Five things the PC industry can learn from Apple

While I don’t always agree with the way Apple conducts business, there are alot of things the Windows PC industry can learn from them. I often help people pick a new PC, and there are things I bump into every time that make the process of picking, buying and setting up a new PC unnecessarily cumbersome. Here are five things I think HP, Acer, Asus and all the others could learn from the way Apple does things.

1. Just the OS please

Unless you build your own PC from parts, or have someone do that, chances are your PC comes with Windows pre-installed. That’s prefectly fine, except that manufacturers tend to add tons of useless “crapware”. There’s usually a trial version of the very worst antivirus you can think of, plus all sorts of other utilities you’ll never need. And most of them will at some point prompt you to buy a license, or upgrade to a pro version. Ugh.

My Asus laptop came with a program to change the look of the volume bar. It now looks like a pie chart of sorts. It’s slow and ugly, and I can’t seem to get rid of it without losing keyboard volume shortcuts altogether. Thanks Asus. I didn’t want that. I wanted Windows 7. Bundling Microsoft’s own Security Essentials might be a good idea. It’s free, and very good. Other than that, please take note of how Cupertino does things. Without crapware, Windows 7 actually offers a very decent user experience.

2. Restrict model variations

Apple currently sells eight Macbook model (1 Macbook, 5 Pros and 2 Airs). Asus has over 300. Madness. Even if you manage to keep track of all those product series, there are still all sorts of hardware variations within that line of products. It’s just simply impossible to choose from so many models. And once you do, you’ll have to find a store that carries that specific model. Good luck. In my experience, this is one of the reasons people start looking at Macs. Clarity.

3. Offer a great unboxing experience

PCs usually come in unsightly boxes that list all the machine’s components. Typically, they’re hard to open, and usually the first things you’ll see are wires, bundled seemingly randomly into small plastic bags. Only when you’ve removed absolutely everything else will you see your new computer.

Once you do get the actual product out of the cheap styrofoam padding, it’s bound to be covered in stickers informing you, once again, of it’s specifications. I can only assume those stickers are there in case the product begins life as a demo unit in a store. Regadless, I don’t want to have to spend the first couple of minutes after unboxing removing stickers, and then removing the glue residue.

Apple tends to package their product as if it’s jewelry. The whole package is designed to make you feel good your purchase. Well done, Apple.

4. In product design, less is more

I recently helped someone in my office get onto the wifi. Her brand new HP laptop had a wifi indicator light that was orange, and needed to be blue. The HP Wireless Assistant (see 1) was no help, nor were Windows’s own settings. At some point, I pointed at the aforementioned light, and accidentally hit it. It turned blue. It turned out to be touch-sensitive.

To me this is poor product design. Sure, it’s probably in the manual somewhere, but hardware design should be intuitive. Buttons should look like buttons. And it should be simple. Recently, both HP (with their Envy line of laptops) and LG have released near-identical copies of Apple’s Macbook line, boasting the same, clean, design. I’m convinced there are ways to design great, clean-looking, easy to use computers without stealing. And it needs to happen.

5. Offer a decent support website

Have you ever tried finding anything on HP.com? It’s a mess. And the same goes for every other manufacturer’s support website I’ve had to deal with. And even if you manage to find the right product, chances are the information will be outdated, or apply to the US version of that product, which has different components. Ugh. This of course relates directly to my second point. Less, again, is more.

So there you go. Five points that I think the PC industry needs to compete better with Apple. Do you have any additions? PLease feel free to leave them in the comments.

Roy | June 13, 2011 | English,Gadgets | Comments (9)
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9 Comments

  1. I agree. I dislike totally the crap software bundled with PC (as you mention trial softwares, or the useless proprietary software (WHY wifi setup WHILE the OS is able to do this ? np benefits actually, eat ressources, crap !)

    I also dislike the numerous versions of windows availables – and the x64 transition is not especially easy.

    On the restrict variations, i disagree. The strength of the PC world is the wide range of configurations. The PC is uptodate with the technology, and its open component model is an huge benefits. If you mean 6/7 models – designed, integrated correctly, but not necessary with identical components, then this is a big yes.

    Apple computers are expensve because of the design – and this is really something i can’t throw in Apple’s face. I fear R&D on designs will really double the prices, and this can be problematic in the highly concurrent market. But this ‘d be really cool. Notice Dell & HP throwed themselves in All In One with touchscreen computers that look reasonnably nices and coherents).

    Comment by Graveen — June 14, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

  2. I think limiting the total number ot models, especially with laptops, makes things a lot easier. Most companies have model lines geared towards types of users (gamers, general use, multimedia, etc). They just have way too many variations within those product lines. Having a couple is perfectly fine, but anything over 10 is overkill imho.

    Apple has a single value laptop, the non-pro macbook. Easy. Its audience does not need an i7 cpu. The “pros” differ mostly in screen size, and all have fast cpus, because they’re bought by power users. At Dell, you can get a gaming laptop with an entry-level cpu. That makes no sense.

    Comment by Roy — June 14, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

  3. I think the most important thing is to learn how to empty their Mind. There is no doubt Microsoft is the leader of Operation System in the past 20 years and It becomes a great company around the world. But They are never modest about others. Their Mind is always full so they could not recept the new ideas and advices.

    Comment by Christ Paul — June 30, 2011 @ 10:22 am

  4. Is this an advertisement for Apple? If so, you’ve done a great job. I see why so many other manufacturers are choosing to replicate the iPad. Apple continues to be a trend setter. But, don’t give Apple all credit. Give it to the European personal computer designers, that were Apple get ideas. Let face it, everyone thinks it Steve Job who brought Apple latest wares to market, he’s a great marketaer. But we all know when you have millions and billion to spend on the latest and greatest innovations, yes you will come out ahead of the game at some point.

    Just watch the movie ” Flash of Genius” and you will see what big manufacturers can do with their money. The reality is the PC manufactors, e.g., the IBM, Acer and HP’s of the world still have the LION share of the PC market and with them jumping on the iPad band wagon, they will have an even a bigger share, because their iPad relicas will be cheaper and do the same things as the Apple iPad.

    I’m sorry, but it a “dog-eat-dog” world and as the world turn progress will not stop.

    Al

    Comment by Al — July 27, 2011 @ 6:34 am

  5. On the restrict variations, i disagree. The strength of the PC world is the wide range of configurations. The PC is uptodate with the technology, and its open component model is an huge benefits. If you mean 6/7 models – designed, integrated correctly, but not necessary with identical components, then this is a big yes.

    Comment by Call Shop — July 29, 2011 @ 10:04 am

  6. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it… it’s a great mantra I learned from this TED talk. And I believe it’s why Apple has been so successful. They may not have been the first to make a product or even make the best product, but they convey this idea that makes them more appealing to people and thus more successful..

    Comment by Rob — August 1, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

  7. Agree with all of these although 3 is not that important in my opinion!

    Comment by Cameron — August 17, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  8. I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to all the “bloatware” that a new PC comes with these days. My last laptop purchase required about a full two days of researching which junk programs I could safely remove to get it to the way it should be from the factory.

    Comment by Jason — August 25, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

  9. These are spot on and I couldn’t agree more most especially with #2. Having worked in tech support since 1998 in jobs ranging from systems administrator to personal technology specialist for C-level executives to freelance technology support consultant, i’ve worked on most of the PC model variations from most of the manufacturers. Last year, I finally hit the tipping point and discontinued working with PCs as I could no longer successfully service, support or manage the staggering volume of issues, model variations, bugs, updates, dysfunctions, etc… generated by the PC industry for my clients. After 6 months of Mac study & training, I’ve re-emerged a happier & saner tech support person.

    Comment by Josh F Mason — December 29, 2011 @ 4:50 am