It’s the simplicity stupid!

Thu, Sep 15, 2011


The differences between purchasing a Mac and a PC are stark, a fact quickly evident by visiting Apple’s website and any number of PC websites. Highlighting this, Peter Bright of Ars Technica recently detailed his attempts at picking a PC from some of the top brands in the industry.

Picking a PC is essentially a riddle. Whereas Apple’s notebook line is fairly straight forward, computers from the likes of Dell and HP are categorized under headings that ultimately ring hollow. To wit, some variations in hardware net the following descriptors, “Everyday Computing”, “Design & Performance”, “Thin and Powerful”, “Powered for Productivity”, Optimized for Entertainment”, and so on and so forth.

Those names are molded out of nothing more than advertising jargon, undoubtedly the result of group-think, and ultimately work to confuse consumers instead of helping them make educated purchases.

I mean, one has to imagine that your everyday consumer takes a look at the descriptors above and thinks to him/herself that they all sound great and essential. Of course a computer has to designed for everyday computing, and I would imagine that productivity is also a desirable feature as well. But computers are also about having some fun, so maybe one optimized for entertainment is the way to go. Or maybe one that’s exceedingly powerful. Hell, one has to wonder why there isn’t a model that encompasses all of these factors!

Alas, PC shopping is an endless maze of jargon and strikingly similar features that are arbitrarily categorized under different snazzy sounding names and pricepoints. Undoubtedly, this overabundance of choice is a detriment to consumers and is a prime example of the paradox of choice.

This ties into an article we published a while back detailing how Apple’s simple product line is a cornerstone of its success.

Even today, Apple’s product lineup is relatively sparse compared to the product offerings of other companies.  For example, if you want an Apple laptop, you can choose between a MacBook, a MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro.  Three models to choose from, and that’s it.  Even the names Apple chooses lend themselves to making it easier for consumers to differentiate between the different models available.  By way of comparison, there are a multitude of Sony Vaio laptops out on market, and if you want to figure out how they differ, you have to study the specs.  How else can you figure out the difference between a Sony Vaio VGN-Z550N and a Sony Vaio VGN-CS215J/R.  In contrast, the use of the words “Air” and “Pro” give potential consumers, right from the start, an idea of what the machine is, and who it’s geared for.

Since that was written, Apple’s lineup has gotten even simpler with the MacBook Air bumping the base level MacBook out of the picture.

Bright drives the point home:

[Apple] doesn’t drown them in a sea of mediocrity or break them up into a million different niches. It creates a solid line-up of clearly differentiated systems, and makes them easy to find. And it makes sure that they’re obviously superior. None of its computers are ugly, none are covered with a billion different manufacturers’ stickers, and there are no tacky conceits like chrome trim.


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