Apple Fanboism and the Inevitable Windows/Apple Comparison.

In this article I wrote for The Apple Blog, I mentioned I’m fairly platform agnostic with this statement:

While I live and play in the land of Apple, where rainbow-farting unicorns frolic in the meadows, I work in a Windows world. While being a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Apple Pundits dictates otherwise, I don’t view Microsoft as the Great Satan; a computer is but a tool to do a job. While I believe OS X is far superior to Windows, I’m not going to think a great injustice has been done if you make me use Windows.

We had a lively discussion and a brave soul from Microsoft chimed in, and a comment on his blog struck me as a topic for here:

I had to laugh at a recent development on a thread I have been following. For the most part the conversation has been lively, relevant and fun with a little good natured MS and Apple ribbing here and there, but one comment posted tonight kind of quantified the type of “Stockholm Syndrome” that many Apple users seem to have to the almighty fruit.

I’m not unbiased in this. I write about Apple for money. I use OS X as my primary computer. I have no real interest in buying a computer that runs a Windows operating system. I don’t follow Microsoft news except for the coverage it gets in the Mac press, and that coverage I largely ignore because of its bias. So, suffice it to say, I drink from the Apple Kool-Aid with the gusto of a drunk on St. Paddy’s day.

While many refer to Apple users as being in a high-and-mighty club, in many ways it’s more like The Breakfast Club. A 1997 Apple ad campaign prompted people to Think Different, and that’s certainly true. Being an Apple user comes with certain sacrifices: I can’t just walk into Best Buy or Wal-Mart and get a software package; my hardware and software are made by the same company and if Apple decides I don’t need a Firewire port, well, I don’t get a Firewire port.

That said, I think the iPhone is going to increase OS X’s market share, and I’m not talking about the books cooking Schiller sold us on the OS X install base by adding iPhone users to the numbers — yeah, I know it’s running a mobile version of OS X, but that’s not OS X as we know it. The development tools require a Mac, so if you want to get on that land rush, you need a Mac. I use Cultured Code’s Things on the iPhone and desktop to sync my task list and the desktop version is Mac only. I think we’ll see a lot of applications that sync between the iPhone and the desktop require OS X on the desktop side.

Apple is unique in the consumer marketplace with the control it has on the hardware and software. A Windows-based computer bought three years ago will run Windows 7 when it’s released — although maybe not with all the bells and whistles. Three years ago, Apple switched from Power PC chips to Intel chips, and if you bought a Power PC-based computer before the change-over, you’re SOL on Snow Leopard. As Jason said:

“Apple began a transition to Intel chips in Macs. I think it was a great move. OS X supports universal binaries so apps can be written to support both platforms, sweet right? Except here we are in 2009, and your Three year old “Super Computer” they sold you is at it’s end of life as far as being able to run Apple’s newest OS. To think people give Microsoft shit about Vista requiring something newer and up to date for decent performance, G5s and below are cut off for good. Ouch.”

Now, there are two ways to look at this: there’s a certain amount of questioning I feel is valid if you make a heavy investment in a hardware platform during an announced transition; and Snow Leopard’s release won’t cause the Power PC Mac to stop running. And since Snow Leopard is kinda low on the features, and the under-the-hood changes are really only  useful to Intel-based users, I don’t think sitting this one out for Power PC users is going to be a hardship.

One aspect of the Apple community I can’t stand is the notion that Microsoft is the devil. One big focus change Jobs started when he became CEO was to get Apple off the mindset that in order for Apple to succeed, Microsoft must fail. The users themselves, though, still cling to this ancient way of thinking. Forums are littered with people who steer clear of Office for the Mac simply because it’s made by Microsoft. Look, you can not use the product because it’s bloated, takes forever to load and costs $300+ when iWork costs $70 and likely does everything you need. But don’t stab yourself in the eye simply because a boycott on Microsoft products forces you to try and do heavy word processing tasks or number crunching, or needing to round-trip with Word users on a daily basis in a software package where the focus is on making things look pretty. Now, not all Mac users are like this, but it’s clear some people never got the memo about the armistice. In some ways, it’s laughably hypocritical; Apple users get their panties in a bunch over the laptop hunter commercials, but view the “I’m a Mac” ads as Gems of Flawless Truth. I think the “I’m a Mac” ads are fantastic ads that I enjoy watching, but the laptop hunter ads do as good as job at attacking Apple’s price point as the Mac ads do of attacking public perception on Vista’s struggles.

I’ll admit to some prejudice on my part. I’ll walk through South Station and see a Windows user and think “you poor bastard.” While I don’t view Microsoft as the Great Satan, using Windows inevitably makes me go, “oh, jesus fuck” way more often than OS X does. Also, I enjoy how the iLife suite integrates with other products, and, for me, the OS is much more crash resistant than Windows XP. Since my company hasn’t moved to Vista, and that’s where I use Windows the most, I can’t tell if Vista is much better. The only anecdotal evidence I have is my wife uses Vista on her laptop and has no problems with it. I do believe a computer is but a tool, I do think OS X is the better tool for consumers and Windows being the better tool for enterprise users.

So, I have no problems spending $1200 dollars on a laptop with a 13″ screen because I know the OS and the hardware are built to last. I got my 13″ Whitebook in June 2006 and it’s still going strong; my wife has gone through two cheaper laptops in that period. If I were to get a Windows laptop, I’d likely get a Thinkpad since those are built to last. That gets us into the over-$1000 range.

That’s not to say I think Apple is perfect. I can’t stand the Finder and use Pathfinder instead. I think forcing users to manually move icons around to organize your iPhone apps is a clear sign of Apple Thinking It Knows Better Than You. These quibbles are minor though. While at work I’m more productive on my Windows machine because it’s fully tied into the domain, in all other aspects of my life, I’m more productive on my Mac. I’ve made fun of Apple’s “It just works” ad campaign before, but truthfully I’ve found I spend more time simply using OS X than I have spent fighting to get something done.

I think the big difference between the two companies is in their management style. I show you these two images from this Presentation Zen post:

Steve Jobs giving a presentation:



A Bill Gates slide:


The Jobs’ slides are very focused. There’s one idea per slide (or no ideas). The Gates slide has a lot going on. I think this shows in how the organizations are run. Apple under Jobs is very focused and on message. “We’re here to talk about the Iphone/Desktops/iPods today.” Microsoft tends to have a lot going on, and much of that makes me scratch my head. Microsoft will get up in front of a stage and tout products that are years from being released like Surface, and waste their time trying to acquire companies like Yahoo. Steve Jobs gets on stage, and that product is coming out within 6 months, if it’s not “shipping today.” Microsoft is also the “many things to many people” company. They rule the desktop and enterprise market shares, but that spread I think fractures the company’s focus. What I’d love to see is a Microsoft keynote address focusing on Windows 7’s improvements similar to the one Bertrand Serlet gave at WWDC about Snow Leopard.

That doesn’t mean I think either company is run better or worse. Most of Apple’s success is driven by Steve Jobs’ relentless personality. By all accounts the man is hard to work for. However, I think that drive results in a better product. While people joke about Apple’s Reality Distortion Field, I think the company has an almost unparalleled level of loyalty and enthusiasm around it. There’s likely to be a line for Snow Leopard; I doubt there will be one for Windows 7. The lines make good press which only helps Apple’s image.

Microsoft, though, wins as the Wal-Mart of OSs. If my wife’s laptop dies, we’re a 20 minute drive from a Best Buy where she has her choice of laptops. That choice, though, can lend to over-analyzing (do I want the 500g drive, or the one with 6 USB ports?). If my Mac dies, I’m 45 min from an Apple store where I have a choice of four models. If I’m in a region without Apple’s retail presence, I need to order it online.

Where the hell was I again? Oh yeah, Apple fanbois. What’s interesting to note is the fanboism, or anti-fanboism runs rampant on both sides. Apple pundits jump on every misstep Microsoft makes, and Microsoft pundits jump on Apple for not adhering to how they think things should be done. Being stereotypical, Microsoft users look at Apple users as smug assholes who pay extra money for a glowing logo on the back of their laptops. Apple users tend to look at Windows users as people who use Windows simply because they can’t Think Differently.

Look, I’d be thrilled if my wife said she wanted a Mac for her next computer. She’s a former Mac user herself. But, in many ways she’s a Lauren from the first laptop hunter ad: the $800 15″ laptop  she got from Best Buy will serve her just as well as the $1600 or so 15″ MacBook. For me, though, I’m ok with the $1200 13″ from Apple.