The Macintosh Jihad


There are several common rebuttals to my piece "Opposing the Microsoft Juggernaut" which I receive periodically (apart from the much more numerous agreements which I consistently receive from Mac and Linux users). Most of them praise the free enterprise system which has given Microsoft the opportunity to rise to the top of the computer industry. Others say that Apple alone is to blame for its problems. Still others declare Macintosh users to be paranoid losers. All have an element of truth yet completely miss the mark.

The stories are everywhere. Every industry pundit in the world has decided that the Macintosh has lost the battle for the corporate desktop. Like that's news. As Cheryl Currid, an "industry pundit" who seems to believe that there can be only one desktop computer, wrote, Apple's highest penetration into the business market was 22%. It sounds to me like Apple wasn't ever really in the running for command of corporate MIS. The part people don't seem to consider is that Apple was never trying to dominate the corporate market, apart from wanting the sales that corporate purchases would bring, obviously. Apple has always been more interested in the smaller users, and that's one of their greatest strengths.

Recent media and MIS campaigns have made me realize that the Macintosh has been targeted for destruction. It used to be considered just a toy and an oddity, but now there are people out there who are actively working to convince people that Apple and the Macintosh are doomed. Sure, this is paranoia, but it's deserved. Check out what's happening at the Johnson Space Center for a look at how Macintosh users are being forced to use PCs, against their will.

The Macintosh Jihad

This is a religious war, with the complete and utter destruction of the Macintosh and no choice in computing platform in one future and a world of peace and harmony with numerous computer systems in the other. OK, so I exaggerate a bit, but the point is made. There's a contract out on the Macintosh and if it dies, OS/2 and Unix are probably next.

I'm reminded of a quote from Germany in the early 40s: "First they came for the Jews, and I said nothing because I was not Jewish. Then they came for the Catholics, and I said nothing because I was not Catholic. When they finally came for me, there was no one left to say anything."

The worst part is, Macintosh users know that this war is undeserved. Such an elegant and useful machine should not be reviled and dismissed by the very people whom it would most benefit. Nevertheless, there's a vast rumor mill which is constantly spouting falsehoods about Apple and the Macintosh.

One of the biggest opponents of Macintosh has always been corporate MIS. One of the most pervasive falsehoods about Apple is that they could have locked up the corporate market if they had authorized clones, licenced their OS and charged less for their computers. All three of these are wrong. I do not believe that there was any way that Apple could have successfully wooed corporate MIS on the large scale.

I must be wrong

There must have been something Apple could have done. I can think of only one thing which would have convinced MIS departments to use Apple products, and that's IBM. In 1980, if IBM had starting using Apple II machines instead of introducing its own IBM PC, then Apple would have been accepted by corporate MIS and would be in Microsoft's position today. There is no other way it would ever have happened.

Now, you might think this is a simplification, but it's my firm belief that this is precisely why things are the way they are. I worked in an all PC shop in 1984 that was strictly IBM. They didn't even allow clones until several years later. This was not uncommon among MIS departments. They did what IBM told them to.

There were two things that did IBM in and cost them control of the PC market however. First, they published complete specs for the PC. This was done so that people could build cards for the machine, not so that they could build the machines themselves, but they built machines anyhow. Second, they were unsuccessful in their attempts to prevent cloners from reverse engineering their skimpy 32K of BIOS code. It was Phoenix that won the landmark lawsuit which allows clean-room reverse engineering when they began selling the first cloned BIOS.

So, IBM lost control of the PC. That hurt them a lot. Many people believe that this loss of control is the main reason for IBM's fall from the grace of MIS. IBM used to supply all the hardware and software for its customers in the form of mainframe computers and complete solution packages. Once MIS departments could buy clones, they were no longer locked into IBM and they defected, while still using what IBM told them to use (e.g. PCs). However, this gave the market lock to Microsoft, who sold DOS and then Windows to everyone and used this to their advantage (both the money and the monopoly position).

However, even Microsoft immediately recognized the superiority of the graphical interface, just like the Macintosh guys did during their 3 hour tour of Xerox PARC. That's why Microsoft announced Windows before the Macintosh even shipped. Little did people know that it would take 12 years for them to ship a version which would "catch up" to the Macintosh (which is assuming that Windows 95 has "caught up").

Microsoft and Apple

Of course, I'm often regailed with the observation that while I rail against Microsoft being a controlling interest on the WinTel platform, I am a hypocrite because Apple has that same controlling interest in the Macintosh platform. This is simply not true. While Apple has more control over the hardware than Microsoft does, I think this is a good thing. It allows a level of integration which is unparalleled in the Windows world. Microsoft is trying to bring some of it to Windows with Plug and Play, but it's only a pale imitation of the Mac's capabilities.

However, Apple has far less control over the application software, and this is also a good thing. While Apple provides the foundation of the OS, it does not control the application market the way that Microsoft does. In fact, Microsoft controls portions of the Macintosh application market in the same heavy handed way that they do in the Windows market. At least here they have played fair, buying up all the best programs as they appeared and porting them to Windows. However, it's worthwhile to note that the application segments which Microsoft rules on the Macintosh and on Windows are the ones which are catering to corporate MIS.

Apple does own Claris, but it was originally planned to be another public company, so it is run completely separately from Apple, in addition to being 10 miles away. Even though Apple ultimately decided to keep Claris a wholely owned subsidiary, because it's profitable and makes strategic sense, Apple still doesn't really dictate terms to Claris, and Claris engineers do not really have any better access to Apple information than most other large third party developers. I would say that Claris is a fine model for Microsoft to follow, although that would force them to give up a very strong strategic advantage and level their playing field. I don't think they'll do it. It just doesn't make sense in their "We will rule the world" mind set.

The Macintosh is a very powerful computer

You would think that MIS would know how useful the Macintosh is and want to keep using it. After all, just about everything in the world is published on a Macintosh these days. From magazines to movies to web pages. For goodness sake, the new release of Star Wars that's coming from George Lucas had all of its models done on a single Macintosh 8100. It's not just ease of use that's kept the Mac alive all these years. It's ease of use combined with phenomenal cosmic power. After all, Macintosh is currently faster than any Pentium systems at 225 MHz and a 533 MHz version of the PowerPC chip has already been announced. Compare this to Intel's Pentium Pro which hasn't even broken 200 MHz yet.

There are, as with most things, a variety of reasons, ranging from the profound to the absurd, for why Macintosh is so under appreciated and much maligned. The fundamental one is simply ignorance. The vast majority of people have simply never used a Macintosh. They used a couple of DOS programs (123, dBase or WordPerfect) and then moved up to a handful of Windows programs (almost all from Microsoft). Now, I'm an experienced Mac programmer and power user. I have 820 applications on my home machine. A lot of them are freeware and shareware applications. A fair number of them I've written myself.

Heck, I'd be impressed if a Windows user even knew how to find out how many applications they have on their disk. I used an AppleScript to do it. I asked the Finder for "the number of application files of the entire contents of every disk". Even when the Macintosh does command line stuff, it does it better than DOS. Sure, that command is a lot more verbose than the corresponding Unix command, but only a diehard Unix gearhead would be able to even figure out how to count all the applications on their disks.

Macintosh: DOA?

What has happened though, is that corporate MIS and the press are in the process of declaring the Macintosh dead, for whatever their reasons. The news media is propagating the rumor of Apple's death at every opportunity and that's affecting Apple's business, pushing it toward the destruction they have predicted. I think it's somehow related to the Heisenberg principle wherein you cannot observe an event without affecting it.

These rumors are leaking into Apple's core audience though. People who just want a computer that works and lets them create their stuff, be it pictures, newsletters, advertisements, movies, videos, music, software, multimedia, CDs, high scores, web pages, or simply communication via email, netphone, or video conferencing. Macintosh people don't want to hire other people just to keep their machines running. They don't want to take training classes until their applications are obsolete. People who love the Macintosh do so once they start using it, because they can use it.

Think about it

Macintosh users are seriously vocal fans. Why is that? Many people simply write it off as fanaticism, but the truth is simple. People feel that Macintosh has helped them with their chores. They feel that very strongly. You'll have a hard time finding Windows users who like Windows that much, unless they're making money off of it. Some people think that's all there is to computers. They don't realize how important computers are to the evolution of the Human race.

Computers are transporting us into a future we cannot predict and there is a great chance that they will help us change the very fabric of society in ways we cannot imagine. They're already helping to bring the planet into direct person to person communication, and I can only think that this is a good thing. There are plenty of other examples of how computers are helping us, so I think this point is very valid. Computers are not just a way to make a living. They are a fundamental change to the way humans work with information, and they will have a profound and lasting effect on mankind.

For that reason alone, I think it's very important that you like using your computer. Ask yourself that question, "Do I like using my computer?" If your answer is even slightly marginal, then you need to consider using a Macintosh, because there are millions of Macintosh users who love working with their computers.


I'd also like to address the raving looney issue. While it's a common human tendency to dismiss anyone you are arguing with as a lunatic, it's also a completely obvious and transparent tactic. Nevertheless, it's insulting and demeaning, which is the whole point, of course. I think such attempts to discredit the entire Macintosh community by labeling them "fanatics" immediately reveal "journalists" who are not going to be dealing with facts.

I go to the trouble of writing these sorts of pieces simply because I believe them, I want others to realize how cool the Mac is and I want to help the Macintosh survive. I do not do it to try and oppress others or to promote something I have a vested self interest in (although I do have such an interest because I thought the Mac was so cool that I went to work for Apple). I do this stuff simply because I can and I think I should.

One of the most significant things Apple's market research has shown over and over is that while everyone knows about the Mac, almost everybody dismisses it immediately because it's not "compatible". These misconceptions are what I'm trying to combat. Of course, my jihad theme will only add fuel to the fire if people don't read the whole thing, but I chose this theme for several reasons. One, it's catchy. Two, it has the religious connotations necessary for this issue, which really does seem to be based on belief instead of facts. Finally, it has that warfare connotation, which I want because I think it's time to fight back against the bad press Apple and the Macintosh have been getting.

Why does corporate MIS want the Macintosh to die?

Well, to start with, I think they're still steamed about that Lemmings ad. Apple saw this whole state of affairs coming years ago. That's why they did the 1984 commercial (13M here), which won the Best Commercial of All Time award. MIS departments want uniformity above all else, which is why it was easy to parody a lockstep formation of bland suits marching off a cliff in the Lemmings ad which came after that. It was widely criticized at the time as insulting to corporate users and I think it generated a lot of negative feelings in the corporate MIS world. Nevertheless, it's obviously true. The dominance of the PC has been wrought solely by corporate MIS.

There's another reason that I think is important, but it's pretty darn foolish. Apple represents the counter-culture, which MIS doesn't really live in. MIS lives in the suit and tie world, not the tie-dye T shirt world. MIS lives in the casual Friday world. Apple lives in the "maybe you ought to wear shoes" world. I think a lot of Macintosh users fit into the same category because the Mac appeals to the creative sorts, and those people live in a different world than the suits. Heck, I worked in an IBM System 36 shop in college. Ties were mandatory. It sucked. I think MIS feels that way in reverse.

Another article I read argued against the notion of MIS departments being anti-Macintosh, saying that MIS departments are focused solely on cost of goods and functionality provided. While I can accept that this is true in some situations, I don't think this is true over all and even if it were it's still brain-dead wrong because due to lower training costs and longevity of hardware, the Macintosh has always had a less expensive life cycle than WinTel boxes. If MIS departments aren't concerning themselves with this cost, and articles in the popular press are now emphasizing the life cycle costs so they obviously are, then that means that MIS departments are dismissing the Macintosh for invalid reasons. Worse, there are plenty of articles in the press these days advocating the elimination of Macintosh from corporate MIS sites. This is nothing less than an attempt on the Mac's life.

Job security

That's what corporate MIS really wants. They know that WinTel PCs are far too complicated for the ordinary person to manage (as does Microsoft), so MIS knows that it will continue to be needed. I've known some old Fortran programmers who used to gratuitously redefine their variables in their COMMON blocks so that the code was more obfuscated, thereby guaranteeing their expertise. This still happens a lot in the computer industry, but mostly with the PC consulting business. If you want repeat customers, then you don't want them to learn anything. You just want to bill them for more hours.

I think that's the most amusing thing. I've never had to pay someone to fix my Macintosh, with the exception of a couple of hardware repairs on my older machines. We had an entire business running on our AppleShare servers, but when we got some WinTel machines it was decided that we would install a Novell server for them. That was laughable. It took months of a consultant's time, and one of the best in the valley, before that thing worked. It was such a contrast to setting up our AppleShare server. A high school student set it up in a couple of hours, and most of that time was spent typing in user names.

That's one of the problems in the Macintosh world. People buy their Macs and they go home and the dealer never hears from them again. Some of that is the dealer's fault, since dealers don't really stock much Macintosh software. It's almost all bought via mail order from MacZone, MacWarehouse or any number of other retailers, and what Mac software there is in the store is almost always stored in the Windows CDs section. Most of the Windows multimedia CDs are made on the Mac and run on both platforms. These hybrid CDs are very popular these days. Just look at the CDs in the store and you'll see. However, consultants don't want to sell people computers that work. Computers that don't work are much more profitable for consultants.

The biggest difference between Windows 95 and the Macintosh is simply the orientation. Windows 95 is oriented at MIS. It has backdoors for MIS so that network administrators can remotely configure the machines (and has egregious security holes because of that too). Macintosh is oriented towards individual users, which is why the Macintosh only lets the user set up file sharing and linking access. That makes the Macintosh much more secure.

I think what MIS really wants is total control. Everyone with a PC on their desk running Microsoft Office. They all wear ties and there are no questions from the long haired smart-ass in the back (yes, that's me). There is no unauthorized software installed. No opinions, no choice, no Macintosh. It's just simpler. So they think.

Macintosh users are fighting back, and that's what all the fuss is about.

Remember, it's a holy war. We will not give up. We will never surrender.

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Check out my Macintosh Advocacy Page.

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And don't forget that the MacOS Rules!

Created on Thu, Oct 17, 1996 and last modified on Fri, Jan 10, 1997.