beware!