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RE: Apple users remain loyal to the core
Detroit Free Press Article

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999


I recently saw an article in the Detroit Free Press entitled "Apple users remain loyal to the core", and I felt I should respond to it. It is not the worst article of late; it is not even the worst article written this week. But the little details and omissions add up, and I just get annoyed with the incessant whining from the press about 'poor me' and 'they always attack me when I write about Macs.'

I don't doubt that writers get email when they write about Macs -- because they make so many errors and have such bias that they don't even realize they are being biased. THAT is what is irritating. But I certainly don't like hearing about them getting spammed either. So this is certainly not a call to spam -- just my response as sent to Heather Newman.

FROM: David K. Every <dke@MacKiDo.com>
TO: Heather Newman
SUBJECT: RE: Apple users remain loyal to the core.

This is no flame... just a general correction...

>And so, every time I write even a paragraph about Macintoshes, I
>get a pile of mail. PC owners wondering why
>we're giving even the tidbit of space we do to Macs. Mac
>owners ready to torch my desk for not devoting the ENTIRE column to
>Apples -- or for saying something they consider uncomplimentary.

Imagine for a moment that you keep reading magazine and newspaper articles that claim women are the minority in the workplace because they are inferior to men, and belong at home making and nurturing children. How long would it be before you felt compelled to respond to such nonsense?

This is what Mac users are subjected to daily, though on a slightly different level.

The fact is that Mac users ARE getting overly sensitive BECAUSE they are tired of the misinformation and bias, as demonstrated in your article. I don't think it is actual malice on your part, just a plain and typical failure to understand what you are saying. Let me explain.

>Take our recent story on how to buy a PC (which you can find at
>http://www.freep.com/tech/qbuy7.htm. I mentioned two
>Mac models and noted Apple's declining market share. As usual,
>it touched off a torrent of virulent E-mail.

Yes, of course. You ignored the major advantages of Macs throughout the article, and the only mention of Macs was of "declining market share" (a concept which is well out of date). Why in the world would something like that that bother anyone?

Consider this -- why should market share matter? Would you change your political affiliation if you were a minority? Will you try to change careers since most people aren't writers? Would you quit driving your car if you learned the make and model were in the minority? So the whole insistence that 'market share matters' is inflammatory in the first place, because it should be irrelevant.

But getting past that, you are quoting numbers that are out of date. Apple's market share is growing -- so the passé bash of "declining market share" is annoying to Mac users.

 
>Let me just say about the dozens of Apple users who wrote to tell
>me that Macintoshes ROSE in the market in the beginning of
>1998. What they all neglected to mention was
>that the rise -- from 3.75 percent to 4 percent of the total PC
>market -- barely canceled out the losses Apple suffered in 1997. (It
>had 4 percent market share at the end of first quarter 1997, too.)

That is a nice way to detract from your error, to change the subject. The point that Apple's market share is rising.

Instead we have changed the subject to, "it hasn't risen enough." So that is a little deceptive, but let's even work with that. Why did Apple lose market share in the first place? Most of the recent declines had to do with:

  1. Licensing, which reduced Apple's market share. The press seldom counted ALL Macs, only Apple's market share. A tad deceptive, and annoying to Mac users since it made the Macs look less significant. Now that Apple has eliminated cloning, the press almost always points out that Apple may be growing (if they choose to mention the fact), but "only because they killed cloning". Always the negative spins -- and that is why readers get angry.
     
  2. The incessant cries from the press of "Apple is doomed" were hurting sales. I can track bad press and sales declines and show you the point. Yet, I have not seen a single article discussing how the press can harm companies. The Wall Street Journal or Fortune Magazine would release an Apple bashing article, filled with mistakes, Apple would drop 10 or 20% in value THAT DAY, and yet no one held the article accountable. It was all Apple's fault. Where was the press when it came to policing themselves (or the facts)?

So the point is that the press hurt Apple as much as Apple's mismanagement. In fact, I would venture to guess that misinformation from the press hurt Apple FAR FAR more than their own incompetence. But the press (as a group) seems to want to dodge responsibility for their actions. This is why people who know the truth become annoyed enough to send email corrections (that vary in tone from polite corrections to all out flames). Unfortunately, the result is that most reporters whine, instead of just admitting their own mistakes. Or they build straw man arguments to twist words and previous articles into saying something completely different than what they did.

>Finally, one more bit of news this week: Ziff-Davis, publisher of a
>pile of computing magazines, released its annual U.S. customer
>loyalty poll, measuring how often 11,440 people who buy a
>particular brand of computer buy it again.
>
>Apple had led that poll. This year, Apple dropped to third, behind
>Gateway and Hewlett Packard. Its repurchase rate dropped 11
>percent to 71 percent (compared with Gateway, with 75 percent).
>Among nonbusiness customers, it dropped 30 percent.

I'm impressed that you actually support your arguments. That is rare in the computer industry.

I'm saddened that you don't understand statistics (polling) and aren't better at interpreting the data and stating the facts.

Did you know that poll is actually a year out of date (based on the previous year's data)? You are not reporting on last year's sales, you are reporting on the year before &emdash; the year Apple had some reliability problems, compounded by incessant bashing by the press, causing many to abandon Apple/Macs because they bought the misinformation of Apple's eminent demise!

Do you think that would have any impact on the numbers?

Do you think that is an accurate way to report what is happening now?

Did you know this study basically showed that most of the losses were in the home market, which tend to buy 'cheap' (instead of investing for the life span of the product) and so is biased against Macs to begin with?

It is not what you stated that was wrong, but as usual it was what you failed to state (and know). This is why you get email. If you are going to talk about a subject as an authority, which is what the press does, then you should do your research and not twist facts to meet your own agenda.

If you are such a believer that Apple is not growing, then I will make you a bet (publicly). I'll bet you $100 (if you agree) that next year's numbers will show Apple's unit volume to be greater than last year's. (I'll give you my address as to where you can send the check, but I'd rather you kept your money and just admitted a mistake in print instead).

>Why is that important if you want to buy a Mac? When fewer
>people use a machine, more software makers decide it isn't worth
>the expense to make a second version of their software that will
>run on Apple machines.

This shows an ignorance of the marketplace. Profitability and ROI (Return on Investment) are based on more than just unit sales. Oversimplification and sound-bites are what infuriate people at the press at large, and possibly your articles in particular. The real profits are based on many things including support costs, unit sales, price, testing costs, development costs, market acceptance, marketing costs, and so on. Not just market share.

This is why companies like Sun, SGI and all other Unix workstation manufacturers combined, which sell a fraction of the unit volume Apple does, are still viable in the marketplace. Your oversimplifications might be believed by the ignorant, but they inflame the informed -- which is where the hostility in some replies comes from. To me, this is no different from any person who "informs" the masses with half-truths, and then gets mad at fair debate.

There are so many other ways that your article espouses ignorance and partial truths.

You claim that market share is dwindling &emdash; when it is rising. Then you want to go back 5 years because Apple has declined since then. Well, why not go back to just last year (from which Apple has risen)? Or why don't you go back 10 years and see that Macs have risen? How about going back 15 and show that Apple started with zero market share with the Mac! You seem to be quite selective in how you express things &emdash; in a non-flattering, and not completely unbiased manner. That is what provokes the hostile responses. Surely you can see that you are selectively expressing facts to fit your agenda.

At least be honest enough to admit that you have bias and agenda's. Don't be an intellectual coward and pretend that you are pure, and that all the facts are obvious.

You mention that Macs are not application-starved. I agree. And that Apple is unlikely to go out of business in the near future. I agree with that as well. But where was all the concern for accuracy when there were 2 or 3 articles each WEEK claiming Apples immediate demise? Where was your concern for accuracy then?

After mentioning that Macs are not application-starved, and mentioning that Macs cost less to use and support, you then contradict yourself by saying you don't recommend Macs because the software costs more. Please demonstrate this; I have not seen that, and I work cross platform. It is far more common for the software to cost the exact same amount, and many studies have shown that Mac users are more productive and the lifetime costs of the machine are far less.

You ask :"Why pay the same price or more for a machine that won't run as much?"

I ask, "Why pay more, over the life of the computer, for a machine that costs more to support, is harder to use, and has a shorter life span?"

 
>What's starting to give me a chuckle is how similar Macs and PCs
>have become. Windows 95 lifted some of MacOS's best qualities.

On the surface I agree. The sad part is that people only look skin deep.

On the Mac, plug and play works. On the PC it is peripheral roulette (it often works, but sometimes blows your brains out). On the PC, it appears that the start menu is as good as the Apple menu. But I wrote whole articles detailing how the user interface is inferior. This pattern repeats itself, over and over again. Sadly, the press seems not to have the patience or skill to learn the facts, so they babble half-truths and sound-bites.

The fact is that the press said Windows 3.0 was as good as a Mac, and when 3.1 was released they admitted it wasn't, but that Windows 3.1 was. When Win95 was released they admitted that 3.1 was never as good as a Mac, but that "Win95 really is as good as a Mac". Now they are claiming that Win98 is REALLY as good as a Mac. It doesn't matter that it is adding features (like multiple monitor support) that Apple has had for 10 YEARS! It doesn't matter that it always takes about 2-5 more years for Microsoft technologies to get debugged (at the user's expense) and REALLY work as advertised. You (the press) will spout how it is as good as a Mac (NOW), when it won't match a 10 year old Mac, in functionality, for at least a few more years (if ever). And each new release is stated as being "as good as a Mac &emdash; and unlike the last 10 years that we've been lying to you, this time WE REALLY MEAN IT".

So with this history by the press (and this tone in your article), why should I treat the press as anything other than a cluelessly biased marketing arm for Microsoft? Where is the balance in the press? Why should Mac users feel like they are getting a fair shake?

The hue and cry of the uninformed is growing old. I see Apple and Mac innovating and progressing at a greater rate than Microsoft and Windows (as they have for years). And Windows was far behind to begin with! Yes, I realize that typical users might not notice the difference between Microsoft's skin-deep "lipstick on a chicken" solutions and Apple's elegance &emdash; but what about the "experts"? Why shouldn't I expect that technology "experts" will understand the technology?

So while I appreciate your attempts at being factual and unbiased, I strongly suspect, being a professional in the field, that you do not know what you are talking about. If I were to get a response from you, I would be pleasantly surprised to learn that you may have the capacity to learn in the future. Unfortunately my past experiences with the press has led me to believe that either they don't want to learn, don't have time to report the truth, or they just don't care.

Please prove me wrong -- show that you are open to the possibility that you make mistakes, and that the truth has some place in the modern media.

Best wishes,

David K. Every

Another reader (Neil Thorne) CC'ed me with his response. Of course I didn't find it offensive at all, and very polite and helpful. But many writers seem to complain about all the email, and ignore the fact that many are helpful (for those who would like to learn).

Heather,

I'm a Mac enthusiast who kept quiet for years, but have become one of the email brigade supporting my platform in the face of continuous press hostility against Macintosh. However, I'm determined to keep everything polite and rationale in the interests of solving the press bias rather than aggravating it.

And let me say right away that your article was MILD by the standards that usually incite me to write. You seem much more objective and interested in the truth than most providing anti-Apple advice these days. I suppose that's why your errors and logical missteps so struck me that I wanted to share them with you.

There are really only three points to address.

  1. From a purely logical standpoint, your argument breaks down in your discussion of software availability. You say, " Apple will continue to dominate the resource-intensive graphics, photo and layout industry," but then wonder if industry support will continue if "the Apple market shrinks to 2 percent? Or 1?"
     
    Apple WILL continue to dominate the graphics industry, as you said. Overall market share numbers (inclusive of all non-graphics industry computers) will not affect the graphics industry support for Macintosh, because Macs will continue to support the graphics industry. This industry knows what it likes, and knows that no other platform delivers it. Your first premise, "Apple will continue to dominate..." is correct. The "market shrinks to 2 percent" question therefore becomes rhetorical and meaningless, but remains misleading.
     
  2. The "declining software availability" argument has become a mantra for journalists recommended abandonment of Macintosh, but Virtual PC is NEVER mentioned in this context. I'm running VPC on an almost-current Mac, and every PC program I've tried to run (exclusive of high-speed games) executes flawlessly and effectively. (My absolute all-time favorite word processor is WordPerfect 6 for Windows, and I've been thrilled to return it to my daily life via Virtual PC.) The whole "limited software availability" argument collapses when the Mac becomes the only computer capable of running all the software available for BOTH platforms.
     
    (Worth noting, too: I can do things with my Virtual PC than true Windows users cannot. Best example: though Windows 95 cannot seem to run a RAM disk, my Mac can, and I can share this RAM Disk with the Windows 95 running in Virtual PC. Therefore, I can load and access files on a super fast disk of RAM readily and easily with Windows software, whereas a Wintel user cannot. Obviously, this is a "power-user" advantage, but an indicative one as well.)
     
    To imply that the choice for consumers is between Windows OR Mac is false. The choice is between Windows or BOTH.
     
  3. Your answer for your question, "For a casual user, is there really a difference?" is wrong. For the casual user, least versed in computer terminology and interface, the foundational integrity and consistency of the Mac OS makes all the difference in the world. Perhaps that's why I was so surprised to read you advise against their purchase.
     
    I've used Windows on the job for years now, but it's really been since literally running Windows and Mac side by side (with Virtual PC and two monitors connected to my Mac) that I've just been shocked by how difficult Windows is to use. Whereas the Mac OS seems built on consistency, Windows 95 seems based on multiple exceptions for every rule. I can't imagine how any kind person who's used both would recommend Windows to anyone they liked and wished success - it seems more like an exercise is ongoing frustration and illogic.
     
    You seem to argue that Mac is NOT better. Any technically-informed assessment would certainly favor the hardware and hardware/software integration superiority of Macintosh (RISC vs. CISC, true Plug'n'Play, and so on), so you can't be talking about hardware. But if you're talking about the operating system, you cannot honestly purport that they are at all the same. Rather than belabor this point, I would encourage you to check out an excellent series of articles on interface design at http://www.mackido.com/Interface/
     
    These articles really drive home the point Windows is not just an imitation of the Mac OS, but that it is a BAD imitation of the Mac OS, and I would encourage you to read them before you recommend even one more PC purchase, esp. to a novice user. (If you only have time to read just one, I would suggest the "Hysteresis" essay, because it discusses on one hand what is very obscure, but on the other hand affects virtually every single mouse stroke from the user.)

Finally, I'd just like to share with you my motivation for "getting involved" in the email brigade (though I have still NOT joined the EvangeList). Some articles really DO tick me off - John Dvorak should turn in his credentials as a journalist, for instance. But more often, I read essays from people well-meaning like yourself and am frustrated by the need to lay down a definitive opinion. I don't understand why more articles like yours can't make BOTH arguments and let the reader decide. But as it is, it seems as if much of the press just can't rest until Windows is vindicated as the one, true answer. (Which is esp. strange when one considers that the ONLY trait Windows has in its favor is its ubiquity.)

To those of us on the side of the "underdogs," it's a baffling behavior to watch from the supposedly objective press. It's as if the Bulls are up on Orlando 90-4 and the sportscasters are cheering along at the top of their lungs with the Chicago cheerleaders in a special effort to keep Orlando's crowd support drowned off the airwaves altogether.

Apple MAY be coming back. (I believe Apple IS coming back, but I don't expect to readily convince you of that.) More importantly, though, articles such as yours represent the greatest single impediment to their return to prominence and credibility. Your opinion DOES matter, and I'm curious as to how you would feel about personally impeding an underdog's success. You seem nice and well-mannered enough, and I have no reason to believe you would help a bully accost a wimp on the street, yet the conclusion of your article might indicate otherwise.

Granted, your own article was mild in comparison to the extremes out there, but it IS part of the greater phenomena that baffles us so. Why is it so hard to imagine that no one has to win for everyone to prosper?

Neil Thorne
Memphis


Created: 6/21/98
Updated: 11/09/02


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