Apple v. Microsoft
Cast your mind back, gentle reader, to the heady days of early 2002, when the original Xbox was released. I remember it well, not only because I was intrigued by the closing gap between computer gaming and video gaming, but because I recall the truly incessant grumbling I used to hear about what the Xbox represented: Microsoft trying to take over the world. That damn Bill Gates! He couldn’t just dominate computers, he had to take over the video game world too! Truly, these were the actions of a madman bent on dominating every corner of the electronic world.
Funny then that I hear no such things about Apple, which has in the last ten years gone from personal computers and software to expanding into selling portable music devices, portable video players, digital cameras, providing online music and video content, streaming TV, and through the iPhone, cellular phones, GPS and portable web browsers. Now the iPhone app store is expanding into, you guessed it, video games. So I was expecting all of these people coming out of the woodwork to complain about Apple’s corporate-imperial ambitions….
Actually I wasn’t expecting that, because when people complained about Microsoft “taking over the world” it was utterly frivolous and utterly dependent on the fact that Microsoft is a company people love to hate. There was nothing to it then, just like there’s little to criticize in Apple or Google expanding into more areas of service if they are following standards of business ethics and legality. Look, Microsoft had some serious antitrust violations, and on that specific score they deserve censure. But people have taken that idea of illegal monopoly and applied it very frivolously to Microsoft, assuming that branching out into a lot of different areas was indicative of illegal monopoly behavior. That just wasn’t so, and it’s aggravating to see the same kind of evidence that some people used to use to demonstrate Microsoft’s “evil” now ignored because it’s coming from cuter companies.
And that’s the truth: all of these greater philosophical underpinnings that people attach to PC vs. Mac are just self-aggrandizing nonsense. 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 I have said many, many times, there are good things about Apples and good things about PCs. If it makes sense to you to buy an Apple, go with god. And many Apple owners do just that, buy a product, use it and enjoy it. I’ve considered getting an Apple laptop in the past and may in the future. 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. It’s got nothing to do with individuality or noncomformity. I know many people are probably saying that this is a completely banal thing to say but I am consistently astounded by otherwise smart people who will tell you different.
Incidentally, don’t believe the hype about the iPhone taking over portable gaming. Seriously. Despite the mainstream press’s tendency to fellate Apple at every possible opportunity, the idea that the iPhone represents a meaningful challenge to the Nintendo DS is a joke. This guy at Salon, for example, asks without irony or self-awareness whether the new version of the DS can compete with the iPhone. Um, dude? Nintendo has sold over 100 million DS’s. I think the DS is safe. But it’s so hard, as a member of the media, not to bend over and gurgle with delight over any and everything Apple decides it wants to do! That Steve Jobs, what a visionary. Of course, that guy at Salon is only following in the footsteps of Farhad Manjoo, fanboy in chief. Some of Manjoo’s articles at Salon, I’m not kidding, inspired me to wonder whether Salon was just running advertising content without notice; that’s how in the tank he was for Apple and their products.
Sort of like how I wondered the same thing about this piece about Amazon in Slate. Word to the wise: if people are regularly wondering, after reading your professionally published work, whether you are in the employ of the company being evaluated, well, you might want to tone down the fawning.
Update: I mean, seriously. I know this is an intense thing to say, but it’s true: I could not respect myself if I wrote stuff like that.