Langa's Cruisin' For A Bruisin'
April 1, 1999
There's an old saying, "I've been down so long, I need to find a dog to kick." That sentiment may explain some of the exceptionally harsh treatment Langa has given Apple to date. No one likes to kick an underdog — but Langa relishes kicking just about any dog.
Apple has done some things well, much to Langa's discontent. It has hyped and advertised the iMac and made it an unprecedented success, and as a result managed to move a boatload of the curvy little boxes. Langa meanwhile has done his darnedest best to condemn the iMac to death, passing off a shipload of ludicrous arguments as his basis for predicting the iMac's impending demise — oh sure, I see it happening just about any day now. (Long-time readers know how he continually accuses Apple of elitist advertising tactics to achieve his goal — you can find past columns in his archives (but you certainly won't find it here). Still, he can't deny that Apple's iMac strategy has been hugely successful.)
Steve Jobs, with an undeniable sense of style and showmanship, has breathed new energy into Apple, as Langa grudgingly admits, and may succeed in his in-progress work of bringing Apple back from the brink of extinction to a secure market niche. I certainly share his concerns; after five successive quarters of profits, Apple is still currently a dismal third behind Compaq and Hewlett-Packard in sales, and was almost pipped by IBM. This is hardly any improvement in the company's position since the darkest days of 1996-97, as I'm sure most of you would agree. And if you actually believe what I've just said, you obviously haven't read enough of my previous articles to appreciate the subtlety of my humor.
But all is never rosy in Langa's view of Apple. He peruses the byways of Usenet, fishing for G3 users who are less than thrilled with their new systems, just so he has further basis for bashing the Mac's present memory management/memory protection scheme as the latest weakness to attack — after all, time is running out before Mac OS X arrives.With the clock ticking away, he knows his criticisms will become moot very shortly, as he condemns the Mac's memory management as being probably the worst among all the currently shipping major operating systems, and its lack of preemptive multitasking.
He's got a point there; memory management and preemptive multitasking are certainly much, much more critical factors than the mere empty boast that all Macs since 1984 are built to flick aside the Y2K bug that's scaring the rest of the PC world half to death when it's not costing governments, industries, and businesses billions of dollars to remedy. Billions of dollars to damage-control a PC bug — and he's quibbling about memory management and multitasking. Multitask that!
To his credit however, Langa realises that OS X is supposed to remedy many of the problems with the current Mac OS, and he can't seem to wait until the later half of this year when OS X becomes available. So he can pick a bone with it then.
He plays up the incident that occured at the recent MacWorld Tokyo (he probably got a much better front-row-seat view of the whole proceedings at the Makuhari Messe than I did through a tiny RealVideo window, but I digress), when a live demo by Jobs didn't work out as Langa had hoped. But these things happen. It happened to Bill Gates, in case Langa has conveniently forgotten, and it's about time it happened to Jobs. Because it's always interesting to see how someone handles these awkward situations while onstage in front of a live audience. Microsoft's Ben Waldman, whose charming eloquence as he addressed the audience in Japanese was subsequently reduced later to a bout of nervous rambling during the flawed demo of Internet Explorer 4.5, will readily testify to that.
Langa goes on to talk about the climax of Jobs' 75-minute presentation: a demo of OS X Server using normal, off-the-shelf G3 hardware with which Jobs was going to simultaneously stream video to 50 iMacs from a single G3 server.
As he gleefully reports, it didn't work. For a short while. Langa conveniently forgot to mention that shortly after Jobs wished the audience a pleasant show ahead and left the stage, the demo rectified itself and the streaming videos streamed. Nor did he even bother to mention that the very same demo was staged successfully during MacWorld San Francisco just a month earlier.
The whole thing just bombed? I think that's something of an exaggeration, as were the several reports that Jobs left the stage "visibly upset" when no such thing was evident when I watched the delayed webcast.
Langa goes on next to Darwin, the open-source version of Mac OS X Server, and chastises Apple for wanting to stay in total control, requiring developers to notify them of any changes they made as a condition for continued licensing. Now what's wrong with that? Tell me if I'm wrong, but as an analogy, just look at Java and what Microsoft tried to do to it. If Sun Microsystems had somehow exercised stricter control over Java, would that have happened?
I have to wonder what Langa's agenda is. He praises the style and showmanship of Jobs which has "given Apple a fabulous opportunity to gain real momentum", and in the same breath wonders if the company is frittering its chances away. His subtlety is at times breathtaking.
Few companies survive near-death experiences as dire as Apple's, says Langa. And he's absolutely right on that count. But as in all classic cases of NDEs reported, it's probably the very same few that survive these experiences who resurge with a new vitality — and spirituality even — and with a brand-new sense of purpose and mission. Apple's instinct to fight back from the brink of extinction may well have inspired it to stop thinking like the rest of the dinosaurs. To think different and evolve in order to ensure survival. (Hey, maybe I should pitch this idea to Steve Jobs...)
Langa's been wrong before. He was wrong about the iMac not having a floppy (he arrogantly predicted that Apple would have a floppy drive back in the iMac within six months from an Aug 26 1998 article he wrote entitled "The Herd Instinct"). It's well past Feb 26 1999, and horrors! now even the Blue G3s don't have floppies. What in the world was Apple thinking?! Have they gone mad?!
I've got news for Langa — we're ALL crazy. Satisfied?
Yes, Fred Langa must need some hits really, really bad, after the hiatus from his Mac-bashing spree during the later part of last year. I just feel compelled to grant him his wish.
What was that, Fred? Oh, you meant "hits" as in visitors to your article. Sorry about that.
What's your take? To let CMPNet know what you think of Fred Langa's article, contact email@example.com today.
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