Strong opinions, weakly held

Forever ’95

Anil Dash had a strong negative reaction to Apple’s little joke at the expense of Windows in Leopard. If you haven’t seen it yet, Apple’s icon for PCs on your network (or anything that looks like a PC) is a CRT monitor displaying the dreaded blue screen of death.


It’s funny how Apple’s perception of itself differs from Anil’s perception of it. Apple obviously still sees itself as the struggling computer company, trying to build better products to compete against an incompetent but incredibly powerful Goliath. Apple has always seen itself that way, and still does, apparently, even though it’s now worth more than IBM.

For Apple, it will always be 1995. Microsoft was just coming out with Windows 95, which aped many of the best features of System 7, and Apple was in the doldrums, not shipping software upgrades and creating hardware that was ruinously expensive and mediocre at best. I have still never forgotten the famous “C:\ONGRTLNS.W95” that Apple ran, mocking the old file naming limitations from the DOS (and Windows 3.1) days. Back then, Mac users felt like they were under siege. Apple was doing poorly, nobody would let you use a Mac at work, and Microsoft was garnering a ton of publicity for releasing features you already had on your beloved Mac.

What the icon indicates to me is that Apple’s perception of itself hasn’t changed much since those days, even if the company’s circumstances have.

I should mention that in an ironic twist, some people trying to upgrade to Leopard are running into blue screen problem themselves. Hubris never stops amusing.


  1. Well, come on. Let’s be fair here. The “blue screen” problem has been conclusively traced to an unsupported, very iffy “hack” that some people had chosen to install on their computers. And not even the most recent version of that hack.

    So yes, you will get a “blue screen” if you are (a) upgrading, as opposed to archive-and-installing or erase-and-installing, from an installation of Tiger on which you had installed an old hack which you’d not updated.

    It kinda reminds me of a guy who complained that his Mac laptop was kernel-panicking all the time, and therefore that Mac OS X wasn’t stable at all. “Did you ever find out what was causing it?” I asked. “Yeah, I had some bad RAM,” he said. But he continued to insist that the operating system should have remained fully functional even in the presence of faulty hardware!

    The whole line of reasoning just baffles me, frankly.

  2. All (or at least most) of Apple’s recent success is due to the iPod and iTunes and the mistake people make is assuming that success in that area translates to being able to build complex hardware and software. Apple actively preys on this misconception.

    Apple has, and always will be, a design/idea company but the implementation of some of their ideas falls far short of expectations. Clever ads and pretty hardware notwithstanding.

    Rejoice in their popularity, they’ve earned it, but don’t mistake popularity in one line of business for competentence in all areas.

  3. All (or at least most) of Apple’s recent success is due to the iPod and iTunes and the mistake people make is assuming that success in that area translates to being able to build complex hardware and software.

    This is insane. They’re shipping more Macs than at any time in history, and are shipping more PCs than any computer company not named “HP” or “Dell”.

  4. Yeah, Apple is really good at making personal computers. I am shocked at the number of people who’d I’ve called Windows enthusiasts using Macs these days. The hardware and software is just darned nice.

    And as far as the blue screen thing goes, I think the irony is in the fact that the screen turns blue, not in the fact that Apple failed to test their installer on computers that happened to be running an out of date UI hack. I think most people would agree that’s a tough problem to figure out prior to release.

  5. I’m not unhappy with the Forever ’95 attitude. It’s part of why the try so hard to make things really, really well. I don’t want them to become complacent.

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