Do People Who Don’t Know How to Use Computers Choose PCs?

by Chris Howard May 02, 2007

It seems that people who don’t know how to use a computer buy PCs. Maybe that’s a generalization, but I was just struck to wondering this recently when I encountered a person who’d worked with both Macs and PCs but ended up preferring PCs because of the whole compatibility thing. (Although this person makes a living from using computers so is no novice. However, this person certainly doesn’t know much about the computer beyond the applications used.)

Now, I’m not talking 1996 here. This person switched to Windows in 2004 when the compatibility argument should have been pushing up daisies.

Problem is though, its ghost still haunts computerland. As do a couple of others.

If you hang around Mac forums long enough, you could get the impression Macs are made for the lowest common denominator. Mac users love to brag how “anyone can use a Mac!” Yet those anyones keep choosing PCs.

It’s a conundrum. Certainly you can throw a veritable truckload of examples at me of computer illiterates who have embraced the Mac. However, it’s not just these folks I’m considering. It’s also the ones who do use a computer regularly but only know the applications they use and their sum total knowledge of troubleshooting is: reboot. Those folks look at you blankly when you mention Windows Control Panel. Ironically, these are the people who would like using Macs most.

Recently a fellow student was in the market for a computer. For reasons of local support for the local PC vendor, she finally chose a PC over a Mac despite using Macs at school and having no existing computer at home.

The nearest Apple retailer of any sort is an hour away from me, and add half an hour for her. The nearest full Apple shop (though not Apple owned) is nearly three hours away.

Would she have bought a Mac if an Apple retailer was closer, say only 15 minutes away, or even five minutes? I don’t think so.

The only people suggesting a Mac to her were classmates and teachers. Whereas anyone she spoke to outside the classroom would have been saying “PC!” To someone who’s a relative novice on computers, there’s much security in knowing you’re using a computer most of the population uses.

That’s one area—security—where the PC wins hands down over the Mac in many parts of the world. The security of knowing that local support from the person you bought the computer from is only five minutes away.

Or so you hope.

I know my main local PC retailer has a poor record of after-sales service because they’re literally too busy selling computers to service them. It’ll be interesting to see if my classmate experiences the same problem with the retailer she purchased from.

So where does all this leave Apple? And the Mac? Market share is increasing but it would be interesting to get a breakdown of the computer literacy of the switchers. I think we Mac users might be disappointed to find the majority know their way beyond a couple of regularly used applications.

Getting back to the original proposition: my experience is certainly that the less a person knows about computers, the more likely he or she is to choose Windows “because everyone else uses it.”

I’ve tried getting people to switch before but (believe it or not) using Windows is a comfort zone for them. It’s the old story (albeit slightly edited): familiarity breeds content. And part of that familiarity is carried by friends and family who “all use PCs.”

So how does Apple win over those people who actually would benefit from the Mac most? Is the “Get a Mac” campaign convincing them to leave their comfort zone? Or is Apple simply picking up the easy converts? And will that well dry up?


  • It comes down to games.  The number one purchase of PC’s is for games.  With the windows platform, you can build a custom PC that will run all of the games that people want to play.  It’s a sad reality that this is what people want to do, but I’m glad they choose the PC platform for this endeavour.  Another reason is platform specific applications like Autocad.  These applications run on Windows and not the MAC.

    Who really cares what the average user wants to use, how many times have people asked you what to buy for a computer, just to go to the nearest outlet store and buy crap from someone that has no clue!  You get what you pay for.

    Besides, crashing, virus infested, registry corrupted PC’s keep many people employed!

    stoobear had this to say on May 13, 2007 Posts: 1
  • it’s more viable to suggest that Photoshop would have remained a niche product rather than Apple being catapulted into a significantly larger market share.

    I’d think one probable outcome would be that a rival would inexorably have sprung up on PC, would have become dominant and that would ultimately have *hurt* apple, as then the question mr. xbar would be asking is “does picshop run on macs” and the answer would be no. “it does have this nifty equivalent though…” wouldn’t cut the mustard: xbar’s decision would already have been made.

    Of course, the porting of photoshop to pcs was at least as inexorable as the above scenario so the question’s not so important, even if thought provoking.

    Benji had this to say on May 13, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Page 2 of 2 pages  <  1 2
You need log in, or register, in order to comment