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John C. Dvorak

Looks Count

Yes, there is a continuing battle between the PC and the Mac. But as someone who has followed this battle for nearly two decades, I have to conclude that it's all about aesthetics -- nothing more.

It must have been 20 years ago that someone first derided the IBM PC as being designed in the image of its users -- bookkeepers. This implied a dull, colorless individual without much interest in the look of things. I know that not all bookkeepers are dull -- but the world of the PC generally is. It's more than a little galling to many PC users that the simple good taste of the Mac seems to mock them from nearby desktops.

But consider the users of the respective machines. The Mac has corralled all the creative types -- artists, writers, designers -- and ease of use is supposed to be part of the reason. However, I know many artists who have souped-up Macs that would make a hacker proud. They worked hard to put together these screamers, using accelerated chips, chains of weird drives, and tons of extra memory. The only people on the PC side who go through this much trouble are the gaming minority who have elaborate case-mod machines with blinking lights. Plunk down one of those PC hot rods in most offices, and you'd have the PC police at your desk in five minutes, demanding that you take the thing off the network and off the premises. All the while, nobody says anything to the folks in the art department about their "off-spec" Macs.

Of course, I've seen little evidence that any office PC user would have the verve to do a case modification -- let alone bring it to the office.

Choosing a PC over a Mac is choosing beige over metal -- or beige over anything. The PC has the big market share because it's the safe choice. If Apple produced a safe, dull-looking machine, the company would, I think, be shocked by its success. Thank goodness it doesn't.

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