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FUD, nonsense and Rob Enderle

Down in the comments section to my previous post on how Microsoft isn’t copying Apple I mentioned that you just didn’t see very much anti-Mac FUD these days. The old myths and nonsense just doesn’t seem to have the same bite to it – and it’s more often than not the Mac users who are doing the FUDing.
Someone seems determined to prove me wrong, and that someone is Rob Enderle. It should be noted, for the record, that I enjoy what Rob writes, and there are occasions when he’s right about Apple. But in his piece on Windows Vista: The Final Countdown Begins, Rob spouts what can only be described as "a load of nonsense" about the impact of Vista on Apple.

In 1995 Apple was nearly shut down by a product that wasn’t as visually exciting as Apple’s on hardware that was a pale image of what Apple had on the market.

In 1995, Apple made a profit of $424 million, which is an interesting definition of "shut down". The point that Rob is trying to make is, of course, about the years immediately after, when Apple went into something of a spiral, not returning to profit until 1998.

But the problem wasn’t that Apple was suddenly eclipsed by a better competitor: it was that Apple was making a particular expensive and crappy bunch of products, in an exceptionally confusing product line. During 1995, the company released no fewer than 36 different models of Mac. In 1998, it had cut that number to 5 – and the key one was the all-important iMac, which, alongside the PowerBook G3, revived Apple’s fortunes. Unsurprisingly, the company returned to profit that year, and has really not looked back since. It’s even, recently, started growing its market share.

That’s not to say that Windows 95 wasn’t better than Windows 3.1 (it was, considerably). It undoubtedly cost Apple some sales, because for some people it was "good enough". But to say that it "nearly shut Apple down" is overblown, at best.

But Windows 95 had more application support and where it lagged Apple the vast majority of buyers found it to be good enough. For this round Vista in many ways is equal to or better than Tiger or more advanced, relatively speaking, than Windows 95 was during its beta period.

There are, undoubtedly, areas where Vista leapfrogs Tiger (and, given that this means increased competition, that’s no bad thing). However, since the Windows 95 Vs Mac OS 7 era, the two companies have diverged in terms of how they release operating system updates, to such an extent that you’re now comparing Apples with, erm, Oranges.

In the System 7 era, both Apple and Microsoft worked on the "big, occasional release" system. Every four or five years, the companies would update their OS’ with a large "1.0" release that changed virtually everything. On the Mac side, we moved from System 6 (released in 1988) to System 7 (1991). Windows went from Windows 3.0 (1990) to Windows 95 (1995). Between times, there really wasn’t much in the way of major updates going on.

Today, however, things are different. Although Microsoft still favours the monolithic update system, where the OS changes radically every few years, Apple has shifted to a "Significant 0.1" update cycle, where every new 0.1 update – from 10.1 to 10.2, for example – brings significant new features. For example, Mac OS X 10.2 – Jaguar – added a complete new graphics subsystem (Quartz Extreme), Rendezvous, a revamped Finder, Sherlock, and CUPS. Combine the updates, and it effectively means that every couple of years you’ve been getting a vastly changed operating system.

Why does this matter? First, it means that another release of OS X – Leopard, probably to be known as 10.5 – will hit the shelves a little before Vista does, allowing Apple to regain the ground that it otherwise might have lost. But more importantly, it means that around a year after Vista’s release, there will be another release of OS X that pushes it further ahead. And 18 months later, another release. And so on.

Of course, Microsoft could itself change to this model. But I have yet to see any indication that it will, and – it could be argued – it might be impossible for it to do so. Unlike Apple, Microsoft has many thousands of combinations of hardware on which to test its OS. It has desktops, laptops, tablets; a vast range of graphic chip sets, processors, and motherboards; it has 32-bit and 64-bit machines; and so on. Attempting to move to an 18-month major upgrade cycle would be ambitious at best, and a recipe for disaster at worst.

I’m really looking forward to Vista. I think it will be great news for Windows users. But to think that it will be ahead of Mac OS X – at least for long – is to willfully ignore the history of Windows and the Mac, and of Apple and Microsoft.

As for hardware, unlike 1995, the hardware OEMs not only cover a broader range with companies like Voodoo and Alienware in the mix, but historically staid companies like Gateway, HP, Acer, and even Dell are much more aggressive on design today, often surpassing Apple, which was preeminent in this area in the 90s.

Anyone who thinks that Apple no longer has the edge on design is either deluded, or really likes ugly boxes. Machines like the Mac Mini still lead the pack, both in terms of the daring of their design and the attention to detail that marks out truly great designs from mediocre imitations. Apple designs and designers win awards (like Jonathan Ive’s designer of the year gong from 2003) not just for their adventurous nature, but because almost no one else in the computer space is doing anything that’s anywhere near as good.

While this design parity clearly hasn’t impacted the iPod market

… probably because there is no such parity. The Creative Zen Micro is nice, but it’s no iPod Nano.

yet it is incredibly evident in the PC space.

I’d love to know where. A Dell XPS M170 still looks nothing like a patch on a PowerBook (even though the Dell is by far the better computer in terms of performance). Alienware’s machines, powerful as they are, still look like they were designed by a 14 year old boy with a fixation for cars. And anyone who thinks that the Area 51 5300 is as good looking as a Mac Mini needs to report to their nearest eye hospital, pronto.

Apple will have to improve its game sharply to compete. However, given the strength at the back end, strength that Apple has never had, the exposure now goes well beyond Apple’s available resources.

Apple’s available resources, it should be mentioned, include:

  • An advanced operating system based on open source code that’s more reliable and more secure than anything Microsoft currently has.
  • The best industrial design team in the computer world.
  • Domination of the portable music player market, with a brand that’s so strong that the biggest danger it faces is genericization.
  • The dominant share of the market for music sold online – so dominant, in fact, that some have called for its investigation as a monopoly.
  • $8 billion in the bank. In cash.

Yes, Microsoft has huge reserves of strength. But it also has to spread that strength across many markets, from server operating systems and back-end systems to the Xbox. Yes, Gates is a genius. But, as the past few years have proved, he’s having to spread his attention across a lot, and it spreads very thinly. With the iPod, Apple has proved that Microsoft can be beaten, just as Google has done so in Internet search. Even with its huge resources.

This means Apple will have to partner to avoid what may be the most damaging competitive threat the company has ever faced. While possible, Apple’s one prevailing weakness has been their inability to partner and unless that changes we should be able to call the outcome of this competition relatively easily — and it isn’t positive for Apple.

Here, I think, is the only point that Rob makes that’s actually correct. Apple is, and always has been, a lousy partner. But even so, that hasn’t doomed it so far – and I see no evidence that it will in the short-term future. Come on Rob, if you’re going to argue Apple is doomed, at least give us some decent arguments!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.mediagrabbers.com DWalla

    Well… the schmuck works for a consultancy group. Anyone who takes a consultant seriously needs to get their head examined. So pretty much Enderle gets paid for running his mouth. Which pretty much equates to this: the man has no real marketable skills. While the rest of us actually produce, he sits around and pontificates on the finer points of technology that he doesn’t even understand in a marketplace he understands even less.

  • http://rhfootball.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Wow! You have issues! Apple’s just a company, like Microsoft and Intel! They’re not “good” or “bad”. They’re out to make a profit, just like Microsoft. And they’re just as nasty. They get some appeal by reaching out to “niche” markets, like homosexuals and kooks. Which are you?

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

    Personally, I’m a kook, although I’m sure some would call me a homosexual. What kind of troll are you, “Cindy”? And what’s the weather like in Plano today?

    Any more trolls will be stamped out, fast.

  • huh?

    Who are you responding to, Cindy? Very odd and out of place comment to a well thought out and interesting article.

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

    Mark, don’t feed the troll :)

  • Zato

    I believe this article by Rob Enderle comes from top management at MicroSoft, and there are revealing clues within. On the surface, it’s an assurance (and appeal) to corporate IT (and developers) that Vista will be competitive, and there is no reason to “switch” (to MacOS or Linux).

    But read carefully the part about some IT people wishing Windows was more Unix-like (possible problems with .net). What does this mean? Is it a hint being dropped, or a deliberate attempt to mislead IT into thinking MS will add a Unix Layer to Windows, when in fact they have no plans to do so.

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

    Zato, really – don’t go down the path of ascribing every opinion that’s not favourable to the Mac to Microsoft. That way tinfoil-hat-wearing lies.

  • Boeing777

    “Cindy” is excused. She hasn’t gotten laid in a long time. She keeps being rejected so she takes it on “homosexuals”. Poor girl. One day you’ll find a drunken loser who’d do it unconsciously

  • John

    I don’t think a Dell is better than a powerbook when it runs Windows with an infected OS. I think Mr. Enderale needs to be fired because of all the FUD that he does write. He is as bad as the Inquirer and probably should work for them with all the fantasy he puts in his writing. Real tech people don’t have a lot of respect for him at all. I’m one of them.

  • Mr Suspicious

    Dude,

    FUD is evil, Enderle is one of the most profilic (maybe just the cheapest) FUDsters and you go at him with kid gloves?!! Spinkling your milquetoasty article with compliments to Microsoft (Gates is a genious, excited about Vista blah blah..). I’d say you’re angling for a paid shill consultancy of your very own. If your intent was to take Enderle to task for spreading FUD – you did a poor job.

  • Don

    Last time I severely disagreed with you. This time I mostly agree, but have to ask one question: why does anyone pay any attention to Rob “never-right” Enderle? If he were a biblical prophet, the people would have stoned him to death for being wrong so often.

    When people talk about there being “so much more” software for Windows than for the Mac, they rarely define what all these applications are. They generally come in three categories:

    1) Crap. There is literally tons of buggy, ugly software for Windows that is poorly designed, ugly, crashes, etc. Mac users would never put up with such garbage. That’s one of the reasons so much of Corel’s offerings have been ignored in the Mac universe.

    2) Games. Years ago, Mac’s were called “toys,” and it was decided to put the Mac out there as a business machine, not a game machine. IMO the availability of games–and the support MS gave to game developers–has helped make Windows boxes popular as home machines (do your work and play games).

    However, that brings up a side rant: the overwhelming monopoly of Windows is based on purchases by businesses where, today, Macs are relatively rare. In some businesses (such as cash registers) Apple doesn’t even make a pretense at competition. So what is the percentage of computers in the enterprise vs. private users? Since the Mac is relatively rare in the enterprise, the percentage of Macs in the area where they do compete is much higher than that what is usually given. What is it? 10%? 20%?

    3) Specific applications for unique situations. If the son of the manager of some machine shop picked up a book on programming for Windows and wrote a program used by two people at a small shop that meets their needs and won’t help any other company in the world, it’s still counted as a piece of software in that vast number of applications for Windows.

    The bottom line in this is simple: There are far more games for Windows machines than for Macs. However, how many applications does anyone use? The many secretaries and cube dwellers out there probably use Office which is available for the Mac. The vast quantity of other business applications in areas where Apple competes are either available for the Mac or there is another application available that will do the same thing.

    Example: The most popular small database application in MS Access. However, NOBODY BUYS ACCESS. Everyone buys Office and Access is included. The real question is who uses Access? Part of that is indicated by the sales of the number 2 most popular database application for smaller situations. If people actually buy it chances are greater that they will actually use it. And that 2nd-largest selling database is Filemaker Pro. Made by a division of Apple.

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

    Mr Genius: Angling for a paid consultancy? Sure, if someone wants to pay me money for consultancy, I’m not going to turn them down. But I write what I think: I’m not biased against one company or the other. If you want to here only pro-Apple, anti-Microsoft stuff you won’t find it here. I’m not a zealot, either way.

  • Mr Suspicious

    paid SHILL consultancy. Rob and his wife are the only employees of his consultancy, he gets paid to write FUD – so, that’s what you want to do?

    And its not about company bias, its about spreading FUD which is apparently okay as long as you get paid – is that what I’m hearing?

    Good luck and have pleasant life.

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

    Mr Suspicious, take an anger management course, a stress pill, and start worrying about something more important.

    Take a look at Enderle’s work at Technology Pundits, and check through the recent stuff about Apple’s products. Almost all of it is positive. But then again, the positive stuff doesn’t get linked to from the Mac sites, so you probably don’t know about it.

    I don’t see why the fact that Enderle and his wife are the only employees is relevant to anything. Care to elaborate?

    Finally, he’s not paid to spread FUD. If you have evidence to the contrary, I’d suggest you put it up. Feel free to post here. Otherwise – keep your potentially libelous suggestions to yourself.

  • nateralligator

    Mr. Suspicious = Rob Enderle

    The guys an idiot. Period.

  • Sam

    Ian, you’re getting linked a lot from MacSurfer lately. Generally good stuff… about your previous comment, though– everyone’s biased to various degrees.

    About the article… although it’s sad to see more attention being paid to fools like Enderle, it’s important to set the record straight and cut through the hyperbole, and I think you did a decent job at the points you chose to attack.

    It should be pointed out that Microsoft also often makes a very lousy partner unless they end up buying you out in the end.

  • Zato

    Ian, really – don’t go down the path of denegrating every opinion that’s not favourable to Microsoft . That way PC troll lies.

  • Bryce M.

    I don’t believe that Vista is “the most damaging competitive threat the company has ever faced”. I think that’s been and gone with DOS, Windows 3.1 and 95. Apple survived those and will easily survive Vista. The $64,000 question is will Microsoft maintain it’s 90%+ of the quarterly market share once Apple move to Intel CPUs?? That is a far better question in my mind.

    I also don’t agree with his comments:”… not only did I warn Apple to take 95 more seriously, I also accurately forecast the massive decline that would happen to them if they didn’t do just that.”

    Um, that’s some forecasting. Windows 3.1 and DOS already had a commanding lead over Apple, and 95 just solidified that lead. I don’t think there would have been much Apple could have done (although, releasing 36 models of Mac wouldn’t have been top of my list.) Enderle’s “prediction” is kinda like predicting the sun will set tonight and really, is just him big-noting himself (and sounding a tad like a wanker really.) The war had already been lost. Back in ’95, the lawsuit over Windows ripping off the Mac was still going on too (it wasn’t finally resolved until 1997 when Steve and Bill kissed and made up). One could thus presume that Apple probably still hoped for a favourable outcome in their court cases, and thus, focused on the wrong areas during the ’90s.

    In the end, I feel Enderle must have had his knickers on backwards the day he wrote the article though, and really, should be shot for such shoddy “journalism”. Whist one could argue it is only his opinions, his facts are quite poorly researched and are in some cases, completely wrong. Should we really be listening to anyone who thinks Apple’s design skills are 2nd rate to Dell and Acer?? His definition of “design” must be different than the rest of the population as well.

  • Adam

    Mr Suspicious wrote about no one buying Access, which is a good point.

    As a US Air Force member, my workplace computers are Windows-only, but I’m a Mac guy through and through. Regarding Access, my only experience with it is being required to use locally-manufactured databases (programmed at squadron/group/wing-level) that are horrible: buggy, crashy, riddled with “Do you want to block unsafe expressions?” dialogs, and that can only be used by one user at a time.

    I’ve never personally built a database, so rather than throw a stone, I raise the question: is Access crap, or have I only used crap Access databases?

  • Mr Suspicious

    Feel free to google the terms “shill” and “enderle” I’m sure you’ll find many fine examples reporting that he is a paid shill. here’s one: http://www.orangecrate.com/article.php?sid=475

    Unfortunately the eweek article it points to is missing but there are many more examples.

    as to the Rob and wife thing – you can check the “contact us” link at the Enderle group website (http://www.enderlegroup.com/contactUs.htm) but looks like 2 additional folks are listed these days, though they’re “remote”. just add “wife” to your google search terms for more info.

    Aside from all this, maybe I can re-phrase my point to be: Perhaps you are too nice of a person to critique Enderle, he does not deserve it.

  • macodamus

    We have to add Enderle’s kid brother to the mix if we’re going to critique the critics — Paul Thurrott. Personally, I’m tired of both of them and wish they would crawl under a rock. I only have to use Windows XP for 5 minutes to know it blows; and unless Vista Shorthorn changes from Windows application centric model, it shouldn’t take me but another 5 minutes to determine that it blows as well.

    But that’s not the issue here. The issue is that they just don’t get it, along with the remaining Windows users. But that’s okay. Apple does the R&D and relatively brilliant execution. And Windows hobbles along. We prefer excellence. And they prefer, well, I don’t know what they prefer. (But I do know what they will tolerate.)

    Personally, I hope Vista is even half as good as the kid brothers prophetize. This will make Apple work even harder, and for this we shall benefit greatly. Do I really care what marketshare the Mac has? Of course not. All I care about is that it flourishes and that it suits my needs.

    But my gut feeling is that rocky times are ahead for Microsoft. And Apple is poised to capitalize on this. The migration to Intel is not by chance, and is part of a much bigger picture that has yet to be revealed. Build it and they will come. Apple has made many missteps in the past that has cost them dearly. But I don’t think Steve cares to revisit history.

    Soon the Leopard will growl with threat and menace as it looks out across a sweeping Vista of beige metallic boxes. And as the fog of the land dissipates, a shining example of Intel architecture will rise from the bowels of personal computing to claim its glory once and for all.

  • Bud Lite

    Enderle is constantly making circular arguments quoting himself in the third person as the authority for or the basis for his current ridiculous assertions.

    I guess pure excrement and circular arguments are the best one can hope from from a prick who perpetually has his head up his own or Bill Gates ass hole and eats his own shit.

  • MonkeyT

    Is Vista the largest threat Apple has ever faced? Nope. That would be Appl’e previous management. Vista is impressive, as well it should be. It’s been in the works for almost five years, and MS is definitely makeing some architectural changes to how their OS operates that they should have made years ago. But it’s also 50% vapor at this point. If anything in the beta proves too contentious, it’s likely to go the way of the other “earth-shaking” features Longhorn has already lost. It’s also a year and a half from market. It’ll be a bigger hurdle to new marketshare than XP is, but not until it’s closer to being out the door. The truth stays simple: real artists ship.

    As for Mr. E, he was right once in predicting Apple’s collapse (back in the early nineties) – something lots of other analysts at the time were too timid to place their bets on, largely due to CEO Pepsi-Guy’s previous track record – but since then, he’s been pretty dry, and he has the hardware design savvy of a stale slice of meatloaf. As noted above, he has an annoying tendency to rewrite the actual sequence of events that led up to his greatest success in order to build up his own precognitive reputation. Much like Dvorak and Thurrot (who both still have their own occasional brain-dead moments), he made his name back when monthly dead-tree editions were relevant and the market for rumor-mongering was much much smaller, and that’s enough to get him quoted by kids who don’t do their homework. Even his recent compliments about Apple products have been slightly backhanded, and he keeps getting quoted by any hack who wants to argue that Apple is irrelevant. If he wasn’t such a great source for MS shills, his track record of late would have the lower profile his blatherings deserve.

    The problem is, that in order to dispute his arguments, you have to actually say his name, and that’s what the internet search engines really care most about. His visibility is the very problem that causes his persistent visibility. If it wasn’t so easy to argue with insane troll logic, one might hope that the internet would lose track of him.

    (In a perfect world, your comments system would allow me to link the phrase “insane troll logic” to his site, you know. So much for using his own tools against him…)