In Pursuit of Quality: The Apple “Fanboi”

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For quite a while (heck, pretty much forever), the knock on Apple (s aapl) has been that it’s overpriced, that the same thing can be had for much less elsewhere.

A much more recent complaint is that somehow Apple never gets any critical reviews, it’s all just shoddy reporting. A couple of big hitters on the other side have jumped on this latest argument. I’ll leave it for others to attack the attackers, so to speak, but I believe it gives the topic more credibility than it deserves, and leads down a path that neither side can possibly “win” anyway.

What’s especially funny is that the day after Paul Thurrot’s screed he published a two-part review of Microsoft’s Windows Live Essentials proclaiming it to be “awesome” and “excellent.” These are just the mail, chat, etc. apps recently unbundled from Windows. I’ve been running them for a few months now. They’re OK, but there’s nothing particularly special here. If they’re “awesome,” then their Mac equivalents must be super duper, fantastic, magical, and other-worldly. It’s funny how Paul railed against “bad reporting” and a company having “too many friends in the media,” yet then provided examples of both in a review that gave four stars to what’s essentially the old Outlook Express app with a facelift and botox. Bad reporting, indeed. 

Concern About Being Labeled a “Fanboi”?

Getting back to the whole “fanboi” thing, one of the more recent Apple hardware introductions is their LED 24″ monitor. While I’ve seen great reviews of it, they’re frequently tempered with an almost apologetic tone, as if the author is sorry he’s not slamming Apple for an overpriced fashion accessory. 

I swear, every time I read an article that begins something like “I’m not an Apple fanboi, but…” I want to puke. What’s with the disclaimer? What are you afraid of? Being branded? Paul Thurrott writing bad things about you? Dan Lyons yelling at you? Please. Do you like the product or not? For Pete’s sake show some backbone and stop whimpering already. 

It seems to me such disclaimers try to fend off the “fanboi” label, or to appear as not lacking objectivity (some articles nit-picking Apple masquerade as “proof” of the latter). As if simply by praising an Apple product you must be in the RDF, worship Steve Jobs, be incapable of critical thought, etc. You know, the kind of name-calling we thought we’d left behind on the third-grade playground. 

Apple Quality

The truth is, if you like an Apple product or service or, heaven forbid, buy one, Apple-bashers will label you a “fanboi” regardless of your protestations to the contrary. It’s what they do. Trying to be pro-active about it won’t help; I think it just makes the writer sound wishy-washy. 

Apple quality and value are not that hard to find for those who look. Whether they matter to you is another thing altogether. Different people want different things. But to state that, say, Dell (s dell), is making the exact same thing at half the price is laughable. 

For example, some claim a Dell monitor’s 8ms response time makes it better than Apple’s monitor at 14ms. The problem with such a simplistic comparison is that manufacturers typically don’t even specify the standard they used to derive the spec, and where they do it’s usually the “easier” grey-to-grey measurement. Comparison of response times are generally meaningless, and there’s more to a monitor than a single number anyway.

Apple’s 24″ LED Display

home_hero20081014What matters, obviously, is the product itself. Apple’s 24″ LED is getting glowing (heh, pun intended) reviews. If you haven’t compared such screens side by side, have you been in an electronics store and had the chance to look at LCD TVs? Ever wonder why two screens of the same size and “specs” can look so different? It’s the total package, it’s engineering, it’s sweating the details. Apple does this. You do not have to appreciate it. You don’t even have to be willing to pay for it. But you’ll forgive me if I’m unmoved by the name-calling. You have your criteria, and I have mine. 

Apple’s monitor also includes: 

  • Single-cable for a dock-like connection to the unibody Macs 
  • Speakers and “subwoofer”
  • Microphone and web cam
  • USB ports
  • It’s LED, with the attendant advantages of “instant on” and energy savings

And there’s also Apple’s great customer support, and support system of the Apple Stores, to consider. The total experience of all this is quite compelling

Another example of Apple’s differing approach to quality is to consider the recent move by many manufacturers to the 16:9 screen ratio (cheaper due to being used in TVs) that further reduces the already too-small vertical size of a screen. Dell and others are bringing many of these to market, but I was happy to see that with the new MacBook, MacBook Pro, and LED display Apple resisted that temptation, staying with the 16:10 ratio. Yes, it means Dell is introducing still cheaper monitors, but they display less for the same screen size. 

Conclusion

It would be wrong to see this article as a slam on Dell or others. I’m not saying Dell’s hardware is crap. By most accounts they’ve made hardware representing decent value for years. I couldn’t care less if anyone who is primarily price-sensitive went that route. After all, price is a very valid criterion. 

However, unlike what the Apple-bashers seems to think, this is not all or nothing. There’s no reason to believe that in order to praise Apple’s value proposition I must denigrate the other guy’s. That’s the whole point. I’m saying there is value (frequently a lot of it) in Apple’s offerings. The idea that those who go that route are just “rich,” or in the RDF, or “fanbois,” or “smug,” or not technical enough to know better, and on and on, is pure BS. 

Sticks and stones, people. Sticks and stones. I’m well-versed in both sides and have no turf to defend. Buzz off. I’ll make no apology for what I like or the criteria I use.

16 Comments

LB

I hear what your saying, and thanks for writing this article.

Funny how “everything” now has that word attached to it (fanboi). So if I have a Kenmore washer and dryer, and microwave, does that then make me a Kenmore fanboi? How stupid! Maybe my old GE dryer didn’t dry my close in one cycle, or it just gave out after 7 years of reliable use, and the Kenmore was $300 less when replacing it. Doesn’t matter. Sounds to me like everybody is getting wrapped-up in name calling, and taking sides. Buy the products you like the function-of, style-of, or that you can afford. Your the one buying it, with your money, and your using it. “F-off” if someone else doesn’t like that product, had a bad experience with it, or can’t afford it. That’s none of anyone’s biz but yours. Am I right? So what if the guy sitting across from me has a IBM running Vista, and I’m on an iBook running OSX. I’d give him the same common respect as any other person. We have far more important things going on in our country, and in our world than people calling each other names over preferred merchandise.

Side Note: How about we all stop using the word “fanboi”. It’s long past time for that word to leave our vocabulary.

KN

@Ansel: Can you really compare a server computer which almost nobody uses it unless they want some data or whatever (and most of the times this is done remotely) with a computer which was being used by a secretary each and every day ?!?! — you must be kidding…

@Tom Reestman: Nice artile Tom, I absolutely agree to the point that everyone has his/her own criteria.

Generally speaking: What’s – my – opinion on, what’s going wrong with Apple products (atleast concerning computers) ? You don’t have more than 2 choices, you have only the plain version and the pro version. And of course when your stupid superdrive stops burning CD/DVDs, you are looking for alternative external pc drives because you don’t want to spend more money buying another “not gonna work for long” superdrive, fact=)!
If Apple could gave me more options to choose and less BS to buy.. I would be more than happy to be called “Apple Fanboi”. Fanboi heh.. you know why most of Apple enthusiasts are being called like that, don’t you? Because one thing that PC users can do that Mac users can’t, is to ***************. We are all tired of listening about “how good and slick and stable and amazing and awesome” is your Mac. And of course we got bored of listening your favorite quote “it just works” – hm, go figure why macfixitforums[dot]com exists.
Personally, I am more than happy with my Toshiba Satellite X205 SLI-1 running Sabayon Linux, and the best thing is that I feel my money are well spended. But who cares? Somebody will pop-up nagging about how better his new MacWhatever Pro is. Come on, lets get real. The whole name calling issue begun by Apple enthusiasts because they can’t do what I wrote above.

Cheers,

/kn

rastapete

When the iPhone first came out, there was much comparing of feature lists between it and various RIM, HTC etc., phones. It’s much easier for the average blog-writer to write shallow articles about feature lists than to examine headier topics like interface & ease of use. The shockingly bad state of Mobile OS design just seemed to be accepted as the way it had to be.

I would try to say to people that I know, “It’s the interface, stupid!”

But I mostly adopt the attitude that those who get it, get it, and of those that don’t, they’ll either be open minded enough to try it, or they won’t. Either way, I’ll be grooving on.

Bas

hmmm … so if I get this right, you use the quality of apple’s products as a defense for fanboiism, seems a bit circular to me.

falafeln

I’m not a fanboy but must you have a Dell/Vista ad on the page?
oh, wait I am a fanboy (and I’m proud of it) :P

David B

Fantastic post. Similarly to SimpleLife, I was about to delete TAB from my RSS feed a few months ago, but the quality of posts on this site has improved to a very impressive level. Thanks for exceeding my expectations.

Ansel Wade

Nice piece …. We just retired a 1998 Mac we used as a server for our small business – Never had any issues and it still runs like a champ!

Meanwhile we have replaced our Secretary’s “Windows Machine” 3 times over the last 10 years ….. We have had to use the Windows Platform to run QuickBooks Pro …. but the next time her Window Machine breaks down we will go with a Mac – Especially now with a new Mac Version …..

bandle

I think the people labeling Mac enthusiasts as fanboys are, in fact, Windows fanboys.

SimpleLife

Tom,

This was another truly exceptional piece of writing. Logical, concise, and very aptly captures what I think and feel about the Apple experience.

It’s a great follow-up blog post from your last very good one, where I made a comment on the different Apple notebook displays:

http://theappleblog.com/2009/01/21/updated-white-macbook-vs-entry-unibody-macbook/

To my mind, I just don’t bother with people trying to compare Apples and oranges. It goes beyond specs and prices. Especially in terms of Apple’s displays. Some people think they’re worth it, some don’t. End of story. But those of us who appreciate Apple displays, know why we do. And it goes beyond being a fanboy as you so aptly elucidate.

I was just about to delete TheAppleBlog from my RSS feeds as the posts lately have been shallow and unoriginal, often just links to other news around the blogosphere and press release world.

Keep up the great work, Tom. Truly appreciate the insight and crafting you put into your writing and analysis. Exceptional tone and style as well I might add.

Perhaps I’ll be labeled a Reestman fanboy now.

Cheers.

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