The Back Page - Rob "Wrong Again" Enderle Peers Into Apple's Windows Future

by - April 12th, 2006

It's gotten to the point where I don't want to bother deconstructing columns from Rob Enderle. Not only do I not want to give the man any more ink, his opinions are so pointlessly wrong they don't need rebutting, and he repeats himself a lot. However, when he puts out facts that are wrong, and I mean wrong, there needs to be a correction somewhere on the World Wide Web, and so I will roll my eyes and do just that.

To wit, Mr. Enderle wrote a column Tuesday for TechNewsWorld, one of his usual haunts, that attempts to show how Apple is a step or two away from becoming a Windows OEM. As usual, his views are supported with error and misunderstandings (on his part), and that's what I am going to address today.

First of all, Mr. Enderle said that the release of a beta version of Boot Camp, Apple's new software that allows Mac owners to run Windows natively on their Intel-powered Macs, makes Apple "a tentative Windows platform OEM." That's an absurd supposition, even though I think Apple should embrace Windows*.

However, Mr. Enderle noted that, "Last week, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) became a tentative Windows platform OEM with its announcement of Boot Camp, which allows new Mac hardware to run Windows XP and, eventually, Vista. Apple had said it wasn't planning to support Windows -- just like it said it didn't plan to support Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) or bring out flash-based media players.
When Apple announces something it won't do, it might actually be a sign or warning of something it will do."

For once, I completely agree with Mr. Enderle! Apple's stated position that it will not support Windows might well mean the opposite is in the works. The company regularly and repeatedly does the opposite of what it had previously said it would do.

From there, however, we spiral down into the weird, whacky world of Rob Enderle, where up is red, down is spleen, and the earth orbits on fish.

"If you want to talk about something that lit up the week, this was it," he opined. "Suddenly, with one seemingly easy move, Apple is a player in the PC space again."

I am not going to be an Apple apologist, but considering the fact that people like Rob Enderle spend so much of their time writing about Apple, the company clearly has been a player in the PC market for the last 30 years and 12 days. Oh, and Apple's market share is rising fast, and the company is one of two PC vendors to make a profit on sales of computers.

Red herrings are one of Mr. Enderle's specialties, and this kind of statement -- that Apple is not currently a player in the PC space -- is merely an effort to downplay Apple in the minds of his readers in order to make the rest of his utterings appear to make sense.

He then goes on with something about Disney not buying Macs running Mac OS X (not true the last time I got a help-wanted notice from Disney to run at TMO, but possibly not true today), and how they might if they were "priced competitively" and ran Windows.

Let's say for a second that this is true, and that Apple is singularly concerned with Disney's buying plans: Apple will never compete on price as long as Steve Jobs is at the helm, not to mention the fact that it won't not sell an integrated OS/hardware solution as long as Mr. Jobs is CEO. Take away either of those things, and Apple loses to Dell.

It's also not in Mr. Jobs' DNA.

Steve Jobs wants three things in his products: Control, control, control. He can't control Microsoft, and by extension Windows, so he's not going to rely on it for an OS. He might sell Windows in addition to Mac OS X, but Macs will always run an OS controlled by Steve Jobs as long as he is CEO. That's really all there is to that.

Anyway, back to Mr. Enderle, who wrote: "When he reclaimed leadership of Apple, the company was trying to build a product that was very similar to OS/2, which had a compatibility feature that would run older applications. He killed it because he, and all of us that covered OS/2 as analysts, had learned that what happens when you have a dual mode product like this is that developers don't move on it. Then you are only left with your own, increasingly lonely, underused applications. This is one of the reasons Copland was killed and replaced with the hybrid Unix blend that became OS X, which had limited OS 9 support."

Where do I begin when it comes to the factual errors?

  1. Steve Jobs came back to Apple in the first place because Gil Amelio and Ellen Hancock had already killed Copland, which was why NeXT was purchased in the first place.
  2. Copland was killed because it was out of control and nowhere near completion (and again, it was killed before Mr. Jobs came back), and not because it had an emulation layer. This is one of the most absurd things I have ever read.
  3. Mac OS X, the OS that replaced Mac OS 7/8/9, had a compatibility layer that allowed Classic Mac OS apps to run. Mr. Jobs was CEO when that was put in place, the same person Mr. Enderle claims knows that emulation kills future adoption.

Even though his entire premise is based on incorrect facts -- and I mean this is basic, basic stuff -- he goes on to say Apple has been losing developers for years anyway, "and nothing it has done so far has had any measurable impact on these losses."

Never mind that each of the last three Apple World Wide Developer Conferences have been bigger than the year before, and that membership to Apple's Developer Connection has been on the rise for the last several years, too.

It's just silly, really.

In any event, since Apple has lost all its developers and has to pay all this money to develop its own OS, the company will finally see the wisdom of adopting Windows. The logic is clear, according to Mr. Enderle, because Windows is modular (whatever), and Apple will be able to slap its` own look and feel on top of Windows to keep us Mac users comfy.

This is, of course, astoundingly bad reasoning, and makes me once again ask the question of who in the heck hires this man as a consultant?

But I digress...

Not only would there be major compatibility issues with other Windows software if Apple skinned Windows, it would negate Apple's one competitive advantage, the aforementioned control of the OS. Were Apple to do this, the company would be competing with Dell, something that no one does well.

Lastly, Mr. Enderle backs up his assertions by noting that, "Historically, Apple has felt that moving to Windows would simply result in Microsoft taking the market from it. However, Apple moved to Windows with the iPod and took that market from everyone else, and Microsoft has been unable to take it back."

Of course, that's just flat wrong. Apple competes on the Windows platform with iPod and iTunes, but iPod doesn't run Windows. It runs a proprietary OS that keeps control in the hands of Apple. That makes is precisely NOT analogous to Macs running Windows.

This is just such simple stuff.

The rest of Mr. Enderle's column rambles off to talk about the EU's efforts to shackle Microsoft, and is unrelated to the bits I just destroyed. You're welcome to read it if you can stomach it.

The strange thing, at least to me, is that it's so hard to take Rob Enderle's opinion and analyst seriously when it so often is based on "facts" that are just plain wrong. For instance, someone making the case for Apple to become a Windows OEM PC maker can make a logical argument for that idea (that it necessitates a complete lack of understanding of Steve Jobs' motivations and ideas on business is another issue).

On the other hand, when that argument is based on a house of errors, I personally can't get past those errors to ever properly consider the position presented. That may explain my obvious frustration with the likes of Rob Enderle, since I am guessing it shows through.

* It is my opinion that Apple can grow Mac OS X's market share by working with Microsoft to have an Apple-certified version of Windows for Macs. The short version is that I think Apple should let Microsoft handle the support -- something the company has become adept at since Windows sucks so much -- leaving Apple to sell this version of Windows in its stores, and preload (for a fee) the OS (in addition to Mac OS X, of course) right out of the factory. If you would like to read my full thoughts on this complex issue, and let me know. If enough people are interested, I'll write a column about it.