Editorial: Apple, Smugness, and You | iLounge Article


Editorial: Apple, Smugness, and You

It’s a claim certain people have been making for a while: Apple as a company is too smug, and so are fans of Apple products. If you’re not familiar with the word already, to be “smug” is to have or show an excessive pride in oneself or one’s achievements. And there are arguably plenty of examples of Apple smugness: the now common PC versus Mac commercials where the cool Mac guy confidently stands out from his rumpled PC counterpart, and more recently, some text in Apple’s announcement that it had shipped a small number of iPods containing a Windows virus.

“As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses,” said Apple, “and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it.” Even to fans of Apple and the Mac OS, the sub-text was obvious: ‘it’s only because we accommodate PC users that we have to deal with these sorts of Windows-only problems,’ Apple seemed to be saying, ‘but yeah, it’s partially our fault, too.’

Supporters of the Apple smugness theory were upset that the company tried to apportion the blame rather than fully accepting it, and suggested that it was part of a trend of foolish pride that turns off a lot of potential Apple customers. Typical was the response of one journalist, an iPod owner, who blogged angrily about the virus announcement: “only Apple could ship a product with a virus and then be smug about it. [...] Today’s one of those contrast days: I used a Mac for a few hours today at work and really enjoyed it, and then I’m reminded why I hate Apple and its fans.”

Let’s be frank here: yes, Apple and its fans tend to be zealous. As is repeatedly reflected in surveys, Apple’s customers universally have more of a “love” relationship with their computers and iPods than do users of competing products, and they don’t mind telling people about it. “You should really consider a Mac,” they often say to people who are in the midst of Windows problems, “this sort of stuff isn’t an issue.” And they nod knowingly at all the PC versus Mac commercials, realizing that as mildly funny as most of them are intended to be, they’re also accurate. But Apple’s fans didn’t pick those advertisements or choose to blame Windows for an iPod-borne virus. That was all Apple.

Regardless of whatever you think of Apple, “smug” probably isn’t the right word for Apple fans. Ninety-five percent of the time, they’re not talking up their iPods or Macs in order to boast or put someone else off - they’re generally trying to help friends enjoy the same things they have and love. Unfortunately, this distinction is lost on some people, especially those who are using Windows-based PCs and not having serious issues.

As a company, Apple might be a different story. It’s clearly proud of its accomplishments, a fact which some may see as smug, while others feel is deserved. After all, many of Microsoft’s biggest ideas - both for Windows and its upcoming Zune - largely “borrow” concepts that Apple has championed for years, often during derision from Microsoft and its most active promoters. A closed hardware, software, and music downloading ecosystem to guarantee uniformity and quality in user experiences? It has worked brilliantly for the iPod, but Microsoft knocked it for years before adopting the exact same model for Zune. Teasing Microsoft about its photocopier mentality has been part of the Apple script for some time now, and honestly, given Microsoft’s own track record, we think it’s appropriate.

The problem is mostly perception. When Apple talks itself up, it sounds like the genius kid you knew in high school - the one who was obviously really smart but didn’t know how to make friends. Just as the genius learns when he tries unsuccessfully to run for class president, popularity - market share - depends more upon making friends than being the best. And blaming the other guy for your loss is bad sportsmanship, hence the negative reactions from so many people over Apple’s virus commentary.

More than zealous fans - the reliable journalists and MUG members who reliably praise every new Cupertino invention, and actually enjoy Microsoft-bashing - Apple really needs more friends right now, namely people who actually sell (read: non-Apple retailers) and buy (read: non-Apple customers) competing products. The iPod and increasingly present Apple Stores are having positive effects on the marketplace, but they’re not enough: many computer owners aren’t portable music lovers, and there’s no reason to go to an Apple Store if you’re not looking to buy a music player or a computer. To win the mainstream over, we think Apple’s going to need more distribution points, a new pitch, and probably, a slightly modified attitude - one that doesn’t rub a significant portion (perhaps 94%) of the marketplace the wrong way.

Readers, what do you think? Does Apple need to stay the course, or make some adjustments? We look forward to seeing your comments below.

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Of course the reaction to the virus issue was smug.  If the reply had been “This slipped by our quality control, we are deeeply sorry and are working to make sure nothing like thing will happen again.”  then no one would be calling Apple smug.

So who’s the jerk who can’t take responsibility at Apple?  Who made the decision to go public with the stupid reply blaming Windows when Apple shipped infected iPods?  Whoever that person is, they need to learn what doesn’t alienate 94% of the population.

Posted by stark23x on October 19, 2006 at 6:07 PM (CDT)


I’m one of those “smug” people. So what? Why should I apologize for having a better system than the schlubs out there too cheap and ignorant to get anything better? Was the virus thing a PR goof.. only if it was false… which it wasn’t. Windows is an open sore. I know it, you know it, we all scream. There is no ice cream. Here’s a parable: I went to France for the first time a few years ago and after hearing story upon story how they were arrogant, I found them to be nice people who are just really into their culture and want to keep it from being diluted. The same thing can be said for Apple. But some people will just complain and complain about not having a cheeseburger on the Eiffel Tower. Nice tangent huh.. My point is this: I love my Macbook. It’s just plain better. Apple.. stay the course. Microsoft’s lack of quality control (not to mention a new OS) will have people coming your way soon enough.

Posted by Boris34 on October 19, 2006 at 6:09 PM (CDT)


the reason that apple does not have a lot of market share is because during the 90s when the computer industry was taking off they didn’t focus on making cheap computers for the workplace and instead on power users. they therefore created a deeply loyal power base, but lost the market. The only reason windows is ubiquitous is because it is in the workplace of 99% of the worlds working computer users use windows at work, and 75% of them barely can use windows, and they won’t learn another OS. the other 74.99%  want a Mac but don’t know that Office for mac exists. I am typing this on a windows laptop with an iMac in the basement so i am definitely not a Mac fanboy.

Posted by anti-luddite on October 19, 2006 at 7:34 PM (CDT)


At home, I use a Mac.  Three of them, to be exact, along with two PCs.  Guess which get more use?  Not that I’m complaining about PCs.  As a private consultant, they ensure my income.  If I had to rely on Mac woes to generate income, I’d go bankrupt.

Posted by Falconer on October 19, 2006 at 7:42 PM (CDT)


Apple’s comment was appropriate for its target customer base. Someone who is willing to stand out and put up with the inconveniences when trying to connect to the corporate world. I use a Mac at home. Flat out better platform for music & video. But my work buddies who use Mac in the large enterprise, struggle every day.

Microsoft’s response to Apple was the slap in the face that Apple deserved AND hurt Apple in it’s efforts to gain share in the corporate world. In effect, Microsoft spoke to its corporate customers by saying Apple’s quality control is suspect and makes it a risky platform on which to build enterprise applications.

2.8% market share is not a position from which to be arrogant. Apple’s growing, but I don’t love Apple just because my iPod is great. Remember what happened to arrogant Apple in 1995? (The world got windows.)

Posted by drakebullet on October 19, 2006 at 9:44 PM (CDT)


As a side note, Linux zealots are slightly similar to Mac users, except that generally Linux zealots have a depth of knowledge to go along with it. On top of that, not every Linux user is a zealot, however, most Mac users come over to me as smug. That’s not to say they all are, but more to say a larger percentage of people that use Macs come over as smug than any other OS. But I hate fanboys in any case, so I’m probably not the best judge.

However, on the market side, Apple has been using the same strategy for years, and they probably will keep using it for years to come: Erode slowly at your opponent while creating a fanatical user base. It’s a very solid marketing strategy, but it takes a long while to work out. I just hope the entire world doesn’t end up being smug as then I’d have to move to Siberia.

And to the Mac users who think their computers will never crash, aren’t there Mac virii? Oh, and have you ever mucked up the extensions to your system? How exactly do you figure out /which/ extension is the problem? If you really want a superior product, don’t use a Mac, don’t use a PC, use an UltraSparc-based server. The fact of the matter is, your system is NOT the best. Neither is Windows. Neither is Solaris. Neither is Linux. Every OS sucks. Get over yourselves and move on to more important stuff. Do us all a favor won’t you?

Posted by daedlus on October 19, 2006 at 9:58 PM (CDT)


I really like Apple’s “arrogance”.

It’s a much more honest and purer expression of their superior everything than pretending to be humble, invisible, nobody with nothing. All invisible would do is perpetuate the past where Windows drones under the constant yoke of horrid software and attacks simply feel they have no choice. For those poor souls there is hope if they’re brighter than the average drone and they see that by switching to a Mac, they too can have a happy life instead of perpetual mediocrity and life as a looser.

Posted by timdimsim on October 19, 2006 at 11:09 PM (CDT)


For me , it isn’t only the ‘smugness’, it’s slipping quality over the past year or so, most recently exemplified by e terrible release of iTunes 7 and 7.0.1. Be smug all you want, but let’s make sure you’re shipping and releasing quality, not garbage.

Posted by JWj on October 20, 2006 at 7:25 AM (CDT)


Now from the other side of the fence, I’m a PC user who takes offense at the Mac user who smugly says their product is better.  All I know, is that I’ve played with a Mac a few times and just don’t get the attraction.  And, in fact, have managed to crash the “uncrashable” system more than once.  There’s a reason why viruses tend to be geared toward Windows, and that’s because there are 4 Windows PCs for every MAC PC, and that the majority of businesses that some of these viruses target are Windows based.  Apple IS smug to put IT’S quality control failure on Windows, especially since they HAD to KNOW that viruses are ALWAYS a possibility.  I work in IT Risk, and trust me, a product EVER got released with a virus, the blame would be on US, not on any operating system or outside factor.  Appple should take ALL the blame as it is their fault.

Posted by steveknj on October 20, 2006 at 8:40 AM (CDT)


Even though I’m a Mac fan and supporter, Microsoft executives are right about Apple’s handling of this particular incident…

First, Apple is shipping its iPods formatted for Windows, realizing that more Windows users will use them than Mac users.

So, if you’re taking “the risk” of shipping your products in Windows format, then you have to assume the responsibility of delivering those products virus free.

Imagine the contrary, Microsoft shipping its Zune in Mac format with a new kind of virus specially tailored to wreck havoc in OS X.

Would you accept Microsoft’s apology for “Mac users never installing an antivirus because they think their system is hardier against viruses”?

Posted by Korpil on October 20, 2006 at 10:09 AM (CDT)


Apple missed an opportunity with the iPod virus incident.
They could have expressed complete ownership of responsibility.

At that point, the reaction from the public would have been to redirect the blame to Microsoft for its poor OS security, and to praise Apple for its standup approach.

They blew the PR on this one.

Posted by hchute on October 20, 2006 at 1:10 PM (CDT)


I LOVE my iPod. I LOVE my iMac, but I have to agree, this was Apple’s fault. Sure, it would be better if windows didn’t suck so much and wasn’t attacked by so many viruses, but Apple still has the responsibility of sending out virus-free products (even if it was less than 100 i[nfected]Pods). That said, I wish more people became familiar with the benefits of apple products. In the mid-90’s I spent a short time working at a job that required me to use both, a Mac (for graphics) and a PC (for interacting with the rest of the corporation), at one desk. They’re both pretty similar to be honest. The PC crashed a lot more - but the Mac did still crash from time to time. On the other hand, my iPod is amazing, so much better than the first MP3 player I bought in 1999. The Zune is embarrassingly weak (and I was actually in J Allard’s wedding, so I wanted it/him to succeed). Yeah, Apple came off as a little smug, but it’s hard not to when you’re “the smart kid”.

Posted by urbanslaughter on October 20, 2006 at 2:42 PM (CDT)


First, I like my iPod, and use it with a WinXP laptop.

The reason Macs aren’t targeted by virus and spyware writers is that they’re a small percentage of the available personal computers out there. It requires just as much effort to write malware for a Mac as it does for a PC, and far fewer Mac systems are out there to infect.

Back in the late 80s, when Macs were a larger percentage of the installed population, there were lots of Mac viruses. I know; I spent a week removing a virus from all of the Macs on an Appletalk network, and the users floppy disks, and the servers, etc. Symantec sold a lot of Mac virus scanners in those days.

Now, OS/X is a variant of BSD Unix, and is more secure than that old Mac OS. However, OS/X would also be susceptible to BSD specific viruses and malware, if someone chose to write them. Occasional alerts are seen for susceptibilities of BSD Unix; presumably Apple sends out patches to fix such problems.

Posted by FloydC on October 21, 2006 at 7:38 PM (CDT)


I think the point is very well taken. Maybe Apple fans have some level of smug, but I think is funny how many people miss the point.  Apple competes with THE ENTIRE PC INDUSTRY, not only Microsoft. Microsoft is only one player(perhaps the biggest one but still only one) in the game.  A computer is OS, hardware and software.  The Apple corporation is the only one that controls all three. 

Apple is not mocking only Microsoft, but Dell, Sony, HP, IBM, the third party software that comes with some PCs and the hardware that works with them…etc.  You have to admire how bold that is. Is like mocking Catholicism in a country that is 94 percent catholic.

I personally think that these new “Hello I am a Mac and I am a PC” commercials are great.  There is a lot of people out there that thinks there is no difference between the two, and if these new commercials illustrates it in a graphic way then more power to them.  If people realize that when you buy a mac you are also buying a different computer experience that they are working. 

Yes, Apple consumers are still going to brag about their products because just like their famous 1984 commercial

the other 94 percent of the market look just like zombies to us

Posted by giantico on October 23, 2006 at 7:00 PM (CDT)


oh. One more thing…......

I think the point is very well taken. Maybe Apple fans have some level of smug, but I think is funny how many people miss the point.  Apple competes with THE ENTIRE PC INDUSTRY, not only Microsoft. Microsoft is only one player (perhaps the biggest one but still only one) in the game.  A computer is operating system, hardware and software and the Apple Corporation is the only one that controls all three. 

Apple is not mocking only Microsoft, but Dell, Sony, HP, IBM, the third party software that comes with some PCs and the hardware that works with them…etc.  You have to admire how bold this is. Is like mocking Catholicism in a country that is 94 percent catholic.

I personally think that these new “Hello I am a Mac and I am a PC” commercials are great.  There are a lot of people out there that thinks there is no difference between the two, and if these new commercials illustrate the opposite in a graphic and humorous way, then more power to them.  If people realize that when you buy a Mac you are also buying a different computer experience, perhaps one you can identify with or will like better, then these ads are working. 

The commercials illustrate the following facts.  Macs are easier to use, their operating system is less likely to get viruses, they come with great multimedia software out of the box, They are more likely the computer for you if you are the “creative’ type, They also run Windows so technically they can be a PC too, and third party software just works because you are less likely to deal with plug ins due to they are design to be better integrated computers.  If appreciating all of these makes me a snob or a smug.  Then, I am the biggest one there is.

In relation to the comments made about the viruses found on some iPods, I think they are both to blame Windows for being so vulnerable and Apple for not catching it.  I think that is what Apple just did.

Yes, Apple consumers are still going to brag about their products because just like their famous 1984 commercial


The other 94 percent of the market look just like zombies to us

Posted by giantico on October 23, 2006 at 8:31 PM (CDT)


Smug? You bet. Justified? You bet. The worm’s release was Apple’s fault? You bet. For someone who’s busy bragging about how weak an OS Windoze is, I would’ve THOUGHT that their people would MAKE SURE that any Winboxes used by them and their subs would be as secure and malware-free as possible. I think that qualifies as an oopsie.

Posted by flatline response on October 24, 2006 at 5:07 AM (CDT)


Has anyone possibly thought that this wasn’t a “glitch.”  To me I think that Apple purposely put it there to open peoples eyes to a fact.  It wasn’t a slip up on Apples part, look at how sony handled the battery recall, everything was brought back home!  The fact that there was a problem and Apple sat there “smug” about it shows that it was all just a really good PR move that worked.  If you don’t believe me read everything above this.

Posted by RS nerd herder on October 25, 2006 at 5:07 PM (CDT)


Well, seeing as I am younger, I could talk about this discussion and thid debate for hours on end and make a big ranting post about this, but in all honestly to make a long story short…  This debate has been going on for years, it is just now being noticed again by the mainstream/media.  In all honestly though I am neutral on the whole thing, I say its not Microsofts fault, nor Apple’s fault.
To be honest with you it is the people who make these worms/viruses who should be blamed ultimately, because they created the worm/virus in question.  Was the worm/virus a creation of Apple?  No, was the worm/virus a creation of Microsoft?  No.

I believe this was a screwup on both parts, and shows the insecurity of both QC, and OS security, so yes there is a person to blame here, but we as a society are directing all this towards the wrong people in my opinion.  I have been using both since I got sick of the debate (since like 95-96.)  But its been a lifelong debate on who is better…  I think that should just be over with.  Okay those are my two cents.

Posted by jzakoor on October 26, 2006 at 12:16 AM (CDT)


To me the funny thing is the fact that Apple said hey we were slack we’re sorry, yet all we focus on it the little cheep nick they too at Windows. Everyone takes cheep hits at Apple and when they do it it’s being Smug , jeez. Hey Pot I have kettle on line one.

Posted by DaDeacon on October 30, 2006 at 10:59 AM (CST)


Windows is more vulnerable to malware due to the fact that it’s the most popular operating system.

If OSX were the most popular, I could assure you we’d be bragging about our new Windows 7 Beta RC computers, because they ‘just work’.

I don’t even know how you could get viruses, adware, rootkits etc. unless you’re an idiot while browsing the internet.

I guess a level of smugness is inevitable when you pay such a high premium for hardware. Like Hybrids.

I find it pretty funny that there’s such intense argument between the OSX/Windows camps, yet you see Gates and Jobs getting along at D5.

And yes, this was Apple’s fault, their quality controlled failed, and they’re probably up for a lawsuit.

Posted by Matthew McConnell on May 26, 2009 at 6:48 PM (CDT)

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