A little while back I read a pretty neat article from one of the tech newsletters I subscribe to (it was a Lockergnome newsletter, ‘Are Hackintosh Computers Legal?’ by Matt Ryan). As those of you that have read my posts, you may understand that I’m not anti-Apple, I just don’t have the patience to pay way too much to get a ‘capable – but oh so sexy’ machine that locks me into ways I’m not comfortable being locked into (proprietary ways as well as technology locks where Apple knows what is better for me than I do…).

But it does point out something very important that should be understood about Apple. Ask yourself the question that is the title of this post – is Apple a hardware or software vendor? You only get to choose one or the other by the nature of the question – no blending!

This is where I love what Matt wrote in the article (which is very informative and readable – I highly recommend reading it from the link above). He says…

Bottom line: Apple is a hardware company that happens to create software intended to boost the value of its hardware. Microsoft isn’t a hardware company — at least, not a computer manufacturer. Microsoft makes software with the explicit purpose in mind of being able to run on hardware from a wide range of manufacturers. Apple creates software to make its hardware more valuable to the user.

You see Apple dong a wonderful job of marketing, of product development, creating hype around releases, and providing user’s what they want (even before many understand the needs of users). In many ways they are a model of effectiveness, and for that all can take notice and understand the magic of what Apple is – a hardware vendor.

Viewed as such, understand they are much like an automobile manufacturer . We use car’s to get us from point A to point B (and other points as needed). From a utility vantage point, you can choose many cars to do this and at a variety of prices and style to meet your needs. With the exception of the demise of this company, I see Apple like the DeLorean Motor Company – they took the utility to a different level and market. They looked at it from a different angle, created something durable, sleek, certainly functional, and made it sexy/trendy to appeal to a certain market.

At the end of the day, the question remains – what are you using the computer to do? If all you want to do is surf the web and email, you can certainly do that with less costly hardware than Apple! So the ‘need’ is something else (and please don’t say it’s somehow safer from bad stuff on the web, or easier, or greener, or smaller, or much of anything other than sexier). Some purchase because it is recommended (say, for students going in to particular areas such as graphic design, or a campus that prefers to support Apple due to the breaks they get). Others purchase because of a particular need (mostly graphic design). But the reality is computers that aren’t hardware specific and do all that Apple does because of the software – not the hardware. Adobe products cost the same for Windows and Apple operating systems – and that isn’t cheap!

Also understand you will have a consistent experience with Apple – and that is specifically because they are a hardware vendor. All too often there are folks that upgrade operating systems on antiquated hardware in the Windows world and wonder why performance suffers (because hardware DOES matter). While I have no survey data to back up the assertion I’m about to make, it is my belief that this is a huge reason for satisfaction of Apple users – they have a common experience of things working well together because… Apple is a hardware vendor that only makes software that enables the hardware to work well in concert. That’s not to say you want to upgrade to the latest Apple O/S release on a 10 year old hardware platform – however having control of the hardware that hits the streets does give an advantage to tweak, patch and support folks – they know exactly what they are dealing with/updating to.

Apple is a hardware vendor, and that does have some advantages. But you, as a user / consumer need to keep asking the same question I’ve posted about before – what do you need to do? If it is to boast you have an Apple and just surf the web… well – I certainly respect that and know it certainly can do that. But perhaps you just needed to be trendy and sexy with your gear – at least that seems to be the trend of those folks that I’ve bumped into. But I admit to not having a large sample to pull from.

What is your experience? Have something to add – feel free to comment, and thanks for reading.