Sunday, September 27, 2009

In Which I Am Seduced by the Specter of a Corporate Image

To relate this tale, I must begin almost a year ago, when I decided that my 1 GB Creative Zen Nano was a completely inadequate MP3 player and should be replaced. (To be honest, this thought had been percolating for some time.) However, I was prejudiced against the best-selling MP3 player: the iPod. I thought its functions could be duplicated for much less money, though with much less panache, by a cheaper model. I leaned toward another Creative: my sticking point was WiFi access, and their wireless-enabled Zen X-Fi seemed attractive.

I was still weighing the pros and cons of the X-Fi when I learned from a friend that an acquaintance of his had a refurbished 8 GB Apple iPod Touch which he wanted to get rid of. I learned that said acquaintance found himself in deep debt only a week after purchasing the iPod (this upstanding citizen had to pay compensation for vandalism.) I impetuously traded one hundred and eighty of my moneys for this iPod, sight unseen. We exchanged check and iPod in front of my friend's house, while my friend's (wry) mother made some comment about drug deals.

I noted with dismay the heavily-scratched metal rear surface of the iPod. However, once I brought it home and plugged it in, it worked well and continues to do so today. There were a few small niggles: the WiFi works everywhere but here at home, the storage capacity now seems prohibitive, and the software hasn't been completely bug-free. Overall, however, I am very satisfied with my purchase, even though I paid sixty dollars more for this refurbished iPod than I would have for a new Zen X-Fi of the same storage capacity.

So you could call it accidental, my inculcation into the Cult of Apple. It was probably a few months afterward that I started lusting after a MacBook. (Clear your mind of any negative associations with the words "cult" and "lust." Most human technology is so heart-breakingly unreliable and pitifully mediocre that any adoration for and lust after these items is painfully short-lived, laughable, and undeserving of any association with the Seven Deadly Sins.) For the uninitiated, the MacBook is Apple's cheapest laptop. I wanted the aluminum one, which was two and a half pounds lighter than my beastly Acer, and approximately a third as thick. It was also more than twice as expensive.

I am not a fanatic. I will concede that looking at the MacBook next to its humbler HP step-cousins, I saw the discrepancies: for about 2/3 of the money, an HP laptop would have a much larger hard drive and more memory to work with. But (and it is a very large, even obese but) it would also come with Windows Vista, the worst iteration of the most maddening operating system from the most annoying company on the planet.

The twin-pronged question that filled my head was: Do the advantages of the Mac (no viruses, infinitely better operating system, instant good karma) outweigh the disadvantages (high price, mediocre raw stats, and being labeled as an artsy snob?)

Since I'm now blogging on my aluminum Macbook, you can see that I answered that question with a resounding "Yes!" and backed up that assertion with my pocketbook.

The answer to the question is, as I see it, simple. When one buys a Mac, one is buying a lifestyle. Apple must have the best corporate images and the most devotees of any company in the world. Their stock, I should mention, has more than doubled since the recession began. And the Mac lifestyle is not like the PC lifestyle. We can see this clearly from, if nothing else, Apple's completely insufferable "I'm a Mac" ads which feature young, hip, Mac-user Justin Long in tight jeans and Converse and bespectacled, doughy, PC-user John Hodgman in a brown suit.

Apple is a luxury brand, and any price-comparisons between Macs and PCs should reflect this. Even though an everyman's laptop might have more RAM and hard drive space than my MacBook for less money, a "luxury" PC like a Sony Vaio costs just as much as a Mac--and it still has Windows Vista.

An interesting note: since I bought my iPod and began to seriously consider purchasing an MacBook, this dilemma has been mere rationalization for me. I had already made up my mind, I was just trying to convince myself that it was more rational than emotional. It worked, I bought a MacBook. This would suggest that Apple lust grows with time, like the common or garden variety of lust. Once I saw the clean curves and mouthwatering functionality of an iPod, I was not satisfied until I laid my hands on the much larger graceful aluminum lines of the MacBook.

I am happy with my MacBook so far. In fact, I can't think of a single fault at the moment, although certainly a few will occur to me as I grow used to it. I have transferred my computing life to it almost seamlessly and I'm glad I did.

I was seduced by clean metal lines, Steve Jobs, aluminum, Snow Leopard, and the Myriad font.

I was seduced by the carefully projected image of a vast company, the holographic cover girl wrapped around the gigantic, ugly furnace of corporatism.

I am truly an American.