A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Apple store

It's no secret that for years I've wanted a Macbook Air. I love them. They're lightweight, powerful, fast, very thin, and just plain cool. My wife knew how much I wanted one and for my birthday, she took me to the Apple store.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

If you've read many of my posts, you know that I have this love/hate relationship with Apple products. I love them for their coolness, their design, their software, their ease of use, and their ability to "just work."

But I also hate them for their price, their inflexibility, their non-compatibility, their short-lived support cycle (iPad 1, specifically), and their kind of opposite way of working.

But, alas, I'm seduced by the fact that Apple makes products that I want.

My wife occasionally reads my posts—occasionally, because often they're too technical for her. She did read a few where I mentioned how badly I want a Macbook Air. I'd given up on the prospect of ever having one because of the price. Seriously, $1,200 when I can buy an HP Envy or an Asus VivoBook for much less? Still, it's a want factor, not a need factor.

My birthday, yesterday, changed everything for me because of my wife-prompted trip to the Apple Store.

Back in February, my wife and I took a trip to Las Vegas because I attended a conference and she went along for the ride. While at Caesar's Palace, she caught me checking out the Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros. I thought she was shopping across the way at H&M—and she was—but I didn't realize that she'd caught me red-handed while I fawned over the laptop computers that I'd never have. I can dream, can't I?

She asked me then if I wanted one.

"Yes, of course, I want one but I don't need one. Plus, they're so expensive. I could buy two or three Windows laptops for that much money. I just can't bring myself to do it."

And I didn't do it. I'd never do it.

As a side note, I'd decided to never purchase another Apple product again. And I haven't. However, my wife gave me a new iPhone 5 for Father's Day this year and an iPad 4 for Christmas 2012. So, I've remained Apple celibate. She, on the other hand, has cheated for me.

Two weeks ago, she asked me what I want for my birthday. I said, "Nothing. There's nothing I really want."

And that was the truth.

She asked again a week later. I gave her the same honest answer: "Nothing."

A few days before my birthday, she gave me a look and said, "I know what you want for your birthday." I had no idea, although her facial expression and her tone gave me a hint that I was going to like it. A lot.

Friday evening after work, she told me she wanted to go to dinner and then to the mall. I'd forgotten* about my birthday and went along.

Off to dinner and then to the mall we went.

After a couple of other stops, she herded me toward the Apple store. I went without realizing what was about to happen.

She said, "Let's check out the Macbook Airs. That's what you want isn't it?" 

I stammered and I'm sure my face turned red over the prospect now that I've put two and two together.

We walked over to the Macbook Pros because there were too many other customers hawking the Airs. An older man** walked up to us and asked if he could help us. First of all, I was taken aback by his age. He was not the typical young, nerdish type who usually approaches me at the Apple store; he was a grandfatherly type who was very friendly and extremely knowledgeable about all things Apple. He immediately put us at ease.

He showed us the Pros and told us all of the features and prices. "Yikes", I said with a hard gulp, "I remember why I don't have one." Without skipping a beat, he directed us to the Air and gave us the grand tour of that model.

He quizzed me on how I'd use my new purchase. I told him about the applications that I typically use and we all decided that the Air was, indeed, the correct choice for me.

I could feel my heart pounding in my throat.

"It's a laptop for goodness sakes, not a newborn baby," I thought to myself. I then told myself that I need to calm down and to not make this an emotional purchase. 

The iMacs caught my wife's eye. Those big monitors, the one terrabyte drives, the bluetooth keyboard and mouse. It was a lot to take in, especially since her sister has one. The salesman told us all about them. Of course, the 1TB drive caught my ears by comparison with the miniscule 128GB drive of the Macbook Air.

"Now I'm confused."

The salesman astutely picked up on our bewilderment and then walked us over to the Mac mini display area.

I'd heard of the mini through conversations with Jason Perlow and David Gewirtz but I'd never seen one up close. I figured that they were underpowered little set top boxes or something similar. David Gewirtz pondered such a use for one in an email to me some time ago. I wrote them off as a potential workstation option.

The mini's features were what I was looking for in a computer replacement for my now aging Asus Aspire 7535-5020 model behemoth that only cost me about $400.

Now I'm considering replacing it with an $800 Apple Mac mini that has no screen, no mouse, no keyboard, and I have to buy a $30 Thunderbolt-to-25-pin video converter to use my current two-page ProView monitor. Fortunately, I also own the Bluetooth Apple keyboard ($60) that I purchased to use with my iPad.

So, we bought the mini. And the converter. I'm using it now to post this article. But I'm using Google Chrome to do it so, I'm not fully a "Mac guy" just yet.

My ginormous Asus is still sitting a few feet away on a table calling to me, beckoning me to "come home". It's hard to resist the temptation. I use Windows at my day job and it's hard to break away. I don't think I'll be able to do it 100 percent. Ever. I'll still have a Windows laptop for those things that don't work on Mac OS X. Which is a lot.

To my surprise, many things that I use aren't available on Mac, although it seems that before I got one, all the cool software was on the Mac. I never priced it though. But lamentations aside, I like the mini. I'm going to use it and be thrilled that I have it.

It isn't a Macbook Air or a Macbook Pro but it's what I've wanted and needed for some time now. I needed a system that uses Mac OS X because I'm interested in the story of how it is to make the switch and in the story of app creation. Of course, I realize that to make an app that people want to buy is going to be tough as there are over 350,000 apps in Apple's App Store.

So, for some time now, you'll read the story of how this longtime Windows Administrator and Linux Administrator converts himself to the wonderous world of all things Apple. There are those in the world who make lemonade from lemons, so I'll do my best to make applesauce from Apples. Stay tuned.


* I know how strange it sounds to forget your own birthday but it isn't the first time I've done it. I have a really funny story about one particular incident involving my birthday amnesia at lunch several years ago that will have to wait for another time.

** I can't recall his name now because in my excitement and confusion, I forgot, but what I didn't forget was his product knowledge, enthusiasm, and professional manner. He's now my favorite Apple salesperson. I will always seek him out for future purchases, even if I have to return to the store later to get him.

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