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For six years, the Internet Nexus served as my technology blog, but I've since started blogging at the SuperSite Blog instead. If you're looking for the blog, please head there. --Paul

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reality Check: Microsoft Showed Practicality, Compassion for Mac at Apple's Lowest Point

Me, in WinInfo and tired of the silliness:
With Apple teetering towards bankruptcy in 1997 and in desperate need of financial aid and help from its partners, top executives at Microsoft reviewed an upcoming version of Mac Office (which eventually shipped as Mac Office 98) and made impassioned pleas for its release, despite Apple's declining market share and falling revenues in Microsoft's Mac Business Unit (MBU). These details came to light in recent court disclosures related to Microsoft's Iowa class action lawsuit. And they paint a decidedly unfamiliar portrait of a corporate super giant who is more infamous for stepping on competitors than aiding them.

Of course, that's not how the Mac community sees things. And it's time for this silliness to stop.

In a June 1997 email exchange between then-Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and MBU chief Ben Waldman, Gates thanks Waldman for showing "the kind of passion about great products that has made Microsoft successful." "I admit we have neglected the Mac business," Gates wrote. "Although the Mac is declining if we move ahead on this product we should ask for the [subsidiaries] with localized product to make a real effort."

Every Mac-oriented publication on earth, from what I can tell, has cited this email exchange as an example of Microsoft's ongoing efforts to keep Apple down. Macworld, for example, also reported that Microsoft was using Mac users as "guinea pigs" to test features that would later appear in Windows versions of Office, as if getting features first were somehow a bad thing. (Microsoft actually promotes these features as its "Mac-First" innovations.) Other publications and Mac news sites played up the threat to shut down Mac Office, which frankly would have made good business sense given that revenues from Mac Office fell from $200 million to $150 million between 1996 and 1997 as Apple teetered toward a bleak finish that, ultimately, never happened.

More important, we have that email record that everyone is so excited about. What it shows to me is a company dedicated to making great products and, yes, supporting then-struggling Apple with the best version of Office Microsoft had yet created. Don't believe me? You can read it yourself. My guess is you'll come away with a less dramatic version of history than the Mac pariahs are pushing.
My son, Mark, will turn 9 years old next month. He's a good kid, very athletic and competitive. But one of the things I'm trying to teach him is sportsmanship. When he loses at anything--sports, video games, whatever--he descends into state of despair that is, in my opinion, overly morose. But God help you if the kid ever beats you, as he'll dance on your grave. He is, in other words, even worse in victory than he is in defeat. And it's this lack of class that I'm trying to correct.

To be fair, it's natural and even age appropriate for an 8-year-old. It's not appropriate for adults.

In an age when Apple has rebounded, stared death in the face and walked away not just unscathed but in better shape than ever, at a time when the iPod and iTunes dominate their respective markets and the Mac has no business even being around but is, in fact, flourishing, one might expect a bit of maturity on the part of its fans. However, I find myself generally disappointed in this regard. (There are always wonderful, eye-opening exceptions.) Apple fanatics--and I'm talking the real crazies here, not most Mac users--jump from cause to cause, eager to show how they're being put down by The Man, again and again. They see slights that don't exist. They make up problems with competing products. They push a fanciful version of history in which none of the bad stuff ever happened.

Heads up, guys. It's getting old. And when you're rallying around a multi-billion-dollar company that is, frankly, kicking ass, this kind of behavior isn't just silly, it's counterproductive. And if you were my kid, I'd give you a time out.

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