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The New York Times Throws Apple a Puff Piece

I usually like The New York Time's John Markoff, but this time he's a bit too friendly with his topic. In this article about Apple's recent PC market share gains, he fails to adequately highlight that the lofty numbers he's citing are US only, and he also conveniently skips over the fact that 4 of the 5 "major" OS X upgrades that Apple has shipped since the original 2001 version have cost Mac customers $129 each time. Windows users, meanwhile, have only had to pay for one upgrade, Vista, in that time. So while Vista may technically be more expensive than OS X, it's also only a one time fee: A Mac user who bought OS X in 2001 and then paid for 10.2, 10.3, 10.4, and now 10.5 (10.1 was free) would have spent $645. Kind of makes the cost of Vista Ultimate look like a bargain by comparison. OK, that little bit of perspective out of the way, here's some interesting facts and figures from the article, along with some relevant commentary:

Two research firms that track the computer market said last week that Apple would move into third place in the United States behind Hewlett-Packard and Dell on Monday, when it reports product shipments in the fiscal fourth quarter as part of its earnings announcement.

"I’m quite pleased with the pace of new operating systems every 12 to 18 months for the foreseeable future," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said. "We've put out major releases on the average of one a year, and it’s given us the ability to polish and polish and improve and improve."

The average of one a year? Major releases? LOL. Wow.

It's been two and a half years since the last "major" OS X release, Tiger.

That pace suggests that Apple will continue to move more quickly than Microsoft, which took almost seven years between the release of its Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems.

Aside from the fact that "that pace" is a lie, it also suggests that Apple will continue to charge its customers more often for upgrades than Microsoft. This is a fact that Markoff ignores.

While there are multiple editions of Vista with different features at different prices, the top being the Ultimate edition, Apple has set a single price of $129 for Leopard.

With Leopard, Mr. Jobs joked, “everybody gets the Ultimate edition and it sells for 129 bucks, and if you go on Amazon and look at the Ultimate edition of Vista, it sells for 250 bucks.” 

That's so funny. But see my note about this above. That's irrelevant for the reasons I mention at the beginning of this post and because most (over 95 percent) of Windows users don't actually "buy" Windows at retail, they get it with new computers when they upgrade. It's a completely different sales model. Yes, Mac owners also get OS X with new Macs, but Apple sells millions of retail copies of the OS each time it ships an ugprade; clearly, a huge percentage of Mac users feel the need to buy upgrades each time at retail.

 Microsoft has also hinted that its next operating system, code-named Windows 7, would not arrive until 2010. At Apple’s current pace, it will have introduced two new versions of its operating system by then.

And charged them another $260. Meanwhile, Windows users will have paid nothing for their service packs and the many, many free upgrades Microsoft ships via Windows Update and the Web. Explain to me again why Apple's way is "better" for users and how, exactly Apple is moving faster than Microsoft.

Apple has not been flawless in its execution. Early this year, it delayed the introduction of Leopard for four months. Mr. Jobs attributed this at the time to the company’s need to move programming development resources to an iPhone version of the OS X operating system.

Steve Jobs originally claimed Leopard would ship before Vista. So this version has not been delayed just four months. Let's get realistic here.

Although Apple may be able to grow briskly by taking Windows customers from Microsoft, the two companies face a similar problem: the industry is maturing and there have been no obvious radical innovations to jump-start growth. Indeed, many of the new features in the Leopard operating system version are incremental improvements.

Please pay attention to this last bit; it's very important and is, in fact, central to my upcoming Leopard review. Apple, like Microsoft, has a problem: OS X, like Windows, is mature. So it's getting hard to ship major upgrades, though Apple has little problem describing evolutionary updates like Leopard as "major updates." Leopard is not a major update. It is however, a solid and respectable continuation of the OS X line. Apple can't market it like that, because no one would buy it. But that's what it is.

What's hilarious here is how the discussion turns from OS X to the iPhone, because there's no huge innovations in Leopard at all, while there are some major innovations in the iPhone. I'll re-use part of the quote above for context so you can see how Markoff effortlessly changes the discussion from the actual topic (the Mac is selling better than ever and here comes Leopard) to an ancillary and almost completely unrelated topic: But hey, let's talk iPhone too. The problem is that the typical NYT reader will never know they've been fooled into making this connection...

Indeed, many of the new features in the Leopard operating system version are incremental improvements. But Mr. Jobs said he was struck by the success of the multitouch interface that is at the heart of the iPhone version of the OS X. This allows a user to touch the screen at more than one point to zoom in on a portion of a photo, for example.

“People don’t understand that we’ve invented a new class of interface,” he said.

He contrasted it with stylus interfaces, like the approach Microsoft took with its tablet computer. That interface is not so different from what most computers have been using since the mid-1980s.

In contrast, Mr. Jobs said that multitouch drastically simplified the process of controlling a computer.

Wow. That has nothing to do with Leopard. But then I'm sure the typical SuperSite reader knows that. The typical NYT reader? Not so much.

So there you go. Sad.

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