Apple v. Microsoft


Freddie deBoer used to blog at, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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41 Responses

  1. MPR says:

    But it amazes me, absolutely amazes me, the number of Microsoft Windows owners who lack the clarity or self-awareness to realize that purchasing a commodity from a enormous, soulless corporation that is also owned by several million other people doesn’t make you a smarter computer power user with technical prowess.Report

  2. Freddie says:

    Oh, absolutely. I’m just more aware of the Macheads because I’m not one. It’s always more visible and more risible coming from the other side of the aisle.Report

  3. E.D. Kain says:

    Ideally I’d like to own one Mac, one PC, and one linux based machine. Then I rotate my snobbery from one to the next. I can be a PC game snob, or a mac everything snob, or a geeky linux snob just depending on the day of the week…Report

  4. john says:

    If you can’t see why Microsoft gets dinged for trying to take over the gaming world, then you should take a deeper look.

    Microsoft openly declared their intentions and their willingness to lose billions of dollars (accumulated from their monopoly) in order to take (or buy) a chunk of the gaming business.

    When has Apple done such a thing?

    Apple enters a market with a product that bests whatever is in the market and competes on merit. They never tried to buy the market. On the other hand Microsoft tries to use its position in one market to dominate other markets.

    Apple’s position is admirable. They advance the state of the art by competing. They command a premium price for their stuff and people pay it very willingly.

    Microsoft is despised because they kill the competition with their money instead of their better products.

    When was the last time a Microsoft product owned a market because it was the best product in the market?Report

  5. Freddie says:

    First of all, capitalism tells us that if you aren’t breaking the law or violating business ethics, there isn’t “fair or unfair.” If Microsoft can make money in the video game business by using a strategy like that, they should. Secondly, many, many people will tell you that the Xbox was by far the best of that generation of consoles, and the 360 is likewise much beloved. Third, I think it is ludicrous to say that the iPhone beats the DS or the Playstation PSP on the merits; the iPhone is a phone with some cool games. It’s not close to a real competitor with dedicated gaming platforms. That’s just my opinion, of course, but I think the tech press is being far too credulous to Apple’s claims.

    And finally, trust me, while Bill Gates is going to end up the greatest philanthropist in human history, Microsoft isn’t in the business of throwing away money for no purpose. They aren’t getting into the video game business for some malign purposes; they think they can make a quality product and make money off of it. And the market will decide.Report

  6. E.D. Kain says:

    When was the last time a Microsoft product owned a market because it was the best product in the market?

    Is there a better product than DX10 for graphics platforms on any other operating system for PCs? As far as I can tell, Microsoft was actually a good deal ahead of the hardware manufacturers in turning out software that could actually manage the sort of ridiculously graphics intense games we have now…Report

  7. Joseph says:

    I have all three myself! And they’re all laptops. Though the Linux one is a 7-year old machine running Xubuntu (Ubuntu with XFCE rather than GNOME) and the Mac is broken. I also had a dual-boot on my Vista laptop with Mint, but had compatibility problems with my wireless card (IMO the single biggest problem with Linux).

    I also confess to being a former Mac snob, but it made sense when I was doing digital photography in 1999 and G3 Powermacs were far superior to the Intel Windows 98 or ME machines (which crashed much more frequently) . Nowadays though, Macs for all intents and purposes ARE PCs. They use Intel Core processors and can run Windows. There is no reason for the premium besides branding. I’m not really a snob for any kind for that reason. I like OS X better than Windows, sure, but it’s not worth the hardware price difference. My next computer, I’m going to make sure is fully GNU-Linux compatible, though, even if I do run Windows 7 on a partition, but I can’t expect most people to do the same and don’t think that makes me superior somehow (except maybe at patience in working with command lines). Though I do commend Dell for making designed-for-Ubuntu machines, and ASUS for helping Linux gain a foothold in the mini-notebook market.

    John, are you trying to tell me the Xbox 360 isn’t better than the PS3? Because you’re wrong. Yes, it’s second, but the Wii was a gamechanger (no pun intended), and sold to lots of people who never even considered a Playstation or and Xbox (or a Gamecube or a Sega for that matter).

    Speaking of Sony and the PS3, they did the same thing you accuse Microsoft of doing there, including a Blu-Ray drive to (successfully) kill Toshiba’s HD-DVD format, rather than focusing on better games, the very thing that put the first two Playstations in first to begin with.)Report

  8. Joseph says:

    As for the iPhone (and iPod touch, which I own):

    No, it’s not a game system, and it’s ridiculous to say so, but I think it does have a chance of killing the PSP, if only because the latter was so slow to develop games and instead Sony attempted to use it to compete with the high-end iPods and portable DVD players.Report

  9. E.D. Kain says:


    I also had a dual-boot on my Vista laptop with Mint, but had compatibility problems with my wireless card (IMO the single biggest problem with Linux).

    Couldn’t agree more. This is really the only reason I don’t run on Linux. I can’t stand the hit and miss wifi. Too absurd that it hasn’t made greater leaps by now.Report

  10. thalarctos says:

    Ah, the computer holy wars. So 1995.

    The virtue (if we can call it that) of OS X is that it allows one to be a snobby Apple artiste and a condescending unix geek at the same time!Report

  11. lava says:

    Nintendo may have sold 100 millions DSs but it took many years to do so. Don’t be facetitious by dangling this star without context in front of us like we’re stupid.

    In 2008, Nintendo sold 11.2 million DSs TOTAL.

    In the last 3 months of 2008, Apple sold 22 million iPods alone. Touches probably accounted for several million units.

    Combined with iPhones, Apple outsold DSs in raw units by several million for the year. You’re too smug on your “knowledge” that a button-less device with no D-pad can never ever be a challenger to the throne.

    In 2009, touches alone will outsell DS.

    What exactly are you arguing for? Continued dominance by a device that forces you to buy physical cartridges (and the carbon footprint that results) for the privilege of paying $30 a pop per game that you gave to drive to the GameStop to get?

    You don’t know the meaning of gaming because your notions ate wedded to only the things you know. If Nintendo isn’t scared the as the say, pride goeth before the fall. Look at the numbers and wake up.Report

  12. Freddie says:

    Feeling a little sensitive, lava?

    You want numbers, tough guy? Check these numbers. Look at the number of games sold. Nintendogs– over 20 million. New Super Mario– over 17 million. Brain Age– over 16 million. Pokemon DS– over 16 million. Mario Kart– almost 14 million. And on and on.

    show me an iPhone app that ever sells anything close to one of those top selling games, and we’ll talk.Report

  13. Joseph says:

    Freddie, that also supports my point about the PSP. Aside from the Grand Theft Auto games, almost no PSP games have sold even 2 million copies.


    The reason for that is that many chipset manufacturers (Broadcomm is probably the most egregious) use proprietary, restrictive drivers, which are only compatible with Windows) and can only work with Linux when hacked (which as you said is hit-or-miss). Ralink tends to be the best about this.Report

  14. I’m much more scared of Google taking over the world. The products they keep building tools that alter my actual behavior. Google Reader has completely changed the way I use the web in a short period of time and the unlimited mailbox size of Gmail has me still holding on to emails from 3 years ago. I’ve become a digital packrat!Report

  15. lava says:

    Ummm, there are already a number of iPhone apps that have sold 1+ million copies. Check out any of the apps by Smule, which just picked up $4 million in VC funding as a result of the multi-million downloads of their paid apps.

    And they accomplished those download figures in just 5 months.

    Great that Nintendo sold so many copies of the apps, but again, where is the context? How long did it take for them to sell that many copies? How much of the sales was eaten away by packaging, distribution, and manufacturing costs?

    If you can’t see the threat iPhone gaming represents to the traditional physical model just because you don’t believe in D-padless gaming, too bad for you. iPhone gaming is only 7 MONTHS OLD and they’ve already topped 500 MILLION downloads in all. If we’re to believe that the majority of those downloads are games, then DS and certainly PSP is in trouble.

    Sorry, Freddie, but you’re pretty much taking a stance of newspapers n the 1990s claiming that their newspaper distribution is superior to a news website because 1) newspapers have been dominate for decades 2) newspapers have distributed billions of copies to millions of customers compared to these upstart websites and 3) people will be willing to read their news a day late and pay 10x more for it like they always have.

    Nintendo better do some serious soul searching about a cartridge-based gaming system NOW, and if you can’t see that, well, I hope you are enjoying your returns as a NY Times stockholder.Report

  16. Peter says:

    Lava, did Freddie state outright that he did not believe in D-Padless gaming? I’m quite sure he didn’t.

    As for the better gaming system, if you’re just going to analyse numbers than you’re probably right and the iPhone will come out on top. But I think that’s related more to the amount of people buying the product and applications rather than the quality of said product and applications (as a gaming system). Apple has an immense customer base. Most of those customers will purchase Apple products blindly, so to speak, because of their dedication to the brand. That’s fine, to some extent. I’ve never had much luck with their products (iPod and so on) but I still believe Apple is doing something right, which your numbers show.

    The fact is, however, that the DS is a dedicated gaming system and is a very popular gaming device. I’m sure the DSi will be quite as popular. It will also implement a download system my like the Apple “App” Store (though I don’t know why you keep banging about the “carbon footprint” when we’re talking about gaming systems. It’s an annoying little phrase that gets thrown around without much thought).

    The iPhone will not have the same range as the DS in terms of gaming. It is a mobile phone, essentially, with a wide range of other features.

    In my opinion, the DS will always be superior in gaming to the iPhone or any other “i” product to be released by Apple for gaming unless Apple include a D-pad of some sort. When it comes to gaming, I personally think that tactile response goes a long way. I like to know that I’m pushing a button or introducing a command.Report

  17. Freddie says:

    The central lesson of Nintendo– of both the Wii and the DS– is that you don’t have to have the most powerful hardware to be the best system. Ask the Playstation 3. I think the DS is a better system for games than the iPhone, whatever the graphical capabilities.

    Also, what Peter said. What’s interesting about this question of D-padless gaming is that so many DS games are played without the game pad.Report

  18. Joseph says:

    I love how this actually turned into an Apple vs Nintendo flame war. That was unexpected!Report

  19. George says:

    You’re just getting around to making this observation about Mac users? About as tired and hackneyed as it gets. Interesting angles to pursue might be in what classes/social settings mac ownership builds capital and what that reveals about cultural/political values of those classes or how the trajectory of mac’s ad positioning well tracks the democrats’ modulation from populist to limousine lib, or how the knowledge of mac store employees correlates inversely with mac’s gross sales. Next up from Freddie: Shopping at Whole Foods Doesn’t Make You a Better Person. Reading you is like watching someone learn the alphabet in real time.Report

  20. Freddie says:

    Tip to readers coming from Sullivan: read the whole fucking post before you criticize, not just the excerpt!

    Ye gods.Report

  21. u says:

    “Apple has a better PR campaign, better advertising and a more gullible, credulous customer base.”

    Apple has a better product. Far better then MS ever managed to deliver, or even market.

    Apple’s products are as good as you can get today.

    Maybe some buy them because of the hype, but as someone of moved to Mac from Linux, I can assure you it’s only because OS X is perfectly usable.

    I don’t mind paying more for something that does not require me to manage it on a regular basis (viruses, trojans), and it actually pleasant to lock at and easy to understand.

    Again, I’m a Linux user and I find Windows painfully irrational and difficult to use. Both as a programmer, and as an ordinary user.Report

  22. George says:

    Sorry but “I know many people are probably saying that this is a completely banal thing to say” does not inoculate you against the dull hyperbole of “And that’s the truth:” and full paragraph of blather. Incidentally, your premise doesn’t even seem correct. People buy macs to signal to others they are a certain kind of person, not to prove to themselves that they are unique. Buying a mac is not about pretending to be a non-conformist, but about feigning a sort of elitism that gets you into a little club where everyone congratulates one another about how “thoughtful” they all are. It’s like when someone pretends liking Death Cab is more “indie” than liking Coldplay, but won’t listen to the Edith Frost album you gave them. Products are converted into currency used to buy oneself into an aspirational social group. It’s not about uniqueness, unless uniqueness itself has lost its meaning and stands for a group in the minority off smugly to the side.Report

  23. Xofis says:

    “When was the last time a Microsoft product owned a market because it was the best product in the market?”

    Umm… all of them, when you count convenience, integration, cost, UI consistency, 3rd party openness and support by corporate helpdesk. The product is not just the CD.Report

  24. Freddie says:

    As I tried to say– if you prefer Macs, think Apple produces better hardware and a better operation system, please– buy an Apple! I think they are great machines too. I just think that we lazily tend to attach certain visions onto products and commodities that we shouldn’t. (And I’m not exempting myself from that criticism.)Report

  25. Eli says:

    Re: Apple has a better PR campaign, better advertising and a more gullible, credulous customer base. That’s it.

    Were you not a PC guy, you would likely have mentioned (out of fairness) that Apple also enjoys not having a history of battlefield disasters in the OS wars, e.g. Windows ME, Vista.

    I grant you, Microsoft is in desperate need of some advertising genius and a little luck. But I think you’ll agree that theirs isn’t just a PR problem, it’s a products problem.Report

  26. iLarynx says:

    Manjoo’s article’s are often an embarrassment. But pounding on this “snowflake” straw man makes you proud?:

    “But it amazes me, absolutely amazes me, the number of Apple owners who lack the clarity or self-awareness to realize that purchasing a commodity from a enormous, soulless corporation that is also owned by several million other people doesn’t make you a unique and beautiful snowflake. Apple has a better PR campaign, better advertising and a more gullible, credulous customer base. That’s it.”

    That’s it? The flaws and merits of the respective operating systems have no bearing whatsoever? Just us Apple dupes who succumbed to a clever marketing campaign versus those geniuses who rushed out to get their copies of Vista with all the zeal of Steve Martin upon receiving his first phone book in “The Jerk.” Talk about a lack of self-awareness.

    Obviously, some people are able to get along just fine with Vista. Just as obviously – judging from Microsoft’s sales of Vista and corporate customers’ resistance to adopt Vista, a lot of people are not at all happy with Microsoft’s flagship product.

    But ignoring these facts, for Freddie, is somehow NOT self-aggrandizing nonsense? This avoidance of/apologia for, Vista’s failings makes one wonder, who’s fellatin’ whom?Report

  27. kindness says:

    Mac still has a vastly better operating system. You will NEVER hear someone say they loaded a new program and it didn’t work.

    Soooo….sorry Freddie, you are a true Luddite. Stop kvetching about the better stuff out there you refuse to own & get over it.Report

  28. josh says:

    Buying the computer from company A doesn’t, as a matter of fact, say anything about you, just like buying a computer from company B doesn’t say anything about your counterparts.

    As a born-again penny-pincher very close to bankruptcy, I didn’t have to put a lot of thought into choosing my new laptop when the sales hit last December. It was a PC via Dell, $400 delivered. That was 40% of the price of the cheapest Mac I could find.

    I live in the annoying neighborhood called Williamsburg, in Brooklyn. Poverty is in fashion here, which might be lucky for me. There are a lot of artists, or at least unemployed people, occupying cafes in torn clothing all day, with mussed hair. From one side of their laptops they appear to be all writing novels. There is usually a different story on the opposite side. But what you notice is that the computer among the hipster set universally is the Mac. The Mac is the People’s Hardware, true computer of the hungry struggling artist types.

    And the PC: an emblem of the ruling class.

    I’m familiar with the bias. I used to espouse it myself, back before dollars actually meant something to me. What I’ve learned since is that the Mac marketing juggernaut has exactly inverted the class reality of the two kinds of machine. You buy Macs, above all other reasons, because you have money to blow. People who are struggling just to service their debt every month can’t afford to care about aesthetics, operating systems, susceptibility to viruses. I can’t afford to treat viruses in my own bloodstream. What I need is a Web browser and Office-style software, both available at no charge for PCs (I run OpenOffice). And that’s the whole list.

    People who buy hardware from Company A primarily due to the supposition that it’s the funkier, artier, more proletarian option really are saying something about themselves. It’s just that it’s the opposite of what they have in mind.Report

  29. RTod says:


    I think that you are confusing two separate issues with one. The first, with which you are of course right on the money, is that when you buy into a large corporation’s marketing message that you will be a true rebel by buying into their marketing message is by definition absurd. Though in a world of Nikes, overproduced “edgy” music, “cool” magazines owned by Time Warner, Volkswagens, and a gazzilion others, it seems a little unfair to single out only the Mac users that fall into this infantile advertisement-created tribalism.

    However, as a current user of both PCs and a Mac, I can tell you that the issue of quality is a separate issue altogether.

    My wife bought me a Powerbook to use with work, where I must also use a PC. (Some things I work on have security issues, and can only be worked on with a computer fully owned by my employer). My PC needs assistance from the IT guys to re-integrate into our PC network about once a month. My Mac, even though its going into a PC network, never has issues. In addition, doing anything complicated and memory intensive, such as creating workshop notebooks on Publisher, means at least one rebooting of my PC during a project to fix the screen freezing. And then there’s the issue of having to wait 10 minutes for my PC to fully start up in a way that won’t freeze up when I start working with it first thing in the morning. In fact, I can tell you that since I have started using my Mac, using my PC reminds me of the day, way back when, that my employer got its first internet DSL hook up. Using phone dial up at home, which had always felt just fine, suddenly was so annoying after being able to use the much faster system at work that I was eager to fork over an extra $50 a month to my cable provider.

    In short, these are not differences that one can chalk up to wanting to be the cool kid.

    The Mac just works better.


  30. Eli says:

    Since your argument neglects to mention anything about Microsoft or Windows, are we to assume you did the truly thrifty thing, and invested the time necessary to learn some flavor of Linux, or another 100% free operating system?

    I think this brings to light a fundamental problem with the Mac vs. PC debate; namely that while Apple hardware is more expensive than PC hardware, Apple’s OS is less expensive and (arguably) better than Windows.
    Which is to say, (avoiding the apples vs. oranges comparison) there are two concurrent debates contained in the ‘Mac vs. PC’ wars:
    1. Which OS is more capable / more affordable?
    2. Which Hardware is more reliable / more affordable?

    On the first point, there are business applications for which Mac OS cannot suffice. Likewise, there are industry-standard graphics and video apps that only run on Macs.

    To obscure the second point even further, it pits Apple not against Microsoft, but against the myriad hardware manufacturers whose products are ‘supported by’ Windows, and often are not supported by Mac OS.

    All of which is to say, there are a lot of different reasons people buy what they buy, and I think it’s neither fair nor accurate to state that “[People] buy Macs, above all other reasons, because you have money to blow.Report

  31. josh says:

    Since your argument neglects to mention anything about Microsoft or Windows, are we to assume you did the truly thrifty thing, and invested the time necessary to learn some flavor of Linux, or another 100% free operating system?

    No. Don’t assume that. Don’t assume that’s ‘truly thrifty’ either, since my time isn’t (quite) valueless.

    I am the ultimate end user. I only use the simplest software that ever existed. I think some of the Mac-for-fashion guys have similar needs, but spend an astonishing multiple of what I spend for the same product. I should have spoken more precisely. For people with these simple needs, to opt for a Mac is to go way, way out of your way to signal your membership in a particular group. It’s an elite group. It’s a rich group. I’m sensitive to that, because I can no longer afford to belong to it the way I used to. I now see the Mac marketing for what it is: brilliant. It makes people believe it’s the computer of the hungrier classes, the computer of the scrappy creative underclass. And it’s really the opposite. And that’s what impresses me. That’s my only point.Report

  32. bkharmony says:

    Farhad Manjoo is a PC apologist, muddy thinker and all-around lousy writer. He goes out of his way to point out Apple’s flaws every chance he gets. I have no idea how you could see him as “in the tank” for Apple.

    P.S. He doesn’t even own a Mac.Report