I hadn’t really had a chance to do a side-by-side comparison of the unboxing experience of Macs and PCs until just recently, but listen, PC manufacturers: what the hell? Have you ever taken a good hard look at the thing you’re shipping these days?
It’s really hard to tell if it’s Vista that’s shitting on my user experience or just the fact that this laptop comes encrusted with tons of crap I didn’t ask for and don’t want. And when I have to compare that to the Mac unboxing process, it just infuriates me.
A boxed Mac is easy and elegant to open, nice and clean, everything comes out of the box easily and smoothly. It all fits together very elegantly, and when you’re done, the first thing you see is a very pretty “Welcome” animation, it asks you a few questions and that’s it. The attention to detail is astonishing, and when you’re done you have a clean install of the OS and you’re off. It verges on the ceremonial, especially when you compare it to the competition.
Open up a new PC, fight past a container that has obviously been optimized for cheapness, plug it in (making sure you didn’t get those mouse and keyboard PS/2 ports mixed up, if it’s a desktop!) and fire it up. The very first thing you get is threatened. Install an antivirus! Your machine is outdated! And insecure! Firewall! Symantec Norton McTrendGate! Make backup CDs yourself, they’re super-important but not so important that we can’t cheap out and make you work instead of just shipping media! USE AOL, PLEEEEZE.
Even ignoring the crappy packaging, this is still one of the main reasons that if I have any say in the matter, the first thing any PC does is boot into a clean install of an OS, whatever OS it’s going to be. What a waste of time, but the alternative is so much worse; God help you if you want to uninstall only <i>some</i> of the crap that came with it. You’re looking at literally hours of tedious not-fun just to get a machine that’s not quite as much of a sewer. Because you don’t have an original copy of the OS media, no. You’ve got “recovery” or “restore” CDs, that just put all that pain right back where it was.
So far, my experiences with Vista (Professional edition) have been… bad. I didn’t intend to buy an interactive billboard pimping dozens of goods and services at me, thanks, I just wanted a computer. But unless I buy a computer from Apple, it’s guaranteed that whoever I buy it from is not only willing but totally enthusiastic about fucking my user experience right up in exchange a couple of bucks per unit shipped. The OEM preinstalled-garbage problem has gotten way worse in the last few years, not better, and I’m convinced that it’s one of the reasons that Apple’s market share has been steadily rising all that time. Not because their stuff is so great , but because all the alternatives are so bad.