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  • The Mac Versus Windows Holy War: Real or Fake?

    August 15th, 2006

    Let me first put my cards on the table. I am a user of both Apple’s and Microsoft’s products. I’ve even had a few things from Dell in my office from time to time, including the fancy 24-inch display currently attached to my G5 Quad.

    In short, I have no political agenda to offer. I am just interested in finding and using the best tools for my work, and I only came to the Mac because it was the best route to personal computing. However, I respect the fact that others have different opinions.

    On the other hand, there’s the perception that Apple and Microsoft are engaged in a fight to the death, and that the public posturing you see is something you should take seriously. The WWDC keynote is a good example, where Steve Jobs and crew threw lots of barbs in the direction of Microsoft.

    So what are we to conclude? Well, to take Jobs and his henchmen at face value, Microsoft is wasting billions of dollars of its money each year on development projects it can’t complete, and that it spends much of the rest of its time imitating others, particularly Apple. The phrase “start your copying machines” resonates again and again, and you can almost take seriously the claim that Apple kept some of its Leopard features “Top Secret” because Microsoft might jump the gun and try to roll them into Windows Vista.

    Now I understand the intensity of the legendary “reality distortion field” that surrounds Steve Jobs, which really means that he’s a terrific salesman. And his crew did a decent job following his lead last week, but do you really believe that Microsoft had secret agents in the audience taping every precious moment and that contraband copies of the Leopard Preview DVD are now swirling around their Mac Business Unit?

    You realize, of course, that Microsoft is a “preferred” Apple developer. There is no doubt that they and a few other major companies, such as Adobe, got to see Leopard before anyone else outside of Apple. To believe that Microsoft could somehow crib all Leopard’s key features and roll it into a new operating system release in six months, let alone two or three years, is madness. It’s not going to happen! Windows Vista may undergo lots of changes before it hits the store shelves, but they will be mostly under-the-hood bug fixes to make it stable enough to get out the door.

    Consider that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have known each other for three decades or so. They may run competing companies, but they also work together from time to time. Do you really think that Gates rings up Jobs to complain about getting bad treatment in those Mac versus PC ads that have gotten so much attention?

    At the same time, rousing the troops at a keynote speech is a great idea, and inspiring Mac developers to deliver insanely great products may actually accomplish that goal.

    Here’s where things exist in the real world, and it has little to do with the what some want to believe: First and foremost, Microsoft won the operating system wars, such as they were, years ago. At the same time, Microsoft has had its share of troubles of late, and Windows Vista may be the result of poor management, poor planning, and biting off more than they can chew with their existing development structure.

    On the other hand, it will be released in a reasonably usable form some time in 2007, even if misses its current ship date. Tens of millions will buy copies to upgrade their PCs in a very short time, and, after businesses have time to give it a thorough test, they made even adopt it too. But it probably won’t be the first release. There will be bug fixes aplenty, and maybe even a Service Pack or two before it is declared suitable for large companies. That may not come for several years.

    On the long hall, if Microsoft doesn’t get its act together, more and more of its customers will look to other options, such as the Mac or Linux. So far, there’s a big question mark as to whether they can succeed in or actually dominate other markets. While the Xbox is doing fairly well, it is also being sold at a loss, with the hope that you’ll buy enough games to make it profitable. The Zune media player may or may not be anything worthwhile, but Microsoft’s presence in a market is no longer a guarantee of its success.

    Yes, Apple can gain market share by building compelling products, smart advertising, and finding enough Windows users who are disgusted and are seeking alternatives. But Apple is also a hugely profitable company right now, and it doesn’t need double-digit market shares to stay in business. Of course, it’s reached that level, at least as far as recent U.S. note-book sales are concerned.

    If the Mac OS someday dominates, it’ll happen because the trends you see now will continue. But it won’t be because of any holy war between two technology companies, where one must die for the other to survive. Meantime, the competition and the back and forth interplay among Mac and Windows users, can be entertaining, but don’t take it too seriously.



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    23 Responses to “The Mac Versus Windows Holy War: Real or Fake?”

    1. Terry says:

      That’s it in a nutshell.

    2. Karl says:

      True to what you say… But back when Apple was against the wall. It was so much more fun to be an Apple users. PowerComputing ad campaign and computers kicked butt. MacAddict and MacUser magazines were fun magazines. (MacAddict is still pretty good. RIP MacUser mag.)

      Don’t get me wrong, I like where Apple is now. But it seems less rebelious to use Apple products. Of course I was younger back then and probably a bit more rebelious myself. 🙂

      So while the Holy War between Apple and Microsoft may be gone. (If it ever really existed) I would like to think the spirit and attitude is still alive and kicking.

    3. Jim Everson says:

      I prefer to think of Apple’s efforts as a battle with themselves. In other words, they are still fighting to deliver on the original promise of the Macintosh. That promise being Jef Raskin’s vision to design a complete computing solution “from the interface backwards,” and Steve Jobs’ vision to create a computer that augments the human mind and furthers human potential. Microsoft is an obstacle to these efforts, not only because they dominate the OS space and set the technological agenda, but because their products are so crappy and not necessarily simpatico with the Macintosh vision outlined above. Many Apple products have been seriously compromised simply because of the need to stay compatible with Microsoft’s products. Case in point: Pages. It is a fine little word processor with plenty of promise, but every time I use it I can feel the underlying constraints to structure documents the way Word does. My interest in seeing Microsoft’s power diminished isn’t due to some sophomoric desire to see my side “win” the OS wars, but simply to weaken Microsoft’s power to set technological and user interface standards that hold back true innovation. So in that spirit let me just say,” Boo Microsoft, Long Live the Mac.”

    4. JaneP says:

      The war still exists in different battles. I think some of these battles have died down a bit while other battles rage on (ex: iPod versus everybody else).

      I’m a PC hardcore at work, but use a Mac at home now. I’ll tell you up front, that I like the Mac and Apple products, but I dislike many (not all of course) Mac users. I found that these “Mac Evangelists” where doing nothing to help promote the Mac. Many articles in Mac magazines and even sites like this appear overly biased and in many cases misinformed. That’s part of what causes wars.

      I talk positively about the Mac. And I’m honest about what works well and what doesnt in both PC and Mac worlds. I recently found that my other PC friends now have Macs. I didn’t have to insult them or brag or start a flame mail war. And, I didnt have to mention the words “Microsoft” or “Vista”.

      At the same time, my Mac friends have got PCs. One is in real estate business and simply can’t use a Mac for the software he uses (boot camp was not available back then). Another friend started a business selling and servicing PCs. Together we discovered there are a lot of myths about Macs and PCs and they are distributed by people who really don’t know what they are talking about.

    5. Snafu says:

      To be a MacBU developer at a WWDC event must be a rather “aw, please, come on” experience…

    6. GMcPatten says:

      I think this site purpetuates the war. Nearly every recent article slams Microsoft for Vista being late, cant finish a product, copies a product, or unstable or … (you name it). Give me a break. You and other writers are just trying to get more readers and don’t even realize that you’re just preaching to the choir (just enternaining Mac users). Do us a favor and quit whining.

    7. OrronicoCat says:

      When governments are at war, it’s the people who suffer. Here, its the same. The Mac/Windows war rages on and it’s the users who suffer. In general competition is good and results in great innovations. However, once new cool things have been created, standardization is required. Thats where trouble begins.

      For example, Microsoft and nearly all MP3 players can play WMA files (but can’t play anything downloaded from iTunes). Similarly, iPods can’t play WMA or WMV files.

      Another example: Apple creates bootcamp resulting in Microsoft dropping VirtualPC for Mac.

      Yet another example: Apple buys KeyGrip from Macromedia and renames it to “Final Cut” and prompty drops the Windows version.

      Also: look at USB flash drives. They are DOS FAT formatted (versus NTFS or HFS) because that’s the only real file system thats fully interoperable (read and write) between the two operating systems.

      It’s obvious the war is on at the corporate level. On the user level, we’re just trying to have fun.

    8. I think this site purpetuates the war. Nearly every recent article slams Microsoft for Vista being late, cant finish a product, copies a product, or unstable or … (you name it). Give me a break. You and other writers are just trying to get more readers and don’t even realize that you’re just preaching to the choir (just enternaining Mac users). Do us a favor and quit whining.

      Let’s deal with a few facts, my friend: Vista is late, Microsoft has had difficulty finishing it, is notorious for copying features from others and reports so far indicate the existing beta versions are quite unstable.

      You following me so far?

      That’s not whining, my friend. That’s telling the truth. At the same time, this site, unlike some, will talk about Mac OS instabilities and other lapses. We’re equal opportunity offenders.

      Peace,
      Gene

    9. Malcolm says:

      It’s a fascinating paradox to me that I find both Jim Everson and Gene Steinberg’s view of Apple vs. M$ to be valid. At one level there has been tremendous competition, like when Jobs/Apple sued Gates/M$ back in the early 1990s; at another level there has been co-operation, like when M$ infused a 150,000,000 dollar investment into Apple in 1996 which it held for five years. And, of course, Microsoft has been making money off of Mac users since the 1980’s through its Mac software division, while Apple is now reaping huge profits off of Windows users through the dissemination Windows versions of iTunes and the iPod.

    10. Andrew says:

      I disagree with the poster above who complained about Microsoft’s power in dictating standards. I remember back in the late 80s and early 90s when WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS was THE standard for word processing. Word was usable only because it seamlessly opened and saved WordPerfect 5.1 files. Gradually the focus shifted to Word not because of marketing or the size of the company, but because Word 5.1 (Mac), 6 (Windows) and later Word 97 and 98 were simply better products. Don’t start on Word 6 for Mac, yes it was a slow and ugly port from Windows, but was promptly patched to 6.01 and while still ugly, was stable and powerful while standardizing file format with the Windows version.

      That Pages today is designed to work well to and from Word is not a compromise because of Microsoft’s corporate practices, but rather because after the word processor wars of the 80s and 90s, Word, more specifically Word for Windows is what the world uses to write.

      I love Nisus Writer Express for Mac. It has a terrific interface and works the way I do. I use it for all of my personal writing. I also am a big fan of AppleWorks, which with the toolbar removed looks and feels exactly its ancestor MacWrite Pro. I even use AppleWorks for writing short stories and essays on my PC, but when its time to work, I ALWAYS use Microsoft Word. Even with file format compatibility, complex documents almost always require reformating if writen or read in another program. Of course, Word is actually quite nice these days if you take a few minutes to configure it for the way you work. I have it set up with one minimal toolbar and with all of the automatic lists and styles turned off.

      Does Windows’ dominance of the marketplace hurt Apple or Mac users? Well it does only in those lousy websites who code only for Internet Explorer. Of course those websites hurt many PC users too. I use Firefox on both my Macs and my PCs and poorly written websites stop both in their tracks, but fortunately that rarely interferes with what I’m doing. Otherwise, I think Apple has done a wonderful job making OS X play nice with Windows. I have OS X Macs on my office network that share files and printers with PCs running Windows XP and 2000 without any issues whatsoever. Shares on the PC are easily accessed by the Macs and vice versa. The only hitch is the silly “.ds store” files the Macs insist on leaving behind.

    11. SteveP says:

      Thank you, JaneP.
      (No relation! 🙂 )

    12. Richard Taylor says:

      WordPerfect destroyed WordStar because it provided support to businesses. MS Word destroyed WordPerfect not because it was inherently superior, but because Microsoft leveraged it into the workplace along with its other goods and services.

      I use Word as my principal word processor, but also use Pages (for my monthly personal newsletter) and Appleworks (for its database function, for my movie database). Word is a terrific program, bloat and all, but it became that way in part because Microsoft is a monopolist.

      As is the case with all monopolists, hubris will out. The long slow decline has begun.

    13. Robert L says:

      ” like when Jobs/Apple sued Gates/M$ back in the early 1990s”
      Sorry, Jobs didn’t work at Apple in the early 1990s.

    14. Jim says:

      “Let’s deal with a few facts, my friend: Vista is late, Microsoft has had difficulty finishing it, is notorious for copying features from others and reports so far indicate the existing beta versions are quite unstable.

      You following me so far?”

      Get over it Gene. The Vista beta is very usable, I use it. Have you? No. It’s a heck of a lot more usable than the OS X Public Beta.
      The succesor to OS 8/9 was very late and Apple couldn’t ship anything or even decide what they were doing at the time.
      OS X wasn’t even usable until 10.2

      I’m so tired of this percived war, they is no war. Like it or not, MS won. Get over it. It’s just a computer Gene.

    15. Get over it Gene. The Vista beta is very usable, I use it. Have you? No. It’s a heck of a lot more usable than the OS X Public Beta.
      The succesor to OS 8/9 was very late and Apple couldn’t ship anything or even decide what they were doing at the time.
      OS X wasn’t even usable until 10.2

      I’m so tired of this percived war, they is no war. Like it or not, MS won. Get over it. It’s just a computer Gene.

      Too bad you actually didn’t read my article, because you will see that I don’t dispute the fact that Microsoft dominates the operating sytem wars, nor did I say that I am engaged in the Windows versus Mac OS flamewars.

      More important: We are not discussing Apple’s history, or the history of the development path of Mac OS X, but where Windows Vista stands now, after Microsoft has thrown billions of dollars towards its development.

      Is the beta usable? Yes. Will it be out on time? Obviously it is well past its original shipping date, and I’m sure it’ll ship some time in 2007, even if it’s not in January.

      Now did you have a point to make here beyond confirming what I said?

      Peace,
      Gene

    16. Jon T says:

      Never say never, never say always. MS did indeed win the OS war of the 90’s and 00’s. There are signs that they may struggle to keep it in the 2010’s however.

      Where MS used to be deemed the winner everytime, it is now seen to fail to deliver, to deliver complexity and instability, and to be the source of problems and costs, not solutions. If they can’t stop this process, then the OS wars wil become alive and well again…actually, the indicators will be lagging, and I for one firmly believe it has started. An example is the venemous nature of the defence of Windows that is being put up, after all they never even used to NEED to defend it’s position!.

    17. Jim says:

      I’m pretty sure I actually made my point Gene. And I did read your article. Leopard is also going to miss it’s orginal ship date which was late 2006 early 2007.

      “On the long hall, if Microsoft doesn’t get its act together, more and more of its customers will look to other options, such as the Mac or Linux.” A very, very, very long haul perhaps.

      Businesses run on More than MS OSes they run on Windows compatible software. Accounting software, HR software, payroll software, email servers. etc Business customers are more loyal to these products than they are to OSes. They won’t move off of MS OSes until they can move their most important customer facing appications. It’s that simple. Changing development platfroms for software makers is a huge, costly undertaking. Retooling, retraining…it’s very,very complex.

      BTW, Nintendo is the only console maker who sells their hardware at a profit. It’s common place to make the money on the games and acessories. Sony led the loss charge.

    18. I’m pretty sure I actually made my point Gene. And I did read your article. Leopard is also going to miss it’s orginal ship date which was late 2006 early 2007.

      Then you know that I never discuss Leopard’s supposed shipping date, nor is the article about that shipping date. In any case, spring of 2007 can be regarded, depending on which month, as “early” in 2007. Depends on when it really happens, and that can be discussed when an actual date and time is mentioned and not before.

      You do know, by the way, that you can run Windows compatible on a Mac, and that has been true for years, even before there was such a thing as an Intel-based Mac. In fact I wrote my first book about Windows in 1995, on a Mac, using the SoftWindows emulator.

      So, yes, maybe you did read the article, but little of what you say seems to reflect that.

      Peace,
      Gene

    19. Jim says:

      “Then you know that I never discuss Leopard’s supposed shipping date, nor is the article about that shipping date. In any case, spring of 2007 can be regarded, depending on which month, as “early” in 2007. Depends on when it really happens, and that can be discussed when an actual date and time is mentioned and not before.”

      You have got to be kidding. Apple orginally slated Lepoard for late 2006. It’s late according to Jobs own timeline. But you’ll argue it’s not to justify your own point. Either way it really doesn’t matter.

      “You do know, by the way, that you can run Windows compatible on a Mac, and that has been true for years, even before there was such a thing as an Intel-based Mac. In fact I wrote my first book about Windows in 1995, on a Mac, using the SoftWindows emulator.”

      I sure do, Gene I ran emulators on my Macs for years. It’s a pain. I was a Mac only guy for years until very recently. I championed Apple’s equipment in datacenters when the Xserves were first introduced. I still manage them day in an day out. I’ve installed tens of thousands of dollars worth of Mac equipment is offices with hundreds of Mac users. My opinons are based upon my experiences with very large Mac installations within large MS enterprises. I know them inside and out and I know how they operate. They are not looking to get away from MS and into Apple. Unfortunatly it’s easier to go from Apple to MS. We work very closely with Apple also. It’s very important to us to make sure we provide the best experience to all of our users, Mac or Windows.

      There is also the question of support. Who provides business customers with better support options and better support? I know enough about both MS/Dell/HP support and Apple Enterpise support to objectivly answer that question, and you won’t like the answer.

    20. You have got to be kidding. Apple orginally slated Lepoard for late 2006. It’s late according to Jobs own timeline. But you’ll argue it’s not to justify your own point. Either way it really doesn’t matter.

      Actually, he said late 2006 to early 2007. I was present at the keynote address where he made this comment, which was widely quoted. So let’s get our facts correct, OK?

      One more thing, while I appreciate your experiences, none of this has anything whatever to do with the article I wrote. That’s why I wondered if you ever bothered to read it.

      If you do want to give me Apple versus MS/Dell/HP support war stories, however, I’d love to know. I’m sure you can find problems with all of them, and I expect Apple can do better in lots and lots of ways. And, if I can verify what you say, I’ll be happy to write about it in a future commentary. Are you game?

      Peace,
      Gene

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