• Is the Press Biased Against Apple?

    November 29th, 2006

    It’s easy to be lazy in the news business, and hard to be fair. Consider how tech writers treated Apple over the years; well, most of them at any rate. Apple was “beleaguered,”  only had a tiny percentage of the PC market, and couldn’t possibly survive. When the name Microsoft came up, you were told repeatedly how over 90% of the world’s desktops used Windows. You couldn’t forget any of these facts, because the same words and phrases would be trotted out time and time again.

    Even when Apple managed to overcome the negativism and build market share again, you were constantly reminded how temporary it might be, how another company would surely come up with an iPod killer, how Apple made a fatal mistake with its FairPlay iTunes DRM, which isn’t shared with any other company.

    The Mac OS? Well, they would tell you that Apple sells to consumers, not to businesses, and isn’t there a lot more software available to Windows users? A lot more viruses, too, but who’s counting? Besides, you know that any day now, some real virus infections will erupt on the Mac. After all, Apple issues periodic security updates, and there have been several proofs-of-concept. But how much money have folks lost in the past few years from Mac viruses? Zip, zilch, zero.

    Then there are all those people over the years who predicted Apple’s failure. Not yet? Not to worry, it’ll happen soon enough. You can’t remain a niche player for very long without suffering the consequences of having only a few percent of the market. Of course, McDonalds is still the number one restaurant on the planet, but do you see all the other eating establishments going under? Tell the fellow who opened a new Indian restaurant in my neighborhood that he doesn’t stand a chance, despite big crowds at lunch and dinner. He’s got to face music and start carrying hamburgers and fries or his establishment will soon kick the bucket.

    As a Mac user, it’s easy to get a chip on your shoulder. You can say that the computer press and tech journalists in general don’t like Macs, that they are on Microsoft’s payroll. Even when journalists present themselves as fair-minded, don’t criticize Apple, for avid Mac users will flood their Inboxes with nasty letters and throw tomatoes at them when they make public appearances.

    You just can’t win.

    Of course, everyone thinks the press is biased these days. If you’re a Democrat, you’re apt to rant about how far-right Republicans dominate the media. A Republican? Just reverse the bias, and you can tell everyone how the opposition is out to get you.

    No doubt you can show a personal bias on the part of every journalist. Nobody can be completely objective about everything, and your experiences and mine are filtered through an imperfect data processing system with various and sundry unique experiences.

    So there is an imperfect system. Certainly a writer who has cut his or her teeth on Windows would no doubt be inclined to be less-than-fair when the news arrives about a certain scrappy company in Cupertino, California controlling the MP3 music player market. How’d that happen? Surely it’s all a huge mistake, and Microsoft will soon set things right.

    In the real world, however, more and more tech journalists are extolling the virtues of switching from a PC to a Mac. Very few gave Microsoft’s Zune music player anything better than a tepid review, and even then there was lots to criticize. So where did their biases lie?

    If you’re a commentator, of course, you are expected to express an opinion one way or the other. In fact, I rather suspect a few unleash criticisms not to debate the issues, but to spike the hit count on their sites (or their publisher’s sites) and get lots and lots of hate mail to revel in. Keep people talking and they’ll come back again and again for more abuse.

    So do I really believe there has been a long-time bias against Apple? Not necessarily. It’s probably a little laziness in part, and it’s easy to just repeat what’s been said before than provide a new perspective, even if the old stuff is no longer true.

    The fact is that Apple has, in the past, squandered golden opportunities, and they deserve their lumps because of it. How long did they languish before buying NeXT and submitting to a takeover from Steve Jobs and crew? And even then, it wasn’t roses and moonlight overnight. In fact, it took years for Mac OS X to appear, and additional years before it got good enough to recommend to people using other operating systems.

    When Apple does something that I consider to be wrong, I’ll write about it. I also realize that when I trash Microsoft, I’ll be considered a Microsoft basher. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from using a Microsoft Comfort Keyboard with my desktop Mac, or Office for the Mac for all or most of my word processing work. But that won’t stop some people from making wrong assumptions about my particular media bias.

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