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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

Why Apple Didn't Exploit The Y2K Bug
January 11th, 2000

I remember receiving an e-mail a couple of months ago, and to sum it up, a reader asked me about the lack of marketing from Apple about the Year 2000 Bug. "They should use it to show how Macs are better than PCs," I was told.

So many people thought that the Y2K bug would send PCs straight to hell. While I always had fun joking about it, I knew one thing for sure: the people who created the problem - face it, Y2K was good for sustaining programming jobs - made sure to fix it. They made the big bucks over it, but as you saw on January 1, the bug didn't survive. The technicians crushed it.

Guess what folks, I have an announcement to make. Apple knew this would be a nonevent too! Do you think they just sat back and ignored information about this? The Apple folks knew that even though the bug menaced the PC platform like nothing else has before, it would be eradicated.

Now imagine the results if Apple had launched a huge advertising campaign to claim that Macs were Y2K compatible while PCs would bite the dust. I mean, it would have looked great... until the year 2000. Now think about it for a second. Think about Apple's credibility. The typical reaction would have been "Well well, you tried to fool us, didn't you, maybe PCs aren't so bad after all".

I consider this kind of situation to be a typical one to show the importance of conservatism when you run a big "revolutionary" company. Even if you can afford to be bold, even if you can afford to poke at your opponents, you cannot afford to broadcast pure propaganda! You cannot afford to invest into marketing campaigns if success depends on the outcome of something that could happen elsewhere.

The risk was too high and Apple would have had to deal with quite a controversy. This is the kind of double-edged sword that you do not want to play with.

You know, we Mac users have a tendency to push things too far. We see PC users as fools who cannot think, and we are ready to give them a run for their money when arguing about platforms. It created a virtual platform war between PC and Mac users. Quite a few of you out there believe that Apple never pushed far enough with its marketing. I know you are out there, some of you told me such things.

When pushing its products, Apple walks on a fine line. That line is about proving how innovative and superior you are while watching your back. If you go too far, you risk getting caught in a warp. The Y2K bug was a warp, and wisdom fortunately prevailed at Apple.

In sports, we usually say "the best possible trade is the one you don't make." This applies to more than sports. Sometimes, your best statement is your silence.

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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