Another Reality Check: Tall Tales You Can Ignore!

August 12th, 2009

One thing quiet evident in this country’s seemingly endless debate about health care, and that is there is no statement false enough that will prevent it from being uttered over and over again if it serves the cause. So, for example, we have some supposedly astute political observers spewing forth nonsense about an alleged “death committee” in the various versions of the bills under consideration, which will allegedly allow the “state” to determine whether an elderly person lives or dies. Some refer to it as an “elderly euthanasia” plan.

That, of course, is absurd. It’s an utter distortion of a actual amendment submitted by a Republican that allowed payment for consultations where a patient and family can discuss options for such matters as living wills and whether extraordinary resuscitation measures should be taken in the event of serious illnesses or injuries. As you see, the reality is something other than the distortion. In this case, they took a tiny fact about a common sense initiative and distorted it way beyond logic and common sense.

In the tech world, Apple Inc. has been subjected to its own round of fake or at least misleding criticisms. Alas, some members of the media, who prefer to repeat rather than do research, continue to spread the very same misinformation over and over again.

Now every so often I try to present an article refuting the fictions, and I think, as we complete our tenth year, it might as well be now.

We’ll start with the so-called Apple Tax. Its origins date back to the time that a Mac really cost quite a bit more than a comparable Windows PC. Today, it’s true that Apple dominates the U.S. retail market in computers selling for more than $1,000, but that doesn’t mean that a Mac is necessarily overpriced.

The fact is that, in order to keep the ordering process simple and production lines efficient, Apple limits the ways you can custom configure a Mac, thus forcing you to sometimes accept options that you may not really need. But when you take the end result and compare it against a PC equipped as closely as possible to match the Mac in terms of hardware and equivalent software, the price difference tends to be very small. The Mac may be cheaper, the PC may be cheaper, but neither to a large degree.

However, Apple refuses to sell stripped computers, nor will they play in the low-end, where PC makers are rushing desperately to compete with netbooks and other cheap gear. So in the end you will be able to buy a PC that costs a lot less than a Mac, but that doesn’t mean the Mac is overpriced. I hope the distinction is now clear.

Another anti-Mac argument covers software availability. The fact is that there are a lot more Windows apps than Mac apps. This is particularly true for games, where the cost of porting to the Mac, despite the presence of Intel-based processors, may be too high to provide a good return on the investment. Indeed, sales of games aren’t nearly as high as they used to be, and that evidently applies to the gaming console market too.

It is also true that so-called vertical market apps, specially-designed software for dentists, doctors, legal offices and so on and so forth are more plentiful on the Windows platform. Certainly that situation feeds upon itself. People buy a PC to use one of those programs, thus providing less incentive to build a Mac version. However, the key productivity apps that most people use are usually offered on both platforms. Apple’s content creation apps remain Mac only. What’s more, the ease of running Windows on a Mac allows you to exist in both worlds if that’s what you want.

When it comes to Apple’s reliance on Mac hardware, I realize some of you are still clamoring for Mac OS X to legally support any appropriately-equipped Windows PC. Certainly there is a growing subculture of people who have figured out how to induce Mac OS X to run on their computers, and there are plenty of online resources available that’ll make the process fairly easy.

Apple has tolerated the hobbyists. But, as in the case of Psystar, will pull out all the legal stops to prevent a commercial business from violating its user license and selling non-Apple hardware with Mac OS X preloaded.

Don’t expect this situation to change any time soon or ever. Although they are considered bitter competitors, Apple and Microsoft have very different business plans. Apple sells hardware to consumers, and the software, including the operating system, is a value-added feature. Microsoft sells operating systems and other software mostly to PC makers and other businesses. Consumers play a much smaller role, and, in fact, are forced to pay a whole lot more if they have the temerity to buy a single or small number of user licenses for Windows, Office or any of Microsoft’s other software products. Shouldn’t we be attacking the Microsoft Tax instead?

And that, my friends, is just the beginning.

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8 Responses to “Another Reality Check: Tall Tales You Can Ignore!”

  1. dfs says:

    “But, as in the case of Psystar, will pull out all the legal stops to prevent a commercial business from violating its user license and selling non-Apple hardware with Mac OS X preloaded.” I’m a bit surprised nobody has put out a kind of reverse-engineered Parallels or VMWare Fusion that would run OSX on a PC under emulation. I’m not a lawyer, but presumably Apple’s legal department would have a tougher time preventing this than sale of PCs with pre-loaded OSX.

  2. Well, certainly Parallels and VMWare wouldn’t dare do it. 🙂


  3. Louis Wheeler says:

    I suggest, Gene, that you look up the actual practices of Socialized Medicine in Britain, Canada and the other places where it has been implemented. Free, or tax paid, services tend to be over subscribed. This means that the controlling agencies must institute some form of rationing to limit being overloaded. This causes a disparity between what Socialized Medicine promises and what it actually delivers.

    The most common form of rationing in Socialized Medicine is delay. Hence, even emergency medical service may take months or years to get a responce. Heart surgery in Canada can take months before treatment. It can be assumed that a substantial portion of those applying will die before they can be treated. Also, Canada tends to use the cheapest medicines, not the most effective or newest ones.

    Some medical services must be promptly addressed before they become critical. Any change which increases a delay is likely to cause increased deaths. Some countries have such a backlog for service that they do start rationing based on likely survivability. Old people are considered less likely to survive, so they are denied help.

    One facet of Canada’s Socialized Medicine is that Canadians can escape to the US to get treatment. If we have Socialized medicine here, then there will be a steady flow to Mexico for treatment.

    Naturally, it is the poor which are penalized the most under Socialized medicine.

    America has no free market in medicine; it is highly cartelized through the American Medical Association. It’s insurance payments prevent a need for patients to shop around for the best service. What the medical system needs is more freedom, not less.

  4. Louis Wheeler says:

    Regarding software applications on the Mac. I see a huge revitalization for Mac Apps.

    The App store has been hugely successful in a short period. More than 65 thousand Apps for the iPhone have been created in under a year. What the App store has done is provide an efficient marketplace for developers to write for. The biggest problem that developers have is getting paid. They must charge high prices when only a quarter of their users are honest enough to pay for their software.

    People are funny. They don’t mind being thieves, because they can usualy justify their theft by placing the blame on the seller charging too much. They just don’t want to be considered a petty thief, so stealing a $1 to $10 application is not worth getting worked up for. Or calling all over creation for a friend who will “share” them a copy. It’s more convenient to just pay for and download the App.

    I expect that when apple has enough Data Centers to allow the increased traffic then the App store will be extended to 64 bit Mac applications.

    I think the nature of apps will change as well. If you have an efficient market place, then it makes sense for a developer to produce an app which covers about 75% of the features which users ask for. Then they can sell plugins which increase the functions.

  5. Terry says:

    Dear Gene

    Atta boy, Gene. As a Canadian who just had major heart surgery, I can vouch for the Canadian medical system. Could it be improved? Sure, what can’t? Are there waits? Yes, after I was air-ambulanced from my small town to a major teaching hospital, I waited 11 days while more needy patients were seen to. All the time, I was treated like royalty. The only bad thing about the stay was the food, which was contracted to a private company a few years ago.

    Keep up the excellent work and don’t ever stop speaking out!

  6. Louis Wheeler says:

    I suspect that Apple will get around to closing off the loophole which allows non-Apple hardware to run Mac OSX. The problem has been that Mac OSX 10.5’s 32 bit security just wasn’t good enough to prevent hackers from spoofing the system. I don’t know if Snow Leopard is either, but some changes in Apple’s procedures indicate that it may.

    One thing that we can soon expect the ramifications of, which hasn’t been talked about, is the fact that all of the Core 2 processor chips in the Intel Macs, except for the Core Solo chip in the first Intel Mac Mini, have included Intel’s VT Virtual Technology hardware. This hardware only works well under a 64 bit kernel.

    What this means is that the hardware, under Snow Leopard, will likely run every operating system, application, user and thread in its own virtual space. Even plugins are sand boxed in their own space; I’ve seen leaked pictures of Mac OSX 10.6 which verify this. It will become increasingly difficult to get root level access to Jail break a Mac.

    This is especially so when adding new software or overwriting system files. The Software will have a privilege system that verifies that you have the right to change the software or that the computer is genuine Apple hardware. It will be less intrusive than Microsoft’s system — GAA. We legitimate Mac users are unlikely to even notice.

    But, if you are operating a company owned computer, the software may verify that your employer has given you permission to change your computer’s software. It may call up your company’s database to verify that you have privileges.

    Why do I think that? Snow Leopard is introducing a new process: it quickly writes the contents of the DVD onto your disk drive before proceeding. This speeds up the installation process, but there may be another reason — security.

    What If the contents of the DVD are placed in a virtual space that cannot be overwritten or changed? Then, the installation program cannot be changed to allow for spoofing. The installation software decides what needs to be added to your Leopard 10.5 OS, so only those necessary files are transferred. When your update is finished, the DVD contents are erased from the disk.

    The point is that a 64 bit security system will make is very difficult to illegitimately gain control. Installing software will demand proof that you have the privileges to do so.

    It would be difficult for Apple to fool proof your computer, but Apple has been updating Mac OSX on the Intel hardware since Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997. So, Apple has had twelve years to work out the details. It has probably known since 1993 or 4 that there would be a possible move to Intel hardware, because IBM and Motorola in AIM had been stone walling Apple that long.

    Apple’s management is meticulous and secretive. They have a pattern of putting all their ducks in a row, before making major changes. It is just like Apple to plan for three years to include Virtual Technology to the Mac. The problem was that the Mac Software wasn’t ready to take advantage of it.

    Intel’s VT hardware was designed to work with Intel VPro software to give the IT department control of your computer. This was necessary to overcome the flaws in Microsoft Windows. This doesn’t sound like a feature which greatly appeals to Apple’s management, although it is likely to be offered to the Enterprise market.

    What the VT hardware does is to greatly secure the computer. No one will be able to break into your virtual space. There may be different levels of security. Most of your day to day information on the web need not have a high security, but you are likely to want it for your web purchases and communications with your bank.

    What Intel VT does is isolate your valuable files from abuse. Why wouldn’t Apple use this same ability to safe guard system installation? That way is could provide only the files which are needed and it could verify that the software is installed on Apple hardware.

    Of course, I could be reading too much into these changes, but we will know soon enough.

  7. Louis said: “I suspect that Apple will get around to closing off the loophole which allows non-Apple hardware to run Mac OSX.”

    PA Semi?

  8. Louis Wheeler says:

    Neil Anderson said”
    “Louis said: “I suspect that Apple will get around to closing off the loophole which allows non-Apple hardware to run Mac OSX.”

    PA Semi?”

    No one really knows, Neil, but PA semi’s forte is low powered devises. Sure it has a PowerPC license, but so does Apple. Many of PA Semi’s processors are ARM processor chips, so the rumor was that Apple proprietary chips would end up in the iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone and any future low powered devise. Apple isn’t giving any hints.

    Sand boxing the system with Intel VT would be hard for hackers or cloners to get around. Initially, this is because most Windows computers don’t have this hardware. Even those chips with the same part number, but have a lower megahertz, may not have VT. How could you install Snow Leopard when the installation software expects hardware that isn’t there? Intel chips with VT must have cost Apple extra money and that extra cost is why it isn’t in the cheap Wintel boxes.

    The Intel VT hardware would be on expensive commercial PC’s which were designed to work with VPro software. It undercuts the reason for a Hackintosh if the only systems, which Mac OSX can run on, cost more than a Mac. There may be other software reasons to block installation on a Non Apple computers.

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