Yalim's Lodge

Free advice to the remaining PC Makers

I was going to throw out this little article because I thought I am just declaring the obvious. But just when I was about to delete it, the news came that HP threw in the towel and I found the audience for the post. This article is solely for the benefit of laptop manufacturers that are not called Apple.

PC makers are losing battles against Apple left and right. Even though consumers have it all figured out, they don’t seem to have understand at all why they keep getting their butt kicked. They are confused. They are in denial, and panic. They just keep executing the same business plan that worked ten years ago. Spend five minutes on Dell web site and attempt to buy a laptop and then compare the experience to the one on the Apple Online Store. You would think that the two sites are selling two separate products. Well…you know what…they are.

So as hopeless as they are, I’ve prepared a list of the shortcomings of PC-Laptops (for lack of a better term) that made me jump ship and buy a MacBook Air. The items in the list will seem as clear as daylight to you. That’s because you are a consumer not an executive in the PC business.

Crappy, Cheap, Low Quality Hardware
I take good care of my laptops. I really do. Most of them don’t even leave the desks they are on. But I cannot escape hardware failures no matter what brand I buy. Toshiba, HP, Sony, you name it…I tried them all. Built-in mics/cameras don’t work, batteries don’t charge, hard disks crash, motherboards die…

Boot time
Microsoft has been solving the boot time issue since Windows 95 for crying out loud. Yet I still have laptops that take 15 minutes to start. I just can’t take it anymore.

Shut Down Time and the 255 Different Ways Of Doing It
Even shutting down can be a challenging task in Windows. The gazillion ways Windows has to turn off a computer, leaves me always worrying about whether I turned off my computer the best possible way. Closing the screen does not always do the trick either. There are many times I hear my laptops roar hours after I close them.

Battery Life
Using Windows based laptops, I always feel like I am racing against time. This prevents me from enjoying what I do with my computer.

Performance
Every Windows based laptop reaches a point where each mouse click results in inexplicable  hard disk sounds. Often you attempt to open an application and wish there was a Regret button somewhere that forgives you for double clicking the application icon. I am sick of this beyond description.

Lack of QA
Any Windows laptop I used smaller than 13” was practically junk. This reached absurd levels when I bought a netbook that had a full C drive right from the purchase. I mean, come on…It feels to me that these products are rushed to the market without any due diligence at all.

Portability
No matter how small, every Windows based laptop is clunky. They are way too thick, way too heavy. They have way too many connectivity options for their size. This happens because the producers are so scared that they might lose a customer if their 1” inch laptop doesn’t allow connecting via infrared. Screw infrared.

Noise
Windows based laptops are very loud. Their fans roar for no obvious reason. This makes me feel like I am doing something to them that I am not supposed to. It is a very disconcerting feeling.

Aesthetics
Let’s face it. Windows based laptops are butt ugly. There are several Dell models so ugly that they should be outright banned from public view.

I want to end the post with one example. I think it summarizes it all: I feel a lot more comfortable writing with the keyboard of my 13” Mac Book Air than the keyboard of my 17”inch HP laptop. How is that even possible?

Yalım K. Gerger (@yalimgerger)

  • Elijah Saounkine

    Let me agree on every aspect, but the fact that you finally pointed out MacBook as a solution to all your problems. Most advanced operating system in the world – says who? Mac’s never hang – wow, I’ve accomplished an impossible mission then! Beautiful and practical – my ass! Aesthetics are all matter of taste.
    I’m afraid that I’m back to square one myself, there’s not even one personal computer in the world that I like.

  • bpb

    This sounds like an OS issue and a bunch of lies…

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    Elijah,

    No argument. I didn’t mean the post to come out as “Mac’s are perfect”. They are not. But in my personal experience, they are better…way better.

  • http://twitter.com/PeterHickman Peter Hickman

    Must agree with the quality of the hardware. If you buy cheap, something like a Dell Inspiron for example, you know what you are getting. Something that will have developed a hundred faults and niggles which tech support have no interest in or can’t fix.

    Then it dies.

    But it is unclear if paying more will result in a better product, at least I have no intention of passing any more of my money to Dell at this point. There is not a single PC brand that I have encountered that doesn’t make me wary of the quality of the product.

  • Richard

    Well, I can’t help you with the hardware problems, but the software problems can be solved by installing linux.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    True. And most of the people in the office have gone that way and are very happy. The thing is Linux is still considered the OS for techies, maybe unfairly so. For example, I don’t know any non-tech computer user who uses Linux.

  • Steven

    Windows deserves to have its own post on why its killing the PC industry. Once get you past the Windows post, which can easily be 10x longer than this current list, then we can go over even more problems with the hardware. Most Linux are not a viable alternative for consumers. There’s a catch-22 with software not being compatible with new OSes even if you wanted to develop your own, etc… There is some truth to the HP post in that even if they manage to fix many if not all of the hardware problems, marketing problems, customer support problems, they can’t fix windows. And Apple is winning because it can control the experience on multiple levels.

    There was also a post about why an iPad with lower hardware specs is benchmarked better than some of its Android competitors with better hardware specs, in some cases double the ram). It’s because the OS is optimized for the hardware, something HP can’t compete with right now. Even if HP legitimately wanted to do their own desktop OS, say convert webOS to work for desktops too, the lack of compatible programs (games, office, etc etc…) prevents it from succeeding. While these posts certainly points out the obvious (I don’t actually think all execs are oblivious), it also misses the fact that some things can not be fixed.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    Steven,

    Right on the money. Windows is such a big part of the disaster.

    I don’t know the way out for PC makers but I know that Apple reinvented its operating system and built a new one while Dell, HP, Sony, Acer, Nokia and countless others watched it take their profits. At some point in the not so distant past, pretty much all of them were better positioned than Apple to build a better OS or a better product. But blindly and sheepishly they chose to execute a business plan that is going obsolete.

  • 19811

    In fact, you could summarize most of those problems in one advice: Stop preinstalling crapware. A clean Windows install means fast bootup, fast shutdown, fast and responsive system, and low CPU usage, i.e. long battery life.

    (Pre-)install Norton on the machine, and suddenly it slows down to a crawl.

    > Most of them don’t even leave the desks they are on.

    Is there a point for a laptop, then, when you could buy a desktop PC for the same price? Desktop machines are more reliable, and have a big screen and a comfortable keyboard.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    Asymco just posted a great article about your comments. I can’t help but share. I strongly recommend it to everyone

    HP’s decade-long departure: http://goo.gl/0W82A

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    Yes excellent point. Crapware was one of the things I forgot to add. Absolutely. An HP I bought came with the stupid Vongo player. It could not even be uninstalled. One Toshiba I owned had so many crap on it, I spent hours to clean it up so that it could be somewhat usable.

  • Anonymous

    Takes me about 33 seconds to 100% complete a cold boot on my HP laptop with Win 7 on it. Even for the older, bogged down PCs I’ve seen, 15 minutes is a laughably huge overstatement.

  • http://tariq-kamal.livejournal.com/ Tariq Kamal

    I actually have better advice.

    PC makers: You do not need to engage in Apple in terms of aesthetics and hardware engineering excellence. The odds are, right now, stacked against you — Apple has their pipeline sewed up tight, everyone thinks they’re beautiful, they’re currently excelling in making their user experiences tight and awesome. They’re also incredibly stinking rich, richer than the United States of America right now. Remember what Sun Zi said in the Art of War:

    Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force.

    Right now, you’re the smaller force.

    But that doesn’t mean giving in, and throwing the towel. Hardly. Get out of the way, regroup, plan. But don’t wait too long, there are other hungry bastards out there as well.

    For starters: there will always be a market that Apple will never touch — the low-end. Start there, at least; aim to make your devices cheap and easily repairable and upgradeable — while the temptation is to fuck over lower-end consumers by making them buy and buy and buy, that’s not going to work for long, because the lower end doesn’t have that much money. Save that tactic for people with more money than sense. You want long-term customers, not consumers you can flog your latest crappy product at.

    Or… you could go that way. Sell to people who want to appear cool, but can’t afford Apple products. But you’d be fighting Apple, just not head on. And everyone will know you’re a faker. It might get you money, but you’d always be Apple’s follower, and always second-string. Do you want that?

    Apple’s tight control of the user experience will give you an advantage — as tightly-bound as they are in maintaining a specific experience and environment, it will be hard for them to allow the one thing you’d be open to — customisation. Hell, you yourself could make some money from Apple users who suddenly find that they look just like the other five assholes in the coffee shop. Sell customisation options to Apple owners, to your own customers, to anyone. Any attempts of Apple to stop you should only be met with a shrug and stopping. That sort of shit only hurts Apple in the end, because a significant portion of Apple’s market are from people who buy Apple products to appear different — if they’re not allowed to appear different and revolutionary, why bother?

    Maybe that deal with Microsoft may not look so good right now. It’s true that there are alternatives, and maybe you could go with any of the alternatives. A flavour of Linux might work. Or you may just go into building Android tablets and go from there. You gotta be quick though; I’m seeing new low-end Android tablets making their appearances already. Spread out, instead of trying to copy each other — there’s a possibility that someone might stumble into the next big thing.

    One final piece of advice: don’t target the OP as your core consumer. He wants technical excellence and beautiful design, and he’s not shy about spending extra for it. Right now, Apple’s on top of that. Maybe in half a decade, when he’s sick of being a trendy pretty extra in a coffee shop. Maybe never. But don’t plan for him. He doesn’t want you anyway.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    This is one of the best comments I’ve seen in a blog. Eyeing the low end with rock solid products might indeed be a very viable strategy to recover from Apple’s blow. As you point out there are many challenges to make this happen but if someone pulls it off it will change things.

    As for me…True, I require technical and aesthetic excellence in my devices. I was very forgiving but iPod, iPhone and iPad spoiled me. If Apple can do it, then the rest can too.

    I’ve used Windows and Windows laptops for 15-16 years. I finally had enough. I believe I gave every chance to HP, Sony, Toshiba and Dell a customer ever can. Next time, I won’t take this long for me to jump ship though. If someone builds a better laptop than a MacBook Air, I will be their customer instantly. The reason I kept delaying the move to a Mac was my old fears that are not true anymore. It used to be that moving from one computer to another worse than changing apartments. These days, since pretty much everything I do, involves a web app, it was all a breeze.

    My eyes are on Chrome OS. I speculate that sometime in the next few years, I will move to a laptop with Chrome OS, assuming that Google does not give up on it. Their purchase of Motorola gives me faint hopes that they will get into the hardware business. If that is the case, maybe one day, they will get into laptop business as well. Hmmm…I think my thoughts on Chrome OS deserve its own blog post. :-)

  • 123

    What an unbalanced simplistic article. Jesus, I wish that God would give me back my 3 minutes of life that I just wasted reading this garbage. By the way, try Lenovo they use Windows and contradict what you think are the short comings of Windows Laptops. Secondly, the hardware that Apple uses isn’t infallible nor exclusive to Apple, manufacturers that pre-load windows use it too. Idiot.

  • http://twitter.com/zombieprocessus Zombie Processus

    Tariq, you just described TO PERFECTION my situation. I am a small PC maker. And do you know why I decided to start my own company? Because I was fed up with having either the choice between laptops loaded with Windows bloatware, or Apple’s tight control over what I can do with my computer.

    So what did I do? Well, I am a Linux user, but I don’t use any kind of Linux: I use Arch Linux, which blew my mind as soon as I installed it Why? Because:
    1. It’s small, hence it’s fast and it has no bloatware, and I can customise it exactly to my liking.
    2. It’s a rolling release: that’s right, I just had to install it once and I know that I never will have to install another major version again.
    3. It’s always up to date. No need to wait for days before getting the latest firefox/chromium/inkscape/php etc.. version.
    4. The documentation is amazing and very easy to follow.

    What is the drawback then? The installation. You do need patience, and to read their wiki thoroughly. You do need technical skills. But hey, I have them! And what did I get in the end? A computer that runs super fast, customised the way I want with only the latest software in the market. Wow.

    And after Gnome 3 was released and brought it’s unique aesthetics and efficient workflow to the desktop I thought “If people saw it, if people could get their hands on it, if people tried it, they’d find it fast, easy to use, and they’d be completely free to do what they want with it”. I mean it’s so versatile, hackers can easily dig into the laptop’s guts while people who have no clue about IT could use it the way it is without any problem.

    So that’s where I am standing now. Yes I am a small PC maker, but do you know what I sell? I sell quality laptops, I sell laptops that I love using, I sell laptops that I know will make my customers happy. And I think that’s the way to go. I may never take on Apple, but at least I know that out there people are happy using my laptops, and that’s all I need to know.

  • Tenjou00

    Well stated. Allow me to elaborate on this:
    “Battery Life
    Using Windows based laptops, I always feel like I am racing against time. This prevents me from enjoying what I do with my computer.”

    True. Very true. It is always the battery life that turns me off. ALWAYS. Go have a look at the so called laptops and they give you a “5 hours” but in practical use, most of them don’t even last for 2 hours. I am a person who runs around with my laptop and I really cannot tolerate charging every 2 hours or so! This is the one problem they can’t seem to solve. Thank god they are starting to learn from Apple’s Macbook Air 2011 and starting to give some decent battery life to the Ultrabooks. It was like “OMG! Apple is giving 7 hours of battery performance and you get at least 60% of what that is advertise! WHILE DOING ACTUAL WORK AND NET SURFING OVER WIFI! While PCs cant even stand for 3 hours with just typing text on it.”
    I own a Macbook (Mid 2010) and battery life is the exact reason I bought it. It advertises 10 hours and I seriously get 55% of the time advertise. Battery life time of 5 hours for practical uses surfing the net man! Boo to most of the laptops manufacturers. You are trying so hard just to squeeze out 5 hours for advertising, NOT PRACTICAL REAL WORLD BATTERY TIME. SERIOUSLY, I COULDN’T COMPREHEND YOU LAPTOPS MAKERS FOR LOSING OUT HERE. YOU SERIOUSLY DON’T GET IT. “LAPTOPS” ARE CALLED SO SO THAT THEY CAN BE PRACTICALLY USED ANYWHERE ANYTIME WITHOUT NEEDING TO BE WORRIED OF POWER SOCKET. YOU GUYS ARE SERIOUSLY NOT KNOWING WHAT CATEGORY OF PRODUCT YOU ARE CREATING. FIX THAT. PROVE THAT THERE IS A DECENT LAPTOP THAT LAST LONG AND PROVIDE DECENT PERFORMANCE.
    As a consumer, I really fail to see why the whole market except Apple is getting it. How lame.

  • http://www.gerger.co Yalim K. Gerger

    My sentiments exactly.