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PowerBook G3 Steals the (PC) Show
This weekend I made my usual trek out of town to a PC computer show, but this time would be different. Thanks to Randy Mita, I had a new PowerBook G3/250 loaner that I decided to take along. I was confident that just displaying this new 'Book would generate some positive reactions and provide a normally hostile PC-only audience a glimpse of what the real state-of-the-art in portable computing looks like. I was confident they would not settle for less after an in-person demonstration of Apple's latest design by someone with no profit motive, just a desire to educate the world that there is a better alternative.
The show also featured a presentation on Windows 98, but from the number of empty seats in that area (typically only 5 were filled) I'd say the Windows crowd is staying away in droves. In fact I had about ten times that number look at the Powerbook. Even some PC vendors of laptops there expressed awe and interest in the new Powerbook. (I had to move it away on request as it was stealing the thunder from a string of ho-hum PC clone notebooks).
At first I wandered over to a long display of various PC notebooks and opened up the new 'Book. Necks instantly twisted to see what this thing was - it stood out from the pack like the BatMobile in a parking lot full of Yugos. Not one person passed by that did not stop and ask about it. I ran Virtual PC 2.0 and gave a quick summary of the features, design and MacOS advantage over Windows. Having worked with Windows for years in software support and hardware setup was a big plus, as I could make contrasts to illustrate the benefits quickly and easily fielded the comments that may have stumped those not familiar with the other platform.
Due to the shopper reaction, I was asked to move due to the obvious negative impact on sales this was causing and decided to locate to a neutral area right off the show floor - the concessions area. Setting up the PowerBook with the display facing the show floor drew in shoppers like a magnet, and the more that came the more people wondered what was causing such a crowd in an area that was not designated for sales.
Suffice it to say that I answered questions from about 100 people and I felt like more than half were very seriously interested in buying one themselves. I'm hoping for the binary tree effect - these people tell two others, and so on.
The Connectix Virtual PC 2.0 and NewTek Inspire 3D demos had many jaws dropping and it really made me grin. These people were impressed that someone with a lot of Windows 95 background was so excited about the Mac. Many started telling horror stories of past Windows problems, apprehension over the Windows 98 upgrade and what lay in store for them in the future. I simply commented that it was time to Break the Chain of Problems - give the MacOS a try. Get back to working productively with a machine and OS that is a benefit rather than an obstacle to overcome. I cited many examples of lower cost of ownership, ease of use and higher productivity that was obviously news to these people. Many shook their head in agreement at my tales of continuing WinTel hardware and software upgrades, downtime and repeated OS issues that show no sign of improvement in the forseeable future.
I asked each person to list how many Windows owners they knew that really loved their machines and OS. Silence. I commented on the Mac community, the brotherhood of users whose attitude and mutual support is unequaled in the history of computing. I could see several people were really questioning their continued path down the WinTel road. As I expected, this new PowerBook design was seen as a shining example of what the Macintosh and Apple represent - a radical and fresh departure from the boring drivel of the problematic clones.
Here are some of the more common comments I heard:
I'll admit at first I was apprehensive at taking the Powerbook along, as I wondered if there would be flames (I'm used to those after running this site for a year), negative reactions and closed minds. However I had a sense that the time was right, that many users are at a crossroads and with the right demonstration that there is a better alternative they are ripe for a change in platforms. I left the show feeling that I had really accomplished something. Looking back I feel like this was fate - the shocking loaner from a reader of a new PowerBook G3 just in the timeframe of a PC Computer show that I had time to attend (it had been many months since I had been to one due to the site backlog and support mail load).
Whatever the reason, it all came together perfectly and I left feeling like I had made a difference. I had entered the Lions Den armed with the most pervasive weapon possible to counter the dark side and had emerged victorious. As several people followed me out still asking questions I knew that all those that had seen the new Powerbook would never be satisfied with less.
It was such a refreshing change to not have to be seen as a pest trying to convert Windows users - since 1984 and my first 128K Mac I've been just that. I've spent a good part of my life since then promoting the Mac at every opportunity and providing support for existing owners - I don't regret a minute of it.
If there is another show before I have to return the Powerbook, I'm going to repeat this exercise (if they don't run me out ;-). It's usually a long drive but well worth it for exposure to a group that otherwise may never see such a fine example of a portable computer. I encourage you to do the same!
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