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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger




Yes, We Do And Should Criticize Apple
April 18th, 2000

I write for this site since May 1999. In a whole year of columns, editorials and reviews, I received many letters from Observers out there, mostly positive or negative comments about my opinions.

Among those letters were those of criticism. Some unjustified, some more polite or mean, and some even generated stimulating exchanges of ideas between recurrent readers and me.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who criticize me for being an Apple cheerleader. One comment really got my attention, and the reader knows who he is:

"Given you like throwing stones at Microsoft... what about the glass house of Apple?

Oh, wait... Apple can do no wrong, in your eyes. Do you publish for the sake of publishing, attempting to get ad-cash like The Farr Side, or are you so self-delusional to actually BELIEVE what you write?"

This person accuses me of throwing stones at Microsoft and cheerleading for Apple. You do not see the "cheerleading" word, but implying the thought that Apple can do no wrong is pretty much the same.

I am not about to respond to the comment just for the sake of replying to criticism. There is a big issue behind what follows. Many writers face the accusation of cheerleading for Apple.

In part, the argument is on target. It is true that when Apple does something right, those Mac writers will be the first to congratulate Apple in public and, frankly, I do not see any problem there. Since when did positive comments become cheerleading? There must be something shifty behind this writer's explicit approval of some decisions made by Apple, right? How could someone publish positive commentary?

Unfortunately for naysayers, the same writers - me included - will be the first to slam Apple for a dumbass move. Remember what we said about the G4 debacle in 1999. After praising Apple for its release at Seybold, we proceeded into ripping Apple's decision of canceling orders when the processor shortage affected Motorola.

If we focus on me for a second, it is easy to look at my archives to find harsh criticism toward Apple. I remember slamming Apple's QuickTime 4 interface; the way Apple treats the media and its customers; the potential danger of the Apple store, etc. It is not as if I never criticized Apple.

Like most Mac writers, I call them as I see them. When Apple does great, I say so with no regrets. When it screws up, I go to the front line and voice my displeasure. This is normal. Humans do this every day, especially with friends. We agree on some issues and disagree at times.

I do the same thing when it comes to Microsoft. In past columns I have asked if we really hate Microsoft, given the fact that its Mac software is fine now. On the other hand, I never shy away from saying that MS usually wastes a lot of time and resources before releasing decent products. Internet Explorer became interesting in version 4.5 and version 5.0 took the browser war's lead. You could say the same about Outlook Express.

My approach to Apple and Microsoft are the same. I will praise them when I feel that they deserve it, and I will express my disagreement with their moves when I think I should do it.

This is a healthy relationship between the editorial writer and the company. Cheerleading and singing a company's praises continuously would mislead the audience. Nasty and groundless faultfinding would be unfair.

Remember that we are all human. All of us. Everybody can accomplish great things and mess up at some point. In both cases, no matter if you are an individual or a corporate entity, you deserve to know how you are doing.

Contemporary media focus so much on the negative aspects of society life that hard earned approval does not seem acceptable in an editorialist's analysis anymore.

I admit that it is tempting to go with the flow and grab the keyboard only when I feel pissed about an issue. Everybody in positions such as mine should resist the itch to spit venom endlessly. I do resist the appeal to do so. I ditched many potential columns because of that principle.

If only for the sake of equilibrium, we should look at the bright side of life sometimes. Regardless if the matter of the day is the Macintosh, the weather or our careers, we should sit back and stop being so negative. Otherwise, we will all end up in mental hospitals one day.

We should give people credit when they do something right, while we should never shy away from valuable criticism when somebody deserves it.

If we privilege any of the two, we break the priceless "positive versus negative" balance that represents an essential condition for fair and responsible reporting.

If I expose myself to criticism and flames when I dare to be positive about Apple or anything else, for that matter, I tell you in advance that I will do it without regret. Life is like a coin. It has two sides. Putting the spotlight only on the negative part is a sinister philosophy.

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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