It’s a common sight at UVA—a large lecture class dismisses, a flood of students pours out a set of double doors and they all plug in, dialing cell phones or popping those telltale white earbuds to flow some music through their ‘lobes. The time between classes is tech time and, increasingly, a new study shows, iPod time.
IPod ownership among students is up, according to a survey released by the University’s information technology and communication office. Last year, 2,072 freshman (67 percent) owned an iPod. The tiny, trendy, oft-stolen players outnumbered other MP3 players by almost seven to one.
While the rise of the iPod on UVA’s campus may come as no surprise, its mothership is increasingly a Mac rather than a PC. This year, nearly 20 percent of University freshmen brought a Mac to college versus only 3 percent five years ago.
Personal computer ownership is also on the rise. Ten years ago, 26 percent of surveyed freshmen didn’t have their own computer at college. By last year, only four, count ‘em, four out of 3,092 freshmen surveyed didn’t own a personal computer.
An overwhelming majority of students now use laptops. But the number of people with two computers—presumably a desktop plus a laptop—is also growing, though that group still represents a mere 2 percent.
Naturally, the two major software companies—Apple and Microsoft—engaged in one of the business world’s biggest rivalries, are both vying for a piece of the action. Microsoft has just rolled out its anticipated Windows Vista operating system, meant to compete with the famously user-friendly desktop features of Mac OS X. But it may be too late to stem the steady climb of Apple use among students.
Though Windows remains dominant, nearly 20 percent of freshmen now use Mac OS X operating systems. Apple ownership at UVA has increased five fold over the past four years.
It doesn’t hurt that Apple’s marketing campaign portrays Macs as being way cooler than PCs. In the new Apple commercials, John Hodgman, stumpy and be-spectacled, plays “PC” and is often smirked at and pitied by “Mac,” played by the young, casually styled Justin Long.
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates doesn’t exactly appreciate the “PC” personification. He recently told Newsweek, “I don’t think the over 90 percent of the [population] who use Windows PCs think of themselves as dullards, or the kind of klutzes that somebody is trying to say they are.” Gates said, “Does honesty matter in these things, or if you’re really cool, that means you get to be a lying person whenever you feel like it?”
Honest marketing or no, UVA students seem to be catching on. Even among Microsoft users, iPods are the No. 1 tool for avoiding awkward conversations on Grounds—simply point to the earbuds, shrug, and keep on groovin’.
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