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Another Night Owl Rant: Why Do They Always Get it All Wrong?

The other day, I read an article in which the author demanded that Apple build a new Finder. Before I read the article, I already felt sympathetic, because the Mac OS X Finder is badly broken when it comes to such matters as multithreading, the inability to remember position and view settings, and other annoyances.

However, the article had nothing to do with the Finder, despite its title and the fact that the author kept using that word in the course of the article. Instead, he was complaining about a traditional Mac interface element, the single or monolithic menu bar. You see, he was used to the Windows and Linux methods, which put separate menu bars atop each document window.

Despite the fact that it has been shown to be easier to access a single menu bar than a document-specific variation, which has a different position depending on the location of your document window, it still comes down to a matter of personal preference. One possible suggestion is that maybe Apple should offer an option to choose one or the other. This goes against the simplicity of Mac OS X, but I’ll grant that some of you might like it.

But it has nothing whatever to do with the Finder. How an article expressing such obvious ignorance about how the Mac OS worked, and its most significant and unique feature, got published in the first place is almost beyond understanding. This is why I won’t embarrass the author any further by mentioning his name or linking to the piece. I’m sure he’s had enough bad publicity as it is.

Then there is that silly headline in InfoWorld a while back — a publication notorious for some perfectly awful and highly misleading product reviews — that the recent contest, in which an alleged Mac OS X security vulnerability was exposed, killed the myth of Mac invulnerability.

What myth? No such myth ever existed. Indeed, there were even a smattering of malware infections in the Classic Mac OS, and I encountered one back in 1989 that forced me to reformat my hard drive. What’s more, Apple releases regular security updates for Mac OS X. If the operating system didn’t have security leaks, why would there be a need for these updates?

Indeed, InfoWorld’s headline writer clearly doesn’t get it, or was looking for sensationalism regardless of the truth.

Now I suppose you can argue with some justification that Apple’s Mac versus PC ads convey a misleading impression about the lack of Mac viruses. I can understand the lack of precision in Apple’s claims, but it’s still true that there have been, so far at least, no Mac OS X viruses in the wild. The few instances reported so far have been largely proofs-of-concept, except for one that had little or no impact. None of the security leaks plugged by Apple have been exploited. This doesn’t make Macs immune from harm, but they are surely much, much safer than Windows.

One more point: Consumer Reports reported a year or so ago that over $9 billion had been lost because of computer virus infections. What they didn’t say is the fact that every single dollar was the result of a Windows virus. Then again, someone inside the Consumer Reports organization once told me that their editors were heavily biased towards Windows, even though they work on Macs. Oh well.

So much for headline writers and Consumer Reports magazine, at least for now.

Then there was the story a few weeks ago that sales of new Macs were sure to take a dip because of the arrival of Windows Vista at the end of January. Well, my friends, that never happened. Yes, Microsoft has sold millions of copies so far, but the vast majority were preloaded onto new PCs, not ordered as standalone upgrades for older models.

To add insult to injury, Dell has even resumed offering Windows XP on some of its PCs. Now imagine what you might think had Apple continued to offer Macs with Panther (10.3) preloaded as an option after Tiger shipped. Didn’t happen. Even worse for Microsoft, Dell clearly made this decision based on customer requests, and the power of the 800 pound gorilla from Redmond evidently didn’t phase Michael Dell and his crew.

In the end, Apple continues to gain both domestic and worldwide market share. Now maybe it can be said that more Macs might have been sold had Windows Vista not been on the scene, but that would require some detailed customer surveys that are so far lacking.

I suppose it’s even possible that the delay in shipping Mac OS 10.5 Leopard might also cause some of you to postpone buying a new Mac until the new system comes preinstalled. As a practical matter, I don’t think it’ll make much impact, simply because system installations on a Mac are not near the daunting process they are on the Windows platform. While some of those installations go bad, most times, they work just fine.

In contrast, what’s Microsoft’s success rate with a straight upgrade install of Vista over XP? Will they dare even tell us? Or does it all really matter?

Some people think operating systems are probably irrelevant anyway. It’s just the application that matters; that is until the same application is available on both the Mac and the PC. But that will only start another rant and I’m done for now.