Columnist: Does anyone keep up with Apple anymore?

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Time to take the reporter's gloves off and put on the op-ed hat.

I know better. I really know better. I can tell when someone is just clamoring for attention. When someone waves anti-Mac trollbait like this in my face, I know deep down inside that they're just looking for a dramatic increase in page impressions from all the Web traffic it'll drive. They want to be able to tell those stories to their colleagues about all the horrible Mac zealots that wrote or e-mailed or called them because they said something about the Mac. But I have really poor impulse control, and this one is just so out there, I can't resist.

This time the hair across my ample posterior comes from the words of Carroll Wilson, the editor of that bastion of timely and insightful technology reporting, the Times Record News of Wichita Falls, Texas. His new column is entitled Does anyone actually keep up with Apple anymore?

Wilson admits that the last time he heard anything about the company was when it introduced the Power Mac G4 Cube, which was well over a year ago now. In fact, the Cube's entire life span has come and gone since Wilson last checked into things, it seems. That also means that Wilson has missed important milestones in Apple's history like the release of OS X, the PowerBook G4, the new iBook, the DVD-R SuperDrive, and the opening of Apple's own chain of retail stores, including one that's a reasonable drive away from him.

"Now, I understand from reading MIT's Technology Review (not an advertisement in a consumer magazine or a commercial on MTV) that Apple is launching a new operating system that is supposed to be revolutionary," said Wilson.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, OS X has been out for about six months now. Hey, Mr. Wilson, are you reading a back issue, or just confused by what you read? What's just come out this week is an upgrade to an operating system.

Wilson's complaint about a lack of advertising is baseless. It merely reinforces what Apple CEO Steve Jobs told crowds at this week's Seybold Seminars conference in San Francisco. Mac OS X 10.1's release marks what Jobs likens to the hand at six of the Mac OS X adoption clock. When the clock strikes 12, that's when Apple will begin to ship the operating system as the only system installed on its computers. I predict that we'll see plenty of advertising around that time.

Wilson goes on to take issue with Technology Review's Simson Garfinkel for "[drooling] all over himself" for lauding Apple's efforts with Mac OS X. Wilson boldly claims that Apple is "almost not even in the computer game anymore. It has shot itself in the foot so many times, it's hobbling around on nothing but a couple of stumps."

Coulda fooled me, pal. That explains why Apple is one of the few companies that make personal computers, which is actually reporting profits. Riiight.

If Apple has shot itself in the foot, Mr. Wilson, can we assume that Dell and company aimed straight for its collective head?

Wilson likens Apple's attempts to succeed with Mac OS X to Ford trying to rework the Edsel, its famous dud. Wilson implies that the reason for Apple's failure to capture the same marketshare as its Windows-compatible rivals rests solely on pricing. "Apple has never priced itself competitively, which is why it's in the terrible position it's in right now," said Wilson.

We've heard the whole price argument before, and there's some truth to computers as a commodity. The slowdown PC makers have seen in the past year ought to challenge this convention -- there's a lot more to a computer than just price.

In fact this philosophy is what Apple is betting its entire retail strategy around -- the idea that people want to know what their computers can do, not just how much they cost. That consumers are looking for quantifiable ways that a computer can improve their lives, not just run software or occupy a desk in the office or den. Apple is focusing, as Jobs and company have said, on making the Mac the hub of the digital lifestyle. And although analysts and industry insiders were largely skeptical of Apple's retail efforts when they were first announced, many of them have turned around now that they've seen them in action.

"The PC game is about money, period, for 99.5 percent of those who want or need a computer. For a few computer graphic nerds, spending the extra cash on a Mac is worth it," said Wilson.

While Wilson might be able to find a less expensive PC compatible computer, I suspect he'll have a much harder time finding one as well-equipped or as easy to use in the same price category as Apple's line of consumer and professional machines. Hell, if you can find a better-equipped Windows laptop than the iBook at the same price and with as easy-to-use software, buy it. I know you won't, because like a Times Record News editor who actually knows what he's talking about when it comes to the Mac, IT DOESN'T EXIST.

Now, mind you, my beef isn't with Wichita Falls -- it seems like a nice enough place. It's a city of over 100,000 residents near the borders of Oklahoma and Texas that's about two hours away northwest of Dallas and about the same distance south of Oklahoma City. According to the city's own Web site, they get about 200,000 tourists every year, have a multi-million dollar event complex and sport dozens of learning institutions from primary schools to universities. Heck, they even have a symphony and a ballet theatre, which is a lot more than most places -- where I live included -- can claim.

All this is to just to say that it strikes me as extraordinarily disappointing that the editor of a publication local to a relatively bustling, urbane location as Wichita Falls should not just be ignorant about Apple, but so damnably arrogant about his own ignorance. Don't take my word for it -- take his. Click on the link above to read his comments in full, and then form your own opinion. Even if some of Mr. Wilson's more colorful comments are tongue-in-cheek, he's clearly out of his league when it comes to understanding what the Mac is all about.

Let me leave you with the final paragraph of Mr. Wilson's latest treatise.

"Wilson is the editor. He can be reached by calling 720-3435 or via e-mail at wilsonc@wtr.com."

And for what it's worth, if you're in or around Wichita Falls, Texas, and you think Wilson might be right, here's an idea: Pack up the car and head to the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano. That's where Apple's first Dallas-area store is located. Decide for yourself.

This story, "Columnist: Does anyone keep up with Apple anymore?" was originally published by PCWorld.

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