The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect is an idea that technology columnist promote to describe the idea that people who buy iPods and use iTunes on a daily basis become comfortable with the Apple environment. This gives the idea to multiple tech columnist that young, affluent, hip, young people when they go to purchase their first computer will take a look at the Macintosh computers and buy one. However I personally feel that this is something that will not happen, this post will explain those reasons and while the idea is appealing it really is not worthwhile after taking a second look.

Now to clarify, I am not going to try and disprove the whole general Halo Effect on all products and companies rather this is just a statement on the Halo Effect as it is rumored to exist with Apple. There are several problems that I see with the statements on the Halo Effect as tech columnists discuss it. The biggest issue that I see is that the decision to buy a computer especially one where you can not go cheaper than a $1,00 or so(excluding of course the Mac Mini – which currently starts at $600 excluding the monitor, mouse and keyboard) is that this decision is not one taken quickly or lightly and there are going to be more factors than just the use of one or two other Apple products. The second is the general environment that exists in the average workplace, college, or home. The final and third reason is receiving help on your new computer with set-up and general trouble-shooting.

Let us take the first reason, the simple fact that one product will not change a person’s buying habits easily. Yes, I do believe that because a person is used to the Apple interface and using an Apple product that they could consider looking at a Mac, however anyone who would actually seriously consider crossing over into the Macverse, needs a much greater push than just an iPod and iTunes to make them spend the money on an Apple computer. The people who will buy a Mac, are people who already have the idea of buying a Mac and needed just another good reason to do so. So these are people who are already very likely to have purchased a Mac already before the iPod, however the iPod does not form the basis of their decision or the start of their thought process to buy a Mac.

The second reason, details how the general environment defines a large part of our purchasing decision. Colleges, offices and majority of homes run computers based on Windows, this does not allow for the opportunity to introduce a Mac into this environment. While, yes, Apple and Microsoft machines do and can communicate with each other very easily and with no changes to the structure of the environment or to the individual computers. However, to someone who is not technologically competent with troubleshooting or command level controls the mere hint of the idea of a problem raises the bar immensly for people as to why should they switch when their first week of using the computer will be getting it work fully. While there are ways of running Windows on the Mac for those necessary Windows only software, and a vast majority of products have a Mac version available, the average person doesn’t have an idea of how to do this or even that this is possible, which is my final reason.

The third and final reason relates to when a person begins to have issues or problems with their computer or wishes to try and do something on their new computer. Rather than being able to ask just anyone who they know that is knowledgeable with computers it now requires a qualifier when asking for help to clarify the type of machine being worked with. For as much as people wish to make of the “net generation” it is still a generation in which the general mechanics of how a computer operates is still hidden from them. Think of these people as someone who uses a car, they can work with a car and use it and be comfortable with it, but the minute something goes wrong, you call in the experts. The average person even though they use a car day in, day out still does not understand the underlying mechanics of a car. This is the same with a computer, the “net generation” is comfortable with technology, but this level of familiarity does not automatically grant the person the ability to set up, work with, and learn how to work and manage a new operating software. A personal example of this, is my older sister, who is a very smart person and works with computers on a daily basis using them for a great many of her tasks. However when she first got her own computer and going through the Windows setup process, the entire time her hand needed to be held, not because she couldn’t do it, rather because she wanted to be sure that she never made a mistake, and had no idea what to do if she did something wrong or even whether or not she did something wrong. Simple tasks such as asking to decide on the name for the main user account, the name of the computer, etc. would involve 2 or three questions to be absolutely sure that nothing was going to go wrong. While there is nothing wrong with this type of careful setup, this demonstrates the fundamental problem with the Halo Effect, the general person even the general net generation does not understand how a computer works, they understand how to do what they need to do and that is about it. This is the same idea as the person who knows how to drive, but does not know what a tachometer is, the different gears of a car or how a car even works (of which I personally know of at least a dozen or so people who fall into this category). It isn’t a lack of intelligence or familiarity with the product that is the issue, it is a lack of understanding of the underlying structure and control of the product, in this case the computer.

I do feel that the Halo Effect can be a powerful motivator in buying decisions that people choose to undertake, however I feel that Apple has too much working against it to gain any real market share. The people who will purchase a Mac, are the same who would have purchased one before the iPod, technologically literate users, professional graphic designers, and those who have always bought a Mac. People do not like change, especially when they are not sure of whether the change is first worth the money, able to fit in with their current lifestyle, and still able to receive help.

Justin Yost is a full-time Software Engineer and a part time educator. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Justin relishes programming and learning more about anything and everything. When not working, Justin occasionally gives talks at the local PHP Meetup. In his free time, Justin enjoys backpacking and reading science fiction books.

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