Arrogance Unleashed: The Foul Stench of Computerworld’s Mike Elgan
October 6th, 2007
Daniel Eran Dilger
Mike Elgan, a former editor of Windows Magazine, has recently gone on an anti-Apple rampage, posting countless articles on why users should torment themselves with fear, doubt, and uncertainty about Apple. Elgan’s desperation is so overreaching that it is, like Rob Enderle, an embarrassment even to Windows Enthusiasts.
His most recent tirade was headlined “Apple Arrogance Unleashed!” Elgan knows a lot about arrogance. Recall that his wikipedia autobiography was unceremoniously deleted by the wiki police due to his being “not particularly notable.” Clearly, Elgan has far higher regard for himself and his opinion than pretty much anyone else does. So when Elgan writes an article on arrogance, it could be potentially noteworthy.
A large part of Elgan’s arrogance seems to exude from his curiously inflated contempt for everything Apple. Having made Apple his enemy target, it’s natural that Elgan might try to turn around his own weaknesses and present them as if they were Apple’s.
So it is that Elgan starts his screed by citing Steve Job’s comments from 1996, where Jobs said the problem with Microsoft is “they just have no taste… in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their product.” Of course, Jobs said that before he returned to Apple, but in the minds of simpleton Windows Enthusiasts, Jobs is Apple.
Elgan dug that clip out from a decade ago to set up his contention that while Microsoft clearly does lack taste, Apple has “no gratitude. Or humility. Or generosity. Or manners.” This introduction suggests that his article will outline why he says this, but the explanation never comes. Instead, we are treated to paragraphs of unprofessional banter that just rings hollow in a bitter sort of desperation.
As Paul Thurrott always does, Elgan begins his attack on Apple by immediately noting “I’m a big fan of Apple products.” He immediately then begins to wring out his rage-soaked contempt for Apple on the stage of a morality play that begs the audience to share in his outrage. It’s a simple case of us vs. them, and Elgan makes it very clear that the “them” is a very, very bad Apple.
You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.
The reason why Apple is so very bad, Elgan fumes, is its arrogance. What Elgan misses is that arrogance relates to an “exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.” However, even Elgan notes that Apple’s “superiority complex has always been both partially deserved and one of the company’s motivations to strive for better things.”
Being better doesn’t mean being arrogant. Apple’s iPod isn’t “arrogant” for being thinner and more attractive than Microsoft’s clunky Zune, or having outsold it by a huge margin in the free market. Apple simply has a superior product because it worked harder to deliver it.
Arrogance is when a company delivers an embarrassingly bad product, then announces it will take over the market, but yet fails to do so. Elgan himself fell into that trap when he fawned over the Zune last fall, saying that it “scares Apple to the core,” and that the Zune would “leverage the collective power of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Soapbox (Microsoft’s new ”YouTube killer“) and the Xbox 360.”
Elgan’s Zune article in Computerworld was full of errors and misrepresentations he later had to edit out, but the message still fell down flat because Elgan wasn’t commenting on the Zune as a product. He was merely firing out bullet point blanks he’d imagined in his own PowerPoint presentation on why Microsoft can never, ever fail. That’s arrogance.
The Windows Enthusiast’s ‘Partners Myth.’
Fans of Microsoft like to cultivate the myth that Apple treats its partners badly, while Microsoft waltzes from one dance partner to the next, leaving the whole floor enchanted and blushing. The problem with that idea it that is that it is a manufactured lie. It isn’t true today and hasn’t ever been true in the past. While all companies work toward their own interests, Microsoft has proven to be a lousy partner, while Apple has not.
In the 80s, Apple partnered with Microsoft and gave the company a strong lead into the graphical application development business with the Macintosh. Microsoft responded by betraying Apple and finding loopholes in its contract to allow it to use Apple’s own technology against it on the PC with Windows. It then ported its Mac apps away from Apple’s hardware and froze its development on the Mac in 1994 in an attempt to kill its former partner.
In the 90s, Apple partnered with IBM to develop the PowerPC processor and Taligent software. Microsoft had just betrayed IBM over the development of OS/2. Microsoft also used OS/2 to pull the rug out from under its own DOS developers, by advising them to port their applications to OS/2 while Microsoft itself worked to develop its own apps for Windows, ensuring that the company could leverage its PC monopoly to obtain a new monopoly in the desktop PC application business.
Within a couple years, the DOS PC application market led by developers such as Word Perfect, Lotus, and Borland was wholly transferred to Microsoft. Windows Enthusiasts tell the tale that all of those developers simply just didn’t port their applications to Windows fast enough. That’s not true; Microsoft intentionally executed each of them and used its OEM licensing leverage to close Windows to any competition to Office.
SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 1970s
SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 1980s
SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 1990s
SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 2000s
Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly
Office Wars 4 – Microsoft’s Assault on Lotus and IBM
Apple vs Microsoft in Partnerships.
We don’t need to dig back into the early 90s for examples of Microsoft’s ill treatment of its partners however. Microsoft had continued to attack its Windows partners in any area where the company determined that it wanted a market all for itself: Netscape, Sun’s Java, Real Networks, Google, and so on.
After setting up the PlaysForSure partnership with a variety hardware makers and online stores in order to roll out Windows Media, Microsoft decided to yank the rug on all of them and replace them with its own, incompatible Zune player and store. Microsoft is a horrific partner and has always been. It is a traitorous leech on the back end of technology.
Apple, on the other hand, has formed strong partnerships with other companies throughout its history. Its alliance with Acorn to create the ARM architecture resulted in the most popular embedded processor in consumer electronics. Its partnership with Motorola and IBM on PowerPC remained strong until its PowerPC partners backed out of the desktop market and entered gaming and embedded markets, leaving Apple stranded.
Apple partnered with the OSF and with open source developers to create MkLinux. It later collaborated with the Net/Free/OpenBSD communities and even delivered its own core OS in Mac OS X as an open source project. Apple has shared its QuickTime Streaming Server, Bonjour, and other technologies with the community. It contributed its QuickTime container format as the basis of the ISO’s MPEG-4. It worked with KDE to deliver Safari’s WebKit based on improvements to KHTML. Apple bent over backwards to accommodate developers in its move to Mac OS X.
In music and media, Apple has partnered with labels to deliver consumer friendly products that aggressively work to keep prices low and usability high. Apple didn’t tax its iPod users with a “theft indulgence” as Microsoft did for Universal with the Zune, but it did create a real market for labels and studios to offer their music and video at fair prices and using liberal copy restrictions.
Apple partnered with HP to deliver the iPod until HP backed out of the deal. Apple has also partnered with car makers, airlines, Nike, and a variety of hardware makers to deliver iPod compatible accessories and integration products. It has recently partnered with Starbucks and with mobile companies around the world to deliver a new class of mobile service at competitive prices.
There are no doubt groups–including patent trolls and their attorneys–that can complain about Apple, but calling Apple a bad partner–particularly in comparison to Microsoft–is laughable and simply dishonest.
Elgan’s single point of proof that Apple is a bad partner is the fact that Leopard developer previews depict networked Windows PCs using a comical icon displaying the “blue screen of death,” which Elgan called a “slap-in-the-face insult.” Yes, how troublesome for Microsoft that Apple as its competitor pokes fun at it in such a benign way.
How outrageous. Imagine Microsoft making arrogant and embittered attacks on Apple. Oh wait, we don’t have to imagine. Just search YouTube. Check out Steve Ballmer doing a nervous guffaw about the iPhone, insisting that nobody would buy it and that it was the “most expensive phone in the world,” while knowing full well that it actually cost less to own than his own Windows Mobile units. In nearly the same breath, he heaved about how the Zune had taken 25% market share, despite the fact that it had never come even close, ever.
Microsoft executives have consistently been arrogant braggarts who dismissed Apple at one turn after the next, only to be humiliated by their own incompetence. Vista is a disgrace the company can’t even sell. Windows Mobile is an embarrassment. WinCE is a decade long catastrophe. Microsoft shamed itself with years of serious security problems and software that is so bad it made “blue screen of death” a common phrase. Apple is somehow outraging our sense of decency for making light of this?
The most foul hypocrisy here is that Elgan has been at the forefront of ridiculing Apple on Microsoft’s behalf. He presents a false image of being impartial and appreciating Apple’s success while really he’s a contemptuous troll that has been running down everything Apple has contributed throughout his entire career. Trying to build a case of righteous indignation against Apple just exposes what a complete fraud Elgan is.
Pity the iPhone Users.
Elgan then rambles on about the damages suffered by iPhone users after Apple lowered the price. As someone who bought two iPhones, with the intent of using them for a year or two, I can’t really see the outrage. Anyone who is bitter about the price of the iPhone dropping shouldn’t have bought one. However, Elgan’s prancing around feigning anger and outrage is a bit too much to stomach.
He dismisses the fact that Apple offered early buyers a $100 credit, a bonus they had no anticipation of getting when they chose to buy the iPhone, and which they didn’t have any legal right to get afterward. Apple volunteered it. Elgan described it as “$100 worth of products they never intended to buy.” What a piece of work!
“Most companies avoid punishing hardcore fans. Not Apple,” Elgan whined. Perhaps Elgan should take a closer look at the Xbox 360 fiasco. Microsoft shipped defective machines to users, leaving many to return their machines repeatedly for repairs. The company was forced to reserve a billion dollars to handle warranty work this year, but never credited users with a rebate nor did it perform a recall, despite admitting that every one of the 11.6 million units sold suffered from design flaws that will eventually lead to thermal failure, even when used correctly.
Microsoft’s Burning Babies.
Fourteen million of Microsoft’s original Xbox models also had their power cables recalled after the company was sued for fires that resulted in multiple families’ houses being burned down, but only after insurance companies began seeking damages from Microsoft. When a young couple lost their house–and their baby–in a fire caused by the Xbox, Microsoft’s lawyers blamed the parents for not knowing that the Xbox was a dangerous fire hazard.
Microsoft said the Kline family, which filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company as a result of the Xbox fire that killed their child, “knowingly, willingly, intentionally, and voluntarily exposed themselves to said danger and assumed the risk of incident, injuries, losses, and damages.”
Microsoft’s lawyers argued that the Kline’s “losses and damages, if any, resulted from misuse or abuse of the Xbox console at issue.” Meanwhile, Xbox gamer blogs called the suit “frivolous” and a “waste of everyone’s time.”
Just to wrap things up: Microsoft’s products can burn down your house and kill your baby, but if Apple lowers its prices, it’s “punishing its hardcore fans,” at least according to Elgan and the Windows Enthusiasts that chant out chilling, cult-like phrases in support of the most disgusting company in technology.
Elgan’s Next Outrage: Unsupported Firmware Tampering.
For his third example of Apple’s overreaching evil, Elgan tried to drum up sensationalism around the iPhone update that disabled security cracks which allowed third parties to install additional software. “In an act that can only be characterized as ‘revenge,’ Apple issued a software update that can kill these modified or improved phones,” Elgan wrote.
For having been a proponent of Windows throughout his career, Elgan sure doesn’t know much about software. Perhaps those two ideas are related. In any event, Apple did not “brick” any iPhones, and anyone who frames the event as such is a sensationalist fraud. Apple clearly warned users before releasing the update that it had discovered that phones with tampered firmware could be left unworkable by the software update. After it released the update, it put up a bold warning that reminded users that the update would likely cause problems for iPhones with tampered firmware.
While the philosophical debate over whether Apple should open the iPhone to third party development is interesting, the underlying technical grounds for disabling third party software can not be argued around. All of the unauthorized third party software developed for the iPhone relied upon exploiting buffer overruns. These were significant security flaws that could just as easily allow attack vectors to malicious coders. Apple had an obligation to its users to patch these cracks.
However, Apple left the iPhone update an optional install. It did not roll out an automatic update that users could not shut off, as Microsoft does with its Windows XP and Vista software update. Apple also did not ban any equipment it found violating its terms of service, as Microsoft does when it permanently bans Xbox 360 users suspected of installing hacks to their console firmware from accessing its online Xbox Live services, or as it unintentionally did when its WGA system went down and legitimate XP and Vista users were locked down with a reduced feature set on suspicion of software piracy.
Tampered Firmware Never Supported.
Given Microsoft’s outrageous treatment of its consumer base, it is laughable that Elgan can continue his absurd soapbox rant about how awful it was that Apple offered a software update the solved security problems for the iPhone. But he keeps going. He describes Apple’s update as “malice,” which is a clear case of libel.
Elgan insists that Apple “could have handled these iPhones in any number of ways, from code that prevents modified phones from being updated, to reformatting and re-installing the iPhone software.” This displays Elgan’s ignorance in his subject matter. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that the iPhone isn’t a small PC, but rather a series of at least three independent embedded processors, including a baseband cellular radio subsystem and the ARM processors running the OS X operating system.
Each of these systems has its own firmware, and that firmware has to be in a known state in order to load software properly. When hackers dig through the system, they can overrun memory buffers until part of the system resets, then feed it replacement code to allow themselves further access into the system. This works very much like a biological virus, which inserts its own DNA code into cells to force them to perform other tasks. Like viruses, these break ins complicate how the host system works in complex ways.
No computer or device makers can offer to support a PC or mobile device running with tampered firmware. For example, Microsoft doesn’t guarantee that Windows will load properly on a system that does not work as originally designed after unsupported hacks are made to its BIOS. For Elgan to perform his theatrics about how Apple is abusing its customers with a “cold slap in the face” is simply a matter of intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy, and grosteque ignorance.
The Arts of Noise.
Elgan rejoices that much of the ignorant media has churned out opinions that question Apple’s decisions, citing sensationalist headlines from such luminaries as CNET, Gizmodo, and PC World, which cited “analysts” as fearing that users may now be afraid of security patches. Elgan doesn’t spell out how much credibility these groups have, however; that would be embarrassing.
He also fails to account for the fact that these same flacks and wags have been gushing pro-Microsoft propaganda for years while the iPod decimated Microsoft’s failed plot to deploy Windows Media. The iPhone also beat the feathers out of Windows Mobile, despite Gizmodo’s plea to boycott the iPhone. Microsoft’s paying bloggers to repeat its slogans didn’t create excitement around Vista either.
Maybe the power of pundit propaganda is waning in a world where the truth can be found on the web? That does explain Elgan’s frantic desperation in taking irresponsible potshots at Apple, one of few companies actually working to deliver real innovation in hardware and software.
Boot Camp Flunkie.
For his final number, Elgan brings up Boot Camp, the installer utility Apple provides to set up a Windows partition on Intel Macs. As is typical, Elgan reports everything in a wrongheaded, sensationalist, fraudulent manner.
“The day Mac OS X Leopard ships, Boot Camp turns into a pumpkin,” Elgan wrote. “The only way to fully use it is to upgrade to Leopard. Apple wants your money, and wants it NOW. Most companies would maintain good customer relations by giving users a little time to upgrade. Not Apple.”
That’s not even remotely accurate though. Boot Camp isn’t even required to run Windows. It’s a setup utility, and its beta has expired and been replaced multiple times over the last year. All it does is assist in the formating of a hard drive and in setting up the partition for installing Windows. Apple also provides a set of hardware drivers so that Windows can take full advantage of all the unique hardware on a Mac. None of these things expire in a way that causes problems for existing software.
Once installed, there’s no need to use Boot Camp. Elgan suggests that Tiger users will somehow be stuck in a conundrum with expired, non-functional software. That’s a lie, and exactly what one might expect of someone who has devoted their entire career to supporting a flawed, overpriced, software empire that lacks any class, or as Jobs noted, taste.
For his disingenuous, desperately sensationalist, and outrageously disgusting misinformation campaign, Mike Elgan earns a Zoon award.
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