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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

NewsFactor: Jaguar Can't Save Apple, Apple All But Forced Out Of Education Market
August 30th, 2002

Since when does Apple need saving again? Right now it would seem, at least according to a NewsFactor article by one Masha Zager. I normally have a bit of respect for NewsFactor, but a recent drive-by hit job masquerading as a news article has shaken that respect. The article, titled "Jaguar Opens Strong, But Can It Save Apple?" is essentially a doom and gloom story that is predicated on the success of the Jaguar launch, if you can figure that one out, and is backed up by a series of unsupported statements, complete factual inaccuracies, and a bit of innuendo to boot.

Point-by-point rebuttals are among my least favorite bits of editorializing, but I am afraid I just can't help myself in this case. This article is truly one of the poorest excuses for journalism I have read in a long time, and NewsFactor deserves to be spanked for it.

The article actually opens up with several paragraphs talking about all the good things in Jaguar, including the big opening weekend Apple had with the launch. There are lots of compliments on Jaguar itself from people like Rob Enderle, a research fellow at the Microsoft shill Giga Information Group, and Al Gillen, a "research director for infrastructure software at IDC." Mr. Gillen had this to say about Jaguar: "It's slick, it's well built, it's well designed, the interface is nice," but goes on to say "and there's reasonable compatibility for older applications."

Reasonable compatibility for older applications? Isn't that a loaded description/compliment? While on the face of it, it is complimentary, it suggests that Jaguar's backward compatibility is barely adequate. Personally, I have yet to find an application that doesn't work in Jaguar, including my Classic Mac OS apps, some of which go back to Mac OS 7.5. (Note that there are a few games that don't work well in Classic.) I suppose that's "reasonable," but I would also call it outstanding. This notion of backward compatibility was also criticized by Mr. Enderle, who said that migration from OS 9 to Mac OS X was difficult, and was quoted as saying: "They didn't do a good enough job of backward compatibility. Quark never came across for OS X, and they desperately need Quark. At the very least, they have to build a better Windows emulator."

Where do these guys get their information, from the back of a Cheerios box? Not only has migration from Classic been just about pain-free -- especially compared to a Windows migration! -- Mac OS X's backward compatibility is actually very good. I challenge either one of these analysts to demonstrate backwards compatibility that's 20% as good in any Windows platform. While Quark support for Mac OS X is indeed crucial to Apple, the lack of a Mac OS X version of Xpress is suggested as a final situation, as opposed to something that has been delayed. This is a not-so-subtle effort to use innuendo to make the situation look worse for Apple and Mac OS X than it actually is. That's shameful.

As for making a "better Windows emulator," better than what? Apple's current Windows emulator? The company doesn't even have one. Virtual PC, made by the good folks at Connectix, is an outstanding emulator for anything except games, and there is no emulator in the world that is going to run games acceptably. There's just too much overhead. So why is this better emulator needed? For what will it be used? For that matter, at this point in time, what Windows software does one need to run on the Mac? Even QuickBooks Pro is coming to Mac OS X, and an overwhelmingly large percentage of the remaining top applications are already currently available for the Mac. Some, like Final Cut Pro, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD (admittedly all Apple owned titles) are Mac-only, while most of the other cross-platform titles on the market work better on the Mac than on Windows. Even Mac Office is better than its Windows sibling. The fact is that there are very, very few apps that one has to run on Windows today. They exist, such as a good Microsoft Exchange client, but there aren't that many, and Virtual PC can handle almost all of those quite nicely.

Adding insult to injury, the author uses Giga's Mr. Enderle to make no fewer than three erroneous claims in rapid succession [bold words are my emphasis].

Finally, according to Enderle, Apple has paid too little attention to system administration in the business environment. Management tools are inadequate, and remote administration is impossible. In the future, he said, PCs are likely to be centrally managed by service providers, but Apple has done nothing to prepare its products for such a development.

System administration tools, management tools, and remote administration tools are in short supply in Mac OS X? Apple offers a VPN client, fantastic user account controls. Little things like Apple Remote Desktop and SSH login via the command line also belie these absurd statements. Mac OS X is built on Unix, for goodness sake, the king of system administration, networking, and remote access, and Apple has done an excellent job of bringing these tools to Aqua GUI goodness with such tools as NetInfo Manager. Also, Apple has provided NetBoot, a technology that allows Macs to boot off of a remote server. Where's the fact checking by Masha Zager or NewsFactor? This is remarkably bad journalism.

For that matter, who says that PCs are bound to be centrally managed? Surely that's a vision key to Microsoft's dreams of software rental and absolute control, but it's specifically not part of Apple's plans for us, and thank whatever dieties you wish for that. Again, where is Mr. Enderle getting his information?

We aren't done with the foolishness, however:

Apple's problem, as both research firms see it, is not with the quality of its products but with several of its strategic decisions, combined with the overwhelming dominance of Windows.

Most important is that Apple operating systems lock buyers in to Apple hardware. In contrast, Windows is available on a wide variety of hardware platforms. Although the company says that its control over hardware, the operating system and major applications allows it to produce a better, more integrated product, IDC analyst Gillen argued that buyers would prefer to have a choice of hardware.

If Apple insists on using its operating systems to sell hardware, Enderle said, it probably would be better off bundling the OS with the hardware. At the very least, he added, the company should lower the price of its operating system and allow free or low-cost upgrades.

Mr. Enderle is right that there are many people who are interested in having hardware choices, while still running Mac OS X. However, he completely ignores the fact that while buying into the Microsoft gene pool gives you hardware choice, it locks you into Big Redmond's proprietary OS. Is being locked into Microsoft's control, with its plans to make users rent the OS yearly, somehow better than being forced to buy Apple's proprietary hardware? I will allow that the desire of some people to have choice is balanced by the reality that Apple's system integration works better than the Wintel hegemony's products, and that this makes the issue a wash, but I am wanting to know how Mr. Enderle can possibly claim to know what Apple needs while somehow not knowing that Apple does indeed bundle its OS with its hardware. Either Mr. Enderle is completely ignorant of Apple's practices, or Masha Zager completely misinterpreted his comments. In either event, NewsFactor should hire a fact checker. I'd be embarrassed to have my name associated with publishing this filth.

Note that he also calls for Jaguar to be less expensive, without addressing the fact that Jaguar is already about 60% of the price of Windows on the low end, and about 30% of the price of Windows XP "Pro." On the server side, Apple's pricing is a much smaller fraction of Microsoft's insane server pricing. In fact, while Mac OS pricing has stayed relatively stable over the last several years, Microsoft's Windows pricing has steadily increased until it has become the single most expensive component of a PC.

I would also like to point out that I, and TMO as a whole, has called on Apple to offer a less expensive *upgrade* for Jaguar to previous Mac OS X users, especially those who purchased a new Mac during the preceding 2-3 months before the announced July 17th cut-off. I stand by that, while recognizing that Apple has pulled off its US$129 for-all strategy. I have also said that Jaguar itself was "worth" US$129. That truly is a good price for a modern OS. So I'll give Mr. Enderle the notion that Apple should have offered a cheaper upgrade for Jaguar, but lowering the price any further for buying the OS as a standalone purchase doesn't make financial sense for Apple. In the meanwhile, Mac OS X, and now Jaguar, *is* bundled with the hardware, and Apple has always done so. Jeesh.

According to both IDC and Giga estimates, Apple's share of the operating system market is now below 4 percent, down from an estimated 16 percent before the introduction of Windows 95.

Apple has been all but forced out of the business and educational markets, Giga's Enderle told NewsFactor.

If Mr. Enderle is telling NewsFactor this sort of thing, then NewsFactor should consider getting a new source. Apple is the #2 vendor in the education market (#1 if you want to limit your criteria to portables, which I don't), and has an even higher percentage of total systems in use in education. How does that equate to being all but forced out? That is one of the most manipulative uses of statistics I have seen in a long time.

In addition, Apple is now getting more attention than ever from the corporate market thanks to Xserve and Mac OS X Server. While this doesn't equal a real foothold in that market, it bears mentioning alongside the notion put forth by NewsFactor via Mr. Enderle that Apple is out of the corporate market.

The attempted coup de grâce comes in the closing statement of the article:

Unless Apple can address these issues, according to analysts, it has little chance of gaining ground against Windows. In fact, Giga has predicted that OS X is helping to drive Apple's market share further downward, toward 2 percent. "And then," Enderle noted, "it becomes hard to take them as a serious vendor."

By this same reasoning, since most of "these issues" don't actually exist, it would seem that Apple's success is virtually assured. Or something. Note the completely unsupported notion that OS X is pushing Apple's market share down. What is this based on, and how does on "predict" that something is currently happening? That doesn't seem like a prediction, it seems like a guess, and one with no supporting arguments at that.

The reality is that I have seen more switchers than ever embrace the Mac platform. There are more and more switchers writing in to TMO, commenting in our articles, and asking questions in our forums, and the same is true with every Mac Web site that I have seen. It's even true in mainstream places like ZDNet. None of this very relevant information was mentioned in this article, and it doesn't seem as if most of Rob Enderle's absurd comments were double sourced or checked. I attempted to contact Masha Zager to ask about these issues, but NewsFactor doesn't provide any contact information for the author that I could find, and makes it difficult to contact the organization in the first place.

If it was my decision, I would retract this absurd article, and issue an apology for having published it in the first place. Of course, if it was my decision, this article would never have been published in the first place.

Brad smith contributed to this editorial.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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