Stockholm Syndrome and the PC

I bought a Macbook Pro back in March of last year, but it wasn’t until today I realized the full extent of the journey I’ve made.

Our local CompUSA is closing.  The storewide sale, now over a month old, still has a lot left in the store, with most items still a paltry 10-20% off.  I stopped by, and was struck by what I saw- CompUSA was not as much in the computer selling business, as it was in the PC Enabling business.   There were cables, accessories, keyboards of every type imaginable, web cams, mouse pads, dvd’s, cd’s, software, network protection, utilities, modems, routers….. you name it.  PC’s are essentially built as a very blank tablet, and everything you need to make it work functionally is extra.

Compare that to my MacBook Pro experience.   Opening the box on arrival revealed something that felt like opening up a treasured relic- from the colors to the packing materials, everything screams “pleasure” and “Experience”- probably what has led JJ Abrams in his TED talk to say about his MacBook,  “What are you going to Write worthy of me”, even if some days he responds “Dude, Today I’m out, I got nothing.”

This sharp contrast between a PC with all these add-ons and wires, and the MacBook , not to mention the new MacAir, which envisions a wire-free future altogether, got me to thinking that owning a PC induced Stockholm Syndrome on its users.

From Wikipedia:

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed. Stockholm syndrome is also sometimes discussed in reference to other situations with similar tensions, such as battered person syndrome, rape cases, child abuse cases and bride kidnapping. The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm, Sweden, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28 in 1973. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their victimizers, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The term Stockholm Syndrome was coined by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, who assisted the police during the robbery, and referred to the syndrome in a news broadcast

This might seem extreme, but bear with me for a minute.  While Apple is not perfect, they do make the buying experience and the unboxing experience a true occasion.  And the after-market experiences I have had with tech support and in the Apple Store have been pleasant. I have rarely felt angry or frustrated the same way I have felt countless times dealing with tech support for the various PC’s I have owned, their components,  the software that doesn’t work well, etc.

I am tired of paying Symantec the annual Hostage fee to make sure my PC doesn’t explode, for example- I feel like I’m paying a yearly ransom.  For the Mac, by comparison, the software that comes with the machine is terrific.  The additional software packages, like iwork, work well and intuitively, negating the need to buy multiple after-market manuals and videos to figure out how stuff is done.  Converting things to and from PDF on the Mac is native; doing the same thing on a PC requires special software (which you have to purchase) and it’s far from intuitive to use.

Uploading files to my servers, for example, is a one step process with freeware or a great little program called fetch.  The equivalent on the PC is a much costlier program or an incredibly time consuming procedure. (I am sure someone could find me a short cut, which would be great). Flickr Uploadr on the Mac uploads pictures for me in a snap in the background; on the PC it is a very time consuming process, as you upload only 6 shots at a time, waiting….waiting……

The mass evangelism PC users accuse mac lovers of is not due to joining some sort of mystic cult once we plunk down our money- and that assumes the Mac comes with some sort of Jonestown Koolaid I never found in the box myself.  It’s the fact that once you get a taste of the freedom engendered by things that just work, by a lack of wires, by the simplicity of doing things without having to go purchase another cable or piece of software….It’s like getting out of jail.  You may even be in denial and use both systems at the same time.  You might even put Parallels on your Mac and run Boot Camp, so you can keep your ties to the PC World and the applications you were used to….but it’s Stockholm Syndrome.

Bill Gates brilliantly built a platform that has never run out of upgrades, tweeks, programs, add-ons, peripherals- things that have spawned more cottage industries than the ipod- and that’s saying something.  The PC was created by engineers, to do “serious work” while the mac was designed with end users in mind.

I’m curious to what you think, and I am sure this will engender all sorts of comments.  But for those of you that use both platforms, isn’t there a little of Stockholm Syndrome applicable?  I use my pc and mac at the same some days.  The side to side experience is always striking in terms of the user experience, and the ease of use- and it makes you ask why the PC has not evolved, other than they suffer from an inability to see a way out of their own conundrum, so they stick with what they know, defend it, and will be gradually buried as the business model based on “put up with it” or “I’m the only game in town” slowly dissolves before their eyes.

What do you think???  Can the PC enterprise and business model survive in a world where “that costs extra” is no longer tolerated by consumers who want plug and play only?  (And as a bonus- watch David Pogue’s TED talk, including great songs like “Don’t Cry For Me Cupertino” and “Hello tech support my old friend” (aka Sounds of Silence).



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5 responses to “Stockholm Syndrome and the PC

  1. Is it still Stockholm syndrome if you are aware of your situation? I have a brother that has been a mac user for years in the graphic design business. I am absolutely planning on buying a mac. However, I am thinking of podcasting, and I have heard both pluses and minuses on the subject that windows has great programs ; of course you have to buy them. I guess I am commenting blind on the matter as I am not podcasting yet or vidcasting for that matter and I have never compared the usability of the two systems. That being said…it almost seems like it would benefit me to look into a macbook before getting into the vidcast arena at all. Is this something you would agree with?

    I do know that I am sick of having to upgrade, having computer crashes and always worrying about safety. Apple seems to adress these better than PC.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. without filing a ME TOO response. I’ve been actively using a MBP for the past 2 months and its been a dream. I felt I’ve been on the otherside of that.

    I don’t like the Mac, but because I’ve been stuck using it, I don’t mind it anymore. I’ve installed a VMware XP box so I can test my web dev on a PC…

    But my heart craves a PC… The apps I use that aren’t owned by Adobe are all PC. It’s taken me this long to learn the language and accept the experience of the Mac.

    I think half of the battle is getting over the hump in switching one way or the other.

  3. Hey Keith!
    I actually use Audacity for podcasting and that is cross platform, so it doesn’t matter which one I use. For video though, the editing with imovie is easy- we’ve done several school projects now for the boys with it, and it is so easy to add soundtracks, edit- but video conversion/encoding can be a problem on either platform.

    I am just really happy with the Macbook Pro experience- happier that I anticipated; pleasantly surprised by the ease of use and transition. It’s a different world, but I like it.

  4. I am a switcher of about ten months or so and would never ever go back. It took about a month of unlearning some Windows habits and getting over the trauma of change, but now – my computing is experience is downright joyful.

  5. Pingback: » Are Boot Camp and virtualization users suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? i drank the kool-aid: clutching my dixie cup of apple goodness

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