04. December 2005 · Comments Off on Mossberg Touts iMac · Categories: Technology

The Wall Street Journal’s uber-geek, Walt Mossberg, was on this weekend’s WSJ Report with Maria Bartiromo, reprising his November column: Tempted by the Apple?:

Q: How do Macs compare in quality with Windows PCs?

I believe that, at the moment, Apple makes the best computers, and the best operating system, for mainstream consumers doing typical tasks — email, web surfing, office-productivity functions such as word processing and presentations, photo organizing and editing, playing and collecting music, and editing home video.

Of all the major computer makers, Apple is the most focused on consumers and small businesses. Most make the bulk of their money, and take most of their cues, from the information-technology departments of large corporations.

Apple’s iMac G5 consumer desktop is, in my opinion, the single best home computer on the market. Its PowerBook laptops are among the top portables.


Q: Are Macs more secure than Windows PCs?

Yes. Since the OS X operating system came out in 2001, there has never been a report of a successful virus for it-that is, a virus that has infected numerous computers, and spread from computer to computer, outside of a lab. And there is little or no known spyware for the Mac. By contrast, there are tens of thousands of viruses for Windows and untold numbers of spyware programs. Just as regular Windows programs can’t run natively on a Mac, none of these malicious Windows-specific programs can run on a Mac either.

The Mac isn’t invulnerable, but it has better built-in security than Windows, and such a small market share that virus and spyware writers haven’t targeted it yet. As a result, most Mac users have been able to dispense with running the morass of security software that Windows users must employ.


Ten years ago, when Apple was stagnant and its products troubled, I recommended that consumers shun the Mac. If Apple’s quality and innovation slip, I might revert to that position. But for now, the Mac is the best computer, with the best operating system and the fewest security problems, for average consumers.

One also has to consider the fact that major Wintel suppliers have largely moved away from the consumer market. Today, your choices are basically 1) Build your own – if you’re a geek 2) Find a good “White Box” store in your area – if you’re lucky (and realize they could be out of business tomorrow) or 3) Go to one of the larger specialty suppliers – in which case you will likely pay more than an “equivalent” Apple, not less.

This is reflected in this post, and the accompanying comments, from Eugene Volokh:

Appalling Service from Dell:
Dell gets the dubious honor of having given me what’s likely the most ridiculously bad customer service experience I’ve had in years. I have a simple problem: The hard drive for my Dell notebook crashed after my computer was out of warranty. I bought a new hard drive, but now I need a boot disk for the Microsoft XP Professional operating system that I originally bought loaded onto my computer. I suspect this happens very often; there ought to be a standard procedure for it.

I’ve now spent over an hour trying to get this straightened out — almost all of it navigating through the voice-mail menus, waiting on hold, or being transferred to some other department. I got cut off during the transfer process twice. I’ve probably talked to eight different people. I was transferred to spare parts, who told me I had to talk to customer support, who then tried to transfer me back to spare parts, except at that point the call was cut off.

I was eventually told that I had to re-buy the operating system — not a good position for Dell to take, but if that’s what it takes, fine. I was transferred to spare parts, who took my service tag, and told me they had to transfer me somewhere else. Where did they transfer me to? The same voice-mail menu I came from.

OK, I thought, but at least the person who transferred me to spare parts gave me a part number. Maybe I could find it online. Nope, the spare parts search form online tells me there’s no such part number. And the online chat system that they suggested on the phone as a substitute for waiting on hold? I did get through to someone in a few minutes; and what did she tell me? Call spare parts. I eventually got through to customer care, and asked to talk to a supervisor. I was put on hold for a while — and then disconnected.

Now maybe all computer manufacturers are like that, but I’m hoping they aren’t. If you can recommend some companies that actually provide decent customer service, please post the answer in the comments. I’m thinking that rather than dealing with Dell again, for this or for anything else, I should probably just get a new system from a company that’s actually interested in pleasing its customers. But in any event, folks, be warned about what dealing with Dell can sometimes be like.

UPDATE: I tried one more time, and finally got somewhere. I called the sales line and said that I was a customer who also had a popular Weblog, and that I wanted to speak to a supervisor. Why?, they asked. Because I had posted something critical of the company and wanted to give them a chance to respond. (Indeed, if Dell wants to send me a response, I’ll be glad to post it.) I got a supervisor, and told him the same thing. OK, he said, but before I transfer you to someone, can we try to solve the problem? Sure, I said. I told him the whole story; he figured out whom to call and transferred me to that person without making me wander through more voice-mail jungle; I talked to the person; and finally, finally got a chance to buy a new copy of Windows XP Pro (the software that they knew I had bought with my original system) for a $100 discount off their $309 standard price.

Now I wouldn’t have been happy with having to pay an extra $209 even if they’d made it easy for me. But why did it have to take me nearly two hours of telephone time to get to the point where I could actually pay Dell some money?

Finally, I should say that through all this the people I talked to at Dell (when I could talk to them) were always quite polite. I’m sure they wanted to help. It’s just that (except for the ones I noted in the update) they and the system in which they were operating were for some reason not actually able to help.

Reading through the many comments, one finds that customer service is a REAL iffy thing – with the Wintel people at least (IBM/Lenovo seems to be the best). But the Apple people seem to be universally satisfied. That should carry a lot of weight to someone about to part with a dozen or so Ben Franklins.

BTW: This reminds me, the last time I was on my brother’s recently purchased eMachine, I noticed a mysterious 5 gig partition on his drive – but I didn’t follow-up on it. And now, come to think of it, I don’t recall him getting any Windows distribution disks. I might have to burn him a set, before he has a problem.

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