So how did a corporate ad man, who proudly cites his role in creating the ad for Alpine car stereo systems featuring a sleek, red Lamborghini, become the nation’s guru on the Macintosh computer and related devices?
Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus had been producing commercials and print ads and engaging in other marketing activities when, in 1987, he experienced a life-changing event.
“I bought a Mac, fell in love with it, quit my job, and assured my wife I would figure out a way to make money with it,” he says.
It was not just his hatred of working for other people that propelled him in this new direction, but he understood immediately that the Macintosh represented a new typesetting and desktop-publishing revolution.
Corporate America was still typesetting ads in the old-fashioned way for hundreds of dollars and with a three-day turn-around, a system ripe for replacement. “I saw the Mac as a better way to do what they were doing, but almost nobody in the professional advertising world agreed,” LeVitus says.
They had their reasons, LeVitus says, explaining that they looked down their noses at the limited number of fonts available on the Mac, whose associated printer had a resolution of only 200 dots per inch. But LeVitus had already seen the writing on the wall.
“It was good enough for most people most of the time, and a few years later they were doing it too,” he says.
LeVitus will speak at a “Dr. Mac Dinner” of the Princeton Macintosh Users’ Group, Monday, May 7, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at Firkin’s Tavern, 1400 Parkway Avenue, Ewing. Cost: $30. Dr. Mac will also do a book signing Tuesday, May 8, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Creative Computing, 423 Wall Street, Princeton, and will also present at the Princeton Macintosh Users’ Group meeting, Tuesday, May 8, 7:30 p.m., at Stuart Hall at Princeton Theological Seminary. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To register, go to www.pmug-nj.org.
Big businesses have generally not adopted Macs for reasons of self-preservation, suggests LeVitus. “The guys who make purchasing decisions are IT, information technology, guys, and they absolutely know if they got Macs, some of them would lose their jobs,” he explains. “In a pretty big chunk of the technological world, it’s in their best interest for things to be complicated, to be beyond the skill set of the average user.”
Though their justifications — that Macs are not compatible with existing computers and won’t be able to be networked — may have some validity, LeVitus suggests that the truth is much more complicated.
Big businesses remain cautious, says LeVitus, but many businesses are embracing Macs for some of the following reasons:
More robust in the face of virus infection. “Until a couple weeks ago, we haven’t had to think of malware and viruses,” says LeVitus, referring to the fact that in early April 600,000 Macs were infected with the Flashback Trojan horse, which can make a computer vulnerable to data theft or keystroke logging.
LeVitus says his decision on whether this means that some kind of antivirus software is necessary is still out. But on the plus side, Apple came out with a patch in a day or two that eliminated the virus and protected machines from it in the future.
For small businesses with PCs, on the other hand, the potential for viruses has been a huge and costly headache, requiring them to regularly update antivirus software and to pay for fixing their computers when a virus does make its way inside.
Easier to buy. As compared to the candy store of computer types available in the PC domain, Mac has a limited product line — MacBook and MacBook Air are laptops; IMacs and the bigger versions, MacPros, are desktops; and MacMinis offer the guts of a computer with no mouse, keyboard, or monitor — which makes the choice pretty straightforward.
Further, the training of salespeople as compared to those in typical big-box PC computer stores is far superior, and the goal of Apple Store salespeople is to please customers and provide them with exactly what they need.
LeVitus shares a joke that compares typical computer salespeople to a car salesperson: “The difference between a used-car salesman and a typical computer salesman is that the car salesman knows when he’s lying, but the computer guys don’t know anything.”
He suggests that in the typical computer store the answers are “hysterical and not rooted in reality, but in what I’m being paid to sell you this month.” Apple, however, pays no commissions. “They have no vested interest in selling you something more expensive or more than is good for you,” he says.
Macs can run Windows but PCs cannot run a Mac. “If you are in the gray area that you have stuff that runs on the PC or where the Mac version is different,” says LeVitus, “you can run a virtual machine running three different flavors of Windows.” The Windows environment thus created is completely isolated from the Mac’s operating system.
Very useful software comes bundled with the Mac. For small businesses, especially those that do their own marketing, the easy-to-use suite of creative software on the Mac can be a huge plus; it includes transparent software for handling photos, editing videos, burning CDs, and making music. For photos, for example, LeVitus says, “Macs inherently get digital photography, asking you ‘what do you want me to do?’”
Additionally, to get similar features on a PC requires the user to purchase Adobe software and other systems and then integrate these third-party video products. Because Apple made a decision early on to make its own operating system, applications, and hardware, it achieves an integration that cannot be matched by the PC.
LeVitus grew up in Chicago, where his father was a consumer electronics executive in the car stereo and subscription television businesses, and his mother was a legal secretary. After graduating from California State University, Northridge, with a bachelor of science in marketing and a minor in advertising, LeVitus went to work producing television commercials, radio spots, and print ads, writing copy, and performing other marketing functions at Kresser and Robbins and SelecTV.
Today LeVitus is a leading authority on the Macintosh, Mac OS X, and other Apple products like iPads and iPhones. He has written or cowritten more than 60 computer books, with recent titles including four books in Wiley’s “For Dummies” series about the iPad, iPhone, Mac X Lion operating system, and Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac.
He has also written the “Dr. Mac” column for the Houston Chronicle for more than 15 years and has been published in more than a dozen computer magazines. He served for three years as editor of MACazine and did one-year stints as both a radio and a television host.
LeVitus also has a personal technology consulting business, where he provides expert technical help and training to users of Apple products by telephone, E-mail, or remote control software via the Internet.
LeVitus teaches in the University of Texas’s informal classes program and speaks to Mac user groups and at trade shows and Apple Stores, and on Geek Cruises. He won the Macworld Expo MacJeopardy World Championship three times.
His writing work gives him a chance to try out all the new technology products that he depends on in his daily life. “I’m like the toy tester at the Mattel factory,” he says. “Everyone sends me the toys to test.”
As to what transformed him from an ad man to a Mac guru, he says, “I’m a geek. It’s the stuff I find interesting. If Word crashes, I want to know not only how to fix it — I want to know why.”
That’s why he’s so perfect for his role and why he often speaks to his techie fellows at Mac user groups, as he will be doing in Princeton. “They’re my people,” he says, “people who can’t pass by a Mac without looking to see what you are doing and telling you that there is a better, faster way to do what you’re doing.”
When any new accessory, scanner, speaker, or app for the iPhone comes along, he wants to be the first to know. “I’ve got to learn what makes them tick,” he says. “People like me can’t stand not knowing.”