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Roger Kay’s Wax Wings of Icarus vs the Flight of Apple

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Daniel Eran Dilger
Roger Kay has resorted to religious fantasy in order to find something assailable about Apple’s rapid growth in consumer electronics and its mounting impact on the enterprise. Using more idioms than one could shake a gilded lily at, Kay strung together a series of weak complaints that ranged from misstatements to completely false assertions, bound together by a non sequitur (and non secular) mortar of inanity.

Auf Deutsch: Roger Kay – oder die Flügel des Ikarus im Vergleich zum Höhenflug von Apple
Übersetzung: digital express


The oddest portion of Kay’s rambling missive was slapped into the BusinessWeek editorial’s title: Apple was being condemned for daring to fly too high, and like Icarus, its wax wings would melt, plunging it into the sea. Kay reinforced his mythology with random stitches from unrelated Bible proverbs, such as pride goes before destruction. Which educational system failed Kay remains a mystery, but according to the Greeks, Icarus fell because he was having too much fun flying, not because of some over-confident hubris reined in by the gods.

Kay didn’t touch on the matter of why the ill-fated Apple Icarus was confined to the Isle of Crete and needing waxed wings to escape, and was silent on the relevance of Icarus’ father Daedalus, who built a fake cow that allowed King Minos’s queen to get it on with a bull, resulting in both the monstrous Minotaur race and Daedalus’ imprisonment along with Icarus. How does that all play in here? Or do the ancient Greeks really have little to offer in our understanding of twenty first century business?

Given Apple’s expanding operations in retail stores, online merchandising, a pioneering lead in online media and software sales, and the fantastic growth of the Mac and iPhone, the company seems more like a worldwide airline running its planes in a carefully orchestrated clockwork than a mythical boy with feathers waxed to his arms, flying too close to the sun. Of course, science also tells us that flying up into the atmosphere would result in more problems related to the cold than with any hot proximity with the sun. What’s a few hundred feet of elevation when the sun is 93 million miles away?

Pants on Fire.
Kay doesn’t just play fast and loose with Greek mythology. He also warns that Apple is soon to face the same security crisis as Microsoft’s Windows, due to the increasing popularity of the Mac and the runaway success of the iPhone. After noting the rapid growth in Apple’s Mac platform, Kay wrote, “It’s little surprise then that reports of Mac viruses have been rising steadily.”

But that’s not true at all. There are no reports of Mac viruses, let alone any steady rise in reports. Kay can babble about mythology and attribute accusations of sinful pride to corporations who do not pay him for his services all he likes, but by stating that “reports of Mac viruses are rising steadily,” he’s veered away from insane rambling and entered the world of false reporting, dragging down BusinessWeek’s reputation as a credible journal along with him.

Kay also tries to make much of the homebrew developer community, who have been working to install unsupported apps on the iPhone. Is this a security problem for Apple, or evidence of very healthy interest in the iPhone, interest that has yet to materialize for Windows Mobile and other less exciting mobile platforms that are more likely to support Kay as a pundit/consultant? He also carefully ignores Apple’s plans for signed applications on the iPhone, which will make the security issues related to homebrew hacking irrelevant to regular users.

iPhone 2.0 SDK: How Signing Certificates Work

iPhone 2.0 SDK: How Signing Certificates Work

The Unkindest Cut.
Kay also takes Apple to task over its 30% revenue share with developers, saying “taking such a large cut just for distributing software is no more generous a policy than any coming out of Microsoft.” Apparently, Kay is yet unaware that Microsoft’s Danger takes 50% from mobile developers, as do most other mobile software outlets. Microsoft recently upped its 30% take of online Xbox 360 Live Arcade gaming revenues to 65% for indie developers.

Rumor: Microsoft Cuts Indie Royalties in Half

Does Kay also not know that Microsoft earns an 81% profit margin on sales of Windows in a market with no effective competition, and has worked to take 100% of the application market away from its Windows developers as it rolled together Office, its development tools, and other suites designed to liquidate the value of independent third party developers on Microsoft’s platform? It’s really not that hard to be more generous than Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Outrageous Office Profits
Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly
Office Wars 4 – Microsoft’s Assault on Lotus and IBM

Kay relates Apple’s success with Icarus in a bizarre analogy that suggests Apple is ignoring the warning of its father, who is never identified. Is Apple fated to fall for ignoring the fear, uncertainty and doubts promulgated by pundits like Kay, who make more money from the status quo? Is Apple supposedly not taking adequate measures to deliver a safe and secured platform with the iPhone, which simply isn’t true? Is is that the Mac is poised to someday suffer the wrath of “hackers,” a problem prophetically announced by Windows Enthusiasts back in 2004, but yet to materialize?

Or is Kay just taking advantage of BusinessWeek’s lax editorial control in order to present more melodramatic claptrap in a desperate effort to spread false information that might buy him another year or two of a career as a professional proponent of Microsoft licensing and a loyal reflector of Bill Gates’ blinding vision for Tablet PCs and other dim failures?

10 FAS: 10 – Apple’s Mac and iPhone Security Crisis

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24 comments

1 Brau { 03.19.08 at 1:44 am }

Ahhh yes, I read part of this delusional “article” earlier. Speaking of wings… It struck me as sudo-Greek mythology proclaimed with all the intellectual comprehension of Chicken Little.

2 Tod { 03.19.08 at 2:02 am }

@Brau – “sudo” as in the CLI super user? :-)

@Daniel: Great writing as usual. I was directed to BW earlier this evening by John Gruber’s blog. Belive it or not, there were over 300 comments? I read the first 50 or so and got bored (!) reading the same observations about his playing fast and loose with the facts. Out of the sample that I read, there was only one commenter who came up with the predictable blast at supposed Apple Fanbois. ONE PERSON! That Kay is still employable as a Rob Enderle clone with his “comments R Us” quote factory is an amazing testament to the stupidity of editors everywhere. Hey, wait a minute, I resemble that remark!

3 droughtquake { 03.19.08 at 2:19 am }

Oh no, we’re all just Mac fanboys who are completely blinded by the notorious Reality Distortion Field. We just keep refusing to believe the ‘truth’ that they keep repeating over and over and over… ;-)

4 lightstab { 03.19.08 at 2:24 am }

While I enjoy your picking apart his argument completely, Dan, I have to say that John Gruber summed it up perfectly.

“Shorter Roger Kay: With no evidence whatsoever, I assert that both the Mac and iPhone are suddenly beset by security problems and Apple is getting exactly what it deserves for being successful.”

Does anything more need to be said?

5 Jon T { 03.19.08 at 6:01 am }

If he didn’t need a good bollocking for writing such misinformation I would feel sorry for the man. But just look at his site, it’s Microsoft customer creativity at its ‘best’, address is ndpta dot com.

6 mmbossman { 03.19.08 at 9:21 am }

This guy sounds like he got dropped on his head as a child. If he’s going to be such an obvious shill, at least he could write a disclaimer along the lines of “I just write this crap because I get paid to. I’m really not this stupid”.

7 John Muir { 03.19.08 at 9:41 am }

And why aren’t we really slamming Business Week?

8 chefmitch { 03.19.08 at 10:59 am }

@John Muir

I agree 100 %

I used to think highly of Business Week (I have been reading for 10+ years) but the magazine itself has been on a very long and slow ride to mediocrity. With pieces like this on their website, Business Week is now a joke. I hope the editors think a few clicks is worth their reputation.

9 gus2000 { 03.19.08 at 10:59 am }

If the chair will give the floor to Representative Gus, I move to nominate Mr. Kay for the prestigious “Zoon” award. Do I have a second?

I usually get better analysis and opinion than Mr. Kay at the neighborhood bar, although the drunks are seemingly better-informed.

10 jfatz { 03.19.08 at 11:14 am }

Do steadily increasing reports of people talking about OTHER people’s reports speculating about possible virus issues in the future without figures or analysis count?

11 dustbag { 03.19.08 at 11:24 am }

@John Muir – I agree, Business Week should be embarrassed to publish such drivel. I sent them an email to that effect. My guess is that they’ll hide behind the fact they put it in their opinion section vs. representing as a “factual” article. We’ll see how they respond.

@gus – Seconded!

12 InnerCynic { 03.19.08 at 11:32 am }

Many years ago I came to the conclusion that Business Week (or is it Weak?) wasn’t to be trusted. In fact I found that most of the time if you go 180 to their bloviating prognostications that you’ll be better off. It’s the contrarians crystal ball.

13 JulesLt { 03.19.08 at 11:48 am }

jfatx – damn, you beat me to it. I was going to say that it is actually true that there has been an increase in reports of viruses on OS X. That isn’t the same as any increase in viruses (still zero).

Gruber at least acknowledges that so far Vista’s security has also been good. Once that message gets through, perhaps they will start to realise that the appalling security on Windows was an aberration, not a norm.

14 purejadekid { 03.19.08 at 12:00 pm }

I second that Zoon nomination.

15 davidosus { 03.19.08 at 12:38 pm }

It’s frustrating to see the market respond to articles like this, causing Apple’s stock to drop in value.

Perhaps Mr. Kay is going short on Apple’s stock…

16 jfatz { 03.19.08 at 1:48 pm }

@JulesLT

Well, it’s hard to say that it hasn’t been the norm on Windows if it’s been a problem ever since the dawn of time until Vista, and especially the dawn of pervasive networking. ;-)

It just might be that they’ve learned something after a few decades.

17 hamster { 03.19.08 at 2:22 pm }

Daniel, thanks for the usual superb analysis.

Just a minor editorial quibble – you have a favourite expression, “reign in”, as in: “…over-confident hubris reigned in by the gods.” This spelling of “reign” means “hold royal office: rule as king or queen.”

What I think you mean is “rein in” as in “cause (a horse) to stop or slow down by pulling on its reins.”

18 johnnyapple { 03.19.08 at 3:11 pm }

Gerd also nominated Kay yesterday in the forum. I browsed the piece and saw “It’s little surprise then that reports of Mac viruses have been rising steadily.” I quickly closed the Window as I wasn’t having a particularly good day. At least here and can read truth while picking up some greek mythology, all while being entertained. Thanks Daniel!

19 benlewis { 03.19.08 at 4:32 pm }

I love the Fujitsu ad. Especially the laser zapping down every time someone sends an email. It’s like someone from 1980 made a video about their vision of the future in 1990.

20 seedave { 03.19.08 at 4:35 pm }

hey mmbosman, i was dropped on my head as a child! And bounced down the steps, too! And I had a really bad case of measles! That’s why I use Macs. No more security lapses or viruses!

21 Brau { 03.20.08 at 2:44 am }

@ Tod: “sudo” as in the CLI super user?

Yes, as in Eunuchs. ;)

22 Llydis { 03.20.08 at 3:25 pm }

I’m still wondering where all these Mac viruses are. Should I get some virus software? Wait, do they even make them for Mac?

23 Windinthedust { 03.28.08 at 8:03 pm }

Roger must have so many hits, he wrote a follow up article:

http://www.technewsworld.com/story/62179.html

24 Windinthedust { 03.28.08 at 8:05 pm }

Roger must have had so many hits, he wrote a follow up article:

http://www.technewsworld.com/story/62179.html

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