Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Screwdrivers vs. Couture

The appeal of the Mac Mini is totally lost on me. It's an underpowered, expensive box-- like every other computer Apple has ever introduced. And yet, a certain contingent of PC users are buying this thing on release day. I never understood that.

Ed Stroglio may be the best industry analyst you've never heard of. Check out the way he totally nailed the appeal of the Mac Mini: screwdrivers vs. couture:

For PCers, a computer is a tool, an animated screwdriver. You don't have an "experience" with a screwdriver. It either works well or it doesn't. If it does, you like it; if it doesn't, you don't. You don't admire its aesthetic features, or find one a reflection of your good taste, or a symbol that proves you're an {fill in the blanks: admirable, special, creative, artistic} person.

For Macsters, it's just the opposite. The object is an extension of themselves just as much as their clothing or interior decoration, it's a part of them in a way a PC never is for a PCer.

One might think case modders or overclockers [or developers] in general might be more prone to the Mac outlook, but that's not really so. What such people are proud of is not mere ownership of the equipment, but what they've done to it to make it what it is. It's a much more hands-on sense of accomplishment: what has been done rather than what it was out of the box.

For such people, telling them that a Dell is cheaper and better is like telling them that Old Navy overalls are cheaper and last longer than Dolce & Gabbana jeans. When you do that, what they hear is, "Be a common pig like the rest of us" when the whole point of the purchase is to prove the opposite.

If this is incomprehensible to you, well, that's why you own a PC and not a Mac.

But if this description sounds like someone you know who is already a Mac user, or is prone to becoming one, this is why the standard arguments for buying a PC falls on deaf ears. You're thinking screwdriver; they're thinking fashion outfit.

It's one of those "aha" moments, because the appeal of the Mac Mini really was incomprehensible to me. There's a bit more followup on Ed's site about some of the subtler points in the PC vs. Mac comparison.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: