Letter to the Authors of “Why Middlebury Kids Should Choose MacBooks”
April 20, 2017
Filed under Opinions
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Dear Middlebury College Bookstore Staff,
In last week’s Campus, you published an advertisement for Apple products, sold by the miniature Apple Store that resides in the back of our campus bookstore, thinly veiled as an op-ed. I herein discuss my three grievances with that piece:
(1) It was factually inaccurate.
(2) It displayed casual financial classism.
(3) It endorses a product/company without explicitly disclosing the fact that the authors (you the MC bookstore staff) are agents of the product/company being endorsed.
Let’s start by making one thing clear. Apple is not some glorious, rebellious liberator, as they portray themselves in their famous 1984 advert, nor are PC users ignorant balding white men as portrayed in Apple’s early 2000’s campaign — though both caricatures shine through in your article — Macs and PCs simply represent two reasonable choices in the world of computing.
Your op-ed asserts that MacOS is clearly superior, but as the laptop review site The Wirecutter wrote in February of this year in its article “What Laptop Should I Buy,” “MacOS and Windows have never been more similar, and most popular apps have versions that work just as well on either platform.” Furthermore, “it’s easier than ever to switch between the two.” Matt Weinberger of Business Insider wrote an article a couple of months ago aptly titled, “The Whole ‘Mac vs. PC’ Thing Is So Over,” where he explains, “because so much of what we do these days is based in the browser and in the cloud, Mac versus PC is no longer a lifestyle decision like it was back when boxed software ruled all. It’s just a matter of taste.”
You also suggest that Macs are no harder to troubleshoot than PCs, yet many people fervently disagree. For example, Shan Zeng, a student worker at the Middlebury Helpdesk, says, “PCs are much easier to troubleshoot than Macs.” She went on to stress that, “The problems that show up on Macs are rather irreversible, most often sudden breakdown of hard drives. In PCs there will be warnings, and other signs that allow one to take preventive measures.” As for Macs needing tech support less frequently, Zeng again disagrees. “I see more Mac issues than PC at the helpdesk.”
Now we reach grievance number two, the subtle classism of your suggestion that everyone come in and buy a Mac. The reality is that, for many, a $1,500 matte-metallic status symbol is out of the budget and out of the question. Senior Klaudia Wojciechowska put it this way: “Writing an article about why Midd kids ‘should choose Macbooks’ without acknowledging that not everyone can afford them — so buying PC’s is not a ‘choice’ — completely ERASES the fact that poor Midd kids like myself exist on this campus (who would have thought?!).” For students and families who struggle to afford Middlebury tuition, your ad suggesting everyone go buy a Mac is pretty tone deaf. To your suggestion that financing options might be available in the future, Wojciechowska notes sardonically, “You’re willing to set up a financing plan for me? Great. Add that to the other tuition loans I have.”
You, the MC Bookstore Staff, are boldly misinformed on the topic of price. It is true that IBM found that it is cheaper for their employees to use Macs instead of PCs, but IBM is a large enterprise with massive negotiated software licensing agreements and niche needs. Their experience is nothing like that of individual students on college campuses. If we really, truly cared about software expense, we would encourage the use of Linux variants, perhaps ChromeOS.
This goes beyond a difference of opinion; your Op-Ed flouted reality. Macs are not cheaper than the equivalent PC, even when the costs are spread out over the lifetime of the product (and even accounting for resale value, about which you also proffered misinformation). Take the Dell XPS 13 versus the equivalent MacBook Pro. The former is $1125 while the latter retails for $1499. Budget can’t stretch that far? You could get an Asus ZenBook with nearly identical specs for only $699. Less than half the price! Even the cheapest MacBook rings in at $1,200 and will offer significantly worse performance. (And for those of you thinking about Apple’s student discount, know this: student discounts are available from most major computer manufacturers, not just Apple).
Need something even cheaper? Modern Chromebooks start at just $179. Any student who needs to store large files, have long battery life, strong portability and use pretty much any web application (as well as upcoming Android app porting) might want to look toward Google.
And finally, we arrive at issue 3: the fact that you all submitted your ad to the Campus as an op-ed. Shame on you, and shame on the Campus editors who agreed to run it. At best, your op-ed qualifies as sponsored content. You, the bookstore, make money off Apple sales so you were plugging your own brand. Most weeks I write a financial markets column for the Campus. You’ll notice I don’t use it to pump penny stocks or hawk personal financial services. If you want to advertise in the Campus, more power to you, but do so the right way. Don’t be disingenuous: pay up. The Campus is not free to produce, and I will not have it taken for a shill.