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Microsoft Abandons Macintosh
And other ways the press spins things

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

It started on a warm and sunny Saturday (well it was warm and sunny where I live). Then I read this article and practically fell off of my chair - the press sank to new lows with the myths, lies and spin -

San Francisco Gate (2/8/97) - ran the headline -
Microsoft Pulls Out Of Deal With Apple - Won't make new Mac software

by: Julia Angwin ([email protected]),
Jon Swartz ([email protected])
Editor -[email protected]

When I read the headline I thought, "They can't possibly be serious, MS makes a good portion of their application sales on Macs". What are these guys talking about? It turns out they are just rambling on with the latest predictions of doom and gloom all based on a lot of misinformation and errors. Lets analyze (shred) the articles fallacies.

Another door slammed shut on Apple Computer yesterday when Microsoft said it will not make its popular Windows NT software for Macintosh computers.

This is almost news. Except that Apple, IBM and Motorola pulled out of supporting WinNT for Macs (and PowerPC boxes) months ago (December).

It seems that AIM (Apple, IBM, Motorola) are doing better with AIX (IBM's Unix) for their servers anyway, and WinNT holds little interest in this marketplace. Why buy a mediocre Microsoft OS when you can use a more powerful Unix based one - especially when there are more Apps for Unix, those apps are free, programming is easier with Unix, and Unix has more support? The answer is - it makes no sense to support WinNT for MS.

For the future Apple is creating Rhapsody - which is a more powerful OS than WinNT, and will likely get a lot more support than WinNT (on PPC) ever got from MS. So again, why should AIM focus on creating a market for WinNT on the Mac? And if everyone is not going to do it for MS, then why should MS do it for themselves - especially in a market where superior solutions are already entrenched.

MS has already abandoned most of the other WinNT platforms - which is collapsing into a one or two platform OS. So the failure seems to be Microsofts (WinNT) - which is quickly shriveling away from the cross platform OS solution it promised to be - into becoming a proprietary Intel (and Alpha) only OS.

Isn't spin amazing - it can turn another one of MS's failures into one of Apple's?!

Windows NT is a more sophisticated version, designed for businesses, of the Windows 95 operating system.

Two paragraphs in, and two errors. WinNT is not a version of Win95 - it is a totally new OS that shares little if any code commonality and even less in design.

Apple, hoping to break into the lucrative corporate market, had been negotiating with Microsoft to make Windows NT for its computers.

Not really true. Apple was thinking of using NT for some servers (a niche - not general purpose use on their computers) - but Rhapsody and AIX were better solutions and more stable (used on more mission critical solutions). Rhapsody (OpenStep) and Unix are more cross platform, have more source code, more tools, better support and more acceptance. So Apple (AIM) abandoned WinNT months ago, and MS is just now catching up.

Yesterday's announcement ends that effort.

No, a few months ago (December) - when AIM abandoned WinNT, that ended the effort. Yesterday's announcement was just MS's nail in NT's coffin. Remember, according to analysts and the press it was supposed to replace Win31, Unix and OS/2 by '94 - it has been a dismal failure according to all forecasting and predictions. Since it did not become any sort of standard, AIM no longer needs to hedge their bets (with supporting NT on PowerPC).

``It is an emotional blow to Apple,'' said Jim Turley, senior editor at Microprocessor Report newsletter in Sunnyvale. ``This certainly won't help Apple in corporate sales.''.

Huh? This issue has been closed for a while, and AIX has helped Apples server sales immensely. On top of that many corporations are getting very excited about Rhapsody (OpenStep / Unix) and agree that it will likely help sales. NT was a flop. MS was charging more and delivering less than promised. Users were almost completely uninterested in WinNT.

It does hurt Microsoft and further erode their efforts to make WinNT a cross platform standard.

Microsoft based its decision on declining sales of computers using the PowerPC chip, which powers all new Macintosh computers as well as other brands including some from IBM.

Interesting. Sales of the PowerPC have gone from zero in '93, to 5+ million / year in '96, not counting the Power architecture (IBM's big brother to the PowerPC used in mainframes), nor counting all the embedded controller variants that are being used in Sega game consoles, cars, and thousands of other devices. IBM and Motorola are committed to PowerPC - there is no wavering.

I'm sure MS's decision was not based on the fact that the market had already rejected NT.

``We don't have any customers that we are aware of that are deploying PowerPC systems,'' said Phil Holden, product manager for Windows NT at Microsoft..

Which proves my point. MS had gotten zero market acceptance for NT on PowerPC's - because people that use PowerPC's were willing to take the better choices (Unix, MacOS, or wait for Rhapsody).

Only a tiny portion of Windows NT shipments -- 15,000 copies out of 2.2 million shipped -- went to computers with a PowerPC chip, according to Dataquest in San Jose.

Or the authors could have compared that over 5 million PowerPC's shipped last year. (Much more than all of WinNT combined). Only 15,000 of the WinNT sales were on PowerPC's - which shows what a dismal failure WinNT is for any platform other than Intel. WinNT in its entirety has a market share capture rate a fraction of the Mac or Win95 or the PowerPC - so the failure is MS's, yet writers try to spin this as a loss for the PowerPC.

Developed jointly by Apple, Motorola and IBM, the PowerPC chip has not caught on.

5 Million units a year of failure - or over double what WinNT is selling. Some failure.

Although the chips are faster than Intel's Pentium chip, PowerPC shipments have failed to make a dent in Intel's 85 percent share of the chip market because there are relatively few Software programs that will run on computers using the chip.

Interesting - there are more native PowerPC application than there are 32 bit Applications written for WinNT and Win95 combined. That's relatively few software programs? That is not counting about 10,000+ more Mac apps and 20,000+ PC apps that run under emulation.

PowerPC's went from selling zero units a few years ago, to being the #2 most frequently used mainstream processor. Not too shabby - and the performance lead is starting to stretch out - meaning more acceptance. Predicting it hasn't made a dent know, it like predicting a marathons results based on the results of the first 100 yards.

In December, Motorola and IBM -- the primary manufacturers of the PowerPC chip -- announced plans to phase out PowerPC computers.

What?! This kind of incompetent and deceitful journalism is disgusting. In November Motorola and IBM announced the next 2 generations of PowerPC processors (G3 and G4) and discussed their future plans (G2000) - which is more commitment than ever before. Motorola and IBM are teaming up with Apple even more - to ensure more PowerPC computers. What they did is announced that WinNT on PowerPC was a failure, and that they have no interest in supporting it.

Microsoft's decision appears to be the final blow to the PowerPC chip.

15,000 units sold on about 5+ million. Losing that .3% of the marketplace is a big blow.

``This is basically Microsoft dotting the i's and crossing the t's on a decision that IBM and Motorola have already made,'' said Chris Le Tocq, operating systems analyst at Dataquest.

Sure. The Analyst likely meant that IBM and Motorola had already announced that WinNT was a flop on PowerPC - and Microsoft is admitting it. But the article puts this is such poor context that it reads wrong.If I was that analyst I would be pissed off for being taken out of context.

Apple executives downplayed Microsoft's apparent snub.

Apple doesn't want to salt the wound that they snubbed MS.

``The sales impact is minimal,'' said one who did not want to be named.

An understatement.

Apple officials have repeatedly stressed they are focusing their marketing efforts on its strongholds in the education, publishing and consumer markets. The company has never been more than a bit player in the corporate market.

Considering Apple makes quite a bit of revenue in the corporate market, I doubt that anyone in apple said "bit player".

Apple IS stressing their strongholds - but they also bought NeXT, and designed their Rhapsody OS around the whole concept of making more penetration into corporate markets.

Apple plans to unveil a major revision to its operating system software in early 1998 that it claims is ``clearly superior'' to Windows NT.

I may be too touchy, but "it claims" seems a little snippy. It is widely accepted that Unix (Mach) is still superior to WinNT - on which Apples Rhapsody is based. Every programmer of both "claims" OpenStep is "clearly superior" to WinNT.

Code-named Rhapsody, it would, among other things, allow Macintosh users to perform several complex tasks at once as well as greatly enhance the Mac's Internet and multimedia capabilities.

The Macs can already perform several complex tasks at once - and already is the richest mainstream internet and multimedia platform. I do not doubt that Rhapsody will increase that lead.

``With Rhapsody, we believe we will have the best operating system on the planet,'' an Apple spokesman said.

I find no fault in that statement.

Meanwhile, Apple has begun attacking Microsoft with a series of print ads debuting tomorrow that highlight the shortcomings of Windows-based PCs. One of the ads showcases the Mac's Sound and video features, saying ``Warning. Don't try any of these things on a Windows PC.''

Attacking Microsoft with the truth.

Microsoft's latest announcement is just the latest turn in its on-again-off-again relationship with Apple. Although the two companies compete directly in operating systems, Microsoft is the biggest producer of application software for Macintosh computers.

In other words - Microsoft is not abandoning Macs.Which contradicts the headline and the whole point of this article.

Recently, the two companies had pledged to work more closely together, and Microsoft launched a division devoted to writing software for Apple products. .

In other words - Microsoft is more committed than ever to the Mac platform.

But Gates threw cold water on that progress with some cryptic remarks in Europe this week.

``People like Apple and would like them to succeed,'' Gates said at a product launch in Frankfurt, Germany. ``But that doesn't mean they will succeed.''.

In other words - Gates realizes what a threat Rhapsody is to WinNT (long term), and is starting to try to cool it down. But actually Bill Gates only criticized Apples lack of a clearly stated direction - he said nothing about abandoning Macs.


I hope my explanations of the errors gives you (the reader) a better insight into how the press spins things . It seems to confirm suspicions that most reporters can't tell a computer from a toaster oven - or an operating system from their backsides (where they seem to keep their heads planted). The two writers responsible for this trash piece should be ashamed - but they likely don't have enough understanding about what they wrote to feel any guilt. They are probably proud of their ridiculous article.

As is the presses usual M.O., this story was picked up, and slightly rewritten a few times - fortunately the trade press is sometimes more accurate than the general press.

There were a few more articles in the general press in the following days. It seems that the story was too interesting not to run -- yet none of them verified the facts. <sigh> The only difference between tabloid journalism and the general press seems to be that the tabloids know that they are a bunch of sensationalist liars.

Created: 02/10/97
Updated: 11/09/02

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