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The Night Owl Examines Some Time-Wasting Headlines

You no doubt heard the report the other day, about someone cracking Apple’s Safari in just a few minutes and taking home $5,000 for their efforts. What you didn’t know, until you read the fine print of course, is that this particular person spent weeks investigating possible security flaws, and, no doubt, rehearsing the routine so it would go off without a hitch in a public presentation.

Since all software has potential security lapses, about the best you can say for this sort of exercise is that the performance was good, and maybe there ought to be an Oscar for so-called security experts who can demonstrate their skills in public with the appropriate level of bluster and efficiency.

Not mentioned in those headlines is the fact that Microsoft’s browsers also succumbed to security breaches in short order, but then you expected that right?

So, no, you don’t have to order some security software to protect your Mac. At least not yet. What is unfortunate, though, is that by crying wolf on a regular basis for the past eight years, if and when a real threat does arrive, few will believe it’s for real. That’s the real tragedy of all this headline-grabbing behavior.

The other recent headline concerns some new online ads from Microsoft, in which they send someone to an Apple Store in search of a 17-inch note-book for $1,000. Now of course they know that there is no such animal, and that the buyer would end up in a regular consumer electronics store where they can buy a piece of junk that meets this singular specification.

It is very much akin to the request to purchase a new 2009 car in the U.S. for $10,000, sans rebates, incentives and other dealer or manufacturer bribes. Yes, you can find something at that price, but when you begin to examine the options chart and add the things that you really need, such as a radio an air conditioning, you’ll find that the price begins to rise real fast.

And, no, I’m not going to discuss that $2,000 mini-car from Tata Motors of India. Once it is upgraded to U.S. safety and emissions standards and given a reasonable number of options that would be acceptable to Americans, the price would also rise to a level way above that level. Then again, the chances that it’ll ever see American shores, except for auto shows and other demonstrations, is probably real slim.

In any case, Microsoft wants you to think that you have to be “cool” to want to pay the alleged Apple Tax when you can get a perfectly serviceable HP note-book for 25% of the price of the 17-inch MacBook Pro. What they don’t tell you is that if you actually went so far as to equip an HP to match a Mac, and not saddle yourself with a paltry 1600 x 900 screen resolution (Apple’s product gives you a native resolution of 1920 by 1200), the real prices would actually be extremely close.

What Microsoft is basically doing is akin to the car maker that entices you to visit the showroom to buy that awfully cheap vehicle, only to find that it’s either not in stock, or requires expensive upgrades to make it suitable for regular people. Either way, the salesperson would be only delighted to steer you to the vehicle they really want to sell you.

I suppose, then, that Microsoft should classify themselves as bait and switch artists of the first order, because they’ll been playing that game for years. Ask a Microsoft executive sometime about the fate of Cairo and other technologies they touted years ago that simply never appeared in real products. What, for that matter, about the new file system and other components cut from Windows Vista that are not going to appear in Windows 7?

That takes us to the industry analysts who tried to tell us that Apple couldn’t possibly succeed without Steve Jobs at the helm and that the road to hell remained ahead of them if he didn’t return as promised in late June.

Now I don’t know anything about his present condition or if he will extend his sick leave, quit the company, or amaze us all and show up for an unscheduled WWDC keynote in early June. However, so long as he is still breathing with or without assistance, I expect he’ll be busy working with Apple’s leadership to formulate strategy. If he is destined never to return, no doubt there are plans in place already that would cover Apple’s product and marketing plans several years out. You see, unlike far too many companies in this business, Apple doesn’t believe in short-term knee-jerk behavior. It’s not just today’s balance sheet that matters, but the ones five or ten years from now.

This is not to say that Apple doesn’t do foolish things, release products too early, or build gadgets that don’t really catch a breeze and succeed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. They should be taken to task for their failures, but the real ones, not the imaginary ones that are strictly designed to look good in print.