Farhad Manjoo: Steve Jobs' love slave or minion of Satan? Readers respond to "A Mac for the Masses."

By Salon Staff

Published January 18, 2005 8:30PM (EST)

[Read the story.]

The Mac Mini is a brilliant piece of industrial design, no doubt about it. But for the life of me, I can't figure out why I would want one. By shopping around for a good sale, I just got a great new laptop for $600 with a much faster processor, a bigger hard drive, an equivalent DVD/CD-RW drive, and more memory. Not only that, but it came with an integrated keyboard and mouse as well as a built in 15.4-inch wide screen display. Sure, the Mac Mini is cute, but if you're going to get a small computer in a sealed case, you might as well get one that allows you to carry the whole thing around, not just the main CPU unit.

One possible exception would be if you wanted to hook it up to a TV and use it as a media center, but the Mac Mini doesn't have a TV tuner, a DVD burner, or other features you would want. And if you add them externally, you have a tiny, elegant box with a bunch of big, ugly doohickies hanging off of it.

It's nice that Apple is still out there producing alternatives to Windows and x86, but I still can't think of any way in which having one would benefit me.

-- Andrew Norris

Although I enjoyed Farhad Manjoo's article about the Mac Mini, I was hair-tearingly disappointed to see him propagate the biggest Mac myth of all: As he puts it, "the annoying one-button mouse thing".

Here, and for all time, is the magical solution to using a two-button mouse on a Mac:

Step 1 -- Buy a two-button mouse.
Step 2 -- Plug it in.
Step 3 -- There is no step 3.

It's that easy. Mac OS handles the problem very simply: If you have a two-button mouse, the OS works with right-clicking. If you have a one-button mouse, the OS works without right-clicking.

It's extremely elegant, it addresses the needs of both basic and advanced users, and it's been part of Mac OS for a long time. (I've used the same two-button mouse on my Windows and Mac machines for the last five years.)

Just because the computer doesn't ship with a two-button mouse doesn't mean you can't use one. If that is all that is standing in your way, then get thee hence and buy a Mac Mini.

-- Scott Dierdorf

I hate to be a knee-jerk reactionary but I am taking the bait and firing off an e-mail in response to Farhad Manjoo's characterization of Mac's minuscule market share. I've never lived in New York or San Francisco and in fact have lived in a minimum of four red states in my lifetime. As long as I've been using a computer -- about 20 years now -- it has always been a Mac. Like all of the relevant cultural producers in the world (musicians, visual artists, designers, writers, filmmakers) the Mac is the best machine to enable our creative expression. We do have strong emotional bonds with our Macs -- Macs are for people who feel for a living. And until Farhad lets go of his wonkish cost analysis and makes the switch to Mac, he will likely always be just a technical writer.

-- Daniel Jasper

I hope you got some good advertising revenue out of Farhad Manjoo's love letter to Steve Jobs. Reviewing the capabilities of a new system is journalism; this was more like a commercial. "Only $499!!!"

A quick perusal of the AppleStore link disclosed some interesting facts:

-- The G4 processor is nice, but the $600 model is still only 1.4 GHz. Although the Mac OS doesn't require as much raw processor speed as Windows, 1.4 GHz is still nothing to write home about. Most of the Mac notebooks have faster processors.

-- The base price gets you 256 megs of memory and a video card with all of 32 megs. Considering most of the Mac users I know are using a Mac for its facility in handling graphics, that amount of system and video memory seems pretty low. And there is no option to upgrade the video memory at all.

-- Your choices of hard drive are 40 gigs or 80 gigs. A graphic designer will use that much space in no time.

So, if you want a low-end Mac, you can spend $500. But if you want a Mac that has the power to do the things that Mac users want them to do, merely upgrading to 1 gig of system memory and getting the three-year warranty (as opposed to 90 days) brings the price up to over $1,100. Not only does that not include a monitor, you get to reuse your old mouse and keyboard (unless, of course, you have a standard PS2 keyboard, in which case you can add the Mac USB keyboard and mouse for a mere $58).

Oops, sticker shock.

-- Lee Cavett

Farhad Manjoo tells us he's held off buying a Mac for years, despite knowing that it's a superior product, because he felt Macs were overpriced. But if one takes into account all the money (and time) Windows users squander tinkering with their bloated, virus-ridden and security-compromised operating system, the extra money spent on a Mac is well worth it in terms of time and money saved -- not to mention peace of mind.

Manjoo also seems to have gotten his CEOs mixed up. The computer users who are "fleeced by a fast-talking showman" aren't the ones listening to Steve Jobs; it's the gullible souls who bought into Bill Gates' Microsoft OS who are the real sheep.

-- Mary Durkee

I got a good laugh at Farhad Manjoo's expense today!

Early in his review of the new Apple products he wrote:

"You want me to pay $1,500 for a notebook with as much power as a Windows machine two-thirds its price?"

And then, towards the end of his glowing review of the new Mac Mini, he writes:

"Think about this: For $500, a little more than you spent on that iPod you love, you can trade every hassle, every worry, every headache that Windows has ever caused you for a graceful, elegant Mac, a machine so small that you can ferry it around with you from the office to the apartment, or bedroom to bedroom."

Hmm ... seems to me, yes I'm pretty sure of it! ... $500 is exactly the extra amount Farhad would have paid for a Mac notebook instead of buying the "Windows machine two-thirds its price" to begin with!!


(And do I even need to mention the dollar value of an operating system that actually works and is resistant to viruses? A computer's "power" is irrelevant if you can't rely on the OS's stability.)

-- Rebecca Hartong

Owning a Mac these days feels like being a member of the Rebel Alliance -- you spend all of your time doing all you can to make sure that the great, although sometimes unpopular, idea of owning a Mac stays alive and spreads -- making life better in the long run for everyone you know (in the shadow of the Microsoft "empire"). Kudos to you for helping to spread the word.

However, your writer's assertion that "nobody buys Macs" is simply off the mark. The low market share numbers quoted seem to reflect the same numbers always quoted when Macs are written off as "irrelevant" -- total quarterly and annual computer sales figures -- which are an inaccurate measure of total market share for two reasons: First, the numbers for all new computer sales include those purchased by businesses (a market that Apple is now going to be seriously able to go after), and second, Mac owners tend to hold on to their machines up to twice as long as comparable PC users (most likely due to the lack of viruses and spyware, not to mention the simple fact that Macs tend to run more efficiently than PCs and for a far longer time -- less need to upgrade).

So it's not that "nobody buys Macs," it's just that they don't have to buy them as often. Once more people (and businesses) catch on to this, Apple's sales numbers will grow.

And one more thing: Farhad ... I sense the good in you ... come over from the dark side ... the Rebellion needs you ...

-- Todd Faulkner

"Apart from the one-button mouse there's nothing left to prevent people from switching"?

Really? I owned Winboxes, and then two beautiful G3s in a row. Now I'm back to Winboxes -- and it ain't the mouse (replacement mice, nice ones too, are available with more buttons than I have fingers).

Price? I can understand it for most people. Being an aesthete (ha ha), I am quite willing to fork out the extra cash for what I do believe are the most beautiful computers around -- and have been for long.

No, "it's the menus, stupid." I just can't work with Apple menus. I can work with Windoze ones. Why? Because, Mac fans' declarations notwithstanding, it's still far better, faster and more user-friendly to access menus from the keyboard than to leave the keyboard, grab the mouse, search and click on them.

Oh, Apple has keyboard shortcuts, I hear you say? Yes, but my aging brain has enough trouble storing what it really needs to so that I don't ask it to remember silly -- and inconsistent -- key combinations. With Windoze's approach of (inconsistently, yes I know) underlined menu items, I can navigate quickly and efficiently through app menus I've never seen before.

I've been to stores dozens of time to play with PowerBooks, yet still don't own one -- but I solemnly promise I will switch 0.1 second after Apple introduces keyboard-friendly menus (and I'll throw in the cash for a two-button, scroll wheel mouse).

Please, Mr. Jobs?

-- Ludovic Delavièr

Farhad Manjoo commits the unforgivable sin of sacrificing accuracy for a nice hook. Sure, the article sounds good if you claim that all previous Macs cost more than similarly configured Dells. The only problem is that it isn't true. Yes, some Dells are cheaper than some Macs. But if you want the capabilities of an eMac ($799) you have to pay $800 or more for a Dell with the same features. Similarly, if you want the capabilities of an iMac, the Dell you buy is not any cheaper and may in fact cost more. Of course, to find these things out would mean doing homework. Someone could have actually compared the eMac, the iMac and the high-end G5s to their Dell equivalents, or could have checked for (independent, non-Mac) Web sites that have already done the comparison shopping. Either way, you would have discovered that several sentences in the article are just flat out outrageously wrong. Shame on you for publishing such crap.

-- Michael Witbeck

Farhad Manjoo has let his excitement over the Mac Mini get the better of his common sense. At the end of his rhapsody to the new computer, he writes,

"... a machine so small that you can ferry it around with you from the office to the apartment, or bedroom to bedroom."

I'll grant you that the machine is tiny, by anyone's standards. But something you can "ferry around"?

Picture your morning routine: after you shave and scarf down your Pop-Tart, you dash over to your desk to unhook your monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse, power supply, Ethernet connection, speakers, and any USB or Firewire devices you have plugged into your Mac Mini. Then, when you get to work, you plug all those selfsame peripherals back in. Sound like fun?

Other than its weight, I see nothing in this machine that makes it any less insane to carry around than your average desktop computer. Let's not even mention the need for an extra monitor, printer, etc., in each place you plan to use the little toaster.

If Mr. Manjoo wants a cuddly Mac to carry around, he's still going to need a laptop. Anyone who looks at this thing and thinks "small = portable!" is buying into too much Apple hype.

-- John-Paul Ferguson

The new Mac Mini certainly made my day when I saw it. All computers should be like this one.

However, switching to Apple would, for me, cost far more than just the computer. Because I rely on expensive software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, any switch to Apple would also include a minimum $1,000 price tag for the software I would need to buy.

In reality, this software cost has always been the biggest hurdle for me, and until Apple can find a way for me to switch without losing the expensive software I have already invested in, I am going to have to remain a slave to Microsoft.

-- Aran Johnson

Great idea!

Pop for a $500 shiny new Mac, throw out my perfectly functional and highly-compatible-with-everything Windows machine, spend $4,000 or $5,000 to replace the software (you know, the stuff that actually makes a computer useful), to end up with a maybe-superior-maybe-not operating system from a company with a 20-year history of gouging its customers in the name of Kool.

Nah, I don't think so.

-- William Kritzberg

Farhad Manjoo states that "nobody buys Macs." I work in magazine publishing, and you would be hard-pressed to find a PC in my entire building.

I've always been amused by the favorite quote of PC people, that Apple has a minuscule 3.5 percent of the American computer market. The same could be said of BMW and its share of the car market. The question becomes: What do you want to drive?

-- Jackie Summers

Oh, please! What is up with all of these "technology" writers constantly foreseeing doom for Apple? Sure Apple may have a small market share in the desktop and portable computing arena, but that doesn't mean they are irrelevant. Look at all the Mac rip-offs, for cryin' out loud! Look at Windows XP! Apple is on the bleeding edge of technology and design. Sure, Apple has a small market share. So do luxury cars. Is Mercedes irrelevant? In imminent danger of going under if they don't start making luxury cars priced for the masses?

I am sick of hearing people whine endlessly about the cost of Apple products. Superior engineering, design, security and features somehow, amazingly, tend to cost more to create. Thus, these superior products tend to cost more to buy. Why is this so hard to understand? If somebody can't afford them, fine. If you have different priorities or tastes, fine. But I see nothing wrong with lovingly crafting an elegant powerful machine and selling it for more than companies that merely buy myriad components from other companies, put them in a box, and send them out to the masses.

-- Denise Riffle

Salon Staff

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