August 29th, 1997

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Do You Hear Me Apple?
August 29th, 1997

by: Bryan Chaffin ([email protected])

Has the world gone completely mad? Perhaps it is just the pinhead(s) who is/are making the decisions on the cloning issue at Apple? I have made my opinions on this issue no small secret, and I think that anybody who has read any of my columns probably understands this. I think that Apple is on the course to ruin with their approach to the cloning issue, but a recent event has left me babbling in an apoplectic fit! I am so completely outraged at this point, I really should not be sitting down at a computer.

But hey, that's why I have a job.

Many of you may doubt this after you read this piece, but I am a big fan of Steve Jobs. He is brilliant and one of the few truly phenomenal leaders of the 20th century. Every Mac user (and Windows user for that matter) owes him a big debt, both for his work 20 years ago and for his recent efforts at Apple. I hope to meet him some day, and in most ways I am glad that he is back at Apple. I support almost every decision he has made, even the ones I did not like personally (like canceling OpenDoc). I even respect his reasoning for deciding to sell all but one share of his Apple stock again. But what I can not fathom is his unbelievable handling of the Mac OS licensing issue. His actions in this arena are reprehensible and seem to suggest that he has no connection to what is happening out here in the real world where we buy the products that make Apple a company.

The roots of the battle center around the fact that Apple does not sell as many boxes as they used to. A lamentable point from any business owner's standpoint. I am a business owner (and an objectivist to boot), and I too happen to fully believe in the concept that making a profit is important. Henry Norr's excellent editorial in MacWEEK pointed out that Apple's sales this year will be approximately 1.5 million units fewer than they were 2 years ago (the last year Apple had the market to themselves). At the same time, clone sales were estimated to be approximately 275,000 for the first three quarters of this year. Looking at these numbers does little to make me look at The Big Bad Cloners and then feel sorry for Apple Computer. I don't think that cloners are the problem. In fact, I think that the cloners helped to keep 200,000 of those customers from buying Wintel boxes. Listen up Apple! We are pissed at you! You have sucked for a long time when it comes to product delivery and customer service! The cloners have helped to save your collective asses for the last two years. If you screw them, you can kiss your precious jobs goodbye. While I understand that Steve Jobs does not need his job with Apple, I need my [expletive deleted] Mac! Which, by the way, happens to be a Power 100 that I bought because there was not a PowerMac 7500 to be found anywhere when I bought it!

With all of this as the backdrop for the continuing melodrama, let me tell you what specifically has me going right now. Apple Computer has so far contained their campaign against clones to attempts to hurt the actual manufacturers. As originally reported by MacIntouch, Apple has now taken the war to the customers. That's right, the customers. Apple has announced that clone customers are not eligible for the Mac OS Up-To-Date program. This program allows a recent purchaser of a Mac OS system to upgrade to the latest operating system for a nominal fee of $10 compared to the $69 to $99 that they can pay on the street.

This remarkably stupid move has been characterized as a way of pressuring the manufacturers. The reality is that it is the customer that is being shafted. Apple has once again changed the rules midstream without warning anyone ahead of time and is now pretending that it is OK? It is not OK! It is simply not OK to announce that 28 days ago the rules changed and we are just now telling you. This is not just a slap at the manufacturers or even the cloners' customers, these people are also Apple customers in the same way that a Dell computer owner is a Microsoft customer (I can imagine the kind of clamor and ridicule that would arise from the Mac masses if Microsoft tried to pull such a stunt). This is exactly the kind of inept behavior that has led to the need for Mac clones in the first place, and a sure sign of what is to come should we go back to the dark days of Apple-only Mac sales.

When asked by Webintosh if this move was a slap in the face of Mac OS customers, Russell Brady, an Apple spokesman, said that "The update program was first conceived when a swift resolution of the licensing negotiations was anticipated. As you know, no new agreements have been reached. With that in mind, we felt [we needed] to revisit that program." Russell was very professional and courteous and I appreciate his time very much, but that is a non-answer.

Following Dave Winer's, Ric Ford's, and Webintosh's examples, I am announcing a moratorium on all Apple purchases until this disgusting behavior has ended and the current crisis is resolved. My full time company (a web development company that is not associated with Webintosh or FriscoSoon Productions) will not be buying any Apple, Claris, or Newton products at all until that time. This is our lives they are playing with. This is the platform that we love that they are destroying. All around us, the damage from this stupid cloning issue is hastening the demise of the entire platform. (Check out Yale University's recent announcement). It is obvious to everyone in the world accept whoever is making the decisions in Cupertino. This can not continue. Apple has chosen again and again to demonstrate that they do not care about their partners, their developers, and their customers. I for one have had enough and I hope that many of you agree.

It is clear and understood that Apple must have an agreement that allows them to prosper (read: an agreement that helps pay the R&D; costs that cloners have heretofore not paid their fair share of). It is also clear that the cloners can not be priced out of business with an agreement that raises their costs to absurd levels. From my perspective, the tentative agreement reached shortly before Dr. Amelio's ouster and Mr. Job's ascension that was originally announced in Macworld is exactly the kind of agreement that everyone needs.

In the meanwhile, please go and sign the MacCentral's Clone Crisis Mandate petition. After you have done so, get three Mac friends to do the same. After you have done that, send a letter to the Pinheads at Apple voicing your direct support for licensing. We can not afford to sit idly by any longer!


Bryan Chaffin is a contributing editor with Webintosh and looks forward to your comments at [email protected].