Unicorns, Horses and John Dvorak

About every few years, John C. Dvorak seems to have some acid flashback from his youth, and writes some article about the future that demonstrates not being in touch with the present or reality. The latest demonstration (at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1927885,00.asp ) was that Apple would give up Mac OS X and go to Windows. Huh? What are you talking about John? When you hear hooves do you think “horses” or “a herd of purple unicorns”. John opted for the latter.

John talks about Apple recently “Freaking out” over rumor sites leaking products before they are ready as proof of some grand conspiracy to go to Windows. Talk about losing it, and forgetting that Apple has been “freaking out” over security leaks for over a decade, or more if you count Steve’s first reign at Apple. Steve and Apple don’t like leaks because it steals their thunder from “The Big Demo”; it is part of the antidote to his RDF (Reality Distortion Field). This has absolutely NOTHING to do with going to Windows or black helicopters, it is just about marketing and corporate culture.

Then Dvorak talks about how 5 years ago, Bill Gates, and more recently Roz Ho, got on stage and made commitments to the Mac market. This is an obviously hint of some grand conspiracy. Or it is about a profitable segment of Microsoft’s business and trying to stay out of more trouble over monopolistic anti-trust practices. Talk about making threads out of nothing. I was waiting to hear stuff about how “Bill Gates” and “Steve Jobs” have the same number of letters in their name, as does “Microsoft” and “Macintosh”, so obviously they are secretly the same person/thing! Whew. When I hear people talking like that, I start looking around for people in white coats.

Adobe is a large, big, slow moving, bureaucratic company that hasn’t yet rewritten all their apps to take advantage of a new architecture; when Apple’s pro-level machines aren’t even released yet, and probably won’t be until the end of the year. Is it a conspiracy, as John thinks… or common sense mixed with corporate politics? Personally, I’d opt for the latter. Someone should teach John about Occam’s razor; the simplest explanation is probably the most likely or don’t make things more complex than they really are.

John said bigger companies than Apple have dropped their proprietary OS’s. Yes, they have. And then he fails to ask the intelligent questions; what happened to them? Where are they now? Apple is smart enough to look back, and notice that companies that did that are generally gone; out of the PC market altogether. Taking his OS/2 model, how is IBM doing in the PC space? Oh, yeah, they sold off that business entirely. It isn’t about sentimentality but business. OS/2 never added much value or had Applications. Apple and the Mac is much stronger than OS/2 ever was; has more customers, a larger software market, and major competitive advantages over Windows; security, ease of use, quality, graphics, and so on. IBM dropping OS/2 was a symptom of their incompetence and lack of focus in the PC market-space, that eventually spelled their doom (in that segment). Should Apple really race to follow in those grand footsteps?

Macs always had less hardware compatibility, mainly because a lot of low-end companies don’t write drivers for Macs. Yet, despite that, the Mac users always have had a rich choice of products that do run, and a thriving market. Mac as an industry is successful already. Apple going to Intel makes it easier to write those drivers (for some), and will increase marketshare, which means more economic motivation to do so. I don’t see how this spells doom for Apple or the Mac as John does. Of course there are going to be companies that choose not to support all the Mac and all the customers in mixed environments who have both types of machines. A pox on their houses; hardly reason for Apple to give up their largest competitive advantages; tight hardware-software integration, real security, User Interface advantages, and so on.

John sort of sees things through his colored glasses or bloodshot eye’s. IBM’s OS/2 was always late to the party and had few real customer advantages over Windows, IBM realized they had repeatedly failed to keep up and market the platform, so gave up and it went away. Thus he ignores the real competitive advantages and larger market-share and momentum for the Mac, and assumes they must follow the same path. John fails to notice that Linux hasn’t gotten desktop adoption, not because of a lack of peripheral support, but because of the fundamentals of the OS itself; it offers little to nothing compelling for users (on the desktop), and huge costs in compatibility — so has stayed in the realm of servers and geeks. But again, that has little to nothing to do with the Mac. The Mac has more hardware compatibility already, and they just made it easier. The Mac already has more compelling user Applications on the desktop, and real advantages over Windows in ease of use, and so on. So the points are moot if you’re paying attention. He wasn’t.

Finally, John jabs at all the users of Macs as fanatics. Why can’t they give up this whole freedom and independence thing, and just goose-step to the fascist followers rhythms? Or, they could just find value in things like higher security, easier to use, easier to install, better graphics, technologies that work without the IT complexities that Windows has, and so on. Don’t get me wrong; Macs do have plenty of quirks and problems of their own, as well. But the point is that if you’re like Dvorak and you ignore all the competitive advantages and differences, well then it makes no sense that your aren’t using Windows — and you’ll write silly articles like the one I’m rebutting. But if you ignore the laws of physics, then it makes no sense that we aren’t all flapping our arms and flying to get place to place. In my world, physics and common sense and competitive advantages should still be considered; and Mac users shouldn’t all become PC users because Dvorak thinks it would be cool.

John tied all these totally uncoupled things into a grand conspiracy theory. It reminds me of watching a Michael Moore film or a watching a Cheech & Chong movie where they’re sitting around stoned or tripping, making these detached with reality leaps into what makes the universe tick. Sure dudes; I’m going to record it, and when you come down, you’ll realize how totally silly you sound.

There’s one minor seed of truth in all this; Apple may be decoupling the hardware from the software a bit. By going to Intel, Apple may be preparing to separate the two, or at least giving themselves more options in the future. In theory, Apple could start selling OS X for PC’s, and we will soon be able to run Windows on Macs. This could sort of free both up; OS X could run on more hardware, and Macs could run more software. But even this much more modest split than what John was pontificating on, has serious risks and issues, and is likely YEARS away. Apple’s biggest competitive advantage is the tight coupling between hardware and software; and giving that away isn’t a slam-dunk win. More likely Apple just sees their business as making slightly better PC’s than most, by knowing what to throw out — thus by using more PC hardware suppliers, they can decrease their costs, increase their compatibility and options, and sell more machines, and increase their own health. This is not a herd of purple unicorns, just Apple cross breeding the best traits from a plow horse with a thoroughbred.


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