≡ Menu

Mac users in denial

Charles Arthur: Charles on… anything that comes along ? Exactly what would I be learning? Infowar opens new forum to debate PC vs Mac.

Increasingly I think the Mac vs PC debate ought to be lumped with other debates that aren’t going to get anywhere – Which Religion Is Best, Creationism, Global Warming Is A Sham, The Middle East, Northern Ireland, and Who Was the Best Tennis/Golf/Tiddlywinks Player of All Time If You Do/Don’t Allow Them To Use Modern Equipment.

Mac vs. PC has to be one of the most pointless arguments of all. But what really, really never ceases to amaze me is the number of users – largely on the Apple side – who simply refuse to believe that anything about the opposite platform is any good at all.

Take, for example, yesterday’s post about the occasional usefulness of subscription music services: several of the comments made by Mac-focused readers simply parroted the "you don’t own your music" line, which completely ignored the point that both myself and David Card made – that subscription services are useful to get to know new music without wasting money.

In the comments, "Steve" made an excellent point about this:

When people say, "Forget iTunes pay per song service – I’m going to use Napster and have thousands of songs." what your typical Mac user hears is, "I’m going to support the service that you can’t use and will also put your store out of business!" Naturally, this is upsetting and evokes the typical Mac-user response . . . denial.

Perhaps the long years when Macs were an aside in computing terms, and Apple itself was largely irrelevent, have bred a kind of seige mentality amongst some of the more vocal Mac users: an "everything Apple does is perfect, everything everyone else does is rubbish" approach. You could see this, to a certain degree, in the aftermath of the recent announcement that the company would switch to Intel from PowerPC. Many Mac users had simply denied it was possible, denied it would ever happen no matter what the business case, and, when it did happen, denied that it could really be true that Apple would use ordinary, everyday Intel processors. There are still those around who believe Apple is going to use some unique-to-Apple variant of Itanium, rather than ordinary Pentiums and Pentium M’s.

The people who are talking subscription services into the ground are on the same kind of lines. There are strong rumours that Apple will, itself, launch a subscription option at some point. If this happens, will those same people suddenly change their minds about subscriptions, just as they’ve suddenly had to change their minds about Intel?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://blogs.linux.ie/stuff Mark

    Why is it that we never read about unreasonable Linux or Windows advocates, but unreasonable Mac advocates generate massive amounts of ink?

    Every platform has them, and they are all usually as crazy as you’d think, but the coverage of people with an unhealthy obsession for Linux & “free” software, or “The Microsoft Way”, hardly get a mention.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    I’ve simply never met a Windows zealot. And as for the Linux lot… they seem to have faded away over the past couple of years, thank god.

  • http://blogs.linux.ie/stuff Mark

    Never been to TechED, IT Forum, or visited you local wall to wall Windows IT shop? Ever met an MS MVP? Thousands of those folks out there, and they are the elite of hardcore Microsoft advocates.

    I’ll admit that the sheer size of the Microsoft user base helps to localise their influence, but having seen the true believers up close and personal, I can tell you that they do exist, and they do worship Gates & Ballmer, the way the Mac hardcore worship Jobs, or the Linux crew worship Torvalds and Stallman.

    As for the Linux folks, well they are still around too; you only need to turn over a rock on Slashdot to watch them scuttle out. Their “social revolution” appears to have been hijacked by RedHat and IBM, a lot of them reduced to being nothing more than unpaid developers or unpaid support people, so I’d guess that’s the reason the frothing at the mouth Linux guys get so little air time. I mean, who gives a damn about what Eric Raymond thinks anymore when you can get a quote from the much more photo friendly RedHat CEO Matthew Szulik instead?

    I do think the press has a somewhat unhealthy fascination with Mac users more than they do with users of other platforms. That’s not to excuse any extreme/insane behaviour, but if you’re a Windows or Linux advocate you appear to be as interesting as those fanboys fighting the Intel/AMD CPU flamewar.

    Which means of course that you appear to be not interesting at all.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    But that’s the difference, Mark – to find the Windows/Linux fanboys, you have to do to the likes of TechEd, IT Forum or Slashdot. Whereas, in order to find the Mac zealots, all you have to do is write something that suggests that Steve Jobs is not the greatest business manager in history, that Mac OS X is not perfectly secure, or (in olden days) that PowerPC wasn’t actually as good as some of Intel’s offerings.

    You might consider the possibility that the press gives attention to Mac zealots (rather than Mac users – most Mac users aren’t zealots) because many of them have felt the sting of the backlash whenever they write anything less than favourable about Apple. It’s an experience that sticks with you, trust me.

    I’m not sure what the “you appear to be not interesting at all” crack is about. I’m no fanboy for any side. And, for saying I’m not interesting, you appear to keep coming back to read what I write :)

  • http://blogs.linux.ie/stuff Mark

    “You” wasn’t about you Ian, it was about “they”. I said earlier “but if you’re a Windows or Linux advocate…”, referring to them, not you. I apologise for the misunderstanding, but don’t worry if I’m ever intentionally insulting there won’t be any ambiguity or misunderstanding about it. That’s what the C-word is for. :)

    Moving on if you haven’t been roasted by Linux users, chances are it’s because you haven’t written anything critical about Linux or free software. The handful of times I’ve read anything critical usually the author complains about the firestorm which ignited in their inbox just moments after publication.

    If you’re bored some weekend, try seeing where drawing an analogy between “Free” software and Soviet era collective farming takes you.

    [Hint: You might need a JCB to clean the manure out of your inbox come Monday morning.]

  • http://www.bgsu.edu DocMara


    You missed the clause upon which the “not interesting” sentence depends:

    “but if you’re a Windows or Linux advocate.”

    Go back and read it–the antecedent is “Windows or Linux advocate.”

    Seems that your protestations may point to your own zealotry here (or maybe the emoticon shows a tongue firmly planted in-cheek).

    And there ARE legitimate criticisms of your subscription favorings. People like to “own” certain things. Movies typically don’t inspire the same talismanic lust that music does. You may like to rent whole catalogs (a perfectly logical perspective–but most people aren’t so logical). Music is very personal to many people, and the thought of having your catalog yanked if you stop payment strikes a lot of people as a kind of emotional blackmail.

    Does this make me a rabid Mac-loving, Jobs-obsessed, freak for pointing this out?

  • Bennett

    These days you get called a “Mac zealot” simply for preferring Macs. I use Windows; Windows is OK; but it has lots of flaws that irritate the bejesus out of me. But if you ever mention your opinion that Windows is flawed, instantly you’re a Mac zealot.

    Be realistic … if you use a niche platform, it’s because you have a strong opinion about that platform’s value. If there are fewer Windows zealots, it’s not because Windows users are more rational — it’s because the default choice doesn’t inspire any passion.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    DocMara – Not at all. But if you read back, I don’t favour the subscription model over the bought-outright model – far from it. It’s not an either/or choice – you can have both.

  • Brad Clayton

    I have met many a Windows Zealot and it goes like this…..

    Zealot: “oh, you use a macintrash?”

    Me: “Why yes and I love it.”

    Zealot: “When are you going to get a real computer?”

    Me “You mean one that runs Microsoft Office?”

    Zealot: “Thats exactly what I mean, one that is compatible.”

    Me: “Mine runs MS office just fine.”

    Zealot: “Apple makes office for Macintosh?”

    Me: “No, Microsoft makes office for Macintosh.”

    Zealot: looking very confused… “I don’t know if I believe you.”

    Me: “Apple could not make microsoft office, it is patented and copywrited etc.”

    Zealot: still looking unbelieving “Well, I have this game that won’t work on a mac.”

    The story could go on and on and on. Bottom line is PC people that don’t like macs have never used a mac for more than 10 minutes. They have never been able to rely on a computer of any kind. They have dealt with bugs, and viruses, and hacks etc. They hate setting things like printers or network stuff up because it is a royal pain. They have had an experience that makes them not dare to try something new or better. To them I say… Take your Windows and…

    but if you are a hair open minded… throw out your PC for a month and use a Macintosh. You are in for a real treat….

    BTW… I was the Zealot… Lucky for me I had a good patient friend that that put up with years of abuse before he got me to switch!

  • James Prescott

    Being a Mac user and multiple Mac purchaser myself, I must admit that there is a higher percentage of public Mac zealots than Windows or Linux for what I see as two reasons:

    Windows is unfortunately the default computer. This makes it an easy purchase for the home, especially for something as seemingly complex as a computer. The Windows zealots thus make up a much smaller segment of the pie because most of the users don’t care.

    For linux, most users seem to be more likely to be in the computer science/IT field and their message seems to be muted by distance from the rest of the general public. People still have a stereotype of loner geeks doing there own thing in the parents basement, which makes them easyt to ignore.

    So Mac users have made a choice to be different, and they get angry when those choices are challenged (much like many people). Mac zealots are seen more than Linux zealots because they seem to be more like the general population (artists, writers, scientists, etc.)and may be more engaged in the general media (if I can myself stereotype Linux users into being a bit more focused into the comptuer/IT area and a little less social).

    One thing I can’t understand in all of this is the idolatry of Jobs and Apple as a company. I have often remarked that Apple is trying to write the book on how many mistakes can be made and keep a company alive without resorting to outright fraud (Koslowski, Ebers and Lay, I’m looking at you).

    On the music licensing versus subscribing, people don’t seem to understand that there is plenty of room for both models. We are talking about a double digit billion dollar industry. There is music that I might like to here 1-5 times that I don’t want to buy (most current US hit music) but there is other music I want to be able to play anywhere anytime (Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Beethoven’s Fifth and Ninth, etc.).

    To tie the Mac zealots and music together, isn’t it interesting that the people that wanted a choice in computers don’t think there is a reasonable choice in how to acquire and listen to music?

    Just my two cents.


  • http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/2691142 Rod

    Although I much prefer Mac OS X, I also use and appreciate the good points of MS XP Professional. As in any field, I believe competition is good for everybody and drives innovation. Both Apple and MS have borrowed from each other and we are all the better for it (who believes either OS would be as good as it is without competition?)

    That said, I do believe their are more fans of Apple than MS and I think this is because of the superior design of the operating system. There are plenty of Apple bashers out there who reflexively attack everything Apple does (despite their meager market share) and this is testament to their influence. There are not as many vocal MS fans because many users just put up with Windows and its idiosyncrasies. Mac hardware and software is very well designed and thought out; most PCs are pretty generic in comparison. For this same reason, I would assume their are many more vocal Jaguar/Mercedes/BMW/Harley Davidson fans than Hyundai/Ford/Toyota fans. I’m sure Alienware and Sony has their share of fans because of the innovation and the fit-and-finish of their designs.

    In every field there are ridiculous battles amongst true partisans. When I was building my PC, I couldn’t believe the acrimonious lobbying for both Intel and AMD! Again, these partisans need to realize that we wouldn’t have near the price/performance ratio without the competition. Even the diehard Apple/MS bashers need to acknowledge that the OS world is FAR better off with at least 2 competing platforms. It is interesting to note that even at a measly 2-3%, Apple has inordinate influence in MS Windows development and that this is evidenced by the fact that Gates and Ballmer are acknowledging and talking about Tiger at all.

    Just my thoughts. Computers are merely a tool and we all benefit from their continued evolution.

  • steve

    Also, remember Ian, that your posts about the mac or itunes, etc. show up at macsurfer.com, a pre-rss apple news arpeggiator.

    So you definatley get the more “intersted ‘ mac fans to see what you have to write.

    Therefore you might be getting a skewed view as to numbers of rabids.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I think you make the common mistake of stereotyping a group of people (Mac users in this case) based the actions/words of the most vocal. To assume that Mac users, in general, “…simply refuse to believe that anything about the opposite platform is any good at all” based on the rants of some loud-mouthed users is a silly. Over last twenty years, I’ve known hundreds of Mac users and none of them fit the stereotype. They are mostly engineers and scientists who are skilled on multiple platforms and very willing to acknowledge the advantages of each platform.

    The majority of Republicans are not anything like Rush Limbaugh. The majority of environmentalists are not like Earth First members. You can be an animal lover without becoming a delusional PETA freak. So, let’s stop it with the generalizations please.

    As far the whole “buy versus rent music” argument goes, I do have one comment. Regardless of which model is more successful in the long run, Napster, Yahoo, et. al. are foolish to use distribution licensing terms as a product differentiator. Apple can, at any time, offer a subscription alternative for iTunes. Overnight, this whole argument would become pointless and leave Apple’s competitors scrambling for a new way to promote their offerings. One would hope they have something else up their sleeves for this contingency. If they don’t, they are fools.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Ahhh, MacSurfer. I loved MacSurfer pre-RSS. :)

    Jeff, you are, of course, right. There’s 25 million or so Mac users, and remarkably few of them rant about the platform. However, it certainly appears that they have more than their share of vocal supporters – ask any journalist who’s ever written anything critical about Apple what the response was, and you’ll see that.

  • cantresist

    Can you imagine if this type of horseshit consumerism (ID’ing with the product you buy) extended to pencils and typewriters?? “I use a Faber Castell #2 and all Ticonderoga #1 users are pussies!”

    That said, all DRM infected music deals are no deals. The inconvenience of taking a trip without i-net access and losing all the music on your mp3 player seems a bit insane however. In the analog days I travelled all over the world with my “desert island cassettes” without the hassle of having to reconnect to a music store.

  • addabox

    I can’t help but notice that every discussion of the relative merits of the Mac and PC platform and their adherents goes as follows:

    PC users are to be judged by the merits of the computer. If it’s good enough, they’re good enough.

    Mac users, however, must be judged by some speculative metric of the content of their souls, as evinced by emails some people send to some tech sites.

    As a Mac user, I routinely see myself described as “smug”, “deluded”, “elitist”, “pompous”, “clueless”, “fanatical”, ” a member of a cult”, and, as in the case at hand, “in denial”.

    I very rarely see PC users as characterized as being anything in particular. save willing to settle for the mediocre.

    It’s become such a commonplace that even relatively “balanced” pieces frequently proceed from a presumption that profound character flaws lie at the heart of the decision to use a Mac.

    Any wonder folks get a might tetchy?

  • Bias Alert

    Check your credit card statements carefully. Why? This was a top story in Google News a few days ago:

    Security breach creates credit card fraud risk


    On Friday, MasterCard International Inc. said up to 40 million cardholders of multiple brands across North America could be vulnerable to fraud due to a security breach that began in 2004… its security division detected multiple instances of fraud. It tracked those cases back to CardSystems Solutions Inc. — a Tucson, Ariz.-based company that processes credit card payments for banks and merchants. The breach exposed data such as names, credit card numbers, expiration dates and security codes on the back of cards, but not addresses or Social Security numbers. A virus-like computer script that captured customer data for the purpose of fraud hit CardSystems… The FBI is investigating how the script got into the system.

    How, indeed. I did a search on http://www.netcraft.com to find out what http://www.cardsystems.com is running on. The answer?

    Lax Security Cited in Massive Credit Card Data Theft


    MasterCard International said it “worked with CardSystems to remediate the security vulnerabilities in the processor’s systems. These vulnerabilities allowed an unauthorized individual to infiltrate their network and access the cardholder data.” Officials at affected institutions were not specifying the vulnerability and exploit used to breach CardSystems’ security. The CardSystems web site runs on the Windows 2000 operating system and Microsoft IIS Server 5.0. CardSystems, which processes more than $15 billion in transactions a year for 105,000 small businesses, said it “immediately began a remediation process to ensure all systems were secure,” the company said in a statement.

    Uh-huh. After the cows have left the barn, shut the door? If CardSystems is running their public-facing web site on a Windows server, what do you suppose they’re using internally? Right. Now consider this recent news item:

    Computers’ Insecure Security


    Software meant to protect PCs are now attack targets, revealing a rising number of flaws — even more than those of Microsoft products…

    A new Yankee Group report, to be released June 20, shows the number of vulnerabilities found in security products increasing sharply for the third straight year — and for the first time surpassing those found in all Microsoft products. The majority of these weaknesses are found by researchers, academics, and security companies… Last year, researchers found 60 flaws in a variety of computer-security programs, almost double the 31 vulnerabilities discovered in 2003… Through May, 2005, 23 software glitches have been counted — already up 50% over last year. And that figure doesn’t include those yet to come this summer, when the biggest attacks are usually launched. So far this year, researchers have only found 22 vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s products.

    The trend is an embarrassment for computer-security outfits who have made billions protecting PCs from cybercrooks. And much of that work has come from fixing, or protecting against, lapses in the security of Microsoft products…

    Symantec has had the most reported vulnerabilities, with 16 documented last year… But so far this year, it has fared better: Through May, only two vulnerabilities were reported… Symantec is a target because it’s the market leader. Hackers generally want to crack programs with the largest installed base — thus offering the maximum impact for their exploits. That’s one of the rationales Microsoft has used to explain why its products seem to have so many reported security glitches…

    While more flaws are being found, only one has been exploited to launch a massive attack over the Internet. The Witty Worm, which targeted security concern Internet Security Systems’ software, was sent 72 hours after the vulnerability was disclosed on Mar. 20, 2004. A subset of ISS customers who get real-time patches over the Web were protected, but others were not… The worm wrote over sections of infected hard drives, rendering the machines unusable. In all, 12,000 servers were infected…

    BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious)…

    This is yet another reason to use _inherently_ secure systems in the first place. If you want to maximize the security and integrity of your information, you should probably not be using an insecure system with a lot of vulnerabilities, that then needs to be defended with multiple third-party “security” products — which are now themselves increasingly vulnerable to attack.

    But don’t take my word for it. I’ll let much better qualified people speak to this point:

    Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technology officer, Counterpane Internet Security, and inventor of the Blowfish encryption algorithm: “If possible, don’t use Microsoft Windows. Buy a Macintosh or use Linux.” and “Right now many customers are happy to be less secure with Microsoft products. Some aren’t. Macintosh users are much more secure, as are Linux users. Regardless of whether the software is innately more secure, people using those operating systems are at a much reduced risk of attack across the Internet. My wife uses a Macintosh, and she laughs at all the worms and Windows vulnerabilities and attack tools–she doesn’t have to worry about any of that… the fewer Microsoft products the better” (http://www.neowin.net/articles.php?action=more&id=95)

    Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web (and MacOS X user): “If your email is sent from Microsoft Outlook, and contains an attachment, I will be more likely to discard it as I understand that a famous series of viruses in 2001 resulted from Outlook’s tendency to execute scripts in email, and used up a huge amount of my and my colleague’s time.” (http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/)

    That’s all well and good for individuals, but what about large companies?

    At Genentech Inc., a multibillion-dollar biotechnology firm in South San Francisco, Mark Jeffries oversees nearly 2,500 Macs… He remembers a virus that shut down operations at a couple of his company’s competitors in 2003 because of their total dependency on Windows while Genentech’s business continued unaffected. He says the company’s top executives took note of that event, and it reaffirmed their commitment to the Mac. (http://www.computerworld.com/softwaretopics/os/macos/story/0,10801,100004p3,00.html)

    So much for the conventional wisdom that you can’t run profitable multibillion-dollar corporations on anything but Windows.

    Bill Joy, Berkeley UNIX creator and co-founder, SUN Microsystems: “Windows isn’t well architected… That reflects a lack of design discipline, which means that as the system grows, so does the ambiguity of the software itself. The result is a system encrusted with multiple layers of things that weren’t really designed in so much as bolted on.” (http://www.fortune.com/fortune/technology/articles/0,15114,490598-3,00.html) and “Mac OS X is a rock-solid system that’s beautifully designed… my kids use Mac OS X, and I heartily recommend it for kids, adults, and all other sentient beings.” (http://wired-vig.wired.com/wired/archive/12.02/rants.html)



    Michael Gartenberg, VP & Research Director, Personal Technology, Jupiter Research: “Want to see what the future of personal computing looks like? Don’t wait for Microsoft to show you; go out and get yourself a copy of Apple’s latest operating system release, OS X Tiger. It’s that good… this operating system is near nirvana for productivity.”

    Hmm… I should close this by revealing that I happen to be a Microsoft certified IT professional who makes my living defending Windows networks, so I think my “zealotry” might be suspect. After all, fixing Windows pays much of my salary. 😀

  • tom Barta

    I think the problem with music subscription services is that, with at least some of them, when you “un-subscribe”, you can’t use your downloaded music anymore. Correct me if I am wrong.

    As for zealotry? I think Windows people are the biggest zealots, because they stick with it regardless, no matter how many bugs, security problesm. If the Mac were as bad as Windows, it would have disappeared years ago.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Addabox: Apart from the odd strange columnist, I can’t remember many pieces that start from the premise that Mac users (and I’m one, remember!) are deluded. Care to point me in the direction of some?

    Bias Alert: I don’t see what that has to do with the matter at hand, to be honest. But thanks for the (mammoth!) post :)

    Tom Barta: You’re right that that’s the way music subscription works. But as I’ve said several times before, it’s not an either/or – you can happily use both, as I’ve done, for different purposes. As for Windows users being zealots, far from it: many either have no choice about the platform they use (ie they work for a corporation), or (and this will come as a shock to some) it’s simply good enough for what they do.

  • tom Barta

    Yea–most Windows users do so by IT mandate.

  • steve h

    I agree with the poster above about how common it is to be personally labeled based on the choice to use a Mac. Almost all articles can’t resist stereotyping Mac users, treating them as either a religious group, band of zeolets, Microsoft haters, or maybe just as the seemingly innocuous “fans” (Rock stars have “fans” – do I automatically become a “fan” of a product just because it meets my expectation that it actually works, and that it is not harmful to use it?).

  • http://www.baer.com Daniel Espina

    In denial?

    Bug off.

    What’s your point buddy? Us mac users are in denial? for being mac users?

    how about the windows masses being in denial for a change?

    do windows folks understand that mac work very well?

    are windows users in denial because they don’t know that mac often work better than windows in terms of security and consumer multimedia ease of use and apps?

    Point your finger in another direction, bugger, and don’t call me a mac zealot.

    Or are you just trolling for hits to your website?

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Daniel: I think the fact that you’ve reacted so aggressively to my post kind of proves my point! If you’d read my post, you’d find that the “in denial” element came, not from me, but from another commentor.

  • tom Barta

    “(Rock stars have “fans” – do I automatically become a “fan” of a product just because it meets my expectation that it actually works, and that it is not harmful to use it?).”

    Agree 100% I am bugged by the terms “fan” or “Mac Faithful”. Why is it so bizarre to stick by a product you like. Do I think Steve Jobs is God? No, but, by golly, the man scores WAY more than he misses.

  • squishyparts

    Want to see Windows zealots hang out at Mac Central or many other site with apple related forums. Seems you write with blinders on. Another thing I would like to see so called tech writers do is admit when they are wrong or they have totally played free & loose with facts (or are somewhat ignorant of them). Is Apple perfect…ahhhh nope, nothing is. What denotes a quality product is the lesser number of imperfections.


    Daniel: I think the fact that you’ve reacted so aggressively to my post kind of proves my point! If you’d read my post, you’d find that the “in denial” element came, not from me, but from another commentor.


    Wrong. It proves that he is human & made a mistake. Let’s see, You’re an a**hole.

    Okay, how many times can I call you names & spout stereotypical nonsense before you get angry? It’s only human nature. You haven’t proven any point.

  • pilot

    Funny and true. The WSJ explained the psychology of most MS Windows users as the “Beaten woman syndrome”.

    Even though faced with obviously more advanced and stable OS’s to choose from, MS Windows users stick to being tortured and disappointed.

    But every year say “Oh they’ll fix that”, “It will get better”, and take another punch to the nose.

    I don’t care about these “preference of OS” flames. I use what works the best, and now its OSX. IF it’s Solaris next year, when I buy, I’ll be using that.